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Abe to visit China in late October as bilateral ties warm

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit China for three days from Oct. 25, both governments said Friday as bilateral relations continue to show momentum.

It will mark the first visit by Japanese prime minister to China primarily to hold formal bilateral talks with Chinese leaders since December 2011. The trip comes as Beijing has been attempting to strengthen cooperation with Japan amid its ongoing trade war with Washington.

Abe expressed readiness to promote ties with China further, saying in a speech in Tokyo that he wants to lift relations to “a new stage,” noting that the two sides share a responsibility to realize peace and stability in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a news briefing that Japan is an “important neighbor” of China, adding that the two sides “have to confirm that we are cooperative partners and we will not become threats for each other.”

Abe’s visit will be made at the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, Lu said, adding that the Japanese prime minister and Chinese leaders are expected to talk about how to improve and develop bilateral ties and discuss international issues of mutual concern.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Abe will hold a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Oct. 26 in Beijing.

Suga, the top government spokesman, said Japanese and Chinese leaders are likely to exchange views on how to move ahead with North Korea’s denuclearization negotiations, which have been carried out mainly by Pyongyang and Washington.

The three-day trip will also come amid a sharp deterioration in relations between China and the United States in the wake of a tit-for-tat tariff escalation between the world’s two biggest economies.

China’s economy has shown signs of weakening as the nation’s reciprocal higher tariffs against the United States have pushed up prices of U.S. imports at home, weighing on consumer spending — a major source of economic expansion.

Beijing sees Abe’s visit as a window of opportunity to ask Japan to boost investment in China, foreign affairs experts said.

Japan has also effectively acquiesced to the United States, in a shift from opting for a multilateral approach, to bilaterally discuss tariffs and resolve trade issues, with Trump aiming to reduce huge U.S. trade deficits with Tokyo and Beijing.

During Abe’s stay, a forum is slated to be held to have dialogue about infrastructure investment in third countries by China and Japan, Lu said, adding that ministers and business leaders of the two nations are expected to attend.

For years, Tokyo and Beijing had been mired in a territorial row over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

The dispute particularly intensified after the Japanese government of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Abe’s predecessor, decided to bring the Senkakus under state control in September 2012.

But the situation has drastically changed recently, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing and taking effect of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.