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Korea, Japan, China agree on nuke safety

Wen says Beijing invited N.K. leader to witness economic development

Leaders of South Korea, Japan and China agreed Sunday to set up an early notification system for nuclear accidents during an annual tripartite summit in Tokyo which took place as North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was visiting China.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told President Lee Myung-bak that “Beijing invited Kim to give the North Koreans an opportunity to understand the (economic) developments in China and use (their observations) for their own development,” according to Lee’s aide Hong Sang-pyo.

“Beijing is aware that President Lee has a longsighted view and positive assessment from a strategic point of the North Korean leadership’s visits to China,” Hong quoted Wen as saying.

Wen made the explanation on China’s invitation of Kim during his one-on-one summit talks with Lee in Tokyo Sunday afternoon following a three-way summit meeting and joint press conference earlier in the day.

Wen also emphasized the need to improve inter-Korean relations, the importance of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirmed Beijing’s opposition to the North’s possession of nuclear weapons, Hong told reporters. 
Korean President Lee Myung-bak (right), Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan shake hands after their joint news conference in Tokyo after the annual tripartite summit Sunday. (Yonhap News)
Korean President Lee Myung-bak (right), Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan shake hands after their joint news conference in Tokyo after the annual tripartite summit Sunday. (Yonhap News)

During the summit talks that went on for about 70 minutes, Lee and Wen agreed to cooperate further in ongoing discussions for a Korea-China free trade pact and make efforts to increase the two-way trade volume to $300 billion before their target year of 2015.

Lee and Wen also welcomed the establishment of a direct air route between Gimpo and Beijing slated for July and agreed to expand exchanges of high-profile officials as the two countries celebrate the 20th anniversary of their diplomatic relations next year.

During the following bilateral summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Lee was expected to discuss Japan’s agreement to return ancient Korean royal books, disaster management and humanitarian assistance to Japan.

Nuclear safety and disaster management were high on the agenda at the trilateral summit of Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo earlier in the day, as host Japan is struggling to recover from its worst-ever earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

“As the three nations are geographically close, a nuclear accident or disaster in one nation could have substantial and psychological effects on the people of all three nations,” Lee said at a joint news conference in Tokyo.

“It is an important achievement for us to agree to strengthen information sharing and other cooperation on disasters, including nuclear accidents.”

The three leaders also agreed to complete a joint study at an early date into the possibility of forging a three-way free trade agreement, welcoming the progress made in setting up a joint secretariat to be established in Seoul later this year to handle cooperation projects, officials said.

Sharing the importance of seeking sustainable growth through using renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. They agreed to strengthen policy dialogue and human exchanges on the issue, they said.

The three countries adopted a joint summit declaration summing up their discussions, which pledged to promote cooperation not only on nuclear safety and disaster management but also on economic, security, regional and international issues.

They also adopted annex documents specifying cooperative steps in nuclear safety, disaster management and sustainable growth, promising to start discussions on “establishing an early notification framework and exchanging experts,” and to share information on radiation-spreading atmospheric currents and their movements at times of accidents.

They also agreed to ensure quick information sharing at times of disasters, send relief teams and supplies as early as possible, strengthen cooperation in recovery efforts and conduct joint anti-disaster drills.

Japan used the three-way summit to demonstrate that the country is bringing the disaster situation under control and to drum up support for recovery efforts, nudging Lee and Wen to visit Fukushima, home to the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant still spewing radiation, on Saturday.

Lee and Wen were the first foreign leaders to visit the region since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck the power plant, causing damaged reactors to leak radiation in the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

During the visit, Lee comforted displaced residents and tasted cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables produced in Fukushima in a symbolic gesture displaying solidarity and underlining the safety of foods produced in the nuclear accident-stricken region.

Earlier Saturday, Lee also visited the tsunami-razed northeastern region of Sendai, offering flowers, holding a moment of silence before the rubble of destroyed homes and meeting with residents rendered homeless in the massive disaster.

At the trilateral summit Sunday morning, the leaders expressed concern over Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program and agreed that the right dialogue atmosphere should be created before restarting the six-party talks on the nuclear standoff and that inter-Korean talks should precede the nuclear talks.

South Korea has urged the North to take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitment and apologize for last year’s two deadly attacks before resuming the stalled nuclear talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

Lee, Wen and Kan also attended a business summit luncheon Sunday with some 100 business leaders from the three countries.

Acknowledging that the three nations depend greatly on trade among themselves and that free trade was necessary between major trading partners, Lee said Korea will push for more free trade deals.

By Kim So-hyun and news reports (