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Japan, China to hold security dialogue on Feb. 1 in Beijing: sources

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and China are set to hold a security dialogue on Feb. 1 in Beijing in a bid to narrow the differences over defense issues as their relations have been improving, bilateral sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

The security dialogue between senior foreign affairs and defense officials of the two countries would be the first since October 2017 when it was held in Tokyo.

Japan's Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and defense officials are slated to attend the dialogue.

The two sides would aim to deepen mutual trust even as Chinese coast guard vessels still often sail into waters around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The territorial spat over the uninhabited islands, which China calls Diaoyu, has become heated since 2012 when the Japanese government brought them under state control.

The officials may exchange views on Japan's latest national defense guidelines, approved last month, including its decision to pursue the deployment of aircraft carriers for the first time since the end of World War II.

Beijing has voiced strongly objected to the guidelines, which also point out that China's military activities in the East China Sea and other waters are a source of "strong concern" in the region.

China has criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government for fanning the "threat of China."

Mori and Kong, meanwhile, are likely to step up preparations to hold a strategic dialogue between Japanese and Chinese vice foreign ministers and a ministerial-level economic dialogue to lay the groundwork for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Japan on the occasion of the Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in June.

If realized, Xi would become the first Chinese president to make an official trip to Japan since May 2008, when Hu Jintao, Xi's immediate predecessor, visited the neighboring nation as a state guest.

At a summit with Abe in Beijing last October, Xi said he will "seriously" consider visiting Japan, with both expressing willingness to promote high-level reciprocal visits.

Sino-Japanese ties have been improving recently as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing and entering into force of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.

The two Asian countries have agreed to bolster their economic cooperation, with China engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff trade dispute with the United States.

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