China, South, ASEAN asked to ease food ban

Kyodo

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 start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

As participants reviewed cooperation in finance and food security at the ASEAN Plus Three summit, Abe also welcomed the start of an emergency rice reserve program and said Japan intends to extend its cooperation, according to Japanese officials.

The summit in Brunei brought together Abe, Premier Li Keqiang of China and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea.

During a photo session before the meeting, Abe stood next to Park, shaking hands with her in an ASEAN-style pose, but the two leaders did not appear to make eye contact, perhaps reflecting the current chilled ties between the two countries.

Amid concern over radiation-contaminated water leaking from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, South Korea has recently imposed an import ban on fisheries products from some Japanese prefectures.

Abe, who sat next to Park at a roundtable, asked the other participants to relax or eliminate restrictions on imported goods from Japan, saying that those in circulation are safe.

“We intend to continue (to) provide 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 threat and the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.

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 10 months ago.

Trip to Laos, Cambodia

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to visit Laos and Cambodia on Nov. 16 and 17, the last two ASEAN countries he has yet to visit since taking office last December, a government source said Thursday.

The visits will come roughly a month before a special summit in Tokyo from Dec. 13 to 15 to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

During his stay, Abe is expected to meet with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the source said.

Abe is apparently trying to show Japan places importance on the regional bloc by visiting all 10 ASEAN member states during his first year in office.