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Arrangements being made for Abe to visit China this year

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The Japanese and Chinese governments are negotiating a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China possibly in August or December, after Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Japan to attend the summit of the Group of 20 major countries and regions in June.

After Abe visits China, Xi would again come to Japan as a state guest. Officials hope that the move could lead to a trend of reciprocal visits by the leaders of both countries.

The next summit between Japan, China and South Korea is due to take place in Beijing. China is now preparing to have a meeting of leaders this year, which Abe would attend.

Japanese and Chinese diplomatic sources said that Beijing approached Tokyo about holding the three-way summit in August. The Japanese government, however, expressed reservations, as two other major events are scheduled for August -- the Group of Seven summit of leading industrial nations in France and the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. Because of this, December is being considered as an alternative option, though it is expected that Abe would attend in either scenario.

In May last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the first visit to Japan by a Chinese premier in seven years. Abe then visited China in October. The visits created the impression that ties between Japan and China, which had cooled after Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, were improving.

In April this year, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, asked Xi to make an official trip to Japan as a state guest besides his visit to attend the G-20 summit in the western Japan city of Osaka in June. Chinese officials responded that for Xi to visit, the Japanese prime minister would first have to visit China. If the Japan-China-South Korea summit were held in December, Xi's official visit to Japan would likely be delayed until next year or later.

Final preparations are being made for Xi to be in Japan for three days from June 27 to 29 to attend the G-20 summit and have talks with Abe. It will be the first time for a president of China to come to Japan in nine years since Hu Jintao's visit to Japan.

Visits by the leaders will be discussed when high-ranking Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi visits Japan between May 16 and 18.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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