The fourth-highest ranking communist official, Li Ruihuan, begins a visit to Japan today which Tokyo's diplomats hope will further deepen relations between the countries. The Politburo Standing Committee member and powerbroker will receive red-carpet treatment, including an audience with Emperor Akihito and dinner with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. It is the third high-level visit between the neighbours in the past year, following President Jiang Zemin's controversial trip to Japan in November of last year when he repeatedly criticised Tokyo over the way it dealt with its wartime past. Mr Obuchi's trip to China in July was considered more successful, with an agreement for the mainland to enter the World Trade Organisation and less criticism of Japanese aggression. Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadaaki Numata said Mr Li's visit would broaden relations between the nations. He said Mr Li represented 'a broad cross-section of various ethnic and functional interests in China'. 'In terms of broadening our interests, we see it as a very interesting visit,' said Mr Numata. Mr Li, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, will also meet the speakers of both houses of the national Diet. He will travel to regional centres during the nine-day visit, accompanied by a 100-strong delegation. Groundwork was also expected to be made during Mr Li's trip for a visit next year by Premier Zhu Rongji, said diplomats. Mr Zhu recently indicated in a summit with Mr Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in Manila that he would like to visit both nations during one trip. 'We do look forward to that visit in the context of the high-level visits and this visit of Li Ruihuan,' said Mr Numata.