Koizumi seeks Russia’s help on North Korea

Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi asked Russia on Saturday to cooperate in pressing North Korea to abandon its weapons program, a Japanese official said.

The talks with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were held shortly before the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Koizumi said the security and nuclear issues are important not only for Japan-North Korean relations but also for Northeast Asia, Russia and China, according to the official.

It is necessary to convince Pyongyang that abiding by international agreements and becoming a responsible state is in its best interest, Koizumi was quoted as saying.

He told Kasyanov that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government will press North Korea to do so, the Japanese official said.

Kasyanov reportedly replied that it is necessary for Japan and Russia to closely coordinate their policy toward North Korea.

Koizumi was initially scheduled to meet with Putin, but the Russian leader canceled his trip due to a hostage crisis at a Moscow theater involving Chechen rebels. Kasyanov is attending the APEC summit in Putin’s place.

Russian special forces stormed the theater Saturday, freeing about 750 hostages and killing 50 Chechen rebels in a bloody end to the three-day standoff. About 90 of the captives were killed.

At talks with Kasyanov, Koizumi offered his condolences to the victims and their families. He said Japan wants to keep close contact with Russia on international efforts to combat terrorism, according to the official.

Koizumi also said he hopes his planned trip to Russia on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 will help resolve a long-held territorial dispute involving four islands off Hokkaido.

The two countries should endeavor to resolve the dispute because it has been a major stumbling block to the development of bilateral relations, Koizumi was quoted as saying.

The Soviet Union seized the four islands from Japan at the end of World War II, and the resulting territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty.

Koizumi and Kasyanov reaffirmed the importance of an action plan to be adopted by Koizumi and Putin at their Moscow summit in January. The two sides feel the document sets the course of future Japan-Russian relations, the Japanese official said.