China pulls out of IMF meeting over island row

The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that China’s central bank governor will not lead the Chinese delegation at the IMF's semi-annual meeting this week, in what appeared to be a snub to host Japan.

Zhou Xiaochuan’s failure to attend the meeting comes after relations between China and Japan have slumped to their worst in years over their competing claims to sovereignty of some islands in the East China Sea.

The row has been marked by violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products in China. Japanese car makers, including Toyota Motor, later reported a tumble in auto sales in the world's biggest car market. “We were informed two days ago that Governor Zhou's schedule might require him to cancel his lecture in Tokyo," an IMF spokeswoman said. "It has now been confirmed that his deputy Yi Gang will represent him.”

Zhou had been set to deliver what amounted to a closing keynote lecture on Sunday. “The Tokyo meeting is an extremely important international summit,” Japanese Finance Minister Koriki Jojima said at a press conference. “It is deeply regrettable that the representatives of the (Chinese) authorities are not participating.”

The IMF comments confirm a report on Tuesday by Chinese state news agency Xinhua that China's delegation will not be led by its most senior finance officials.According to Chinese protocol, only the most senior officials usually lead such trips.

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