Chinese Premier Li Peng met Japan's emperor and empress Thursday and invited them to visit China, government officials said.

Li made the invitation during a 20-minute meeting with the newly enthroned monarch at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, a senior Imperial Household Agency official said.If the invitation is accepted, Emperor Akihito would be the first Japanese monarch ever to visit China.

But the palace spokesman said several problems exist and the visit would have to await the end of a year of court mourning for Akihito's father, Emperor Hirohito, who died on Jan. 7 at age 87.

"Premier Li said that he hoped the royal couple would visit when the time was right for them. In reply, the emperor thanked him but said the decision must be made by the government," said the agency official.