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"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 this year terminated four decades of government assistance to China, considered by some as a type of reparations for the damage caused during its invasion and occupation.

Both leaders stressed the importance of free trade. Leaders of India and Japan are set to discuss the Indo-Pacific at length, including matters related to connectivity and infrastructure, as well as the political and security situation in the region during the summit.

Abe made the remarks in a written interview with Chinese media ahead of his three-day official visit to China scheduled from Thursday, which will mark the first time since 2011 for a Japanese prime minister to visit China officially. At the forum, Abe took the opportunity to once again emphasize the need to follow global standards for infrastructure projects and to take into account the financial position of recipient countries.

"China and Japan are neighbours and partners, and we will not be a threat to each other", he said. That was a key ask by Beijing, which is looking for partners for an worldwide infrastructure-building initiative.

On his part, Li said efforts in advancing China-Japan ties should "persevere unremittingly to prevent the appearance of new twists and turns" so that previous efforts did not go to waste. The article notes that the visit includes "the first formal summit between the two countries' leaders since 2011 and comes as they mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship".

Abe, who has been accompanied on his visit by a 500-strong business delegation, expressed hopes for closer ties and a shift in relations from "competition to cooperation", an apparent reference to the rifts that until recently have muted Japanese business interests in China. Even as Trump's trade conflict with China rages, the Japanese auto giant Toyota plans to increase production in China by 20 percent, expanding plants in two major Chinese cities, according to news reports in Japan. Abe's official visit is described as the first of its kind since late 2011, although he has made several trips to China to attend worldwide gatherings in the meantime.

Washington's ire has also unnerved Beijing as the Trump administration has vacillated on issues that are meant to be the cornerstone of Sino-U.S. relations, such as questioning the "One China" policy, in the wake of President Trump's election. This was because the TPP was seen by Tokyo as the economic inculcation of the USA economy into the region to match America's extensive network of alliances and security partnerships that can be found throughout North and Southeast Asia.

Unlike the United States, Vogel said, Japan never harbored illusions that China would become like the West, an outlook that has led to more realistic expectations about the extent of a possible rapprochement.

Japan wants to ensure any joint projects with China are transparent, open and fiscally sound, officials said. Mr. Abe said that Tokyo and Beijing will "fulfill responsibilities" for peace and stability in East Asia.

"Just looking how the flags of both countries are hung next to each other on Changan Avenue makes me uncomfortable", said a user on China's Weibo microblog platform.