Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai may visit China as early as next month to lay the groundwork for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticipated visit to Japan later this year, according to ruling party sources.

During a Monday meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Nikai was informed of Beijing’s plan to formally invite him to attend the second summit-level international conference on China’s “Belt and Road” regional development initiative, slated to be held in April.

Nikai told Cheng that he would consider participating in the event, and they agreed to begin detailed talks on the matter, the sources said Wednesday.

The ambassador’s visit to the LDP Headquarters to convey the invitation plan directly to the ruling party heavyweight “represented the Chinese Government’s eagerness,” a person close to Nikai said.

During the possible China visit, Nikai is expected to meet with key Chinese figures while attending the conference.

Momentum for dialogue between the two Asian neighbours grew after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his Government’s willingness to cooperate with the Belt and Road initiative in June 2017.

Prior to that move, Nikai, who has strong connections in China, visited the country to attend the first Belt and Road conference in May that year.