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December 14, 2008

Asian powers vow to help revive global economy
The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea pledged on Saturday to drum up funding to spare Asia the worst of the global financial crisis, vowing the region would help revive the world economy, reported AFP.

Holding an inaugural joint summit that would have been unthinkable a few years ago due to rocky ties, the East Asian powers also called for renewed efforts to end North Korea's nuclear drive after marathon talks collapsed.

Casting aside dreary financial news, the three leaders who represent three-quarters of Asia's total gross domestic product said the region was "expected to play a role as the centre of world economic growth."

Prime Minister Taro Aso, hosting the summit in his home region in southwestern Japan, told a joint news conference that cooperation among the three nations "will contribute considerably to the stability and prosperity of Asia and the world."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned against any global drift to protectionism. All three Asian nations have been badly affected by falling exports to the troubled US economy.

"The Chinese government will take responsibility and face up to the various risks while working together with East Asian countries to overcome the crisis," Wen said alongside Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.

The three leaders called for an urgent capital infusion into the Asian Development Bank.

The Manila-based bank has warned that the financial turmoil was quickly eroding its ability to fund projects in the region's poorer countries.

The leaders also called for quick action on setting up a regional fund to avert financial turmoil. It would supersede the Chiang Mai Initiative, a system of bilateral currency swaps set up after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

The three Asian powers along with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had in October agreed to create an 80-billion-dollar joint fund by next June to protect the region from further upheaval.

But the summit was bigger on symbolism than specifics, with the three leaders hailing an era of smoother relations.

China and South Korea for several years until 2006 refused high-level meetings with Japan due to disputes related to Tokyo's wartime aggression in Asia.

"It is quite a milestone to hold a stand-alone China-Japan-South Korea summit," Wen said when he opened a one-on-one meeting with Aso.

The joint statement said the three nations shared a vision of a "peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for the region and the international community" and would hold joint summits annually, with next year's in China.

The three leaders also said they would instruct their governments to conduct further studies on an elusive goal of a regional free-trade agreement.

But in one sign of lingering tensions, Aso complained to Wen that Chinese ships recently intruded into waters Japan considers its own in the East China Sea.

Aso told the Chinese premier the incident was "extremely regrettable," to which Wen responded that the disputed islands in the region were Chinese, according to a Japanese official.

The three leaders came together to urge a resumption of diplomacy to end the nuclear programme of neighbouring North Korea.

The latest round of six-country talks -- which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- collapsed in Beijing on Thursday, leading Washington to halt fuel aid shipments to energy-strapped North Korea until it agrees to a written plan to verify its nuclear disarmament.

Japan has championed a hard line on North Korea and refused to offer aid due to a dispute over Pyongyang's past kidnappings of Japanese civilians to train its spies. China and South Korea, however, are major partners of the North.

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