By Daisuke Yamamoto
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, (PNA/Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked the leaders of China, South Korea and ASEAN to relax or eliminate import restrictions on Japanese produce, touting its safety more than two years after the onset of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
As participants confirmed cooperation in finance and food security at the “ASEAN-plus-three” summit, Abe also welcomed the start of an emergency rice reserve program involving the participating countries and said Japan intends to extend cooperation in the area.
ASEAN leaders expressed hope for stronger cooperation in finance and food security within the ASEAN-plus-three framework, while asking Japan, South Korea and China to continue helping ASEAN members increase their “connectivity” as they work toward the vision of an ASEAN Economic Community, according to Japanese officials.
The summit, held in the Brunei capital on the island of Borneo as part of a series of meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, brought together Abe, Premier Li Keqiang of China and President Park Geun Hye of South Korea.
During a photo session before the meeting, in which all the leaders held hands, Abe stood next to Park, but the two leaders did not appear to make eye contact, perhaps reflecting the current chilled ties between the two countries.
Amid fresh concern over the leaks of water contaminated with radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, South Korea has recently imposed an import ban on fisheries products from some Japanese prefectures.
At Thursday’s meeting, Abe, who sat next to Park at a roundtable, asked other participants that their countries relax or eliminate restrictions on imported goods from Japan, saying that those on the market are safe.
“We intend to continue providing precise information swiftly, and ask those countries that continue restrictions to loosen or eliminate such restrictions on the basis of scientific data,” he said, according to the officials.
Abe also urged other participants to cooperate over the North Korean nuclear issue and the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.
Several other leaders referred to issues concerning North Korea, according to the officials.
With Japan enmeshed in disputes with China and South Korea over territorial issues and interpretations of history, Abe has not held bilateral talks with a Chinese or South Korean leader since he became prime minister last December.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with host Brunei serving as chairman of the regional grouping.