Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering attending a business event to be held on the 50th anniversary of the normalization of ties between Japan and China late this month, in an apparent effort to foster momentum for a summit by the two neighbors, sources close to the matter said Sunday.
The Japan Business Federation, the country's most powerful business lobby better known as Keidanren, and groups dedicated to promoting Japan-China friendship will organize the event on Sept. 29 at a Tokyo hotel.
Kishida aims to hold a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the future.
Leaders from the two East Asian neighbors have not held in-person talks since December 2019 as they remain at odds over the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets administered by Japan but claimed by China, and tensions have grown over the Taiwan Strait.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou are also planning to show up at the event, with the organizers requesting messages from Xi or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, according to the sources.
For fears that a cooling of political relations could negatively affect business ties with China, the largest trading partner of Japan, Japanese business leaders hope that Kishida will meet Xi.
When the two countries marked the 45th anniversary in 2017, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended an event held by the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and proposed reciprocal visits by leaders of Japan and China, leading to improvement of bilateral relations.
Japan and China are envisaging a meeting between Kishida and Xi in the fall at the earliest on the sidelines of international conferences such as summit talks of the Group of 20 major economies and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, both scheduled for November, the sources said.
Ahead of the 50th anniversary event, the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and Keidanren will hold a symposium Sept. 12 in the Japanese capital, in which Hayashi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are expected to deliver video messages, according to the sources.
Early last month, Wang abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Hayashi, days after a trip to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
If it had been realized, it would have been the first face-to-face meeting by foreign ministers of the two nations since November 2020.
Since Pelosi's visit to Taipei, China has ramped up military pressure on the self-ruled democratic island, which Beijing regards as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
As part of attempts to change the status quo by force, the Chinese military conducted large-scale drills near Taiwan in early August, including firing of ballistic missiles.
Some of the missiles fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone, prompting Tokyo to demand Beijing "immediately stop" the exercises.
Japan has also repeatedly lodged protests with China over intrusions by Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands.