Japan PM says freeing Chinese Nobel winner 'desirable'

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan guardedly said Thursday that it would be "desirable" for China to free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, but stopped short of specifically calling for the imprisoned dissident's release.
The comments reflect the diplomatic tightrope that Tokyo must walk as it seeks to patch up ties with Beijing frayed by a diplomatic spat last month over a collision near disputed islands in the East China Sea.
"Basic human rights and freedom must be protected. From that standpoint, my view is that the release is desirable," Naoto Kan told fellow members of parliament.