• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Beijing on Saturday and Sunday to discuss the outlook for improving Japan-China relations with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, the Foreign Ministry has said.

In his talks with Wang on Sunday, Kono is expected to try to lay the groundwork for a long-postponed trilateral summit between Japan, China and South Korea, and subsequent reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He is also scheduled to meet State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, and members of the country’s senior leadership.

“Japan and China have agreed to seek to improve their relationship across the board during this year’s 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China,” the ministry said in a Thursday statement.

Regarding the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Kono is expected to raise with Wang the entry of a Chinese naval submarine into the contiguous zone around Japanese territorial waters near the uninhabited islets earlier this month.

He also plans to talk with Wang about North Korea, seeking the full enforcement of U.N. sanctions imposed in response to the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, the ministry said.

The trip will be Kono’s first to China as foreign minister and the first by a foreign minister since his predecessor Fumio Kishida visited in April 2016.

According to sources, Kono will aim to reach a broad accord during his visit on a bilateral social security agreement that would eliminate dual pension payments by Japanese expats in China and vice versa.

The planned deal will apply to roughly 70,000 employees of Japanese companies in China, saving more than ¥40 billion ($368 million) annually, the sources said.

It will likely mean those dispatched to China for up to five years will continue paying into a Japanese pension plan, while those staying longer will pay into China’s plan instead.

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