The Duke of Cambridge is to visit Japan and China early next year at the request of the British Government, Kensington Palace has announced. William will spend three days in each country during his trip over February and March, but will not be joined by his wife Kate.

The Duchess will be heavily pregnant at the time of the visit but it is understood that William was always due to tour the countries by himself. The Duke’s father, the Prince of Wales – a supporter of the Dalai Lama – has never been to mainland China, only to Hong Kong for the handover ceremony in 1997.

William’s trip will put a spotlight on Charles’s uneasy relationship with China and raise questions about why he has yet to make an official visit to the republic. A high-profile tour by William will be viewed as an attempt to improve diplomatic relations with the country.

Charles’s dealings with China have been troubled in the past, particularly after he described its leaders as ”appalling old waxworks” in a leaked diary.

 A high-profile tour by the Duke of Cambridge will be viewed as an attempt to improve diplomatic relations with China. The Duke of Cambridge will visit Japan and China in February and March next year at the request of the Government Kensington Palace said in a statement that William would travel to Japan first and attend a number of events in the capital, Tokyo, and other areas on behalf of the Government.These engagements would be “focused on UK-Japan relations, commerce and cultural exchange and in support of his own personal interest in combating the illegal wildlife trade.

“Then, in China, the Duke will officially open the Great Festival of Creativity at Shanghai’s Long Museum on Monday 2nd March.”

The festival is part of the Great campaign which has been running for the last few years and promotes Britain around the world on the back of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.

The event will give more than 500 of Britain’s most innovative businesses the opportunity to reach potential Chinese partners.

The statement added: “The Duke will also undertake engagements in Beijing and elsewhere to promote UK-China relations, people to people links, and in support of his work to combat the illegal wildlife trade and support wildlife conservation.”