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European Council President Charles Michel’s visit to Japan has been “postponed,” his spokesman has said, amid concern over a new coronavirus variant.

The spokesman, Barend Leyts, wrote Friday on Twitter that the change in plan was due to a member of the council having tested positive for COVID-19. Michel was scheduled to hold talks in Tokyo with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday.

It would have been Michel’s first visit to Japan since he took office in December 2019, according to the European Union, with Tokyo seeking to bolster cooperation with the bloc to counter China’s growing military and economic clout.

Kishida and Michel were likely to discuss the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, democratic values and the rule of law as well as China’s attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China seas during their talks, a Japanese government source said.

In September, the EU released its new Indo-Pacific strategy that included stepping up relations with Taiwan.

The report came at a time when China has been ramping up military pressure such as by sending military planes into the self-ruled island’s air defense identification zone.

Earlier this month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen held talks with a European Parliament delegation that was making a first visit to the democratic, self-ruled island.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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