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Kono in Beijing to lead high-level economic talks

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono is set to call on China to improve its protection of intellectual property rights and discuss issues of free trade as he arrived in Beijing on Saturday to lead high-level economic talks with China.
The discussions, aimed at deepening cooperation between Asia's two biggest economies despite significant differences over some political issues, come ahead of a possible visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The so-called high-level economic dialogue, involving a number of ministers of the two countries, will be held in China for the first time in nearly a decade, a sign relations -- often frayed by territorial and wartime issues -- have further improved.
During the three-day visit, Kono is scheduled to hold separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Wang Yi, also the country's foreign minister, who will co-chair the economic dialogue.
The dialogue, scheduled for Sunday, and Kono's meetings with Li and Wang, both slated for the following day, will lay the groundwork for Xi to make his first visit to Japan since coming to power in 2013, when Japan hosts the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in June.
Japan and China have held economic dialogue on and off since 2007, this being the fifth round. There was an eight-year hiatus between the third and fourth meetings as relations sank to a low due to a dispute over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.
Japan placed the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea under state control in 2012, drawing the ire of China which claims sovereignty over them and calls them Diaoyu.
For this round, Japan is sending a larger delegation than it did to the previous talks last April in Tokyo.
Six members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet will be attending, including Kono. The others are industry minister Hiroshige Seko, farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa, transport minister Keiichi Ishii, Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada, and regulatory reform minister Satsuki Katayama.
Japan plans to call on China to strengthen its protection of intellectual property rights and to crack down on forced technology transfers.
It is also expected to ask China to lift restrictions on imports of Japanese food, introduced in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster due to concerns over radioactive contamination.
The World Trade Organization ruled Thursday in favor of a South Korean import ban on Japanese seafood following the nuclear disaster, reversing an earlier decision against the restrictions.
Meanwhile, China may ask Japan to invest in infrastructure projects under its "One Belt, One Road" initiative, as well as to reconsider its decision to exclude telecommunications equipment giants Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from government procurement contracts, amid concern over security breaches, according to Japanese officials.
Free trade is also likely to be on the agenda, as China's economy has suffered from a tariff war with the United States, and with Japan slated to begin trade negotiations in Washington next week.
Besides those meetings, Kono is scheduled to attend various events such as a film festival while staying in the Chinese capital. On Saturday, he visited the Beijing Foreign Studies University where he spoke with students learning the Japanese language.
"I hope you will become a bridge between China and Japan," he told them.


© KYODO
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