Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, speaks before reviewing troops of the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) at Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Camp Asaka in Asaka, Japan. (Photographer: Keith Bedford/Bloomberg)

Japan's Abe Heads to China Vowing to Lift Ties to ‘New Level’

(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Beijing on Thursday, seeking to further cement a recovery in relations with China that were wracked by a territorial dispute six years ago.

In the first official visit in seven years, Abe is first set to mark the 40th anniversary of a peace and friendship treaty alongside Premier Li Keqiang, while on Friday he’ll hold formal talks with both Li and President Xi Jinping. The trip takes place as Asia’s two largest economies come under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump over what he has called unfair trade practices.

Abe’s foreign and trade ministers and a 500-strong business delegation will accompany him to Beijing to take part in a forum on economic cooperation in third countries. As many as 50 deals are set to be signed, including one on joint city development in Thailand, the Nikkei newspaper said Thursday. Japan and China were also expected to agree to revive a currency swap arrangement that was dropped in 2013, and to jointly clamp down on market manipulation, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

Japan’s relations with its biggest trading partner turned hostile in 2012, when it nationalized part of a disputed East China Sea island chain, sparking sometimes violent protests and damaging business ties. Since taking office at the end of that year, Abe has consistently sought meetings with Chinese leaders, even as anger simmered over the territorial and other disputes.

“Through this visit, I want to elevate ties to a new level,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo before he left, adding that he expected frank talks with Xi and Li covering North Korea and trade issues, as well as bilateral ties.

The leaders were also likely to discuss confidence-building measures such as re-starting military exchanges and establishing a hotline to help avoid unintended military clashes.

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