China's Communist Party members to visit Japan as early as next year

Chinese Communist Party members may restart making regular visits to Japan as early as next year, despite strained bilateral ties over a group of small islands, a Japanese lawmaker said Thursday.

The International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China proposed regular mutual visits between ruling party members of the two countries "once every two years" or so, New Komeito party lawmaker Masaaki Taniai told reporters in Beijing after a meeting with officials of the department.

The proposal was made by Yang Yanyi, assistant minister of the party's international department, at a time when there have been virtually no high-level contacts between Japan and China for more than one year due to a dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

During the meeting, a group of the junior ruling party, headed by Taniai, told Yang that Japan wants to "expand mutual benefits" of the two countries, such as in the fields of the environment, social welfare, disaster prevention and youth exchanges, despite the ongoing frayed diplomatic ties.

Yang, in response, proposed resuming mutual visits between the Communist Party of China and the New Komeito party, which forms the ruling coalition with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, according to Taniai.

Taniai quoted Yang as saying, "Political party diplomacy is important."