WASHINGTON – The United States plans to send Vice President Mike Pence to Japan in October to attend a key ceremony for Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, sources familiar with bilateral relations said Monday.
Scheduled for Oct. 22, the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi ceremony — one of the major events planned in the fall for the new emperor — is aimed at proclaiming his enthronement in front of representatives from home and abroad.
Citing U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle’s attendance of the enthronement ceremony for then-Emperor Akihito in November 1990, a diplomatic source said it would be appropriate for Pence to represent the United States.
Given that U.S. President Donald Trump visited Japan twice this year, another source said it would be difficult to imagine that an American president would travel to a foreign country three times in a year.
On May 27, Trump had an audience with the emperor and Empress Masako at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, making him the first foreign leader to meet with the emperor since his enthronement.
In late June, Trump attended the Group of 20 summit in Osaka.
If realized, Pence’s visit would be his first trip to Japan since last November. The vice president is expected to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the visit.
In a related development, Clarence House said Monday that the U.K.’s Prince Charles will visit Japan from Oct. 22 to 23 to attend the enthronement ceremony.
The visit, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, “will include a day of engagements in Tokyo to celebrate British-Japanese connections,” it wrote in a Twitter post.
Similarly, China is making arrangements to send Vice President Wang Qishan to attend the Oct. 22 ceremony, sources close to Japan-China relations said Sunday.
The plan to send Chinese President Xi Jinping’s confidant to the ceremony comes as the U.S.-China trade war has been driving Beijing to promote economic cooperation with Japan.
Wang, previously one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the ruling Communist Party, was elected vice president in March 2018 in a rare personnel move for an individual who had retired from the party’s apex of power.
Beijing believes that “China’s sentiment toward Japan has improved, but Japan’s toward China has not after having deteriorated” over wartime history and territorial disputes, a Chinese diplomatic source said.
Another Chinese source said Wang “has a special place in the government, and sending him (to the ceremony) would show China places great significance on the ritual.”
In November 1990, China sent Vice Premier Wu Xueqian to the ceremony.
Wu’s attendance at the ceremony paved the way for a visit to China by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in 1992.
During his expected visit in October, Wang will likely hold talks with Abe.
Abe and Xi agreed in their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in June to promote reciprocal visits by leaders and senior officials of the two countries.
Tokyo and Beijing are considering a state visit to Japan by Xi next spring.