Leaders of China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and other Asian nations gather in a resort in southern China for talks Friday and Saturday about a host of common issues, including trade, economic development, and the environment. Efforts to smooth frayed political and trade relations between Beijing and Tokyo may take center stage.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi arrived at the Bo'ao resort early in preparation for talks Friday with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji.

Relations between the two major trading partners have been marred this past year by trade disputes and lingering anger over Japan's wartime atrocities in China. But Mr. Koizumi's visit is the latest in a series to top level exchanges between Beijing and Tokyo, a sign that relations are improving.

Zhang Qiyue of China's Foreign Ministry says giving Asian government and business leaders a place to work out problems is one of the things the founders of the new Bo'oa Forum had in mind when they set up the gathering on China's Hainan Island.

Ms. Zhang said this forum will also allow leaders to explore development, population, and environmental issues.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is also scheduled to attend the forum, where officials say he is expected to press for more trade and fewer tariffs, particularly between Thailand and China.

But Mr. Thaksin's presence at the meeting is in some doubt because of his recent hospitalization for an ear infection.

The Prime Minister of South Korea, Lee Han-dong, will join other leaders and hundreds of government officials, business executives, and academics at the first of what organizers hope will become an annual gathering to boost regional development and harmony and rival the Davos-based World Economic Forum.