China unofficially asks Japan for Crown Prince`s visit

Crown Princess Masako visit is aimed at easing anti-Japanese sentiment still strong among Chinese due to Japan`s past militarism.

Tokyo: The Chinese government has conveyed to Japan its request that Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako visit China this year on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of normalising diplomatic ties between the two countries, sources close to bilateral relations had said.

The visit is aimed at easing anti-Japanese sentiment still strong among Chinese due to Japan`s past militarism and to strengthen the relationship between the world`s second- and third-largest economies.

If realised, it would be the first time for the 51-year-old Crown Prince to visit China and the Japanese government intends to consider the request carefully, the sources said.

Some in the ruling coalition Democratic Party of Japan and the government expressed caution against possible anti-Japan rallies in China during such a visit.

A government source said, "Creation of a welcoming mood for such a visit is indispensable.”

"The path toward realising the visit is expected to face difficulties, however, amid hard feelings remaining between the two countries following a diplomatic row over the 2010 collisions between a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol boats near a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea.”

The Chinese side hopes to realise the visit in fall, taking a cue from the signing on September 29, 1972, of the Japanese-Chinese Joint Communiqué, which normalised diplomatic ties between the two countries, the sources said.

The possible visit would demonstrate China`s succession of "bilateral friendship" from the old leadership to the new, according to the sources, as the timing coincides with a series of events to be held in Tokyo and Beijing for the anniversary and a planned gathering of the Communist Party of China where a new generation of Chinese leaders is expected to replace the current leadership.

Attention will be focused on whether President Hu Jintao, who is expected to retire this year, will make a reference to the envisioned visit when he meets in Beijing next month with members of seven Japanese groups promoting friendly ties between the two countries, including one led by opposition Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Koichi Kato, as well as during Hu`s official visit to Japan in the first half this year which is being considered.