01/15/2007, 00.00
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Wen invites Japanese PM Abe to China

The two leaders plus South Korea’s president meet in Cebu (Philippines), discuss mutual relations and North Korea’s nuclear programme. Earlier during his European tour, Abe urged European countries to maintain their arms embargo on China and avoid undermining security in East Asia.

Cebu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked French President Jacques Chirac to maintain the European Union arms sale embargo against China, whilst yesterday Chinese premier Wen Jiabao invited Abe to visit Beijing.

Mr Abe, who was on a four-nation European tour (Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom), told to European leaders “that lifting the arms embargo against China would affect the security of East Asia”.

Beijing has boosted defence spending by more than 10 per cent a year for the past 18 consecutive years, a trend both Japan and the US fear could upset the delicate military balance in the Taiwan Strait.

The EU imposed an arms embargo after the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and Beijing’s failure to make amends about it.

Many European states have however called for lifting the ban, and Mr. Chirac, who in his meeting with Abe stressed the importance of good Sino-Japanese relations, did not mention Abe’s comments on the embargo.

Travelling from Europe Abe arrived yesterday in Cebu (Philippines) for the 2nd East Asia Summit. Here he met his Chinese counterpart, Wen, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, in the first three-party talks in two years.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the three leaders hailed the improving relations among their countries, expressing hope in enhanced trade and financial cooperation.

Previously, Seoul and Beijing had criticised former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi over his visits to Yasukuni temple where Japanese war criminals are buried alongside Japan’s other ward dead.

In a sign of improving relations Mr Wen confirmed to Mr Abe that he would visit Tokyo in April and invited the prime minister to visit Beijing in the middle of the year.

Wen stressed the joint efforts to improve relations with Japan and did not shy away from acknowledging that “we still have a lot of difficulties and issues in front of us.”

The last Chinese leader to visit Japan was then Premier Zhu Rongji in October 2000.

In Cebu Abe urged China to make greater efforts to get long-time ally North Korea back to nuclear talks. He stressed that Pyongyang was sensitive to Beijing’s financial pressures given the importance of trade between the two countries.  

The three Asian leaders made a joint statement in favour of “the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiation”, and called on Pyongyang to address the “humanitarian concerns of the international community,” which the Japanese side insisted related to North Korea's kidnapping operations of the 1970s and 1980s. (PB)

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