BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Japan in June to attend this year’s summit of the Group of 20 major economies, in what will be his first trip to the nation since coming to power in 2013, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Monday.
“His attendance is scheduled,” Kono told reporters in Beijing after meeting separately with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Kono’s Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
It is also hoped that the visit will be an opportunity for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to hold his first meeting with Xi since a summit in Buenos Aires in November.
Kono said he agreed with Wang to work toward the success of the summit, set to be hosted in Osaka, and boost cooperation between the two countries on various global issues.
“To stabilize Japan-China relations in the truest sense, positive action by China in the East China Sea is necessary,” Kono added. A dispute over the Japanese-controlled and uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls Diaoyu, remains a source of tension between the two countries.
At the outset of the meeting, held at the Zhongnanhai government compound, Li had said, “As neighbors, China and Japan should deepen economic cooperation and cultivate third-country markets for the benefit of not only our two countries but also to ensure a stable recovery in the global economy.”
The Japanese minister said he also asked China to lift restrictions on imports of Japanese food that were put in place after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In November, China removed a ban on rice grown in Niigata Prefecture, more than 200 kilometers away from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and has shown willingness to ease restrictions on other Japanese food proven to be safe based on scientific evaluations.
In a blow to Japan’s fishery industry, the World Trade Organization ruled Thursday that South Korea could maintain its import ban on Japanese seafood, reversing an earlier decision that had called for the prohibition to be lifted.
Kono and Wang are also believed to have discussed the resumption of talks on a joint gas development project in the East China Sea based on a 2008 bilateral accord that has since stalled.
On Sunday, the two co-chaired a high-level economic dialogue aimed at deepening cooperation at a time when global growth is slowing.
At the meeting, which was attended by a dozen ministers from both sides, Japan voiced concern over lax protection of intellectual property rights in China. Beijing, meanwhile, called on Tokyo to invest in infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road initiative.
Kono told reporters Sunday that the two countries broadly agreed to sign a quarantine pact that is a precondition to bringing an end to China’s import ban of Japanese beef, imposed in 2001 when the first case of mad cow disease was detected in Japan.
“It’s an important step” toward lifting the ban, Kono said, noting that the pact would be signed “soon,” but without giving a concrete timeline.
Kono said at the meeting, “It goes without saying it’s important that the second- and third-largest economies in the world hold constructive discussions on economic ties.”
Six ministers from each country sat together for nearly four hours in a bid to find ways to create a more favorable environment for firms doing business in one another’s country.
They dealt with a range of economic issues, including intellectual property theft that has developed into a tit-for-tat tariff war between the United States and China.
“We have voiced Japan’s concerns over forced technology transfers and over the protection of intellectual property rights,” Kono told reporters after Sunday’s ministerial meeting.
According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Beijing encouraged Tokyo to invest in infrastructure projects under Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” development initiative that stretches across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
China also expressed concern over decisions by Japanese telecommunications firms to exclude Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from contracts, amid concerns among some developed countries over security breaches, Kono said.