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Abe, Xi agree to move from competition to cooperation toward new era in bilateral ties

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, second from right, during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. (Nicolas Asfouri/Pool photo via AP)

BEIJING -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed here on Oct. 26 that bilateral relations should be switched from competition to cooperation toward a new era.

During his evening meeting with Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, the Japanese prime minister said, "We (Japan) would like to join hands with China in contributing to peace and stability in the world."

In response, Xi emphasized that "bilateral relations have been put back on the right track and positive moves are gaining momentum."

The two countries appear poised to enter a new phase in bilateral relations; one in which they will pursue cooperation on international challenges while at the same time their territorial dispute over the Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands will continue.

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

While Abe is attempting to focus attention at home on his diplomatic achievements in the summit to buoy his administration, China is attempting to get Japan on-side as Beijing contends with a trade war with the United States.

Prime Minister Abe also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang earlier in the day at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where they agreed that the two countries will resume Japanese yen-Chinese yuan currency swaps and strengthen cooperation on development assistance for third countries.

At a joint news conference following the meeting, Prime Minister Abe said, "We confirmed that we are cooperative partners and absolutely do not pose a threat to each other."

Regarding the East China Sea, location of the Senkaku Islands controlled by Japan and claimed by China, Abe commented, "We confirmed that we've made progress in efforts to turn it into the sea of peace, cooperation and friendship."

However, Prime Minister Abe warned Li that bilateral relations cannot be truly improved without stability in the East China Sea. Abe made the remark while keeping in mind Chinese vessels' intrusions into Japan's territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

The two premiers also agreed to aim for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"(Japan) is determined to settle the abduction, nuclear and missile issues as well as the unhappy past and normalize diplomatic relations (with Pyongyang)," Prime Minister Abe said.

"Relations between our two countries will be put back on the right track. We agreed to promote free trade," said Li of Japan-China ties.

Abe told Li that Japan will end official development assistance to China, which Tokyo has continued since the year after the two countries signed the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, after implementing a new assistance program this fiscal year.

Pointing out that Japan-China relations are moving into a new dimension following China's economic growth, Abe asked Beijing for cooperation on investing in infrastructure in third countries. Meanwhile, Premier Li apparently asked Abe to actively extend Japanese cooperation for the One Belt One Road initiative, promoted by Beijing as a new Silk Road spanning the Eurasian continent.

Abe and Li agreed to begin "innovation dialogue" on cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property rights, and to conclude an Agreement on Search and Rescue Regions (SAR). Tokyo and Beijing will set the upper limit on currency swaps, which the two countries will reintroduce after a five-year hiatus, at around 3 trillion yen.

With the United States leaning toward protectionism, the two premiers confirmed the importance of maintaining free trade. Abe and Li also agreed to move ahead with negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which the two countries and ASEAN are promoting, as well as a free trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea.

Prior to his meeting with Li, Prime Minister Abe had met with Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the third highest-ranking member of the Communist Party of China.


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