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Business delegation hopes to pave way for Abe-Xi summit in latest China visit

Kyodo

A large group of Japanese business leaders will start a six-day visit to China on Monday in an effort to build closer economic ties and repair icy bilateral relations.

Delegates from the Japan-China Economic Association will discuss various issues with senior Chinese government officials, from increasing mutual investment to addressing air pollution in China.

The association, comprising mainly corporate leaders, has asked for a meeting with Xi or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. A similar request from its previous delegation was rejected in November last year.

The association started visiting China in 1975 and Monday’s trip will be its 40th. Over 200 people will be in the delegation, which will be led by Fujio Cho, honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., and include Sadayuki Sakakibara, head of the influential Keidanren, Japan’s largest business lobby.

“We’d like to contribute to creating an environment that will enable a summit” between Abe and Xi, Sakakibara said when the group met earlier this month.

The visit comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to arrange a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing. The leaders haven’t officially met once since Abe took office in late 2012.

“We will convey our strong hope for an early improvement in Japan-China relations,” Cho said.

The two nations are at each other’s throats over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands off Taiwan. The uninhabited islet chain in the East China Sea is claimed as Diaoyu by China and Tiaoyutai by Taiwan. The two sides also have starkly conflicting perceptions of Japan’s wartime crimes against humanity in Asia.