Event to be held in China to mark anniversary of treaty with Japan

The China-Japan Friendship Association has communicated to its Japanese counterpart its intention to hold a ceremony in Beijing on Oct. 22 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the signing of the treaty of peace and friendship between the two countries, it was learned Thursday from sources familiar with bilateral ties.

While steadfastly maintaining its claims to disputed islands held by Japan in the East China Sea, the move indicates China's switch to a policy of promoting civil exchanges with Japan as part of efforts to seek improved private sector and economic relations.

According to the sources, about one week ago, the association, Beijing's unofficial channel to promote ties with Tokyo, made known its plan to hold the ceremony to the Japan-China Friendship Association, and sought the attendance of the latter's president, Koichi Kato, a one-time senior member of Japan's ruling party.

Due to the strained bilateral ties, no official events were held in Beijing on Aug. 12, the date of the anniversary of the singing of the treaty. The friendship treaty was signed in 1978, six years after the two countries normalized diplomatic ties.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the government was aware of the arrangements, and said the advancing of such exchanges in the private sector is "a good thing."

Bilateral relations have sunk to their lowest point in years since the Japanese government's purchase in September last year of a significant portion of the Senkaku Islands from a Japanese private owner.