China yesterday said President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan would be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The trip, initially expected next month, would have been the first of its kind in nearly a decade and had been touted as a sign of warming ties between the world’s second-and third-largest economies.
China and Japan are both currently fighting the novel coronavirus epidemic, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a press briefing in Beijing.
“Both sides agreed on the necessity of ensuring that Chairman Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan takes place at the most appropriate timing, environment and atmosphere, and achieves full success.”
The two sides “will maintain close communication regarding the timing of the visit”, he added.
This comes as China yesterday reported 139 new coronavirus infections, slightly up from 119 the previous day, taking the total number of infections to 80,409. There were 31 new deaths, all from outbreak epicentre Hubei province, taking the death toll to 3,012.
It appears that a strict lockdown of cities and other travel restrictions across the country are paying off, with official figures showing a steady drop in new cases in recent weeks, leading some provinces to lower their emergency response levels. But China is now concerned about imported infections, with the virus having spread to some 80 countries, infecting more than 15,000 and killing more than 200 overseas.
Meanwhile, Japan will suspend existing visas for visitors from China and South Korea and quarantine them for two weeks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Cabinet-level task force yesterday.
Agence France-Presse reported that the measure would start on Monday and last at least until the end of the month.
Mr Abe also reportedly asked that flights from China and South Korea use only two airports – Narita airport east of Tokyo and Kansai airport in Osaka.
Meanwhile, China is considering donating money to the World Health Organisation to help battle the coronavirus, its Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs said.
Mr Ma Zhaoxu told a news briefing yesterday that China will make donations to South Korea, Iraq, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, on top of what it has already given to Pakistan, Japan and Iran.
Mr Ma said, thanks to diplomatic relations, China received donations of protective equipment and medical supplies when it was in the throes of the outbreak.
He specially mentioned Pakistan, which gave masks to China from its national inventory.
But other gifts were less conventional: Myanmar provided rice, Sri Lanka provided black tea, and during a state visit last week, Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga gave China 30,000 sheep.