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"Under the new situations, China and Japan, increasingly interdependent in bilateral areas, also share more common interests and concerns on multilateral occasions", Xi said.

The two countries appear poised to enter a new phase in bilateral relations; one in which they will pursue cooperation on global challenges while at the same time their territorial dispute over the Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands will continue.

China and Japan on Friday pledged to forge closer ties as both countries stood together at an "historic turning point", signing a broad range of agreements including a $30 billion currency swap pact, amid rising trade tensions with Washington.

Abe and Li also agreed to move ahead with negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which the two countries and ASEAN are promoting, as well as a free trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea. "As countries with great influence in the region and the world, we should safeguard free trade".

He said the countries' relations "have returned to a normal track", and China wants to "stably develop ties in the long term".

Nishimura said Abe told Premier Li during their meeting that there would be "no genuine improvement" in bilateral ties unless there was "stability in the East China Sea".

One key step forward was an agreement between Japan and China to work together in third countries on infrastructure, transport, health care and finance projects and to avoid what Li called "cut-throat competition".

Xi reiterated the importance of keeping promises, noting that China and Japan should "act on the basis of their four political documents and consensus, deal with problems and differences constructively, so as to maintain the political foundation guiding healthy development of bilateral ties".

Abe, accompanied by a 500-member business delegation, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day.

Speaking to reporters on Modi's visit, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said Abe will take his Indian counterpart to his personal home in Yamanashi for a private dinner on Sunday following which both the leaders will travel to Tokyo by train.

Diplomatic observers said the spat between China and the USA provided an excuse for Beijing to get closer to Tokyo, but said that tensions between the two could still erupt.

In other words, projects need to be open, transparent, make good business sense and not burden third countries with unreasonable amounts of debt.

It was unclear, what specific rights issues Abe raised.

"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. "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 said.

"The Chinese Communist Party always has this history card against Japan in their pocket", Takahara said. "China supports Japan's efforts to improve its relationship with North Korea through dialogue and to resolve all unsettled issues". Abe made the remark while keeping in mind Chinese vessels' intrusions into Japan's territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.


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