Xi's Japan state visit postponed until further notice, says report

Already delayed tour would have come at a tense time in relations as Beijing and Tokyo continue spat over territorial waters and the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong

Xi's Japan state visit postponed until further notice, says report
Protesters punch their fists during an anti-China rally in Tokyo in 2012 amid a flare-up in a simmering diplomatic row over who owns the uninhabited Senkaku islands, which are known as the Diaoyu islands in China. File photo by Reuters.

(ATF) Chinese President Xi Jinping will not make a state visit to Japan this year as both countries continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, according to Japanese media on Monday.

Senior Chinese officials are unlikely to visit Japan before 2022, the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a diplomat told the Sankei newspaper.

Besides, Xi's visit would have come at a tense time in relations between Beijing and Tokyo, according to the paper.

The major issue is the continuing territorial waters dispute over the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu islands in China.

Tokyo says Chinese ships breached the maritime border on a record 333 days last year. "The situation surrounding the Senkaku Islands is becoming more tense," the Sankei paper said, quoting officials.

Japan has also objected to Beijing's crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, the paper said.

WAITING FOR BETTER TIMES

After putting Xi's visit on hold last year, Japan's government said Asia's two biggest economies would arrange an itinerary for a better time.

Japan is China’s third-largest source of foreign investment and third-largest trading partner. China is Japan’s largest export market and trading partner, representing more than 20% of Japan’s total trade.

China accounts for a quarter of revenues for companies like Panasonic, including sales within China, and exports mainly to Japan. Japanese companies supplied about $12 billion in parts to Huawei alone in 2020, according to UK research company Omdia.

Despite such significant economic ties, China's government is increasingly unpopular among Japanese citizens.

In July 2020, a poll indicated that a majority of respondents said Xi's state visit should be called off, reflecting international objections to China's tightening grip over Hong Kong.

The Nikkei/TV Tokyo poll found that 62% wanted the trip cancelled, while only 28% said it should take place. 

With reporting by Reuters

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