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International relations

Japan's Suga and Xi look to hold first telephone call Friday

Coronavirus response and state visit likely on agenda

Yoshihide Suga, right, is expected to hold a telephone conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, marking Xi's first such meeting with a Japanese prime minister since 2018.

TOKYO -- Preparations have begun to hold Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's first telephone conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, Nikkei has learned.

The two leaders are expected to discuss such matters as cooperation on fighting the coronavirus. They may also discuss Xi's plans for a state visit to Japan, which was postponed in April because of the pandemic.

This would mark the first telephone conference between Xi and a Japanese prime minister since May 2018.

In his first news conference after taking office Sept. 16, Suga said he aims "to build stable relationships with neighboring countries, including China and Russia."

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been strained by friction over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands. Chinese government ships have probed the waters around the East China Sea islets for months, prompting protests from Japan's government.

China's imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong has also tested Sino-Japanese relations.

During his successful campaign for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Suga said he wanted "high-level opportunities" to argue Japan's positions on such issues.

Suga held his first telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday.

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