Several major Chinese banks have canceled participation in the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank to be held in Tokyo next week, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday, the latest sign that a territorial row is starting to hurt broader ties between Asia's two biggest economies.

Chinese lenders that have pulled out of International Monetary Fund-related events include Agricultural Bank of China <601288.SS> and Bank of Communications <601328.SS>, while Bank of China <3988.HK> officials have yet to decide whether to attend the meetings, the newspaper said.

"Quite frankly, it's Japan-China relations," the paper quoted an official at the Tokyo branch of Agricultural Bank of China in explaining why the bank was pulling out.

Japan is scheduled to host the IMF and World Bank annual meetings for the first time in nearly half a century. About 20,000 people are expected to attend the event, making it one of the world's largest international conferences.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply after Japan in September bought the East China Sea islets that both Tokyo and Beijing claim, sparking anti-Japan protests across the country.

Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> are cutting back production in China following the anti-Japan protests that shuttered dealerships and darkened their sales outlook in the world's biggest car market.

The disputed group of islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge oil and gas reserves. Taiwan also asserts its own sovereignty over the islets.

China has sent its patrol ships into what Japan considers its territorial waters near the islands in recent weeks, prompting Japan to lodge protests against China.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Perry)

(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in the headline)