Ties with China on mend, Keidanren chief says

JIJI, Kyodo

Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Japan’s most influential business lobby, is saying that progress has been made in efforts to improve the nation’s ties with China following the latest business mission to China.

At a news conference in Beijing, Yonekura, head of Keidanren, said Wednesday that he felt the Chinese side takes relations with Japan very positively.

“We were able to make a step forward” in helping mend diplomatic relations frayed by the Senkaku territorial dispute, he said.

The news conference was held after the mission from the Japan-China Economic Association had finished most of the key events scheduled for its visit.

The group of more than 100 corporate executives led by Fujio Cho, honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., was the biggest business mission to travel between China and Japan since the bilateral relationship deteriorated more than a year ago over the flare-up over the group of islets in the East China Sea.

The delegation was scheduled to return to Japan on Thursday.

During the stay, members of the mission held talks with several Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Wang Yang and Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng.

On Tuesday evening, the Japanese executives met with former State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, now head of a Chinese association for promoting friendship with Japan.

Yonekura revealed that Tang told the mission at the meeting that Premier Li Keqiang had wanted to hold talks with them but faced scheduling difficulties.

Arguing that mutual understanding is deepening, Yonekura said the mission reaped better than expected benefits.

Cho told the news conference that business circles are ready to continue playing a leading role to help improve relations with China as the political tensions have prevented the two countries from holding a summit.

Earlier Wednesday, the group met with China’s major economic planning agency to promote cooperation on energy saving, antipollution programs and other areas that would contribute to sustainable development, a Japanese official said.

The delegation and senior officials of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which directs national macroeconomic policy, discussed in Beijing the latest economic situation between the two countries.

Zhu Zhixin, a vice chairman of the commission, also briefed the delegation on economic reforms announced earlier this month by the Chinese Communist Party, according to the official.