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Monday, May 23, 2011

China to ease food import bans

Kan, Wen, Lee bolster disaster plans


Staff writer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Chinese and South Korean counterparts agreed Sunday to enhance cooperation on a range of programs — including nuclear safety and disaster management — in light of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Expressing their condolences to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the power plant and ravaged coastal areas of northeastern Japan, Kan, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak agreed that cooperation will be essential to accelerating Japan's recovery.

"In times of natural disasters of this scale, mutual understanding, assistance and support from the international community, especially neighboring countries, are of crucial importance," Wen said at a joint news conference in Tokyo.

To forestall another nuclear disaster, the leaders pledged that Japan, China and South Korea will work toward building a close network that experts can use to exchange and access information.

Thanking the two leaders for visiting quake-stricken areas and sampling produce from Fukushima Prefecture the previous day, Kan said he believed that "their visits were effective in demonstrating to the world that Japan is safe and Japanese food is safe."

"I hope that as a result, many people from around the world will begin visiting Japan — their visits will be the greatest support for Japan's reconstruction," he said.

Earlier, Wen told Kan that China will partially ease restrictions on imports of Japanese agricultural products, provided Tokyo ensures their safety.

The move will apply to Yamagata and Yamanashi, reducing to 10 the number of prefectures subject to the ban.

In a joint declaration issued after the two-day summit, the three leaders also agreed to facilitate joint programs on renewable energy and energy conservation to avoid excessive dependence on nuclear power.

On disaster prevention, the three countries laid down the principles of how each can cooperate in emergencies, based on the lessons learned so far from the March 11 disasters.

Besides sharing information and dispatching rescue teams and supplies, the three nations also said they will consider staging joint rescue drills.

Economically, the three nations agreed to further promote tourism in the region, confirmed the importance of expanding their aviation networks and agreed to speed up their visa processes.

The three also agreed to speed up preparations for a trilateral free-trade agreement, and promised to work toward an early agreement on a trilateral investment treaty.

Regarding North Korea, the leaders expressed their concern about the hermit nation's uranium enrichment program and stressed the importance of the North holding dialogue with South Korea. They also stressed the importance of working to create an environment that will enable resumption of the six-party denuclearization talks.

"In order to realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, cooperation between the three nations is necessary," Lee said.

The trilateral summit was the fourth of its kind since the three agreed in 2008 to take turns hosting the meeting each year to enhance communication and cooperation.

The next summit will take place in China in 2012.



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