TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan hopes a planned visit this spring by Chinese President Xi Jinping will prove to be meaningful, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, on Friday.

When the two leaders met last June on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Osaka, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited Xi to visit Japan at the “time of the cherry blossoms” this spring, which is typically from late March to early April.

As the diplomats met on Friday, Motegi told Yang he wanted to have a solid exchange of views to ensure Xi’s visit was meaningful.

“President Xi’s visit to Japan as a state guest is extremely important,” he said at the start of the meeting, which was open to reporters. “We need to make it a fruitful visit.”

As the neighbors grapple with a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, fears are growing that Xi’s visit may be affected, however.

On Thursday, Japan said the preparations for Xi’s state visit were going ahead, despite its call for sports and cultural events to be scaled down and a closure of the school system from Monday to help rein in the spread of the virus.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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