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China Urges India, Pakistan to Ease Tensions

China's president has joined the chorus of international leaders urging Pakistan and India to calm the tensions that have brought the two nuclear-armed south Asian nations to the brink of another war. China also remains concerned about talk Japan might end its ban on nuclear weapons.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao said President Jiang Zemin was meeting Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The three leaders are at a gathering of Asian heads of government in Kazakhstan.

Mr. Liu said China would urge the two sides to "reduce their differences by peaceful means." He said President Jiang would tell both sides that a relaxation of tensions is in the interest of both sides and the rest of the world.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence half a century ago. Two of the wars have been over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which is the flash point for the current tensions.

About one million soldiers now face each other across the border. World leaders, including President Bush, have been pushing both sides to open talks and ease tensions.

The stakes have risen since the last war because both sides have developed nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to deliver them. India is thought to have about 100 nuclear weapons, with Pakistan holding 25-50.

China also said it is shocked by recent comments by a Japanese official that Tokyo might reconsider its ban on nuclear weapons. Mr. Liu, however, said Japan has "clarified" the comments. China, which suffered horribly from Japanese aggression during World War II, opposes any signs Japan is building military strength.

China's concerns arose after a senior Japanese official said recently that a future political situation might prompt Tokyo to re-think its policy of not developing or possessing nuclear weapons. Japanese officials say there has been no change in the ban on nuclear bombs. Beijing indicates it accepts Tokyo's statements that there is no change in policy.