China, Japan seek warmer ties against backdrop of US trade friction

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Abe visited China in 2016 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, but this week's visit is the first bilateral one by a Japanese prime minister since Noda's.

The pacts were reached on Abe's three-day visit to Beijing as the two neighbours looked to carve out new areas of cooperation and seek ways to promote trust, which has been fragile at times since diplomatic relations resumed in 1972.

While anxious about China's growing naval power, Japan is also keen for closer economic ties with its biggest trading partner, but it must manage that rapprochement without upsetting its key security ally, the US.

In a separate announcement, China and Japan pledged to increase their cooperation in the area of innovation.

The sides also signed about 50 agreements on boosting cooperation in third-party countries, while companies agreed more than 500 business deals.

Although the two leaders have met at various events, Tokyo-Beijing relations have been cool over the past seven years, mainly over territorial disputes in the East China Sea and Chinese island-building in the South China Sea.

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But despite the feel-good vibes, Abe also delivered a sterner message, a Japanese spokesman said, warning China that "without stability in the East China Sea, there will not be a true improvement in the relationship".

Speaking to reporters on Modi's visit, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said Abe will take his Indian counterpart to his personal home in Yamanashi for a private dinner on Sunday following which both the leaders will travel to Tokyo by train.

As part of efforts to promote high-level reciprocal visits, Abe plans to invite Xi to visit Japan in June next year, when the Group of 20 summit will be held in Osaka. "Xi Jinping wants to say to Abe that they are in this together".

The two countries agreed to discuss advanced technologies and issues related to patents and other intellectual property - a perennial bugbear for China's relations with all foreign investors.

The two sides also signed a currency swap agreement of up to 3.4 trillion yen ($30.29 billion), effective until 2021. "With concerted efforts by both sides, China-Japan ties are back on track and gaining positive momentum. Japan today is one of the most trusted partners in India's economic and technological modernisations and one of the top investors in India", he said.

"Japan is also at the forefront of engaging in our national initiatives, such as "Make in India",;Skill India", "Digital India", "Start Up India'".

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Japan this year terminated four decades of government assistance to China, considered by some as a type of reparations for the damage caused during its invasion and occupation.

Abe is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, the first time a Japanese Prime Minister has visited China since 2011.

The discussions between Japan and China might also be an opportunity for Tokyo to act as a bridge between the United States and China.

The move triggered anti-Japan demonstrations across China, and things worsened after Abe - who was subsequently described as an "unwelcome person" - visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates Japan's 2.5 million war dead.

But he has since softened his rhetoric as the issue of North Korean denuclearisation brought the two countries closer, with Abe calling on China to put pressure on North Korea.

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