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Chinese premier eager to conclude Japan-China-ROK FTA

Mainichi and Sankei reported on Saturday morning that during a news conference held after the conclusion of the National People’s Congress on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying that a Japan-China-ROK FTA “would have major benefits for all three countries amid the rise of protectionism in the world,” indicating his eagerness to step up negotiations for an FTA. In addition to cooperation with Japan and the ROK, Li talked about promoting the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and cooperation with Southeast Asia. Mainichi expressed the view that these remarks are part of China’s strategy to project a stronger presence in Asia amid intensifying friction with the U.S. Sankei also noted that Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a news conference that the Japan-China relationship returned to normalcy last year and is on track to improve and develop, although he also reminded Japan that it needs to “face history in good faith.”

In a related development, Sankei wrote that its reporter was not allowed to attend Li’s news conference and several foreign correspondents, including a reporter from its Tokyo office, were not issued press IDs, prompting the Foreign Correspondents Club of China to issue a statement on March 15 expressing concern.

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