TOKYO – The leaders of China and South Korea agreed Sunday to bolster efforts to aid Japan's disaster recovery as they met with the Japanese prime minister to smooth over differences on Tokyo's handling of its post-tsunami nuclear crisis.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Sunday's summit. Japan hoped the meeting would present a unified front after Beijing and Seoul criticized its response to the nuclear crisis, and that it would lead to an easing of restrictions on the export of Japanese produce.
On Saturday, the three leaders met in Fukushima to demonstrate their joint desire for Japan's recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The disasters left more than 24,000 people dead or missing and sparked an ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
Kan led a moment of silence for the victims, then thanked China and South Korea for their assistance.
"We are deeply grateful for the great help and assistance provided by China and South Korea," he said.
Japan has been particularly concerned that excessive fears over the contamination of Japanese produce have led to unnecessary trade restrictions. China and South Korea had both expressed fears over Japanese imports, and criticized Japan for allowing the release of water with high radiation levels into the ocean.
In a statement after Sunday's meeting, the leaders agreed that safety measures should be based on informed policy and overreaction should be avoided. Wen suggested he was willing to consider easing restrictions if proper safety was ensured.
Wen and Lee also agreed to bolster efforts to help Japan with its overall recovery.
The leaders also discussed security, with the Korean peninsula as the main topic.
Though closely intertwined economically, Japan, China and South Korea have a number of issues that have kept them at odds over the years. China is North Korea's most important ally, though it is seen as a threat by both Seoul and Tokyo.
Territorial disputes also have soured relations between Japan and its neighbors.