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International relations

China sends foreign minister to Japan with eye on post-Trump order

Wang Yi to meet with Prime Minister Suga and counterpart Motegi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, will be the first high-ranking official from his country to meet with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in person.

TOKYO -- Now that the post-Trump world order is in sight, China thinks it is time to send its foreign minister to Japan to gain insight into its new government's stance on Beijing.

Wang Yi, who is also a state councilor, will visit Japan from Tuesday to Wednesday, both countries announced Friday. He is scheduled to meet with both Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

"There are many pending issues between our countries, and it is important to resolve them one by one through high-level dialogue," Motegi told reporters.

Wang will be the first high-ranking Chinese official to meet with Suga in person since he became prime minister in September, as well as the first to visit Japan since Politburo member Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat, in February.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Japan in October. Wang's upcoming trip will help Tokyo maintain a balance in relations with Washington and Beijing.

The Japanese side does not expect Sino-American tensions to ease dramatically under the Biden administration and plans to keep a close eye on the bilateral rivalry to inform its own policies on China.

"A stable relationship with China is extremely important not only for the two countries, but also for the region and the international community," Suga had told the Diet in October.

The two sides are expected to discuss the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China claims as the Diaoyu, and urge China to avoid actions that undermine Hong Kong's autonomy and human rights.

Suga believes that he needs to take a tough stance on these hot-button issues to garner public support for greater economic cooperation with China, which he considers a top priority in bilateral ties and in Japan's economic recovery from COVID-19. He will propose cooperating with Beijing on free trade, virus response and climate change.

Restarting business travel is another priority. While the countries are now discussing a plan to do so, rising COVID-19 cases in both Japan and China have kept them from finalizing an agreement.

"Before the pandemic, Japan had more traffic with China than any other country," Motegi said Friday. "We hope to have a solid conversation about how we can resume travel while preventing the coronavirus from spreading."

Wang will enter quarantine after he returns to China as a precaution to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. "We will make arrangements in accordance with relevant national epidemic prevention regulations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday.

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