China's Vice President Xi Jinping on Monday kicked off an Asia tour in Japan, where a row has broken out over a breach of protocol for his hastily arranged meeting with Emperor Akihito.
Xi, who is widely expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China's president in 2012, is on his first visit to Japan since he took office in March 2008.
The government has drawn criticism for extending special treatment to Xi by allowing him to meet the emperor despite China having missed the usual deadline for requesting such an audience.
Xi, 56, was due to meet Akihito at the imperial palace on Tuesday.
In his hour-long meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after his arrival, Xi thanked Tokyo for "making meticulous arrangements" for his visit.
"I want to further promote development of the strategic, reciprocally beneficial relationship between the two countries during my visit," he said as the media was allowed to cover the first few minutes of the meeting.
Hatoyama, whose centre-left government took power in September with a promise to seek closer ties with China and Japan's other Asian neighbours, said he welcomed the visit of a "next-generation leader."
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