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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China's Li Peng Visits Japan To Ease Strained Relations

TOKYO -- Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto met Tuesday to smooth over relations strained by a territorial dispute, China-Taiwan tensions and Japan's strengthened defense pact with the United States.

Foreign Ministry officials said the two leaders oversaw the signing of a fisheries agreement that shelves a dispute over an area of the South China Sea.

Li, on his first visit to Japan since the 1989 military crackdown on protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, was especially pleased by a Japanese pledge of support for China's attempt to join the World Trade Organization, or WTO, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Li confirmed that Chinese President Jiang Zemin will visit Tokyo next year, at a date yet to be decided, officials on both sides said. Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian also will visit to promote a bilateral security dialogue.

A major factor pulling them closer is trade. Japan is China's largest trading partner and one of its biggest investors, and Beijing is courting Tokyo's support for its bid to join WTO.

Li also plans to visit Japanese businesses, including a stop at computer giant NEC Corp. on Wednesday.

Li's trip is the latest in a string of diplomatic missions in the region. Chinese President Jiang Zemin went to the United States last month, and after going to China, Hashimoto met with President Boris Yeltsin in Russia.

During his six-day stay that began Tuesday, Li plans to meet other political leaders, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and visit Nagoya, Osaka and the ancient capital of Nara.