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Tibet an 'international issue,' Japan PM tells China

April 20, 2008

TOKYO 19 Apr 2008 (AFP) — Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda bluntly
told China Friday that Tibetan unrest had become an international issue,
contradicting Beijing's official line, and hinted it could hit the Olympics.

Yasuo Fukuda made the remarks to visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang
Jiechi, who is paving the way for President Hu Jintao's much-anticipated
trip here next month.

"Prime Minister Fukuda stated that there was a need to face up to the
reality that the matter has become an international issue and that it
should not affect the Olympics," a foreign ministry statement said.

"It is desired that the Chinese side does all it can to solve the
matter," it quoted Fukuda as saying.

China has repeatedly countered criticism of its crackdown in the
Himalayan region by saying its handling of protests last month was
strictly an internal matter.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say China's clampdown left more than 150 dead,
while Beijing says "rioters" killed 20.

The incident has overshadowed China's hosting of the Beijing Olympics in
August, with protests marring international legs of the ceremonial torch

On Friday, a Japanese temple pulled out of a hosting ceremony for the
flame during its visit to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

The United States declined to its ally's warning, but said it wants
conditions in Tibet to improve.

"I don't think we try to characterise it as a national issue or an
international issue. I don't think that's the point of it," White House
spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters.

"The point of it is that there are lots of places in the world where we
have an interest in the human rights of the citizens who live there, and
we express our interest and our concern in all of those places. And we
want to see the conditions improve."

Yang, who had described Tibet as a "domestic issue" on Friday,
reiterated Beijing's position that the Dalai Lama, the region's exiled
spiritual leader, was responsible for the deadly unrest.

"If the Dalai's side stops splittist activities, violent activities and
activities to sabotage the Olympics, the door for dialogue is open,"
Yang told Fukuda, according to the statement.

Yang's four-day visit is mainly aimed at preparing for Hu's trip
scheduled for May 6-10, the first in a decade by a Chinese head of state.

Although relations between Tokyo and Beijing have warmed recently, ties
have been strained by a health scare here over Chinese-made dumplings
and an ongoing dispute over lucrative drilling rights to gas fields in
the East China Sea.

Fukuda, who took office in September, has sought friendly ties with
China, which refused high-level contacts during the 2001-2006
premiership of Junichiro Koizumi due to his visits to a controversial
war shrine.

Fukuda told Yang that "both sides need to make efforts to overcome
various (bilateral) problems," the statement said.

"China would like to build a framework with Japan through the visit (by
Hu) so that the two countries will prosper in the long term," Yang told

"I showed my appreciation to Prime Minister Fukuda as he said he
supported a successful Olympics in China," he said.

During his visit to China in December, Fukuda agreed with Hu to seek a
resolution on the gas dispute at an early date, although no major
breakthrough has yet been made.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Fukuda's number two, said he
had expressed Japanese concerns over the safety of Chinese food in his
talks with Yang.
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