Abe willing to interact with China, S. Korea leaders at summit

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his readiness on Wednesday to exchange views with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts when they gather for the East Asia Summit in Brunei on Thursday, reiterating that Japan is open to dialogue despite soured relations with its two neighbors.

But Abe told reporters that no more than a handshake occurred with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali, Indonesia on Monday, when the two leaders attended a meeting of business leaders on the sidelines of a two-day summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations in which Japan is seeking to retain tariffs on key farm products, the prime minister said his government will seek to maximize the country's interests by "protecting what should be protected."

On Tuesday, Abe and other leaders of the countries involved in the TPP talks held a summit in Indonesia after the APEC meeting and reiterated a pledge to reach a deal on the U.S.-led free trade initiative within the year.

Speaking to reporters at a hotel in the Bruneian capital, Abe also expressed his government's resolve to "tenaciously and carefully" seek local agreement to building a replacement facility within Okinawa's main island for an existing U.S. Marine air base in the southwestern prefecture.

With the people of Okinawa opposed to the relocation plan within the prefecture, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is expected to make a final decision in a few months' time on whether to approve land reclamation work necessary to proceed with the project.