Abe’s Beijing visit underscores warming China-Japan ties

BEIJING — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a second meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Friday during the first formal visit to Beijing by a Japanese leader in nearly seven years that heralds warming ties following years of acrimony.

Abe expressed hopes for closer ties and a shift in bilateral relations from an age of “competition to cooperation,” an apparent reference to rifts that until recently have muted Japanese business interests in China.

Abe has been accompanied by a 500-strong Japanese business delegation and multiple deals were expected to be signed during his trip.

Abe is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later Friday, possibly cementing the steady recovery in relations that hit a low in 2012 amid a dispute over East China Sea islands. Ties have also been dogged by enduring Chinese resentment over Japan’s invasion and occupation during World War II and a political, military and economic rivalry for influence in Asia and beyond.

However, for now at least, the sides appear to have drawn closer by economic necessity brought about partly by President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs on imports.

Asia’s two largest economies are seeking to deepen trade, investment and cooperation on infrastructure and other projects in third countries.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner and economic ties have remained strong despite political differences.

Abe is scheduled to return to Japan on Saturday. The last such visit was in late 2011.

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