* China-Japan relations rocked by island dispute
* Xinhua report suggests Beijing may want to snub Japan
* State-owned banks will reportedly not attend meeting
BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) - China's delegation to the annualmeetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Tokyo will not be ledby its most senior finance officials, a report from state newsagency Xinhua said on Tuesday, in what looked like a deliberatesnub of Japan.
According to Chinese protocol, only the most seniorofficials usually lead such trips, but the report said China'sdeputy central bank governor and vice finance minister would beleading the central bank's delegation later this week instead.
That would imply that the governor of the People's Bank ofChina, Zhou Xiaochuan, and Finance Minister Xie Xuren, will notattend. China's central bank and finance ministry declined tocomment when asked earlier by Reuters to confirm whether Zhouand Xie were headed to Tokyo.
If they did stay away, it would be the latest sign that aterritorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing is straining tiesbetween Asia's two biggest economies.
Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply in Septemberafter Japan bought the East China Sea islets that both Tokyo andBeijing claim, sparking anti-Japanese protests across China.
The disputed group of islands, called Senkaku in Japan andDiaoyu in China, are located near rich fishing grounds andpotentially huge oil and gas reserves. Taiwan also asserts itssovereignty over the islets.
Japan is scheduled to host the International Monetary Fundand World Bank annual meetings for the first time in nearly halfa century. About 20,000 people are expected to attend the event,making it one of the world's largest international conferences.
The brief Xinhua report said Yi Gang, vice head of thePeople's Bank of China, and Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao,will "lead a delegation to the meeting".
The report did not mention the more senior Zhou and Xie anddid not make it clear whether both officials will still beattending the meetings. Zhou is scheduled to speak at the IMFmeeting and at a meeting on the sidelines later this week.
A receptionist at the hotel in Tokyo, where Zhou isscheduled to stay, told Reuters earlier today that Zhou has areservation.
The Xinhua report comes a day after the agency said thatChina's state-owned banks will not attend the meetings in Tokyo.
China has sent its patrol ships into what Japan considersits territorial waters near the disputed islands in recentweeks, prompting Japan to lodge protests against China.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by AndrewOsborn)
Keywords: CHINA JAPAN/IMF