Wen Jiabao

Hu visit to Japan this year will be difficult, says report

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2007, 12:00am

Chinese leaders have indicated it would be difficult for President Hu Jintao to visit Japan this year after a planned spring visit by Premier Wen Jiabao , Japanese broadcaster NHK reported yesterday.

It said former Japanese education minister Kenji Kosaka had been told during talks in Beijing with state officials such as Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan that it was difficult for China to send its leaders to the same country twice in one year.

Speculation had been rife that Mr Hu had accepted an invitation to make a reciprocal visit to Japan after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ice-breaking visit to Beijing in October.

However, officials confirmed at the Asean meeting in Cebu, the Philippines, this month that Mr Wen would visit Tokyo in April.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao declined to confirm yesterday whether Mr Hu would visit Japan this year, but added: 'It has come to our attention that there has been speculation on exchanges at the leadership level between China and Japan. Some of the speculation is groundless.'

Experts said that even if Mr Hu did not visit Japan this year, it would not reflect a change in Beijing's attitude towards Tokyo amid improving bilateral relations.

'Premier Wen's visit is already a sign of China's sincerity towards warming Sino-Japanese relations,' said Gao Hong , director of Japanese politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Japanese Studies.

'According to foreign diplomacy protocol, normally a visit by one state's leader should be followed by a reciprocal visit by the other state. It is not necessary for two state leaders to visit the same country consecutively.'

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing would visit Japan for three days from February 15 to make arrangements for Mr Wen's visit, Kyodo reported last night, quoting Japanese and Chinese diplomatic sources.

Mr Li and Japanese officials are expected to discuss the two nations' dispute over gas exploration rights in the East China Sea, the North Korean nuclear issue and a timetable for establishing bilateral economic talks.