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BEIJING (Kyodo) Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday he has agreed to cooperate with Chinese leaders to prevent the spread of the new swine-avian-human flu epidemic by exchanging information and joining on prevention measures.

At a press conference after his two-day visit to the Chinese capital, Aso also said the two countries agreed to cooperate closely in efforts to get Pyongyang to rejoin the now-stalled six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea.

Aso met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday and Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday.

“We agreed that Japan and China should cooperate in dealing with (the swine flu epidemic), given the serious situation,” Aso said.

“Depending on developments, Japan and China will exchange information in a swift manner and cooperate on prevention methods,” he said.

The epidemic shot to the top of their agenda after infections were confirmed in more than 10 countries, and before Japan’s first suspected case turned up Thursday evening at Narita airport. The virus is being blamed for dozens of deaths in Mexico.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday raised its alert level to Phase 5, its second-highest phase, meaning the world is facing an imminent risk of a pandemic.

A Japanese government official quoted Hu as saying he could not rule out the possibility of the flu virus affecting China, adding that Japan and China should cooperate because they are neighbors and face risks in that regard.

On North Korea, Aso said he agreed with the Chinese leaders to “cooperate closely for the resumption of the six-party talks.”

North Korea said it was pulling out of the multilateral framework in response to the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch, further complicating the reopening of the already stalled negotiations.

North Korea said Wednesday it will carry out further nuclear tests, following its first in 2006, if the U.N. Security Council does not apologize.

The Japanese government official quoted Hu as saying that while the six-party talks are in “a difficult phase” after North Korea’s strong reaction to the UNSC censure, the parties should try to turn the situation around through dialogue.

China is the chair of the talks that group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Aso also said the two countries agreed to cooperate on ways to overcome the global economic crisis, including by boosting domestic demand and preventing protectionism.

The two countries, which hold the world’s two largest tranches of foreign-exchange reserves, also agreed they should work to secure the flow of funds to developing countries through other institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, Aso said.

Aso’s visit came after he made an offering to Tokyo’s war-related Yasukuni Shrine, prompting an angry reaction from China. In their talks Wednesday, Wen reminded Aso of the sensitive historical issues between the two countries.

Hu also said Thursday that the two should “appropriately deal with frictions and differences of opinion,” the Japanese official said. The issue of history “should be dealt with appropriately in particular,” he was quoted as saying.

In both meetings, Aso replied that Japan’s position has not changed from the landmark 1995 statement in which then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized and expressed remorse for Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and atrocities the military committed during the war.

The shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead and served as the spiritual backbone of the war drive, in the 1970s added Class-A war criminals. It is seen by Tokyo’s Asian neighbors as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past and has been a source of discord in relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

Military concerns

BEIJING (Kyodo) Prime Minister Taro Aso urged China on Thursday to carry out its promise to follow a path of peaceful development so it will not trigger security concerns in the region and the world.

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