• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Chinese President Jiang Zemin agreed Wednesday on the need for Japan and North Korea to establish diplomatic ties, a Japanese official said.

Mori and Jiang, who met for 30 minutes in what was described as a cordial atmosphere, also agreed to establish a “friendly and cooperative partnership” between Japan and China, the official told reporters.

Mori asked Jiang for support in negotiations between Japan and North Korea to establish diplomatic ties, and the Chinese president, who has close ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, signaled that he would oblige, the official said.

Japanese and North Korean officials held their second round of normalization talks in Japan last month and agreed to meet in October.

On bilateral ties, Jiang expressed his confidence that Japan and China “can resolve differences through dialogue” and said he believes that Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to Japan, between Oct. 12 and 17, would “further boost our partnership.”

Mori hailed Jiang for prioritizing relations with Japan and reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to cementing the bilateral partnership.

In an apparent bid to keep bilateral ties free from friction prior to Zhu’s visit, Mori and Jiang steered clear of contentious issues, including Taiwan-China ties, increasing Chinese research and naval activities near Japan’s territorial waters, and Tokyo’s plan to review official development assistance to China.

The Japanese official said Mori and Jiang tacitly referred to specific bilateral issues, noting they were satisfied with “frank” discussions Foreign Minister Yohei Kono had with Chinese government officials during his visit to Beijing late last month.

Kono and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, agreed to set up a mutual advance notification mechanism to resolve disputes over Chinese research activities in Japan’s exclusive economic waters. Tang also indicated that China would halt naval operations near Japan.

According to a Foreign Ministry report released last month, Japan has spotted 17 instances of Chinese research vessels operating within Japan’s exclusive economic waters so far this year, as well as an increase in Chinese naval operations near Japan.

The increase in maritime activities led the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last month to shelve a government plan to extend 17.2 billion yen in soft loans to China.

Earlier in the day, Mori met with his Australian counterpart, John Howard, and both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate to assist East Timor proceed with its independence.

In their 30-minute talks on the sidelines of the U.N. summit, the two leaders agreed to jointly urge Indonesia to crack down on militias opposed to East Timor’s independence.

The Japanese official said Mori and Howard also agreed to hold a bilateral “millennium” meeting next year. Howard proposed last year that government and private-sector representatives from the two countries meet to discuss ways to enhance their partnership.

The official said the two countries have yet to decide on the details of the proposed meeting, such as its venue and participants.

Howard invited Mori to visit Australia next year, apparently in conjunction with the millennium meeting proposal. Mori promised to consider the invitation.

Howard reiterated his support on Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and shared the view with Mori that the number of both permanent and nonpermanent seats on the council should be expanded, the official said.

Mori targets two areas

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Wednesday raised the matters of poverty and the “digital divide” in making his case for enhancing the functions of the United Nations during a round-table discussion at the U.N. Millennium Summit.

A Japanese official said Mori focused on the two issues given the three-minute limit imposed on each participant for remarks during four closed-door round-table discussions among world leaders on the role of the U.N.

Mori emphasized that the U.N. bears “an extremely important role in dealing with all problems we face now” and also mentioned such issues as maintaining peace, protecting human rights and preserving the environment, the official told reporters.

It is “essential and urgent for all of us to strengthen the U.N.’s functions, including the reform of the Security Council, in order for the United Nations to play its expected role in the 21st century,” Mori was quoted as telling fellow world leaders at the meeting.

Commenting on the eradication of poverty, Mori underlined the need for international cooperation based on self-help efforts by developing nations to help them improve basic education, prevent the spread of infectious diseases and reduce external debts.

“We must squarely face the fact that poverty remains as one of the major factors behind conflicts, enmity, disease, hunger and other problems,” Mori was quoted as saying.

Mori reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to helping developing nations eradicate poverty and attain sustainable economic growth, citing Japan’s record as the world’s top aid donor in the past nine years, despite the prolonged slump in the Japanese economy.

On the problem of the digital divide, Mori promised to work toward making rapidly advancing innovations in information technology into “a key for linking, not distancing” developing and developed countries, the official said.

As part of this effort, Mori explained that he has launched a five-year package worth $15 billion to help developing nations, particularly those in Asia.

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