China to ease trade bans on Japan imports

TOKYO, May 22, 2011 (AFP) - Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Sunday said Beijing would ease some bans imposed on Japanese food imports after the March 11 quake and tsunami, as a three-way summit with South Korea got under way.

The meetings came as Japan battled problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which has leaked radiation after disaster struck the northeast coast, culminating in the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

AFP - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (C) smiles in a photo session with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak (R) during the luncheon of the 3rd Japan-China-Korea business summit at the Keidanren headquarters in Tokyo on May 22, 2011.

The visiting leaders, Chinese Premier Wen and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, reaffirmed their support for Japan's efforts to recover from the triple catastrophe.

Nuclear safety, cooperation in disaster preparedness, and food safety topped the agenda at the Tokyo summit, along with trade issues.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan also pledged to share information on the nuclear accident with the international community.

China and South Korea imposed bans on food products from prefectures near the stricken nuclear plant in the wake of the disaster.

Kan and Wen held a bilateral meeting ahead of the three-way summit, focusing on ways to boost tie-ups in disaster prevention, nuclear safety and Japan's recovery following the disaster.

Wen told Kan that Beijing will lift trade bans on food imports from two of the 12 Japanese prefectures, on which China has imposed trade restrictions, while not requiring radiation inspections on products other than vegetables, seafood and milk products, a Japanese official said.

Wen also promised Kan that Beijing will encourage Chinese people to travel to the country by licensing Japanese tourist agencies in China.

"This will be done for the first time," said a Japanese bureaucrat who attended the meeting.

The meeting came as Japan and China looked to deepen ties damaged by a tense territorial row that broke out between the two Asian giants in September last year over a maritime collision in the East China Sea.

Both countries claim the potentially resource-rich islets, known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan, along with the nearby seas.

Wen, along with Lee, arrived in northeastern Japan earlier Saturday as the first foreign leaders to visit Fukushima since the monster tsunami hit the plant, which lies around 220 kilometres (137 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

The three Asian leaders together visited a shelter for displaced residents 60 kilometres from the Fukushima plant on Saturday, a day before the summit.

Tokyo's neighbours have been concerned by the leak and its impact on food safety across the region, but Saturday's visit focused on paying respects to those affected by the disasters.

The three-nation meeting was first held on a regular basis in 2008.

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