BEIJING — China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, offered Japan a conciliatory tone during a meeting with a senior Japanese politician Friday in an apparent effort to reduce the escalating tensions between the two countries over islands in the East China Sea.
In some of his first remarks on China’s foreign policy since becoming secretary general of the Communist Party, Xi told the Japanese lawmaker, Natsuo Yamaguchi, ‘‘The Chinese government remains committed to China-Japan relations,’’ according to an account provided by China’s Foreign Ministry.
Xi urged both sides to ‘‘look at the larger picture’’ and ‘‘push relations forward,’’ the Foreign Ministry said, language markedly more restrained than the combative exhortations from military officials and state-run media since the dispute over the islands erupted four months ago.
The encounter between Xi and Yamaguchi, in the Great Hall of the People, came after China and Japan have sent surveillance ships to the East China Sea almost daily in the past several months.
Recently, both sides scrambled fighter jets in what Washington considers a dangerous escalation of the dispute over the islands, known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.
In their meeting Friday, Yamaguchi, the head of the junior party in Japan’s new coalition government, delivered a letter to Xi from Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that urged high-level talks between Tokyo and Beijing, the Japanese media reported.
In a statement after meeting Xi, Yamaguchi also expressed moderation.
‘‘We would like to improve our future relations,’’ he said. ‘‘We believe Mr. Xi’s intent to seriously consider high-level talks reflects his desire for improved relations.’’