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Tokyo Gov. Masuzoe gets Olympic tips from Beijing

Kyodo

Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe on Friday got some tips about hosting the summer Olympics from Beijing after the leaders of the capitals of Asia’s two biggest economies decided to boost cooperation despite political tensions between their central governments.

Masuzoe, the first Tokyo governor to be invited to visit by the Beijing municipal government in 18 years, met with Mayor Wang Anshun to discuss and identify areas of future cooperation between the two cities.

“I believe that Beijing and Tokyo further promoting friendly ties will also contribute to relations between Japan and China,” he told Wang.

After the meeting, Masuzoe told reporters that Wang has agreed to visit Japan as early as next year and cooperate on holding a successful 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Earlier in the day, Masuzoe, a former health minister who became Tokyo’s governor in February, visited the National Stadium, the main venue for the 2008 Olympics, which also known as the “Bird’s Nest,” and the adjacent National Aquatics Center.

Masuzoe asked Beijing officials how the facilities built for the sporting extravaganza are being used now.

Masuzoe, who started his three-day visit on Thursday, has said Tokyo could share with Beijing its valuable experience in overcoming serious air pollution and other kinds of urban problems it faced decades ago.

His visit comes amid a time of badly strained relations between Japan and China over territorial and historical issues.

By coincidence or not, his visit to the Chinese capital started when U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Tokyo, becoming the first U.S. president to be treated as a state guest in 18 years.

During Obama’s talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Sino-Japanese row over the Senkaku Islands was one of the major issues.

Masuzoe meanwhile had a meeting and dinner together with former Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan on Thursday. The governor quoted Tang as telling him that Beijing’s rare invitation reflects “the Chinese government’s strong will to improve relations between Japan and China.”

Tang, who was also formerly foreign minister but is now head of the influential China-Japan Friendship Association, has been playing a major role in conveying the Chinese leadership’s official views to Japanese figures.

Masuzoe said that, if given the chance, he will brief Abe on the meeting with Tang after returning home.

Abe has expressed support for the governor’s visit. He himself has not managed to hold official talks with Chinese leaders since taking office in December 2012 because of the bitter dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which have long been controlled by Japan but are claimed by China and Taiwan, and conflicting perceptions of wartime history.