• Kyodo

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi may visit Japan as early as next month for meetings with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Wang’s counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, Japanese government sources said Thursday.

Wang would be the first senior diplomat of the Chinese government to visit Japan since Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe and formed a new Cabinet last month.

The Japanese and Chinese governments will begin arranging a specific schedule for the visit soon, according to the sources.

In the meetings, the two sides are expected to take up a recent sighting of Chinese coast guard ships sailing near the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea for a record length of time. The Japan-administered islands are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.

They are also likely to discuss an initiative led by Japan, the United States, Australia and India to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. The foreign ministers of the four countries earlier in the month affirmed they would step up their coordination, taking aim at what Washington called Beijing’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” of smaller states in the region.

“Mr. Wang himself is positive about visiting Japan. Both sides will need to confirm whether their respective schedules are available,” one of the sources said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news conference earlier this month that Wang hoped to visit Japan at an early date.

Such a possible visit would come as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Japan since taking power in 2013 has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sino-Japanese ties had been improving for years despite the territorial spat. However, China’s recent imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong has led some conservative lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to urge the government to reconsider a visit by Xi.

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