British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt accidentally calls his Chinese wife Japanese

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt admits he has made a "terrible mistake" after accidentally calling his Chinese wife Japanese while on a diplomatic trip.

Jeremy Hunt made the error while he was meeting prominent Chinese leaders, including Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.

"My wife is Japanese... my wife is Chinese," Mr Hunt said, before apologising and saying he had made a "terrible mistake" as the room erupted into fits of laughter.

Mr Hunt then tried to make up for the gaffe by going into detail about his wife's Chinese heritage.

"My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xian and strong family connections in China," he said.

Mr Hunt has three children with his wife of nine years, Lucia Gao. 

He apologised for the gaffe on Twitter and blamed the mix up on speaking several different languages.

"Rule #1 as a new Foreign Sec: when reflecting in English with the Chinese on a conversation you had with them in Japanese about your Chinese wife, don't get any of those mixed up," he wrote.

"Apologies to the long-suffering Mrs H."

CNN reports he was supposed to be negotiating a trade deal with China during the trip, one of his first as foreign minister after three weeks in the role.

Boris Johnson previously held the role for just under two years before resigning in protest of Theresa May's Brexit strategy.