TOKYO — China’s top diplomat is likely to visit Japan late next week to work out the details of President Xi Jinping’s planned first visit to Japan since he came to power in 2013, sources familiar with bilateral relations said Thursday.
Beijing and Tokyo have been making final arrangements for Yang Jiechi’s trip to Japan, the sources said, adding that one of the members of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party is expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Xi has pledged to visit Japan to attend this year’s summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka in late June. If realized, it would be the first visit by a Chinese head of state since Hu Jintao in November 2010.
For years, the two neighbors had 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 China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.
But Sino-Japanese ties have been markedly improving recently, with 2018 — the 40th anniversary of the signing and entering into force of the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship — serving as an incentive to forge better relations.
China and Japan, meanwhile, have been still at odds over several issues such as Beijing’s military expansion in the nearby seas and alleged involvement of Chinese companies in spying activities.
The focus is on whether Yang and Japanese officials can pave the way for the success of a possible summit between Xi and Abe.
Yang is likely to hold talks with Japan’s national security adviser Shotaro Yachi, Abe’s close aide, next Thursday and meet with Abe the following day, the sources said.