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Japan rows into dispute over China Nobel winner

The comments are not likely to be received well by an already furious China.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan
Prime Minister Naoto Kan

THE JAPANESE PRIME Minister Naoto Kan has said that it would be “desirable” for China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, in a move that is unlikely to help the already rocky relationship between the two Asian countries.

China has expressed outrage at the news that the Nobel Committee decided to bestow it Peace Prize on Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving a prison sentence. China says that it considers Liu to be a criminal and has called the award an insult to the country’s judicial system.

While speaking at a parliamentary budget committee, Japan’s Prime Minister was questioned by an opposition party member about whether he believed Liu ought to be released from prison.

He said:

From the viewpoint that universal human rights should be protected across national borders, it is desirable.

I think it is important that human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are universal values, should also be guaranteed in China.

However, Kan stopped short of explicitly calling for Liu’s release.

Tokyo and Beijing are currently attempting to repair relations following a dispute over territories in the sea between them.

But even guarded remarks are likely to be received badly in China. The government was so furious over the issue that it has cancelled raft of meetings previously scheduled with Norway.

Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told AFP news agency:

If this decision is the consequence of the awarding of the Nobel peace prize, we consider this an inappropriate reaction.

Liu Xiabo is currently serving an 11-year sentence on subversion charges. The author and activist co-wrote a manifesto named Charter 08, which called for political reform and democratisation within China.

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