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Chinese Premier Li to attend student exchange event with Japan

In this May 11, 2018 photo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands in Sapporo, Japan. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang plans to attend a bilateral student exchange event with Japan later this month, in a sign of improvement in relations between Tokyo and Beijing, sources close to diplomatic ties said Monday.

From the Japanese side, Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, is likely to take part in the Aug. 29 event at Peking University in Beijing.

Tokyo hopes that the rare attendance by the Chinese premier at a bilateral student exchange event will help realize Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to China for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping eyed in October, the sources said.

Xi is also expected to participate in the Group of 20 major economies' summit to be held in Japan next June.

The relationship between the two Asian neighbors, which is often been strained by differences in views on history and territory, has recently been improving as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of a bilateral peace and friendship treaty, the sources said.

In May this year, Li became the highest-ranking Chinese official to pay a visit to Japan in seven years. At the time, Li and Abe agreed to promote bilateral youth exchanges.

The event at Peking University will bring together about 1,000 Japanese and Chinese students. In the previous session of a similar exchange event in August last year, no minister was dispatched from the Japanese side, while then Vice Premier Liu Yandong took part from China.

Following the student exchange event on Aug. 29, Hayashi plans to take part in a ministerial cultural meeting involving Japan, China and South Korea in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, the sources said. Hayashi is also scheduled to hold talks with Luo Shugang, Chinese minister of culture and tourism, during his stay in China, they said.

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