Japan, EU to respond to Iraq prisoner abuse, pressure North Korea

Japan and the European Union are preparing to issue a joint statement at the end of their summit in Tokyo next week urging all military forces in Iraq to follow international law in the wake of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers.

They also plan to press North Korea to take clear steps toward “comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear programs,” while touching on the issue of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese, according to a draft statement made available Wednesday to Kyodo News.

Their call on North Korea is aimed at upping international pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear development programs before the third round of six-way talks takes place from June 23 to 26 in Beijing.

The annual summit, to be held Tuesday in Tokyo, is the first since the European Union expanded May 1 into a 25-nation bloc. It will be attended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, European Commission President Romano Prodi and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Regarding the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the draft says the leaders of Japan and the EU “called on all military forces in Iraq to uphold respect for international law and welcomed the firm commitment by the relevant governments to bring to justice any individuals responsible for such acts involving the abuse of detainees.”

The leaders “reiterated that respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law is essential in the fight against terrorism,” indirectly criticizing the controversial incidents.

The draft underscores “the need for the international community to support the work of the interim Iraqi government with a view to direct elections being held in accordance with the timetable set out in UNSCR (U.N. Security Council resolution) 1546.”

The draft welcomes recent developments in Japan-North Korea relations, including the abduction issue, by referring to Koizumi’s May 22 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, which resulted the in the reunion in Japan of four repatriated abductees and their North Korean-born children.

Japan-EU relations

Staff report

Bernhard Zepter, the European Union’s ambassador to Japan, said Wednesday that economic ties will be among the key issues discussed at the Japan-EU summit next week.

One priority will be “what we can do in common in order to give strong signals to our economies” so that both Japan and the EU can ensure that the current recovery will become a long-term positive development, Zepter told a news conference.

He said the EU wants to positively respond to the ambitious plan by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to double foreign direct investment in Japan in five years.

Touching on the May 1 enlargement of the EU, he said there are greater opportunities for Japan to invest in new EU member countries.