Dialogue only way to solve Korea crisis: China

Japan stresses North Korea must first show sincerity in addressing concerns.

Tokyo: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Sunday that dialogue is the only way to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, but Japan stressed that North Korea must first show sincerity in addressing concerns over its uranium enrichment activities before talks can resume.

Wen, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also agreed at an annual summit to cooperate on disaster relief and nuclear safety.

"We are happy to see that at present, the developments on the Korean peninsula are easing slightly. We`ve also noticed that there are a lot of uncertain factors. The foundation is still fragile," Wen told a joint news conference.

Kan voiced concern about North Korea`s uranium enrichment program and said the three leaders agreed that some of the impetus rests with Pyongyang for making talks happen.

"The three leaders agreed it`s important for North Korea to show sincerity before six-country talks on its nuclear program can resume and agreed to induce North Korea to take appropriate action on the nuclear issue," Kan said at the news conference.

China, which has always stressed that dialogue was the only way to calm escalating tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, has called for "six-party" talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

But Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have been lukewarm toward Beijing`s proposal for emergency talks among the six, worried that they could be seen as rewarding Pyongyang for its deadly attack on a South Korean island late last year.

Under a 2005 pact, North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear programs but the country`s reclusive and often unpredictable leaders have made such commitments in the past in agreements that have subsequently unravelled. Tokyo and Seoul have long sought China`s help to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Safety concerns

China has sought to improve ties with Seoul and Tokyo, but also sees North Korea as a strategic bulwark against the United States and its regional allies. In recent years, China has sought to shore up relations with the North with increased aid and trade and frequent visits there by its leaders.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry earlier said Kan and Wen had discussed a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to China, effectively confirming Kim`s current visit to Pyongyang`s only ally. Both Beijing and Pyongyang are habitually secretive about such trips.

South Korea`s Yonhap news agency reported that it appeared Kim was heading toward the city of Yangzhou, near Shanghai, citing a local source as saying security had tightened around Yangzhou Station.

In Tokyo, this weekend`s summit of the three northeast Asian neighbours, with a long history of feuds and mistrust, was billed as a chance to improve their ties in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left 25,000 dead or missing and triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Kan has counted on the event to help ease concerns at home and abroad about the safety of Japan`s nuclear facilities and farm exports and rebuild international trust after acknowledging delays and inadequate communication in its early response to the disaster.

In a symbolic gesture ahead of the summit, Wen and Lee met Kan in Fukushima city, about 60 km (37 miles) northwest of the stricken nuclear power plant. The first foreign leaders to travel to the area since the disaster, they sampled local produce to show that it was safe.

"The visit of the two leaders to the disaster area was most effective in showing that Japan is safe and that its food is safe," Kan said at Sunday`s news conference.

China will start easing restrictions on food imports imposed after the disaster, removing two Japanese prefectures from a list of 12 covered by an import ban due to radiation concerns, a Japanese official said on the sidelines of the summit.

Bureau Report

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