Japan, China strike deals during Abe visit as ties improve

Shinzo Abe attends at the ASEM leaders summit in Brussels Belgium Friday. Francois Lenoir, Reuters

The two countries appear poised to enter a new phase in bilateral relations; one in which they will pursue cooperation on worldwide challenges while at the same time their territorial dispute over the Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands will continue.

According to a survey released ahead of the 14th Beijing-Tokyo Forum held here earlier this month, more than 70 percent of the respondents in China and Japan view bilateral relations as important and more than 60 percent hope the two countries enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation. "As countries with great influence in the region and the world, we should safeguard free trade".

The trip heralds warming ties following years of acrimony between the two countries. "Xi Jinping wants to say to Abe that they are in this together".

The two sides signed 50 cooperation agreements, including reviving a 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) currency-swap deal.

Japan this year terminated four decades of government assistance to China, considered by some as a type of reparations for the damage caused during its invasion and occupation.

He said: "I will have wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and interact with business leaders and captains of industry from both countries".

It's taken almost seven years, but a Japanese leader is finally returning to China on an official visit for bilateral talks.

"With President Xi Jinping, I would like to carve out a new era for China and Japan", Abe said.

Diplomatic observers said the spat between China and the U.S. provided an excuse for Beijing to get closer to Tokyo, but said that tensions between the two could still erupt.

The relationship has rapidly warmed up as Trump has slapped massive tariffs on China while also targeting Japanese exports in his effort to cut USA trade deficits, despite touting his personal bonds with Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump has also raised tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Japan and other countries, and is threatening tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts.

"In recent years, we have made some progress in defense exchanges between China and Japan", Wu said at a Thursday briefing, referring to junior officer exchanges and a visit to Japan by a delegation from China's National Defense University. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing. Then they will visit a company which is a leading manufacturer of factory automation, Gokhale said, adding Abe has taken personal interests in working out the programme for Modi's visit.

Some other users urged caution during Mr Abe's visit, accusing an "ambitious" Japan of being a two-faced neighbour. He attended a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the bilateral Peace and Friendship Treaty on Thursday.

Mr Li said both sides had agreed that as major countries, China and Japan should uphold free trade and accelerate talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and on a China-Japan-Korea trade zone.

"If Xi promises to come to Japan next year, that would be very big", said Kiyoyuki Seguchi, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo. In an interview with the South China Morning Post in the runup to Abe's arrival in Beijing, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, touted the countries' "highly complimentary" economies.

North Korean missiles have Japan in easy reach and a number of abducted Japanese citizens remain captives in the North.

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