Ex-president's daughter to visit Japan with letter from Xi

Li Xiaolin to visit Japan to meet former prime minister and pass on letter from Xi Jinping

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 5:40am

Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the youngest daughter of former president Li Xiannian, may visit Japan next week for talks with former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda to help mend ailing ties.

Relations between Japan and China have fallen to their lowest point in years over their longstanding territorial dispute in the East China Sea regarding the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency quoted unnamed sources in China and Japan as saying that Li planned to visit Japan from Sunday to Friday to "participate in cultural events" and would pass a message from President Xi Jinping on bilateral ties to major Japanese political figures.

A person familiar with her planned itinerary said Li would to attend the opening of a Chinese book fair in Tokyo on Tuesday, but Fukuda had not yet confirmed his attendance.

Anything could happen up to the last minute, given the current condition of the relationship between the two countries

"Anything could happen up to the last minute, given the current condition of the relationship between the two countries," the source said.

Japanese media had earlier reported that Tang Jiaxuan , a former state councillor who heads the China-Japan Friendship Association, was to visit Japan last week to attend a meeting but that trip did not eventuate.

The Chinese side said the reports were false and the meeting date had yet to be determined.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun quoted Japanese government sources as saying the visit was postponed because Tokyo had invited representatives from Taiwan to take part on an equal footing with other diplomats in a national remembrance for the 2011 tsunami. Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory.

The Kyodo report said Li was a close friend of Xi and would meet Japanese politicians as his special envoy.

It added that apart from Fukuda, Li was also planning to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama and the leader of Japan's New Komeito party, Natsuo Yamaguchi.

Fukuda is regarded as regarded as friendly towards Beijing. In 2010, he was elected to the board of directors of the Boao Forum, an annual conference in Hainan.

Professor Lian Degui , from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said planning for the trip indicated both sides were keen to keep tension over the dispute to a minimum.

"Both China and Japan do not want to raise the temperature on the issue and it is likely they are trying to quietly reach out for dialogue," Lian said.