Monday, September 21

China, Japan to forge closer ties at ‘historic turning point’

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Abe (second left) speaks with Xi (second right) during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. — Reuters photo

BEIJING: China and Japan on Friday pledged to forge closer ties as both countries stood together at an ‘historic turning point’, signing a broad range of agreements including a US$30 billion currency swap pact, amid rising trade tensions with Washington.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also agreed the two countries would work together to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula.

The pacts were reached on Abe’s three-day visit to Beijing as the two neighbours looked to carve out new areas of cooperation and seek ways to promote trust, which has been fragile at times since diplomatic relations resumed in 1972.

Deals worth a total of  18 billion were signed between Chinese and Japanese companies during Abe’s visit. That reflects the “bright prospects” for cooperation between the two countries, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

“From competition to co-existence, Japan and China bilateral relations have entered a new phase. Hand in hand with Premier Li, I would like to advance our ties forward,” Abe told reporters after the pair met on Friday morning.

Both countries are neighbours and partners, and will not become a threat to each other, Abe said after meeting with President Xi Jinping on Friday in the first full-scale Sino-Japanese summit since 2011.

“With President Xi Jinping, I would like to carve out a new era for China and Japan,” Abe said.

Xi said bilateral ties had returned to the right track and China would ensure the positive momentum continues, according to state media.

“That is worth cherishing by both sides,” Xi said.

Both sides should undertake more in-depth strategic dialogue, Xi said, adding that exchanges between ordinary Japanese and Chinese people should also be stepped up to foster deeper mutual understanding.

“Both sides should accurately grasp each other’s strategic intent, and implement what was agreed – that both sides will become partners, both sides will pose no threats to each other,” Xi said.

Abe invited Xi to visit Japan next year. Xi said he would ‘seriously consider’ a visit, a Japanese government spokesman told reporters in Beijing.

“My impression is that President Xi responded positively. We need to nail down a date now,” he said.

Abe returned to power in 2012 when Sino-Japanese ties were in tatters due to a feud over East China Sea islands, and the territorial dispute remains a key source of friction between the two countries.

The Japanese government spokesman said Abe told Premier Li during their meeting that there would be “no genuine improvement” in bilateral ties unless there was “stability in the East China Sea”.

Japanese firms including big auto companies like Toyota  hope to see normalised ties with China so they can compete with U.S. and European rivals, while Beijing expects Tokyo’s endorsement of its ambitious Belt and Road programme, an initiative that Xi hopes will further boost trade and transport links with other countries. — Reuters