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Updated: May 31, 2010 14:59 IST

Japan and China walk delicate line over North Korea

DPA
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama prior to their talks at the latter's official residence in Tokyo on Monday. Photo: AP.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama prior to their talks at the latter's official residence in Tokyo on Monday. Photo: AP.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that he supports South Korea’s protest to the United Nations over the alleged sinking of a naval ship by a North Korean torpedo in March, officials said on Monday. Mr. Hatoyama insisted on international punishment for Pyongyang.

During his three—day visit to Japan, Mr. Wen stressed that full communication with North Korea was necessary to ease tensions. China, a close ally of North Korea, is one of the veto—wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council. Its support would be necessary for any new UN sanctions.

The talks between Mr. Wen and Mr. Hatoyama followed Sunday’s trilateral meeting of leaders from Japan, China and South Korea. The three agreed to work closely to defuse tensions after a team of international investigators concluded North Korea was responsible for sinking the South Korean warship.

Mr. Hatoyama took office in September with a pledge to improve relations with its north Asian neighbours. China is Japan’s largest trade partner, and many Japanese now recognize the importance of its market for the recovery of an economy suffering its worst recession since the end of World War II. Japan’s relations with China deteriorated when Junichiro Koizumi was premier in 2001—06. He and other top lawmakers repeatedly visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo to pay homage to the country’s war dead, including condemned war criminals, enraging Chinese and Koreans.

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