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Japan, China, S. Korea hold joint disaster drill despite strains


Japan, China and South Korea held a joint drill Thursday to study disaster response, a rare opportunity for the three nations to display unity amid politically charged conflicts over territory and wartime history between Tokyo and its two neighbors.

Some 40 officials from the three countries attended the so-called "tabletop exercise" in Tokyo and discussed emergency responses to serious natural disasters.

Specifically, they conducted the drill at Japan's Foreign Ministry under the assumption that a massive earthquake had hit the Kanto region in eastern Japan, which centers on Tokyo, and confirmed procedures for relief operations.

The session was the second of its kind, following one held a year ago. The leaders of the three countries agreed in May 2011 to conduct such drills, two months after the major earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, triggering a crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

"It is essential for the three countries to cooperate in order to effectively respond to frequent natural disasters," said Shigeo Iwatani of Japan, secretary general of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, which oversees the program.

The joint study showed working-level trilateral cooperation was not affected by strained ties between Japan and its two neighbors, Japanese officials said. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has yet to hold talks with Chinese and South Korean presidents since he took office in December 2012.