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Japan FM to visit China, first time in over 3 years

Published : 31 Mar 2023 10:50 PM

Japan's top diplomat Yoshimasa Hayashi will visit China this weekend, the first such visit in over three years, the foreign ministry in Tokyo announced Friday.

The April 1-2 trip will include talks with Hayashi's Chinese counterpart Qin Gang, the ministry said, and will be the first time a Japanese foreign minister has visited since December 2019.

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been tense in recent years, with Japan wary of China's growing military power in the region.

But last November, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of a summit in Bangkok and pledged to continue high-level contact.

Tokyo has accused Chinese vessels of increasing incursions into Japanese waters, including near the disputed islands that Japan calls the Senkakus and Beijing the Diaoyus.

This week, Tokyo also called for Beijing to release a Japanese businessman held by Chinese authorities on unspecified allegations of violating domestic laws.

Wary of growing Chinese military clout, and spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Japan has overhauled its defence and security strategy.

Last year, it announced plans to lift defence spending to two percent of GDP by 2027.

As the world's second and third-largest economies, China and Japan are key trading partners, and before the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been plans for Xi to make a state visit to Tokyo.

But relations have soured significantly since, as Beijing bolsters its military, projects power regionally and beyond and takes a harder line on territorial rivalries.