According to The Mainichi, officials at the Ueno Zoological Gardens have formally announced the birth of a giant panda cub on 12th June 2017 — their first since 2012. “We were all happy, but it was more of a relief,” said Mikako Kaneko, a section chief at the zoo who witnessed the birth. She was joined at the press conference by Ueno Zoological Gardens Director Yutaka Fukuda.

Photo by The Mainichi

“This is very joyful,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said in a separate press conference. “I want the cub to grow up vigorously and healthily.” Suga also the giant panda was, “one of the great testaments to the Japan-China friendship.” The cub’s mother Shin Shin and father Ri Ri are on loan since 2011, as part of China’s informal “Panda Diplomacy” program.

China also rejoiced at the news. “This is good news,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a press briefing in Beijing. “A giant panda has always been a friendly envoy of China with other countries, and we also hope the panda will play a bigger role in promoting the friendship between Chinese and Japanese nationals.”

11-year-old Shin Shin seems to be responding well to the delivery, with her maternal instincts kicking in by breastfeeding, cradling, and sleeping together with the newborn panda. There is no word yet on when the panda cub will be put on public display. The zoo is considering a date around six months from now depending on the cub’s growth.

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