Reciprocal Abe-Xi visits in 2018 proposed

TOKYO • Japan has proposed to China that their top leaders pay each other visits next year, a Japanese newspaper reported, in a move that would help to mend often rocky diplomatic ties.

Tokyo suggested the reciprocal visits late last month, when Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi was in Japan, the Nikkei Asian Review said yesterday, citing Japanese government sources.

Mr Yang, who met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and National Security Council chief Shotaro Yachi during his trip, agreed "to make efforts to fully improve relations", the Nikkei said.

Relations between Japan and China have been strained over territorial rows and Japan's occupation of parts of China in World War II, though leaders have recently sought to mend ties through dialogue.

Next year is significant for bilateral relations, being the 40th anniversary of a treaty of peace and friendship between the countries.

On the treaty's 20th anniversary in 1998, then Chinese president Jiang Zemin made a state visit to Japan. His successor Hu Jintao did the same on the 30th anniversary in 2008.

That same year, Japan's then premier Yasuo Fukuda visited China, marking the last time leaders of the two countries exchanged visits in the same year, the Nikkei noted, adding that the summit proposal is part of a bigger charm offensive on Japan's part.

On Monday, Mr Abe expressed his conditional support for China's Belt and Road Initiative at Nikkei's Future of Asia conference. Mr Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are likely to meet during the Group of 20 summit in Germany next month.

Tokyo is also keen to revive Japan-China-South Korea summits. In the past, the three countries would take turns to play host, and China is due to play that role next year. That would pave the way for Mr Abe to visit China.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Reciprocal Abe-Xi visits in 2018 proposed'. Print Edition | Subscribe