Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next Wednesday in Beijing, diplomatic sources said.
As chairman of the nongovernmental Boao Forum for Asia, Fukuda will meet with Xi for the second time in three months amid Japanese efforts to arrange a first summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing in November.
The Boao Forum’s activities are expected to be the main topic of the meeting, which Fukuda will attend with other executives of the forum during their visit to Beijing from Tuesday, but the two may also discuss ways to repair the countries’ strained relations, the sources said Friday.
The Japanese and Chinese leaders have not held a summit since Abe took office in December 2012 as their countries remain at odds over territorial and historical issues.
The forum, inaugurated in 2001, brings together business leaders and politicians from around the world to mainly discuss economic issues.
In August, Fukuda, who briefly served as prime minister for a year through September 2008, was found to have had a secret meeting with Xi in late July in Beijing, a move widely seen as an attempt to lay the groundwork for an Abe-Xi summit.
Shotaro Yachi, national security adviser to Abe’s Cabinet, accompanied Fukuda to the meeting. Since then, Tokyo and Beijing have stepped up behind-the-scenes efforts toward improving relations.
But China has said at times there will be no summit unless Japan acknowledges that a territorial dispute exists over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea and Abe promises not to visit war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
The Japanese-administered islets are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan. The Shinto shrine, which Abe last visited in December 2013, is seen by Japan’s war victims as a symbol of Japan’s war of aggression.
Tokyo has insisted that the two leaders should meet without any preconditions.