• Kyodo

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A group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will meet with Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-highest ranking member of the Communist Party of China, on Friday as the two countries work to repair bilateral relations badly damaged by territorial and historical issues.

Former Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan acknowledged the schedule Wednesday night during a meeting in Beijing with the group, headed by LDP lawmaker Takeshi Noda.

“I informed China’s top leadership of your visit a long time ago and the leadership is placing great importance on your visit,” Tang told the six-member group at the outset of the meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

The delegation’s visit through Friday comes just a day after another group of senior Japanese lawmakers ended a three-day trip to Beijing.

On Monday, the group led by Masahiko Komura, vice president of the LDP, told Zhang Dejiang, No. 3 in the Communist Party, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping to hold a formal meeting for the first time with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of this year’s summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November in Beijing.

While agreeing with Komura on the need to improve public sentiment toward each other, Zhang denounced Japan and Abe for the deterioration in bilateral ties.

Zhang, who sits on the CPC’s powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, criticized Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands, Abe’s visit in December to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and the prime minister’s views on wartime history, Komura said.

A history issue apparently overshadowed the meeting on Wednesday between the second group of lawmakers and Tang, with Noda lodging a protest against China’s establishment of a memorial hall for Korean independence activist Ahn Jung-geun — who “assassinated” former Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito — in Harbin at the request of South Korea.

The Japanese visits come at a time of almost zero high-level political contacts between Tokyo and Beijing, a situation that has lasted for some time. Abe and Xi have yet to hold official talks since they both took office more than a year ago.

But China’s decision to organize the two meetings in one week with the members of its highest decision-making body may reflect a shift in the leadership’s approach toward Japan.

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