China And Japan Meet

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Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held the first summit between the two nations in five years to talk about strategies to stop North Korea from carrying out a threatened nuclear test. Both leaders are very worried about the possibility that Kim Jong Il may detonate a nuclear weapon and are vowing to work together to stop the test. There are now conflicting stories about how imminent the test may actually be.

Meanwhile, a former South Korean lawmaker said North Korea denied a nuclear test was imminent, citing a Chinese diplomat who spoke to officials from the North on Sunday. China is North Korea's closest ally.

There had been speculation that a nuclear test could come Sunday, the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997.

However, former South Korean lawmaker Jang Sung-min said the North told China it had not raised the alert level of its military. He said he spoke to an unidentified Chinese diplomat who learned of North Korea's stance from Pyongyang officials Sunday afternoon.

Jang said the North also told China it may drop plans to test its first atomic bomb if the United States holds bilateral talks with Pyongyang — or accelerate the plans if the U.S. moves toward sanctions or a military attack. The United States has repeatedly denied it intends to invade North Korea.

Jang, who spoke in Seoul, is a former ruling party lawmaker who currently heads a think tank in Seoul and has been active in Northeast Asian affairs.

The Chinese official's comments could not be independently confirmed.

In Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in the first summit between the Asian powers in five years. Relations between the two countries have been strained, but efforts to arrange the summit gathered urgency after North Korea threatened the nuclear test.

"Hu and Abe, during their talks, said they were deeply concerned over North Korea's threat to conduct a nuclear test, and they vowed to cooperate to dissuade it from conducting one," a senior Japanese delegation official told reporters on condition of anonymity because of rules for the briefing.

Abe, whose country has felt increasingly threatened by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, was leading a round of shuttle diplomacy. He was to visit Seoul for talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday.

Persuading China and South Korea to support forceful diplomacy and potentially tough sanctions against Pyongyang is seen as crucial. Over the past three years, Beijing and Seoul have resisted sanctions and argued for engagement as the best way to deal with the isolated regime.

Japan's Abe appears to be hitting the ground running in his new leadership role. If he can succeed in getting China and South Korea to back stronger action against the rogue regime in North Korea, he may be able to head of the test for at least a while. Whether Kim is sane enough to realize the danger he is putting his country in by pulling this stunt is an open question. At least Abe is working hard to try to stop it. The internal disarray in the US is not helping him at the moment, however.

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