BEIJING • Japanese leader Shinzo Abe will pay the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to China since 2011 later this month, the latest sign of warming ties between the rivals.
Mr Abe will visit from Oct 25 to 27 and mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations, Agence France-Presse news agency reported Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang as saying yesterday.
The visit will "elevate our bilateral ties and put bilateral cooperation back on the right track", Mr Lu told a regular press briefing.
He added that the two sides will work to jointly uphold multilateralism and the free trade system.
Mr Lu said a reception was planned to celebrate the Sino-Japanese friendship treaty, which took effect on Oct 23, 1978.
Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said yesterday Mr Abe is to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Oct 26. They will exchange opinions on issues such as Sino-Japan ties and the denuclearisation of North Korea.
"Following on from Mr Li's visit to Japan in May, mutual visits between leaders of the two countries will be realised. Through frank and candid discussions with the leaders speaking their minds, it will be an excellent opportunity to elevate the bilateral relationship to new heights."
A Sankei news report said both governments had initially planned for Mr Abe to make a local provincial visit, but this has since been cancelled.
Meanwhile, Mr Abe, speaking at the headquarters of Kyodo News yesterday, said he hoped to take bilateral ties with China to a new stage through his visit to Beijing.
"I hope to expand exchanges between people of the two countries in all areas through reciprocal visits by the leaders," he said.
Mr Abe and Mr Xi have met numerous times over the past few years on the sidelines of international events. But no Japanese prime minister has paid an official visit to China since 2011 and no Chinese president has visited Japan since 2010.
Relations between China and Japan soured in 2012 over a territorial dispute over several tiny islands in the East China Sea.
Upon returning to power in 2012, Mr Abe took a firm position on Japan's sovereignty over the island chain. But he has since softened his rhetoric and called on China to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.