October 12, 2018 / 7:33 AM / 4 days ago

China says Japan's Abe to make official visit this month

BEIJING (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit China from Oct. 25 to 27 in the first official visit by a Japanese leader in seven years, China said on Friday, as the United States steps up trade pressure on Beijing and Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the joint news conference of the Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House in Tokyo, Japan October 9, 2018. Franck Robichon/Pool via Reuters

President Donald Trump has made clear he is unhappy over Japan’s $69-billion trade surplus with the United States, and wants a two-way agreement to address it with the U.S. ally.

He has also slapped tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports for what he calls its trade abuses, prompting retaliation from Beijing.

“We hope this visit by Prime Minister Abe can help consolidate and elevate mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, and promote continuous new development in ties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing.

China welcomes investment from Japanese firms, he told a regular briefing, adding that increasing trade and economic cooperation between the two major economies benefits both them and the world.

“We attach importance to China-Japan relations.”

Visits by Abe in recent years to attend multilateral events in China have not been considered official visits.

In September, after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Russia, Abe said the two sides had agreed to work toward an October visit, in what was seen as a sign of warming ties between the two Asian rivals.

“Both Japan and China share a big responsibility for the peace and prosperity of this region,” Abe said in a speech in Tokyo on Friday.

He added that he aimed to drive ties between the neighbours to a new level through mutual visits by their leaders and expanded exchanges between their people.

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.

Although the dispute simmers, relations have stabilised recently amid trade actions by Washington toward both countries.

Reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING and Yoshifumi Takemoto in TOKYO; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez

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