Japanese leader supports SKorean plans to bring NKorea to UN Security Council

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's prime minister told his Chinese counterpart Monday that he supports Seoul's plans to bring North Korea before the U.N. Security Council for sanctions or condemnation for the alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, an official said.

The two countries also agreed to start negotiations over a treaty to develop natural gas resources under the East China Sea, said Osamu Sakashita, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said North Korea should be punished over the warship sinking in accordance with international law, Sakashita said.

During a three-way weekend summit between South Korea, China and Japan on South Korea's Jeju island, Wen didn't appear ready to support possible action in the U.N. Security Council against North Korea, China's longtime ally. But his closing remarks Sunday seemed to signal that Beijing was becoming more engaged in the crisis.

China's backing would be key because it wields veto power at the Security Council as a permanent member.

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South Korea has taken punitive measures against the North since a team of international investigators said this month that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine tore apart and sank the warship Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors. North Korea vehemently denies attacking the ship and has warned the South is risking war by attempting to punish it.

In his bilateral meeting Monday with Wen in Tokyo, Hatoyama expressed concern about recent activities by the Chinese navy in the East China Sea off Okinawa, Sakashita said.

In April, Chinese ships were spotted in international waters off Okinawa, and in another incident that month a Chinese helicopter also came within 300 feet (90 meters) of a Japanese military monitoring vessel in the vicinity of a Chinese naval exercise.

The two leaders agreed to set up a hot line to avert future emergencies.

The decision to start talks toward a treaty to develop natural gas resources under the East China Sea is a step forward after the two nations agreed in June 2008 to jointly develop the gas deposits that had previously been disputed.

Under that deal, Japanese will be allowed to invest and share in the profits of existing Chinese operations in the Chunxiao fields, which Japan calls Shirakaba, in the south, while Japanese and Chinese will jointly develop fields in the north.

The two leaders also signed initiatives ensuring food safety and on deeping cooperation in energy-saving. The food safety memorandum follows a food-poisoning scare in which 10 Japanese were sickened from eating tainted Chinese-made frozen dumplings in late 2007 and 2008. In March, Beijing said it had arrested a suspect in the case.

Wen turned his focus to the economy in a speech held later at the Japanese Business Federation, better known as Keidanren.

He warned that the global economy faces risks that could lead to another downturn. Unemployment remains high in the U.S., and sovereign debt concerns could derail Europe, he said in his lunchtime remarks.

"The global economy is recovering, but the process is slow," he said. "There are a number of uncertainties and forces that could destabilize the situation."

Meanwhile, China's economy is headed toward another year of strong, steady growth, Wen said.

In 2009, China's gross domestic product expanded 8.7 percent and is expected to surpass Japan's economy in size sometime this year. Wen played down the significance of the looming milestone for China, which is the world's most populous country. Japan's per capita GDP of $40,000 a year remains far ahead of China's per capital figure of $3,700.

Wen also noted the huge income disparities that remain in China between urban and rural, east and west.

"Our development goal is to become a middle-income economy," he said. "That will take decades. To become an advanced economy will take more than 100 years."

On Sunday, Keidanren and its counterparts in China and South Korea released a joint statement calling for greater trilateral trade and investment, as well as greater cooperation in environment and energy.

Before his meeting with Hatoyama, Wen jogged at a Tokyo park, practiced "tai-chi," greeted Japanese joggers, and played a bit of baseball with university students.


Associated Press Writer Tomoko A. Hosaka and Shino Yuasa contributed to this report