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Fukuda seeks Hu’s help on abduction row

by Reiji Yoshida

TOYAKO, Hokkaido — Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda asked Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday to urge North Korea to resolve the abduction dispute, a senior Japanese official said.

In response, Hu said he understands the sentiment of the Japanese public over the issue, and Beijing will proceed in an “appropriate” way, without elaborating further, according to the official who briefed reporters.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit.

Fukuda told Hu that Pyongyang has not taken any action to “restart” its investigation into the abductions of several Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, as it promised last month, and Tokyo still cannot lift any sanctions, the official said.

China, which supplies most of the crude oil going into North Korea, is considered to maintain significant influence over Pyongyang.

Fukuda also offered further assistance to quake-hit areas of Sichuan Province, proposing projects to provide reconstruction knowhow based on Japan’s experience from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.

Fukuda, Lee meet

TOYAKO , Hokkaido (Kyodo) Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak agreed Wednesday to closely cooperate toward building a “new era” of relations, despite renewed tensions over a pair of Seoul-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan claimed by both countries, a Foreign Ministry official said.

In a brief meeting held on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, Lee conveyed his “grave concern” over a Japanese plan to possibly state in an educational document that the islets, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are part of Japan, the South Korean presidential office said.

The document in question will supplement Japan’s new educational guideline for social studies at junior high schools from the 2012 school year starting in April that year.

Such documents, to be compiled for each subject in junior high school, are nonbinding and serve as guidelines for teachers and textbook publishers.