Royal families and governments around the world sent congratulations to Japan on Wednesday over the birth of a baby to Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II sent a personal message of congratulations to Emperor Akihito on the birth of the new prince, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday.

“Prince Philip and I were delighted to hear of the birth of your grandson. Please convey our warmest congratulations to Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko,” the message — signed “Elizabeth R.” — read.

The two royal families have a strong, long-standing relationship, with the queen making a state visit to Japan in May 1975.

Thai government spokesman Surapong Seubwonglee said the Thai government was delighted to hear the Imperial family had a new male member, which he added was very significant for the Imperial succession. The boy is the first potential male heir to the throne born in 41 years.

“Since our two countries have a close relationship, we are glad that the Japanese royal family has a new prince who will be the future emperor after Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, his father,” Surapong said.

Prince Akishino has made many private visits to Thailand to study the country’s birds and fish, in particular the giant catfish.

In August 2003, he made an official visit with Princess Kiko and their two daughters, Princess Mako and Princess Kako, the first time he took the girls abroad.

Jaranthada Kannasuta, director general of the Fisheries Department, who has known Prince Akishino for a long time, said he was “very happy that he has a son finally.”

“I met Prince Akishino when he joined the student delegation visiting Thailand about 30 years ago and I worked with him when he returned to Thailand to study and do research about catfish, accompanying him everywhere in Thailand,” Jaranthada said. He called the prince undemanding, adventurous and kind.

From the United States, Japan’s key ally, State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus said, “We congratulate the prince and princess, as well as the Japanese people, on his happy occasion.”

“It’s always a wonderful thing when you have a newborn,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

Congratulations also poured in from world leaders.

French President Jacques Chirac said in a letter to the Imperial family that France shares in Japan’s joy.

The two top Singaporean leaders sent their congratulations.

“The arrival of the newborn prince is a most auspicious occasion for the imperial family and the nation,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in a letter to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Singaporean President S.R. Nathan also sent a congratulatory message, saying, “We wish the newborn good health and a bright future.”

Royal families from several European countries, including Belgium and Spain, also expressed their pleasure over the baby boy’s birth.

A spokesman of the Royal Palace in Belgium, Michel Malherbe, told Kyodo News that relations between Belgium’s royal family and Japan’s Imperial family have long been warm, “so sending these congratulations is more than a formality.”

The birth has drawn public interest particularly in Spain, given that Japan’s debate over the succession issue parallels Spain’s own debate on whether its own royal succession system should be reviewed Officials from Norway and Sweden sent congratulations by telegram.

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