China to ease import restrictions on Japan produce

ERIC TALMADGE - Associated Press
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, left, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, center, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pose for photographers during a business summit luncheon in Tokyo, Sunday, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, left, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, center, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pose for photographers during a business summit luncheon in Tokyo, Sunday, May 22, 2011.

The leaders of China and South Korea agreed Sunday to bolster efforts to aid Japan's post-tsunami recovery, and China said it will ease import restrictions imposed after Japan's nuclear crisis raised safety concerns.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan — hosting talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak — led a moment of silence for the victims of the disaster and said he was grateful for the help of Japan's two neighbors.

Japanese officials said Wen and Lee vowed to help Japan's recovery. They said Wen also indicated he was willing to eliminate bans on produce from more areas of Japan, though he stressed that safety most be ensured.

The officials also said China will no longer require some food products to have radiation inspection certificates.

Japan was hoping the summit would present a unified front after Beijing and Seoul criticized its response to the nuclear crisis touched off by a massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The disasters left more than 24,000 people dead or missing and sparked a continuing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

On Saturday, the three leaders met in Fukushima to demonstrate their joint desire for Japan's recovery.

"We are deeply grateful for the great help and assistance provided by China and South Korea," Kan said.

Japan has been particularly concerned that excessive fears over contamination of Japanese produce led to unnecessary trade restrictions. China and South Korea had both expressed fears over Japanese products and criticized Japan for allowing the release of water with high radiation levels into the ocean.

In a statement after Sunday's meeting, the leaders agreed that safety measures should be based on informed policy and overreaction should be avoided.

The leaders also discussed security, with the Korean peninsula as the main topic.

Though closely intertwined economically, Japan, China and South Korea have a number of issues that have kept them at odds over the years. China is North Korea's most important ally, though it is seen as a threat by both Seoul and Tokyo.

Territorial disputes also have soured relations between Japan and its neighbors.