China's Xi Welcomes Abe's Planned Visit to Cap Diplomatic Thaw

(Bloomberg) -- The leaders of China and Japan declared ties recovered from a 2012 diplomatic freeze Wednesday, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying they discussed his first bilateral visit to Beijing as soon as next month.

Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first meeting in 10 months on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, as the two countries try to move past the territorial disputes that strained ties. The 40th anniversary next month of a friendship treaty between the former foes would provide a symbolic occasion for Abe to visit China, which would make him the first Japanese leader to do so in seven years.

“He told me that he would welcome my visiting China as soon as next month,” Abe said. “By raising ties to the next level, I want to construct a foundation for peace and prosperity in northeast Asia.”

While Abe has traveled to China for multilateral summits, any trip specifically for a two-way meeting would be the first since a 2011 visit by his predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda. Abe told the forum that ties with China were at their worst level since World War II when he took over the administration. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan in May this year, the first such event in about eight years.

“Through the common efforts of both sides, Sino-Japanese relations have returned to a normal path and are facing an important opportunity for improvement,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency cited Xi as saying.

Xi said the two should uphold multilateralism, the free-trade system and the rules of the World Trade Organization, Xinhua said. Both countries face sanctions and warnings of more punitive action from U.S. President Donald Trump over trade imbalances.

Abe said he had agreed with Xi that they shared the goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and said he received Chinese support for his efforts to resolve the problem of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Abe added in his speech that nothing was decided on any summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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