Thu, May 19, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Chinese premier to visit Japan tsunami-hit area

AP, BEIJING

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) will visit Japan’s devastated northeast this weekend to show China’s support for reconstruction efforts after the twin earthquake and tsunami disasters, a Chinese foreign ministry official said yesterday.

Wen will be in Japan anyway to take part in a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea and bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue (胡正躍) told reporters at a briefing in Beijing that Wen himself decided to visit Fukushima Prefecture and that the head of China’s Earthquake Administration, among other officials, would accompany him on the trip on Saturday and Sunday.

“Premier Wen’s decision to visit Fukushima was a personal choice,” Hu said. “First and foremost, it aims to express the concern and condolences of the Chinese government and people toward those affected by the disaster and to encourage their recovery and show Chinese support for the reconstruction.”

China has some ideas for how it could provide economic aid, Hu said, but needs to discuss them with the Japanese side first.

He added that nuclear safety was “definitely an issue that will be discussed,” both bilaterally with Japan and trilaterally with Japan and South Korea.

China announced it was tightening safety standards for its own nuclear power industry after Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which is still leaking radiation.

China has been monitoring air and water for signs of radiation stemming from the plant. Beijing said in March that some very low levels of radiation were detected in the air over parts of northeast China, but that they did not pose a threat to public health.

Hu said sensitive and longstanding issues like the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as Senkaku in Japan — territorial dispute were unlikely to be a major focus of talks between Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

“I think we all agree that the Diaoyu[tai] Islands question and the matter of resource development in the East China Sea need to be resolved through regular and normal consultations ... it can’t happen overnight,” Hu said. “It’s unlikely that this opportunity for high-level talks will focus on these few sensitive issues in the China-Japan relationship.”

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