China’s new ambassador to Japan revealed on Friday that Beijing and Tokyo are working to arrange a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping “in the near future,” possibly next spring.
“I hope it will be during a good season, like the time when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom,” Kong Xuanyou said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
“Both sides are now working hard toward arranging the timing like that,” he said.
Kong was appointed China’s top envoy to Tokyo on May 30. Prior to that, he had worked in Japan for a total of nearly 15 years as a diplomat.
A visit by Xi would be the first by a Chinese president as a state guest since May 2008 and further underline the recent improvement in Sino-Japanese ties.
Bilateral ties were severely strained after Tokyo nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in 2012. The unpopulated islets are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Kong pointed out that Beijing and Tokyo began efforts to improve diplomatic ties as early as 2014.
That said, he denied the ongoing trade war with the United States has prompted Beijing to improve ties with Tokyo, saying both nations made the decision in light of their long-term interests.
“Trump was not the U.S. president” in 2014, Kong noted.
“It was an important decision based on the assessment of national interests of each country,” he said.
The ambassador said ties between China and Japan “finally returned to a normal condition” last year, apparently referring to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit in May.
At the time, Li declared that bilateral ties had finally been brought back to a “normal track” after meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
Kong also asserted that the two-day G20 summit in Osaka starting on Friday will be held “at a very important moment,” given the rise of “unilateralism and protectionism.”
He then criticized the trade policies of the Trump administration.
“To our regret, the new American administration launched in 2017 has stuck to an America First policy — unilateralism and protectionism. It has been brandishing tariffs against other countries and stirring up trade friction with China,” Kong said.
“This is toxic for China-U.S. relations and has negative impacts on the world. The international society is deeply concerned about it,” the ambassador said.
“A trade war won’t make America great again. It will just bring threats to the world economy,” he said, taking a jab at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Kong’s news conference took place as Xi was in Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Before coming to Tokyo as the ambassador, Kong served as China’s special representative on Korean Peninsula issues.
Kong said he hadn’t received much information about the results of the Xi-Kim meeting but emphasized that it was “not hastily planned” as Kim, who has visited Beijing four times in his official capacity as leader, asked him to come over.
“We’re firmly convinced that (Xi’s visit) will make new contributions to the prosperity and stability of the region,” he said.