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Japan Asks China For Help on North Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, right, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao inspect a guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 25, 2011.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has reached out to China for help in working with North Korea to promote regional stability, following the death of longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Noda spoke Sunday in Beijing, alongside Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. He is the first foreign head of government to meet with Chinese leaders since Kim's death December 17.

In comments to reporters, the Japanese leader emphasized the need to restart stalled six-party talks aimed at bringing an end to North Korea's nuclear program.

"With the passing away of Kim Jong Il, the leader of North Korea, we are currently facing a new situation in East Asia," said Noda. "On this issue, it is very timely to exchange views with the host of the six-party talks and the country [China] with the most influence on North Korea. Safeguarding the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula is in the common interest of our two countries."

For his part, the Chinese premier said both his country and Japan should continue moving toward mutual friendship and cooperation.

"We should send to the peoples of China and Japan and the international community a positive signal, and the two nations will take lessons from history and face the future and make efforts on peace, friendship, cooperation and development," he said.

Both leaders noted that 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of post-World War II diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Beijing, and said both nations want to mark the anniversary with improved relations.

The two countries also agreed to resume talks in early 2012 on a free trade pact that would include South Korea.

The Japanese prime minister is set to meet Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, before returning home.

Both governments have a list of unresolved, sensitive issues, including disputes over a group of contested Pacific islands, known as the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by Beijing. The two governments are also seeking to resolve issues surrounding the recent arrests of Chinese fishermen accused by Japan of illegal fishing in its territorial waters.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.