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Japan's Shinzo Abe invited Xi Jinping for summits, report says

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan's Shinzo Abe invited Xi Jinping for summits, report says
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to improve ties with China, according to local press reports. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan twice in 2019, according to a local press report.

Abe, who recently issued a video in which he greeted viewers in Chinese on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, may be seeking to improve ties with the world's second-largest economy despite recent tensions in the East China Sea, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

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The video message is only one component of a diplomatic charm offensive Japan launched this week, addressing Chinese tourists and residents.

On Lunar New Year's eve, Monday evening, the iconic Tokyo Tower was lit in red as Cheng Yonghua, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, gave a speech during a ceremony. Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was in attendance, according to NHK and other news services.

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Local media reported the tower was dyed a "China red," reflecting ongoing ambivalent Japanese attitudes toward its neighbor. A 2018 Pew Research poll showed 78 percent of Japanese surveyed said they hold "unfavorable" views of the world's most populous country.

"The color red in China represents virtue, happiness, greatness and constant progress," Cheng said. "The year 2019 will be very important for China and Japan."

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Abe's video message was aired during the ceremony, according to reports.

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Japan may be seeking a summit with China on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 meeting, to be held in Osaka in June.

Xi has never visited Japan for a summit. If he agrees to visit, his trip would mark the first time a Chinese leader meets with the head of Japan's government since 2008, when former President Hu Jintao met with Fukuda during a state visit.

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