When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited disaster-hit Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in May, he gave stuffed toy pandas to children there.
Now, a zoo in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, may be getting the real things, as giant pandas will be leased from the Chinese government, government sources said.
The Japanese and Chinese governments are expected to sign a "panda agreement" during upcoming summit talks between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. Noda's visit is scheduled for Dec. 25 and Dec. 26.
A pair of giant pandas are expected to be leased to Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai's Taihaku Ward in 2012 as a symbol of the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the sources said.
The effort started when Sendai Mayor Emiko Okuyama saw the young survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake so thrilled by Wen's gifts of stuffed toy pandas. Okuyama asked the Chinese government to lease a pair of the real things to the city-run zoo to further cheer up children.
The Japanese government expressed its intent to support Sendai's effort, while the Chinese Embassy in Japan said the Chinese government would "make efforts for its realization."
Prior to Noda's visit to China, Tokyo was notified that Beijing plans to accept the request.
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