TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to bolster cooperation and friendship between Japan and China in a key policy speech Wednesday before making the first official trip to Beijing by a Japanese leader in seven years.
Abe said Japan and China are both responsible for the region’s peace and prosperity, which he hoped to achieve by boosting exchanges between them. Abe will hold talks with Chinese leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang during his three-day visit.
“Tomorrow I will visit China,” Abe said. “As we unflaggingly exchange summit diplomacy, I will also deepen the exchanges between the two peoples in all levels of activities from business cooperation to sports.”
Abe’s visit comes as the two countries mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Japan-China Peace and Friendship, and follows Li’s visit to Japan in May.
Abe hopes to make progress on maritime security and the contentious development of undersea gas deposits in the East China Sea. They are also expected to discuss North Korea and the U.S.-China trade disputes.
Abe opened the new parliamentary session after being re-elected last month to head his governing party. Now 64, he has been prime minister since December 2012 and is determined to remain Japan’s leader for three more years.
In his policy speech, Abe also said he wants to close unfinished World War II diplomatic legacies by also aiming to normalize ties with North Korea and resolving territorial disputes and sign peace treaty with Russia.
“Now is the time for Japan to sum up its postwar diplomacy and to build the foundation of peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region in a new era,” he said.
He also touched on his foremost ambition of revising the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution drafted by the U.S. after Japan’s World War II defeat, though the hurdles to doing so remain high.
Abe also pledged to accept more foreign workers to tackle a severe labor shortage. His government is preparing new legislation that would open up more jobs for foreigners in nursing, construction, tourism, housekeeping and other areas. It’s a major shift for a country that has long resisted having more non-Japanese residents.
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