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Japan, China strike deals during Abe visit as ties improve

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Beijing: Japan and China signed USD 2.6 billion in business deals and touted their warmer ties on Friday during a rare visit to Beijing by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as both face trade challenges from US President Donald Trump.

Premier Li Keqiang greeted Abe as Japan’s flag flew outside the opulent Great Hall of the People across from Tiananmen Square, and they reviewed an honour guard before going inside for talks.

Relations between Asia’s two biggest economies have improved in recent years after they sunk to new lows in 2012 when Tokyo “nationalised” disputed islands claimed by Beijing.

Addressing a joint press conference, Abe said that the two leaders had agreed to “play a constructive role for the sake of this region’s peace and prosperity”.

“I believe active trade will deepen ties between Japanese and Chinese peoples further,” he said.

“Now, international conditions are unstable, and uncertainties have increased,” Li said, adding that the countries’ economic cooperation would “benefit the development of global free  trade”.

The relationship has rapidly warmed up as Trump has slapped massive tariffs on China while also targeting Japanese exports in his effort to cut US trade deficits, despite touting his personal bonds with Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Abe travelled with nearly 1,000 delegates from Japanese companies, who struck 500 deals worth a total of USD 2.6 billion, Li said, without providing details.

The companies are eager for increased access to China’s massive market, while Beijing is interested in Japanese technology and corporate know-how.

“Though the US is quite an influential factor in China-Japan ties, the effect is limited,” China’s nationalistic Global Times said in an editorial.