Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will invite Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan as a state guest next spring when the two leaders meet this week in Osaka for the Group of 20 summit, Japanese government sources said.

The gesture is part of efforts undertaken by the Abe administration in recent years to further improve relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

The prime minister is scheduled to spend about an hour talking with Xi on the sidelines of the summit during the afternoon of June 27.

With regard to a visit by Xi next year, Kong Xuanyou, the new Chinese ambassador to Japan, said at a news conference in Tokyo that he hopes it will take place in a good season.

“For example, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom,” he said June 21.

Xi will likely meet with new Emperor Naruhito when he visits next year as a state guest.

Xi’s visit to Japan for the G-20 summit will be his first as China's president, the post he assumed seven years ago.

The last time he traveled to Japan was in December 2009 as vice president. He had an audience with Emperor Akihito, Naruhito's father, on that occasion.