Japan business delegation to visit China next week

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese business delegation will head to China next week, the largest since a heated territorial dispute hammered diplomatic and trade relations between the Asian giants, an official said Friday.

Nearly 180 Japanese executives are to visit Beijing from Monday through Thursday with the group hoping to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping or Premier Li Keqiang, said a spokesman for the Japan-China Economic Association, which is leading the delegation.

"We have filed a request for a meeting with President Xi or Premier Li, but we have not received a confirmation yet," he added.

Among the delegation will be executives from blue-chip Japanese giants including Toyota's honorary chairman Mr Fujio Cho, and the head of Japan's biggest business lobby group.

The annual tour, which has been running for decades, was put on ice last year as relations sank to a new low with a dispute over the ownership of an East China Sea island chain setting off riots and a consumer boycott of Japanese brands in China.

That came after Tokyo nationalised some of the archipelago, which is believed to harbour vast natural resources below its seabed.

A smaller Japanese business delegation has visited China since the long-running row flared anew last year. But next week's trip would be the largest since more than 180 executives visited in 2011.