Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Beijing planning to ask Japan's crown prince to Olympics

AGENCIES , TOKYO

China wants to invite Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a Japanese newspaper said yesterday.

The Japanese government confirmed that talks were underway for Japanese dignitaries to attend the Olympics but declined to comment further.

The move would be the latest in a series of efforts by the neighbors to improve bilateral ties, beset by disagreements over wartime history, territorial disputes and competition for natural resources.

Chinese officials have already begun making informal contacts with the Japanese government about the invitation, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

If the visit comes about, it will be the first official trip to China by members of Japan's imperial family since Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited in 1992, the Yomiuri said.

The Japanese government has reacted cautiously to the approaches, the paper said.

"We have not received any formal invitation from the Chinese government to the Japanese government," chief government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said of the report. "But I have heard that various talks are being held about the attendance of VIPs."

"It is not at a stage where the Japanese government can comment," he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveled to Beijing on his first foreign trip after taking office last September and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) is due to pay a return trip to Tokyo in April.

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