China's premier to visit tsunami-hit area in Japan

AP News
Posted: May 18, 2011 1:24 AM
China's premier to visit tsunami-hit area in Japan

Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Japan's devastated northeast this weekend to show China's support for reconstruction efforts after the twin earthquake and tsunami disasters, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

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.

Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue told reporters at a briefing in Beijing that Wen himself decided to visit Fukushima and that the head of China's Earthquake Administration, among other officials, would accompany him on the May 21-22 trip.

"Premier Wen's decision to visit Fukushima was a personal choice," said Hu. "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 plant, which is still leaking radiation. China has been monitoring air and water for signs of radiation stemming from the plant. The government 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 Diaoyu Islands territorial dispute were unlikely to be a major focus of talks between Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The disputed islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are uninhabited and lie between Taiwan, China and southern Japan. They have long been a flashpoint in relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

"I think we all agree that the Diaoyu 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."