• Kyodo

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At the first meeting of their finance ministers in over three years, Tokyo and Beijing agreed Saturday to work together where possible to facilitate infrastructure development in Asia.

“It is clear that there is massive demand for infrastructure” projects in Asia, Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters after the meeting in Beijing, which took place amid a broader thaw in bilateral relations.

Aso and Lou Jiwei, his Chinese counterpart, along with senior officials from Asia’s two biggest economies, also discussed issues ranging from the health of the global economy to their tax and fiscal systems.

Japan and China resumed the so-called finance dialogue, last held in April 2012, at a time when bilateral ties are moving toward improvement after being hobbled by disputes over territory and wartime issues.

Lou read out a joint news release saying they agreed that “the dialogue is of important significance for both sides, which contributes to deepening exchange of macroeconomic situation and policy measures of the two countries, strengthening financial cooperation, and helping further advance China-Japan strategic and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The two ministers said in the release that the global economy “in general is still in profound structural adjustment,” voicing concerns about “the risks posed by volatile commodity prices and economic policy spillover of major developed economies.”

Japan and China will “promote infrastructure development in Asia, including through coordination with development financial institutions, on the basis of common interests,” it said.

Although diplomatic disputes remain unsettled, high-level contacts have been increasing since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first brief meeting last November with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Friday, Aso said he held talks with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and agreed with him that the two countries will “continue dialogue at various levels and strengthen our relations of trust.”

Through the dialogue on Saturday, Japan and China are hoping to pave the way for their senior finance officials to collaborate more actively on areas of mutual interest in the future.

Still, Japan has kept a cautious stance toward China’s initiative to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by the end of this year, citing a lack of transparency in its operations.

Last month Abe announced a plan to offer about $110 billion to fund “high-quality” infrastructure projects in Asia through collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and other channels.

The amount represents a 30 percent rise from Japan’s infrastructure funding over the last five years and his pledge is seen as a counter to China’s growing economic influence in the region.

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