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International relations

China's Li Keqiang weighs formal Japan visit by summer

Thawing relations set stage for first tour by Chinese premier since 2011

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a Tuesday news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Tuesday that he will positively consider tacking on a formal visit if a trilateral summit in Japan with South Korea materializes as proposed in the first half of the year.

Li made the revelation while mentioning improving relations with Japan at a news conference after the close of the National People's Congress session. The Chinese premier also mentioned that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the peace and friendship treaty between the two countries, and said that mutual visits by leaders would help rapprochement efforts.

At the same time, Li warned that today's thaw in relations is fragile. Expressing his hope that Japan will make efforts to prevent another chill, he urged Tokyo to give consideration to Beijing's position on such contentious issues as history, Taiwan and the Senkaku islands, which Japan administers but China claims as the Diaoyu.

The formal visit would take place before or after the trilateral summit, where leaders are expected to discuss participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative to create a Eurasian economic zone, and exchange opinions on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Li would be the first Chinese premier to visit Japan since Wen Jiabao in May 2011. Tokyo is working to set up a reciprocal official tour of China by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and calling for Beijing to consider a formal visit by President Xi Jinping afterwards.

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