Beijing has officially invited Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako to visit China this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the two countries normalizing diplomatic ties, sources close to bilateral relations said Saturday.
The visit is also aimed at easing anti-Japanese sentiment in China, which remains strong on account of Japan’s past military aggression, and to strengthen relations between the two countries.
If realized, it would be the 51-year-old Crown Prince’s first visit to China, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration intends to consider Beijing’s request carefully, the sources said.
Some in the ruling coalition and the government expressed caution over the invitation, warning of possible anti-Japan rallies if the Crown Prince and his wife were to visit China.
“Ensuring a welcoming mood for such a visit is indispensable,” a government source said.
A multitude of obstacles will have to be overcome if the trip is to go ahead, amid lingering tensions between Tokyo and Beijing after a Chinese trawler rammed Japan Coast Guard cutters near the disputed Senkaku Islands in 2010, sparking a major diplomatic row.
In addition, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan lacks strong ties with the Chinese government, unlike previous Liberal Democratic Party-led administrations that had strong political channels with their Chinese counterparts.
Beijing hopes to realize the visit in autumn, so that its timing coincides with the signing of the Japan-China Joint Communique on Sept. 29, 1972, the sources said. The pact normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries
Various events to commemorate the anniversary will be held in Tokyo and Beijing around that time, and the relations between the two nations will hopefully have improved by then, the sources said.
China previously requested a visit by Crown Prince Naruhito in 2002, to mark the 30th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties, and also in 2008, when the Beijing Olympics were held. Neither visit was realized.