Top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi to visit Japan, meet PM Abe

State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official trip to Japan for several years.
State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official trip to Japan for several years.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP, Reuters) - China's top foreign policymaker will visit Japan Tuesday for a high-level political dialogue, in the latest possible thaw between the Asian rivals despite territorial disputes and tensions.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi, whose visit was announced Monday (Oct 12) by Beijing's foreign ministry, will be the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official trip to Japan for several years.

Yang is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, Japan's foreign ministry said in Tokyo.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two sides would talk about bilateral and international issues and ways to "manage and control disputes".

It will be Yang's first trip to Japan since he became State Councillor in 2013, a year after relations plunged following Tokyo's nationalisation of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Despite close trade links between the world's second- and third-largest economies, relations are also clouded by rows over wartime history and an increasingly bitter argument over ownership of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. Beijing last month held a huge military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe met on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit last year, their handshake was marred by expressions of barely concealed distaste.

During his three-day trip Yang will meet the head of Japan's National Security Council Shotaro Yachi as part of an ongoing series of meetings between the two countries, following the first in Beijing in July, foreign minstry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.

The visit comes as Japanese media reported as many as four citizens have been detained in the past month on accusations of spying in China, the first such cases since 2010.

According to the reports, one is a Japanese woman who had been held in Shanghai since June and the other a Japanese national in Beijing.

Hua would not directly comment on those reports.

"As far as I understand, relevant Chinese departments are investigating the relevant cases in accordance with the law. The relevant situation has been passed on to the Japanese side," she told a daily news briefing.