Amid worsening relations between the United States and China, Beijing on Wednesday treated visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with fanfare and hospitality, showing closer ties between the two regional rivals. It has been belated known that China intentionally insulted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his recent visit to Beijing, as Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to meet with him.
The first Japanese prime minister to visit China in seven years, Abe met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as soon as he arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon, although a meeting was scheduled for Friday. Li held a banquet for Abe after a reception marking the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China. It was an unofficial dinner that highlighted their affinity.
Li also hosts a formal welcome ceremony for Abe on Friday morning before a scheduled luncheon with him and his wife. Considering that Abe is scheduled to leave Beijing on Saturday morning without any special plan, Abe will have dined with Xi and Li three times in just 42 hours.
At a time of worsening relations with the U.S., Xi needs to mend fences with Japan, a U.S. ally, to cushion pressures from Washington. Abe, for his part, needs to normalize the economic and trade relations with Beijing, as he is also under trade pressures from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Abe is accompanied by some 500 Japanese economic figures and entrepreneurs to hold talks for bilateral economic cooperation. The two neighbors will have a new goal of accomplishing youth exchanges involving some 30,000 people over the next five years with an eye to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The two countries are also expected to reach an agreement on resuming negotiations for developing natural gas East China Sea.
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