Tokyo trip may be in the cards for Xi Jinping, sources say

Japan is mulling asking China’s president to visit in the latter half of next year, government insiders say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 11:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 11:31pm

Tokyo is considering asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan in the latter half of next year as a state guest, government sources said on Sunday.

To lay the groundwork for the trip, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was likely to visit China in the first half of next year, the sources told Kyodo News. If Xi visits Japan, he will be the first Chinese president to do so since Hu Jintao in 2008. Abe last visited China in September 2016.

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Japan hopes to forge closer ties with China and to cooperate on the issue of North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes. Tokyo also aims to improve relations that have soured over repeated intrusions by Chinese vessels into territorial waters in the East China Sea around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands.

Last Monday, Abe expressed interest in participating in Beijing’s belt and road trade plan. The initiative aims to build closer economic links along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

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According to the sources, Shotaro Yachi, head of the secretariat of Japan’s National Security Council, told State Councillor Yang Jiechi when he visited Japan for talks in late May that Abe and Xi should visit each other’s nations within the next year.

Tokyo is said to be considering inviting Xi to visit after Abe attends a trilateral summit next year in Beijing involving Japan, China and South Korea. Tokyo aims to arrange a meeting of the Chinese and Japanese leaders on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in early July.