Xi’s visit to Japan not yet in planning stage, new envoy to China says

BEIJING – Tokyo’s new ambassador to Beijing said on Friday that the two sides have yet to set a date for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s long-delayed visit to Japan.

“We are not at the stage of discussing a concrete timetable,” Hideo Tarumi said here during his first press briefing since taking office last month.

Xi was due to arrive in Japan as a state guest in April 2020, becoming the first Chinese leader to make such a trip in more than a decade. But the coronavirus pandemic has thwarted those plans, and the visit has yet to be rescheduled.

In the interest of continuing warmer bilateral relations, “I will affirm what needs to be said,” Tarumi said. “I look forward to establishing fair, stable and constructive relationships.”

Xi said in November that China would “favorably” consider joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with 11 countries, of which Japan is a member.

“The TPP demands very high levels of market access and rules,” Tarumi said, a response suggesting the need to carefully assess whether China meets the criteria to join the pact.

“It would be out of the question to bend the rules and insert exceptions” for China, Tarumi added.

The seasoned diplomat is a member of the “Chinese school” of experts at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, who speak Mandarin and have an extensive network of connections in China.

Tarumi is known to be close to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as well as Toshihiro Nikai, the powerful general secretary of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and one of the most pro-Chinese figures in the Japanese leadership. Tarumi served as Nikai’s liaison to the ministry, coordinating a trip to China in 2015 when the PLD official chaired the party’s general council.

Tarumi also referred to the record number of incursions by Chinese government ships into the waters near the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands. Beijing claims the islands under the name of Diaoyu.

Tarumi vowed to work diligently to resolve the situation, which he described as “completely unacceptable”.

“Japan has sovereignty [over the Senkakus] both historically and in terms of international law, ”he said.


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