China’s decision not to assist Iran in building a nuclear reactor is a positive sign for regional stability in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said August 26.

Netanyahu, speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, said that Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing “assured me that China has canceled out on proposed plans to build an atomic reactor for Iran.” Netanyahu met with Li on August 24 when his plane stopped over at Beijing airport to refuel.

Netanyahu expressed concern over Iran’s military buildup at his meeting on August 25 with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, saying it threatens the region’s peace. “One would hope that the specific pledge that I received in Beijing reflects a general Chinese decision to prevent the arming of Iran,” he said.

Netanyahu said Israel is also urging Russia not to transfer its ballistic missile technology to Iran, “which would make Iran self-sufficient in the ability to create ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles),” which could reach any part of the world. “The fate of our children, perhaps the fate of ourselves, is right now in the balance if Iran develops nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them,” he said.

Netanyahu also said that Li extended an invitation for him to visit China in 1998. He said China, which has supported anti-Israeli governments in the Middle East, is seeking to establish a positive relationship with Israel.

“I think China’s policy has changed already,” he said. “It’s very clear to me that China has opted to intensify the relationship with Israel.” Netanyahu also said that China seems to be interested in Israel’s agricultural technology in an attempt to improve yields of its own agriculture.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu also suggested to Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma that Israel and Japan exchange opinions on military technology and equipment in the future, Defense Agency officials said.

During a half-hour meeting with the defense chief at a Tokyo hotel, Netanyahu said the more Japan and Israel enhance bilateral trade ties, the deeper bilateral defense cooperation will become, the defense officials said. Kyuma replied that his agency will consider such bilateral military cooperation on the condition that it does not lead to a violation of Japan’s ban on arms exports, they said.

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