Senior Chinese official to visit Japan this week, in sign of hastening thaw in relations

TOKYO (AFP) - A senior official from China's National People's Congress will be in Tokyo this week, Japan's Lower House said on Monday, the highest-profile Chinese visitor since 2012 as a thaw in relations sets in.

Mr Ji Bingxuan, a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, will lead a delegation from the Chinese Parliament from Wednesday through Saturday, a parliamentary spokesman said.

The visit is the latest sign that relations between Asia's two biggest powers are getting back on an even keel after three years of squabbling over their bitter shared history and the ownership of disputed islands.

Japan and China held security talks last month, their first such dialogue since January 2011.

Tokyo and Beijing are at loggerheads over the sovereignty of an island chain in the East China Sea that Japan administers as the Senkakus, but China claims as the Diaoyus.

Relations soured in 2012 when the Japanese government nationalised some of the islands.

Beijing subsequently halted most high-level contacts with Tokyo, and ships and planes from the two sides have shadow-boxed in the area ever since.

The diplomatic ice was broken last November when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shared a frosty handshake on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

This week's delegation was invited by Japan's House of Representatives, the Lower House of Parliament.

Mr Ji is expected to hold talks with Lower House speaker Nobutaka Machimura during the stay, the spokesman said.

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