Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is arranging to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Boao, Hainan Province, on the sidelines of a regional forum running from Saturday to Monday, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
It would be the first meeting between Xi and any Japanese leader, former or current, since he succeeded Hu Jintao as president in March.
There is keen interest in how Xi will address relations with Japan, which have soured over possession of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, now vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is considering a visit to China as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy.
Coupled with the possible Fukuda visit, the moves signal the restart of high-level exchanges between the two countries.
The meeting between Fukuda and Xi is being arranged for either Saturday or Sunday.
Sources said the Chinese side has pinned its hopes on Fukuda, who as prime minister between September 2007 and September 2008 stressed the importance of Sino-Japanese relations.
They said Beijing may be trying to improve Japanese sentiment toward China, which has suffered amid the territorial dispute.
Fukuda is expected to convey to the new Chinese leader that both Tokyo and Beijing need to work hard to repair strained ties and restore trust between the two nations.
The Boao Forum for Asia, a regional forum launched in February 2001 and held every April in southern China, is striving to become an Asian version of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It draws both political and business leaders from around Asia.
Meanwhile, the All-China Women’s Federation, a women’s group in China, is inviting the spouses of Fukuda and Ryutaro Hashimoto, a prime minister in the 1990s who died in 2006, to an exchange event in Beijing on Wednesday, a source involved in the event said Tuesday.
The Chinese move is believed to be aimed at helping to ease the tension over the island dispute.
Among the other participants scheduled to attend the event are the spouses of Komura, former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shunichi Suzuki.
At the event, Kiyoko Fukuda is expected to explain the merits of maternity health record books, which are widely used in Japan by pregnant women and mothers to keep track of the well-being of their children and themselves, in a bid to encourage China to adopt a similar system.