Japan business delegation leaves for China

Japan business delegation leaves for China

TOKYO - A Japanese business delegation left for China on Monday, officials said, in the largest mission since a heated territorial dispute soured diplomatic and trade relations between the Asian giants.

The 178-strong delegation was to arrive in Beijing Monday evening on a four-day visit, with the group hoping to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping or Premier Li Keqiang, according to a spokeswoman for the Japan-China Economic Association, which is leading the delegation.

The delegates include executives from blue-chip Japanese giants including Toyota's honorary chairman Fujio Cho, and the head of Japan's biggest business lobby group.

"Relations between Japan and China are tough, but there is no change in our mutually dependent business relationship," Cho told reporters in Tokyo last week.

The annual tour, which has been running for decades, was put on ice last year as relations hit a new low with a dispute over the ownership of an East China Sea island chain setting off riots and a consumer boycott of Japanese brands in China.

That came after Tokyo nationalised some of the archipelago, which is believed to harbour vast natural resources below its seabed.

Despite often testy diplomatic relations, the two Asian giants have a major trading relationship.

A smaller Japanese business delegation has visited China since the long-running row flared anew last year. But next week's trip would be the largest since more than 180 executives visited in 2011.

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