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Chinese premier voices hope for improved ties with Japan

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday expressed his desire to bring relations with Japan back to the right track of development, during a meeting with a business delegation from Tokyo led by a former longtime lawmaker.


“This year is the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, and China attaches great importance to China-Japan ties,” Li said.


In a meeting in Beijing with the group from the Japanese Association for the Promotion of International Trade, Li said the two countries should step up efforts toward the “normal direction of development” in the spirit of “taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future.”


He also said there is much room for cooperation between the two countries as they have built a mutually complementary economic relationship, according to a Japanese aide.


The group is headed by Yohei Kono, who served as lower house speaker from 2003 to 2009 and many other key posts, including chief Cabinet secretary and foreign minister, in his long career as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.


In addition, both sides discussed North Korea’s unabated nuclear ambitions, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first face-to-face meeting last week with U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida, according to the aide.


In response to Kono’s request to hear Li’s views on North Korea’s nuclear issue, the premier said China’s position is consistent that it needs to be “solved by dialogue” and the situation should be de-escalated, according to the aide.


“China has something it should do, and China and Japan also have something they can do together,” Li was quoted as saying.


On the meeting between the Chinese and U.S. presidents, Li said it was “successful” as they were able to share a common view of developing bilateral ties that are important not just for the two countries, but also for the rest of the world, according to the aide.


It is the first time this year that the premier or any other top Chinese leader has met with a Japanese high-profile figure.


Kono, who has developed close ties with China, and corporate executives belonging to the association last met with Li in 2015.


This year marks the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. But no tangible progress has been made in recent months on repairing distrust between Tokyo and Beijing, caused by territorial and historical issues intricately intertwined with their regional rivalry.


Chinese officials have blamed Japan for not having a correct view of wartime history and not being sincere enough in acknowledging China’s rise.


However, Li did not touch on any thorny political issues during the latest meeting, according to the aide, who attended the meeting that lasted about 45 minutes at the Great Hall of the People.


“Of course, we want to improve relations with Japan for the benefit of our two peoples. But first of all, Japan has to adopt the right frame of mind, be sensible and come to terms with the fact of China’s development and revitalization,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his annual press conference last month.


Wang noted that not only the 45th anniversary of the normalized ties, but also this year marks the 80th anniversary of the “Marco Polo Bridge Incident,” referring to a skirmish between troops of the two countries on July 7, 1937, which developed into full-scale warfare that lasted until Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers in 1945.


Wang said the two anniversaries are in stark contrast, with “the one leading to peace and friendship and the other to war and confrontation.”

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