China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi will visit Japan for three days from Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday. The visit is likely to work out details of President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to Japan for this year’s summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka in late June, sources familiar with bilateral relations had said last week. Yang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, is likely to meet the country’s national security adviser Shotaro Yachi on Thursday and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the following day, according to the sources. Xi’s visit, if it goes ahead, would be his first since he came to power in 2013 and the first by a Chinese head of state since Hu Jintao in November 2010. Yang and Yachi will also hold the sixth China-Japan high-level political dialogue. At this dialogue, which is an annual consultation plan agreed on by the two sides, they will exchange views on China-Japan relations and issues of common concern, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing. For years, the two neighbours have been mired in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese, are controlled by Japan but claimed by China. But Sino-Japanese ties have been markedly improving recently, with 2018 – the 40th anniversary of the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship – serving as an incentive to forge better relations. In an interview with Japanese media, Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou said the relationship between China and Japan has just returned to normal after going through ups and downs over the years, and both sides need to treasure the development. “China is willing to work with Japan to further promote China-Japan relations,” he was quoted as saying in a Chinese foreign ministry transcript. Kong also rejected suggestions that ties between China and Japan have become closer because of the China-US trade war – which pushed Beijing to seek support from its neighbours. “Putting the relations between China, Japan and the US at opposite from each other is a zero-sum game and cold war mentality. China does not agree with it,” he said. “The friendly relationship among these two nations can be developed in parallel. This is welcomed by the region and the world”.