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Chinese leader’s state visit to Japan likely to be put off

  • March 1, 2020
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The weekend editions of all national papers reported extensively on the plan to invite Chinese leader Xi to visit Japan as a state guest in early April, speculating that the trip is likely to be postponed until the fall or later. The Saturday editions of all national dailies reported on Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang’s meetings on Friday with Prime Minister Abe, Foreign Minister Motegi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, and National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura, during which they discussed the plan for Xi’s visit and the coronavirus outbreak. Abe reportedly said at the beginning of his meeting with Yang: “The visit is extremely important for bilateral relations. Careful preparations need to be made to make sure that sufficient results can be achieved.” They reportedly agreed to continue communicating closely in order to realize the visit and to cooperate to overcome the challenges caused by the virus.  

 

The dailies noted that pessimism is growing within the GOJ about the feasibility of a state visit by Xi in April, as both nations are currently preoccupied with the coronavirus outbreak. Asahi quoted an unnamed senior GOJ official as saying: “Common sense dictates that it would be extremely difficult to make the visit happen in April.” Yomiuri noted that although Xi’s delegation is likely to comprise well over 300 officials, little progress has been made on measures to prevent virus infection among participants in events associated with the Chinese leader’s visit to Tokyo, including an audience with the Emperor and a state dinner at the Akasaka Palace.  

 

Asahi said the Chinese side has also become cautious about the April plan in view of the virus outbreak in Japan. The daily speculated that if the visit is postponed, the next window of opportunity will probably be in the fall or later since it is likely to be difficult to arrange sessions with both the prime minister and the Emperor any sooner than that.

In follow-up reports, the Sunday editions of Yomiuri and Sankei reported on the disclosure by several diplomatic sources involved in Sino-Japanese relations that the two governments are considering postponing Chinese leader Xi’s state visit to Japan on the grounds that it would not be appropriate to stage such a major diplomatic event under the current situation because the coronavirus outbreak is having serious adverse effects on people’s lives in both nations. The papers noted that the visit will probably be postponed until the fall or later. According to one source, the GOJ side has already proposed its postponement. Sankei said the Chinese side is wary about the possibility of a surge in opposition to Xi’s visit in April amid the steady increase in the number of cases of the virus that originated in Wuhan. The paper also noted that the two sides are inclined to delay the visit to ensure that it will be “politically significant,” since doing so under the current situation appears difficult due to the cancellation of a series of high-level preparatory meetings.   

 

Yomiuri wrote today that the two governments will formally decide this week to postpone Xi’s visit, quoting an unnamed high-ranking GOJ official as saying that Yang and Abe and other GOJ officials agreed effectively during their Friday meetings to put it off. 

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