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Chinese, Japanese, S. Korean Leaders Take United Stand on North Korea


The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea have held their first summit in two years - a period strained by historical differences and tensions over territorial disputes. The issue of North Korea's nuclear-weapons programs was also high on the agenda. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from the Philippine city of Cebu, where the summit has been held on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathering.

At the end of their summit, the leaders of Japan, South Korea, and China reaffirmed their government's commitment to diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear-weapons program.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed "concern" about the situation on the Korean peninsula following Pyongyang's nuclear test in October. They called for "concrete and effective" steps toward the denuclearization of the peninsula.

Mr. Wen said the three nations shoulder great responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

But the three leaders provided few details on how to resume the sporadic process. China, Japan, and South Korea are part of the three-year-old six-party North Korea nuclear disarmament talks.

The last round of the talks, which also include the United States, North Korea and Russia, ended in December without any agreement.

Pyongyang insists the United States lift financial sanctions imposed against it for alleged money laundering activities before it could make concessions on the nuclear issue. Mr. Abe said the North must give up that precondition.

They also noted the importance of addressing humanitarian concerns involving North Korea, which pertains to Japanese and South Koreans abducted by the North.

The three leaders Sunday appear to have skirted the sensitive topics of historical differences and territorial disputes that have strained ties in recent years. Visits by Mr. Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to a war shrine honoring Japanese war criminals have angered China and South Korea - countries that came under harsh Japanese colonial rule.

At the same time, Japan and South Korea are fighting over small islands called Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo. China and Japan are also in a dispute about an oil-rich area in the East China Sea. During the summit the two sides agreed exploration of the area must be done jointly to avoid conflict.

The leaders' agreed to set up a trilateral consultation panel composed of senior diplomats to conduct close communication and coordination on major political and diplomatic issues.

The three nations also agreed to boost cooperation on trade, the environment, law enforcement, health, tourism and other areas. They also promised to work together toward an early and successful conclusion of global free trade talks under the World Trade Organization.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao accepted Japan's invitation to visit Tokyo in April.

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