Britain's Prince Charles said Tuesday the current financial crisis should not distract from the larger issue of global warming.

"The credit crunch is rightly a preoccupation of vast significance and importance. But we take our eye off the climate crunch at our peril," he said in a speech at a science museum in Tokyo.

The heir to the British throne is visiting the world's second-largest economy for the first time since 1970, and his arrival coincides with plunging global markets and recession fears.

But he has made saving the environment the theme of his trip, and spoke Tuesday after viewing exhibits related to global warming at Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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He called on advanced nations to cut carbon emissions by 70 to 80 percent by the year 2050, saying "nothing less than a full-scale transformation to a low-carbon society is needed."

The prince is in the midst of a four-day jaunt through the country, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Britain and Japan.

He is due to visit a solar panel lab, meet ecology students and tour a sustainable forest site, before continuing on to Brunei and Indonesia.

His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is accompanying him on the Japan and Brunei portion of the trip.

Prince Charles received a warm welcome in front of the Tokyo museum on Tuesday, as dozens of schoolchildren waving British flags greeted his motorcade.

He sprinkled some local dialect in his speech, beginning with "Ladies and gentlemen, konnichi wa," using the Japanese phrase for "good afternoon."

He also emphasized the business ties between Britain and Japan, and praised the country for its role in the adoption by many countries of the Kyoto Protocol, while emphasizing that further progress was necessary to stave off global warming.

The prince has increasingly used his publicity to highlight environmental problems. He has made efforts to cut his overall annual carbon dioxide production, including converting his 38-year old Aston Martin to run on bioethanol from surplus wine, while his Jaguars, Audi and Range Rover now take biodiesel made from used cooking oil.