China's top diplomat is meeting with the head of Japan's National Security Council for talks likely to touch on a possible summit between leaders of their countries later this year in Beijing.

The meeting Thursday between China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Shotaro Yachi, a career diplomat and a close aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, comes at delicate times for the relations between the neighboring Asian powers.

The two governments are at odds in a sovereignty dispute over potentially resource-rich islands in the Pacific, though there have been some halting steps toward easing tensions over the past year, with at least two brief encounters between Abe and China's President Xi Jinping.