Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Abe's Beijing visit underscores warming China-Japan ties

October 26, 2018 - 2:22 am

BEIJING (AP) — 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.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Li said 500 business agreements worth $18 billion had been signed between Chinese and Japanese companies during the visit, displaying the "bright future" for cooperation between the sides.

Abe, who has been accompanied by a 500-strong business delegation, expressed hopes for closer ties and a shift in relations from an age of "competition to cooperation," an apparent reference to rifts that until recently have muted Japanese business interests in China.

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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