Koizumi firm on aid to North Korea

Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday that Japan will not discuss economic cooperation with North Korea unless progress is made on the questions of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and its abduction of Japanese citizens.

“I am aware of the importance of eliminating concerns over security and the nuclear issue” before discussing economic cooperation, Koizumi told reporters aboard a government plane en route to Los Cabos, Mexico. He is attending the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum here on Saturday and Sunday.

“The abduction issue is important for Japan. Both the United States and South Korea are interested in security and the nuclear issue,” he said.

The prime minister made a landmark visit to Pyongyang in September, where he agreed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to restart long-stalled talks aimed at normalizing bilateral ties.

The two countries are scheduled to hold normalization negotiations in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Under the accord struck at the Pyongyang summit, Japan will not offer money in the form of reparations for the damage and suffering it inflicted on Koreans during Japan’s colonial rule. It will, however, provide economic assistance after bilateral relations improve.

North Korea admitted in talks with the United States earlier this month to having a secret program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

On the sidelines of the APEC summit, Koizumi will hold trilateral talks Saturday with U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

“I want to make clear to North Korea Japan’s basic policy of improving bilateral relations in close coordination among Japan, the United States and South Korea,” he said.

“I will attend the meeting from the position of seeking the resolution (of the nuclear issue) through dialogue and cooperation as the U.S. is also hoping for a peaceful solution,” Koizumi said.

On the abduction issue, Koizumi said he hopes Japan and North Korea will develop a relationship that will allow the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and their children to visit the two countries freely.

Concerning the Japanese economy, Koizumi reiterated the possibility of the government compiling a supplementary budget in the ordinary Diet session that starts in January. He said economic conditions will have to be taken into consideration.

“While watching the situation, the government will respond in a bold and flexible manner,” he said of the possibility of an extra budget.