TOKYO: A large business delegation left Japan on Monday for China with hopes of being granted an audience with President Xi Jinping as the two countries take baby steps towards patching up tattered relations.
More than 200 senior executives—the largest number on record—headed for Beijing on an annual visit that dates back to 1975, an official with Japan-China Economic Association told Agence France-Presse.
Relations have been dire in recent years, with the two huge trade partners rowing over the ownership of an East China Sea island chain and over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a Tokyo war shrine.
There has been no Japan-China summit since Abe came to power in December 2012, but Tokyo is hoping there will be a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum near Beijing in November.
“We are requesting meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, but we’ve not received a response yet,” said the official of the group headed by Toyota Motor honorary chairman Fujio Cho.
Delegations dispatched by the association met with either the president or the premier for most of the 2000s, but since 2010 there has been no such opportunity, the group said.
Last year the highest level Chinese official they met was vice premier Wang Yang, the association said.
During the visit to China, executives of major Japanese companies are scheduled to meet with government officials in charge of national development, commerce, industry and communication, the group’s official said.