Japan PM Abe welcomed near Tiananmen Square in rare China visit

Shinzo Abe's visit this week will be the first formal one by a Japanese prime minister in seven years

Both sides should undertake more in-depth strategic dialogue, Xi said, adding that exchanges between ordinary Japanese and Chinese people should also be stepped up to foster deeper mutual understanding.

Mr Abe, who has been accompanied by a 500-strong business delegation, expressed hopes for closer ties and a shift in relations from an age of "competition to cooperation", an apparent reference to rifts that until recently have muted Japanese business interests in China.

For his part, Abe said: "Japan and China play an irreplaceable role in the economic development of Asia and even the world" and both sides should work together to "promote world peace and prosperity", according to CCTV.

Shinzo Abe's three-day visit is expected to carve out new scope for cooperation between Asia's two biggest economies.

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.

Abe said he sought frank talks with Xi and Li covering North Korea and trade issues.

Later in the day, Abe and Li attended an economic forum where companies from both countries signed agreements to push forward with about 50 projects, including development of an energy efficient smart city in Thailand and an offshore wind power project in Germany, Kyodo reported.

China is Japan's main trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $300bn a year ago.

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China is willing to advance its relations with Japan and return to healthy and normalized two-way ties, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.

Beijing and Tokyo have historically had very different relationships with Washington - one borderline adversarial, the other a close alliance - but both countries now face similar complaints from the Trump administration.

The relationship has rapidly warmed after US President Donald Trump imposed massive tariffs on China while also targeting Japanese exports in an effort to cut US trade deficits.

In other words, projects need to be open, transparent, make good business sense and not burden third countries with unreasonable amounts of debt. The two leaders would jointly hold a reception that would mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty Of Peace and Friendship. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

Since then, Abe and Xi have met multiple times at worldwide summits, with each country praising the others' efforts to improve relations.

"The hard issues are going to stay", said Akio Takahara, a professor at the University of Tokyo, adding that he expected relations to remain cordial at least until Xi visits Japan, which he is expected to do for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka next year. In an interview with the South China Morning Post in the runup to Abe's arrival in Beijing, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, touted the countries' "highly complimentary" economies.

Tase Yasuhiro, political analyst and Nikkei columnist, said that trade protectionism would also hurt Japan, and it's vital for Japan to enhance cooperation with China to promote free trade. "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 pointed out.

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