Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is considering visiting China this weekend, Japanese government sources said Tuesday, as ties between the two nations remain tense over issues including Beijing's recent detention of a Japanese businessman and a territorial row.
If the planned trip to China for two days from Saturday is realized, it would be the first visit to the neighboring nation by a Japanese foreign minister since December 2019.
Hayashi is expected to hold his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang since the former Chinese ambassador to the United States succeeded Wang Yi in late December, according to the sources.
Hayashi will likely demand that China release the Japanese national detained since earlier this month on suspicion of engaging in spying activities, the sources added.
The detention of the employee of Japanese drug maker Astellas Pharma Inc. has further strained relations between the two Asian powers.
The two countries have been at odds over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by China as Diaoyu, with Chinese coast guard vessels repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters around them.
The planned visit emerged after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to arrange Hayashi's trip to China when they met in November in Bangkok for their first in-person talks.
Tensions between China and the United States have also grown over matters such as Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that Beijing sees as an inseparable part of China to be eventually reunified with the mainland.
Kishida and Xi met in the Thai capital on the sidelines of a gathering of the leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. It was the first face-to-face meeting of Japanese and Chinese leaders in nearly three years.
Qin invited Hayashi to China during their phone talks early last month.
Against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020, no top Japanese diplomats have visited China since December 2019, when then Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi held a meeting with then Chinese Foreign Minister Wang in Beijing.
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