China’s Xi postpones state visit to Japan amid virus outbreak

Chinese president (right) had been expected to make the visit in the spring. (AP pic)

TOKYO: A state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping this spring has been postponed as preventing the outbreak of the new coronavirus is “the biggest challenge” for the two countries, Japan’s top government spokesman said Thursday.

“A state visit by President Xi to Japan will be held at a convenient time for both of us,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

“The biggest challenge now for both countries is the prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus. It is necessary to give first priority to this.”

Xi had been expected to make the state visit in the spring after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally invited him during last year’s G20 summit in Osaka.

The last state visit by a Chinese president to Japan was in 2008, and Xi’s trip was cast as a key sign of warming bilateral ties.

Japanese officials had in recent weeks insisted that the trip was on despite the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 95,000 people worldwide and killed over 3,200.