Japanese PM Abe to make rare visit to China late October

October 12, 2018 19:38 PM Agencies

BEIJING, Oct 12: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be paying a three-day official visit to China within the next few weeks in the latest sign of thawing relations between the two regional rivals.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced on Friday that Abe would visit Beijing from October 25 to 27.

The trip, which would be the first by a Japanese premier since December 2011, would mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations.

The visit would "elevate our bilateral ties and put bilateral cooperation back on the right track," Lu said at a regular press briefing, adding that the two sides would work to "jointly uphold multilateralism and the free trade system.”

Tokyo and Beijing had for several years been locked in a territorial row over a small group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku by the Japanese and the Diaoyu by the Chinese. They are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

Ties between the two sides deteriorated after Tokyo nationalized part of the resource-rich islands in 2012.

China maintains that it has indisputable sovereignty over the islands. The Japanese government, instead, regards them as a part of its territory.

Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met numerous times over the last few years on the sidelines of international events, but neither of them has so far been hosting the other.

Japan, a key US ally in Asia and the world’s third-biggest economy, is concerned to be the next target of US trade war. President Donald Trump who has already taken aim at China over what he describes as trade imbalances has frequently complained about a “very high deficit” with Japan, as well.

Describing “his good relations with the Japanese leadership,” to the Wall Street Journal last month, Trump said, “Of course that will end as soon as I tell them how much they have to pay.”

A thaw in relations between Beijing and Tokyo has been raising prospects for the world’s biggest regional free-trade deal, known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is backed by China.

The 16-nation pact, which involves China, Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Korea, along with ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has been under negotiation for years but a deal has yet to be reached.

Any progress on a deal, however, would depend on cooperation between the world’s second- and third-biggest economies, China and Japan.

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