Dalai Lama in Japan, backs Chinese dissident Liu

Relations between Japan and China have chilled since September.

Narita: Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, in Japan for a visit that will likely overlap with Chinese leader Hu Jintao`s attendance at a regional summit, repeated on Saturday his support for jailed Chinese dissident and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Relations between Japan and China have chilled since September, when Japan detained the Chinese skipper of a boat that collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed isles in the East China Sea, the site of vast potential gas and oil reserves.

"In his movement, (Liu is) not toppling the government, but trying to bring more openness, more accountability," the Dalai Lama told reporters in Narita, near Tokyo.

"China remaining a secretive society is very very harmful for making significant contributions regarding world affairs ... China, sooner or later, you have to open, it`s the only way," the 75-year-old said.

China expressed anger to the award of the prize in October to Liu, who is serving a 11-year jail term on subversion charges for his role in advocating democracy and multi-party rule, and warned European nations that supporting him would be seen as an affront to China`s legal system.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said last month that it would be "desirable" for China to free Liu, but has stopped short of an explicit call for his release.

Speculation is simmering over whether Kan and Hu, leaders of Asia`s two biggest economies, will meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting next week in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The Dalai Lama, who has called for Liu to be freed, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the same year as the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Chinese authorities.

He is set to take part in a November 12-14 meeting of Nobel Peace laureates in Hiroshima, western Japan. US President Barack Obama, who won the prize last year, is unlikely to attend.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fanning a violent campaign for separatism. He denies China`s charges against him, and says he only seeks more meaningful autonomy for Tibet through peaceful means.

Bureau Report