Tokyo/Beijing, Sep 17 (EFE).- Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Saturday set off for the United Kingdom to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, marking their first overseas visit after ascending the throne in 2019, while Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan is also set to attend the event.
For the empress, who has been battling a stress-related illness, this is the first overseas visit since the coronation of Tonga’s King Tupou VI in 2015.
Meanwhile the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that Wang would attend the funeral as President Xi Jinping’s special representative, at a time when ties between London and Beijing have been strained due to economic and foreign policy issues.
Japanese emperors usually do not attend funerals, save for one occasion when the previous emperor Akihito – who abdicated in 2019 – and his wife Michiko attended the last rites of Belgium’s King Baudouin in 1993.
Akihito and Michiko, aged 88 and 87 respectively, are set to skip Elizabeth’s funeral.
The current emperor and empress have strong ties with the British royal family, and are set to depart on an invitation by the British government for two government representatives.
This means that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would also skip the ceremony, set to be held at the Westminster Abbey on Sep. 19.
Akihito had attended Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 as a representative of his father, emperor Hirohito.
Later the two monarchs exchanged several visits, such as the British queen’s 1975 Japan visit, and Akihito’s 1998 trip to the UK after being named emperor.
The British royal family had invited Naruhito and Masako to visit the UK after they ascended the chrysanthemum throne in 2019, but the pandemic affected the plans.
The Japanese royal couple is set to land at London’s Stansted airport on Sunday afternoon, and would be staying at the Claridge’s hotel before returning to Tokyo on Tuesday. EFE