Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely be eager to take advantage of Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Japan to flaunt his diplomatic clout, especially in an election year.

But Abe will need to play a careful balancing act between cozying up to China and maintaining the relationship with Japan's closest ally, the United States.

On his three-day visit to Beijing from Saturday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono was on a mission to further a recent improvement in Sino-Japanese ties following years of animosity over a territorial dispute and differing views on wartime history.