Japan PM pushes economic ties to help ease disputes
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Sunday stressed the need for economic cooperation as a means of achieving a breakthrough in its territorial spats with China and Russia.
Kan held two separate meetings with Chinese and Russian Presidents Hu Jintao and Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of this weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which ended on Sunday.
In his meeting with Medvedev, Kan strongly "voiced protest" over the Russian president's visit this month to one of four islands that have been at the centre of a dispute since the end of World War II.
But "I agreed with Russia to discuss the resolution of the territorial problem and economic cooperation separately," Kan, who chaired the two-day summit in Yokohama, told a news conference.
"Although they are different subjects, it is still possible to see progress on the territorial issue as our economic relations deepen," Kan said.
Medvedev said he had "proposed to change the approach on the problem... and put the economy at the forefront," according to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
At a meeting with Hu on Saturday, Kan reiterated Japan's claim to islets disputed with China, but "agreed to develop mutually beneficial, strategic relations" with its neighbour.
Kan said many countries manage to maintain economic ties despite bilateral disputes, while noting that previous Japanese financial support helped China grow to become an economic giant, which exporter Japan can capitalise on.
"There are various problems between the countries, but we want to further develop Japan-China relations ... by conquering them and strengthening firm ties," Kan said.
Tokyo's row with Beijing stems from the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain whose vessel collided with Japanese patrol boats in waters near the disputed island chain -- known in China as the Diaoyu Islands and in Japan as the Senkakus.
Prosecutors eventually released the captain, but the dispute still simmers and nationalists in both countries have staged protests, including a demonstration involving a thousand people outside the APEC summit.
© 2010 AFP