Abe says visit to China being arranged for next month

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking in Vladivostok after meeting Chinese leader Xi Jinping, said on Wednesday they had agreed to work towards an October visit by him to China, the latest sign of warming ties between the Asian rivals.
Abe also said he and Xi shared the view that Japan and China bore responsibility for world peace and prosperity, as well as the goal of achieving North Korea’s denuclearisation.
His comments, made on the sidelines of a regional forum in the east Russian city, were aired on Japan’s NHK public broadcaster.
Abe returned to office for a rare second term in December 2012, promising a hard line towards China in a territorial row over tiny islands in the East China Sea.
But although the dispute simmers, relations have stabilised recently amid intensifying US trade pressure on both China and Japan.
“In response to China’s gracious invitation, I intend to visit China this year, the year in which we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China,” Abe told the forum later.
“After that, I very much wish to invite President Xi to Japan. Through this exchange of visits at the leaders’ level, I hope to raise Japan-China relations to a new stage.” Japanese media have floated on October 23, the date on which the treaty took effect, as the likely timing of Abe’s visit.
Speaking later in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had already issued an invitation to Abe, and both sides were in communication about it.
“We hope both sides can work hard to create a good atmosphere and conditions for the visit,” Geng said at a daily news briefing.
Xi told Abe that Sino-Japanese ties “face an important opportunity for improvement. Under the new circumstances, we should continue to meet each other halfway, maintain the positive momentum and promote the stable development of China-Japan relations to attain even greater expansion (of ties),” according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Wednesday that Russia and Japan sign a peace treaty this year, ending World War II hostilities “without any preconditions” as a territorial dispute has led to decades of deadlock.
The dispute between Russia and Japan centres on four islands in the strategically-located Kuril chain which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of war in 1945 but are claimed by Japan. — Reuters/AFP