Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi invites Xi to visit Japan next year

Chinese President Xi Jinping has met with the leader of the junior party in Japan’s ruling coalition, who invited him to visit Tokyo next year amid growing momentum to rebuild bilateral ties.

“On the premise that he will visit Japan next year, I said, ‘I am looking forward to meeting you in Japan, and I believe Japanese people will also give a big welcome.’ This is the sort of thing I said,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters late Friday at a Beijing hotel.

“President Xi Jinping nodded with a smile,” said Yamaguchi, who also handed Xi a personal letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

During a brief chat with Xi ahead of an event hosted by the Communist Party of China, Yamaguchi said he also expressed hope of strengthening cooperation with Beijing to solve regional issues, including those related to North Korea.

His first meeting with Xi in about two years took place after Abe and Xi agreed last month on the sidelines of a regional economic summit in Vietnam that Asia’s two biggest economies would make a “new start” in their relationship.

Sino-Japanese relations, often frayed by regional rivalry and historical issues, are moving forward after Xi began his second five-year term as head of the ruling party in October with a new leadership lineup after its twice-a-decade congress.

Before meeting with Xi, Yamaguchi discussed bilateral and North Korean issues with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, who was installed a day after the congress on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, the apex of power in China.

“China’s relationship with North Korea used to be one cemented with blood, but we are now opposed to each other because of the (North Korean) nuclear issue,” a Komeito lawmaker accompanying Yamaguchi quoted Wang as saying.

Wang said China remains resolutely opposed to North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons but stressed that the issue must be resolved through dialogue and consultation, the lawmaker said.

Yamaguchi said he told Wang that the ruling coalition wants reciprocal visits by the two leaders to take place next year, along with a trilateral summit involving South Korea.

Yamaguchi is in the Chinese capital through Sunday to participate in a meeting of political parties from around the world that is being hosted by the Communist Party, which has invited about 300 political parties and organizations from more than 120 countries.

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