Kan Says China Should Release Imprisoned Nobel Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan said China should release Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, risking a further rift as he seeks to repair bilateral ties damaged by a territorial dispute.

“It would be desirable for him to be released,” Kan said in parliament today in response to a question. Kan added that he was watching to see whether Liu, a democracy activist who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 on charges of subversion, and his wife will be allowed to attend the award ceremony in Oslo in December.

Japan is attempting to arrange a summit with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at this month’s meeting of Asian leaders in Hanoi. The two men met in Brussels at an Asia-Europe summit on Oct. 4 and pledged to mend ties frayed by rival claims to uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

“We are hoping to use the opportunity for a Japan-China summit” at the meeting hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told reporters today in Tokyo. “Nothing has been decided.”

Kan also told parliament that relations between Asia’s two biggest economies are improving, and Sengoku said Japan won’t formally ask for Liu’s release. China criticized the Nobel award as undeserved and inappropriate for someone who is in prison for violating Chinese laws.

To contact the reporters on this story: Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at thirokawa@bloomberg.net; Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

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