BEIJING—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that he won agreement from China's leaders that a nuclear test by North Korea "can never be tolerated" because it would destabilize East Asia.
Abe made the statement after a daylong summit with China's three top leaders that appeared to thaw chilly relations between the region's two major rivals.
As North Korea stuck to its threat to test a nuclear bomb, China snubbed its longtime ally in Pyongyang and offered the red carpet to Abe, a staunch conservative who came to office less than two weeks ago. China and Japan capped the summit with a statement that they had reached "a turning point" in their tense relations.
Abe said late Sunday that China's leaders agreed that any attempt by North Korea to test a nuclear weapon, as it vowed to do Tuesday, would be unacceptable.
"In my meeting with President Hu Jintao, we saw eye to eye that North Korea's announcement of its intent to conduct a nuclear test can never be tolerated because it is a great threat to the peace and security of East Asia," Abe said.
The summit marked a dramatic effort by China and Japan to put a thaw in their private cold war. It was the first summit of its kind since 2001.
Premier Wen Jiabao received Abe outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square and marched him past an honor guard and into the summit venue.
China did not win from Abe an explicit pledge that he would stay away from the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors 2.5 million of Japan's war dead, including 14 Class-A war criminals from World War II. Annual visits to the shrine by Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, enraged China and South Korea.
But Abe, who at 52 is Japan's first leader born after the war, used frank language about his nation's wartime role, saying that Japan's "deep remorse" had not ebbed.
"I said we shall look at past history squarely," Abe said, adding that Japan knew it "had caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of countries, especially Asian countries, and left scars among those people."
In addition to meeting for an hour and a half with Premier Wen, and 80 minutes with President Hu, Abe also conferred with Wu Bangguo, the head of China's rubber-stamp parliament and the No. 2 man in China's Communist Party hierarchy.
Sino-Japanese relations sunk to their nadir in April 2005 when protesters in China trashed Tokyo's diplomatic facilities and Japanese stores in weeks of demonstrations.
The tensions came despite growing economic ties between the two nations.
China is now Japan's major trade partner, surpassing the United States. Abe noted that Japanese investment has created 10 million jobs in China.
Following the summit talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said relations between the two erstwhile rivals "have come to a very crucial stage."
Liu used softer language on North Korea than Abe, saying only that the two sides had voiced "deep concern" about the prospect of a nuclear test by Pyongyang.
China came to North Korea's aid during the 1950-52 war on the Korean Peninsula, and relations between the two neighbors were once described as like "lips and teeth." But China is upset that North Korea may be sparking a regional nuclear arms race.
China supported a U.N. Security Council statement Friday urging the Kim Jong Il regime to abandon plans for the nuclear test and return to six-nation talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear arms program. China hosts the talks, which stalled last year.
Abe travels early Monday to South Korea, another major trading partner.
On that stop, he may find himself overshadowed by his wife, Akie Abe, a fan of South Korean television heartthrobs. Japan's media is paying great attention to her since Koizumi, the former prime minister, was divorced.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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