Japan and China are making arrangements for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan as a state guest next year, rather than this year as initially planned, due to a tight schedule, sources familiar with the situation said Monday.
During his visit to China last October, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sounded out Xi about the possibility of visiting Japan in June for a Group of 20 summit in Osaka and then in fall as a state guest, diplomatic sources said earlier.
But Beijing was reluctant to accept the proposal for Xi to visit Japan two times within the year, despite a time of improving bilateral relations, making a request that Abe instead visit China, according to the sources.
China plans to host a trilateral summit with Japan and South Korea by the end of the year.
Abe is now likely to visit China before receiving Xi as a state guest.
Japan also has a series of events this fall in connection with the imperial succession, including "Sokuirei Seiden no gi," a key ceremony on Oct. 22 to proclaim Emperor Naruhito's accession.
A visit by a foreign leader as a state guest involves a meeting and banquet with the emperor, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.
"It's difficult to receive President Xi as a state guest before the year's end because the schedule is tight," a senior Japanese government source said.
The postponement is also under consideration as Tokyo has apparently judged it can wait until next year to realize Xi's visit, provided that Sino-Japanese relations have been steadily improving.
Despite outstanding issues related to territory and wartime history, Japan and China have been warming to each other while Beijing has been locked in a trade war with Washington.
In October, Abe became the first Japanese leader in nearly seven years to make an official visit to China.