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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto may visit Hong Kong in early September on his way to or from Beijing to demonstrate Japan’s strong support for the British colony’s continued prosperity, government sources said June 26.

The sources said the government is considering having Hashimoto visit Hong Kong in conjunction with his planned trip to China in September to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations in 1972. “If Prime Minister Hashimoto makes an official visit to Hong Kong in early September, he will probably become the first top government leader of a major industrialized country to do so after it returns to Chinese sovereignty,” one government source said.

“That would demonstrate Japan’s continued support for the territory’s future economic prosperity,” the source said. Japan is a major trading partner and foreign investor for Hong Kong.

A decision on whether to realize the Hong Kong visit will be made after Hashimoto returns to Tokyo on June 28 from a 10-day trip to the United States and Europe, the sources said. In the U.S., Hashimoto attended the summit of the G-7 plus Russia on June 20-22 in Denver before delivering a speech June 23 on the first day of the United Nations General Assembly’s five-day special session on the environment. In Europe, Hashimoto held talks June 25 with European Union leaders in the Hague.

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