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International relations

China's Xi to visit Tokyo as planned: Japan foreign minister

Officials from two countries agree to team up more closely on coronavirus

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, right, meets with China's foreign policy chief, Yang Jiechi, in Tokyo on Feb. 28 ahead of a planned visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in April. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- There is no change in plans for Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a state visit to Japan, for the time being, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday amid speculation that the trip would be postponed due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Motegi made the comment after meeting with China's foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi in Tokyo. Yang is also slated to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his national security adviser, Shigeru Kitamura, later in the day.

"There is no change in plans for President Xi's visit at this moment," Motegi told reporters after the meeting. "But as a state visit by a Chinese president is a once-in-a-decade event, it must accomplish something. We agreed to continue communicating to that end."

They also agreed to step up cooperation on tackling the epidemic that has infected 82,000 and killed more than 2,800, mostly in mainland China, Motegi said.

Xi is slated to make the trip to Japan in April, becoming the first Chinese president to make a state visit since Hu Jintao in May 2008.

The visit, which will include a meeting with Emperor Naruhito and a banquet at the Imperial Palace, has been viewed as a chance to underscore a recent improvement in bilateral relations, following enmity in the early 2010s amid a dispute over the sovereignty of islets in the East China Sea.

But Xi's government has struggled to contain the epidemic that originated in central China's Wuhan, with the country's parliament saying this week it will delay its annual meeting. A number of meetings between government officials from Japan and China to prepare for Xi's visit have also been called off, fanning speculation of postponement.

Both countries have publicly maintained the trip is still on.

Yang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, last came to Japan in June 2019, accompanying Xi to a Group of 20 leaders' summit in Osaka. He is scheduled to leave on Saturday.

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