BEIJING - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to visit Hokkaido after attending a trilateral summit in Tokyo with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts early next month, diplomatic sources said Saturday.
Li, who was reappointed to a second five-year term as China’s head of government last month, may also deliver a speech at an event in the Japanese capital to mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of a friendship treaty between Beijing and Tokyo, the sources said.
In Hokkaido Li is scheduled to join a conference that local political leaders are to participate in, the sources added.
Li is to be invited by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government as an official working guest, a step down from a state guest or official guest, but he is set to have an audience with Emperor Akihito included in his itinerary, the sources said.
The last Chinese premier to make an official visit to Japan was Wen Jiabao in May 2011. During that trip, Wen visited Fukushima Prefecture and other areas hit by the deadly earthquake and tsunami that happened in March that year.
Li is expected to attend the trilateral summit with Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the morning of May 9 and hold bilateral talks with Abe in the afternoon, the sources said.
The two leaders may agree on the implementation of a “Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism” in the East China Sea.
The mechanism is aimed at avoiding unintended clashes in the contentious body of water, where China challenges the sovereignty of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets called Diaoyu in China.
On May 10, Li is expected to take part in a reception, hosted by business leaders in Tokyo, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signing in 1978 of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations, the sources said.
Li is likely to visit Hokkaido on May 11 and return to China the same day, as May 12 will mark the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, they added.