June 18, 2024

(Bloomberg) — The leader of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s coalition partner party is seeking to arrange a visit to China this year, after canceling a trip last month as friction rose with his country’s biggest trading partner.

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Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the Buddhist-backed Komeito party, said in an interview with Bloomberg News at his offices in Tokyo on Tuesday that he wanted to visit this year, which marks the 45th anniversary of the peace and friendship treaty that enabled Sino-Japanese ties to thrive.

“Cooperating and fulfilling our responsibilities and roles will lead to stability and development for the international community,” Yamaguchi said of efforts to mend ties between the world’s second and third-largest economies.

Komeito, the long-standing junior partner in the coalition with Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party, is known for maintaining connections with China, even when government relations turn cold. Yet Yamaguchi postponed a planned trip to China in August after Beijing told his party it wasn’t an “appropriate” time to visit, given the state of relations between the two countries.

His trip had been due to take place just after Japan began a release of treated wastewater in August from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. The discharge has infuriated China and the two countries have publicly clashed over it, most recently at the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna this week, according to the Sankei newspaper.

Read: Why Japan Is Releasing Fukushima Water Into the Sea: QuickTake

Nevertheless, officials from South Korea Japan and China agreed at a meeting in Seoul on Tuesday to hold a trilateral meeting of their foreign ministers within a few months and a summit at the earliest appropriate time. Such three-way events have sometimes served as a stepping stone toward improving bilateral ties.

Separately, Kishida has asked the two ruling parties to consider measures to be included in an economic package that would be drawn up next month and funded by an extra budget.

Yamaguchi said the government should consider extending subsidies on gasoline, heating oil, gas and electricity to the end of the financial year on March 31, depending on market movements. Kishida recently extended the fuel aid to the end of the calendar year after a request from Komeito.

Handouts for low-income households in the form of cash or vouchers should also be considered, Yamaguchi added. One of the main causes of low public support for the Kishida cabinet has been dissatisfaction with measures to help those hit by inflation.

The party, whose electoral support is vital to the LDP, often focuses on policies to help lower income groups.

–With assistance from Yuki Hagiwara.

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