Japan and China are making arrangements for President Xi Jinping to visit Tokyo as a state guest next year, rather than this year as initially planned, due to a tight schedule, according to sources familiar with the situation.
During his visit to China last October, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sounded out Xi about the possibility of visiting Japan in June for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka and then in the fall as a state guest, diplomatic sources said earlier.
Xi is scheduled to visit for the G20 summit, but Beijing was reluctant to accept the proposal for him to visit Japan two times in the same year, making a request that Abe visit China instead, according to the sources.
China plans to host a trilateral summit with Japan and South Korea later this year.
Abe is now likely to visit China before receiving Xi as a state guest.
Japan also has a series of events this fall in connection with the imperial succession, including the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi enthronement ceremony on Oct. 22 to proclaim Emperor Naruhito’s accession.
A visit by a foreign leader as a state guest involves a meeting and banquet with the emperor, who ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.
“It’s difficult to receive President Xi as a state guest before the year’s end because the schedule is tight,” a senior government source said.
The postponement is also under consideration as Tokyo has apparently judged it can wait until next year to realize Xi’s visit, provided that Sino-Japanese relations keep improving.
Despite outstanding issues related to territory and wartime history, Japan and China have been warming to each other while Beijing has been locked in a trade war with Washington.
Abe last October became the first Japanese leader in nearly seven years to make an official visit to China.