Koizumi, Roh back six-way talks, in no hurry for sanctions

by

IBUSUKI, Kagoshima Pref. — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said Friday they will seek an early resumption of six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear threat.

During a news conference following their summit at a hot spring resort here, Koizumi said Japan will wait for North Korea to issue further responses on the abduction issue before deciding whether to impose economic sanctions on the reclusive state.

“We will have to see how North Korea responds to demands for the truth. Once we have that, we would then consider what sort of sanctions to impose,” Koizumi said.

While voicing support for Japan’s position on the abduction issue, Roh said he appreciates Koizumi’s pledge to consider the imposition of sanctions carefully.

Koizumi and Roh also said Japan and South Korea would aim to conclude a free-trade accord by the end of 2005.

During the talks, Koizumi is believed to have updated Roh on the latest developments regarding abductees who remain unaccounted for. He sought Seoul’s support in trying to resolve the matter.

South Korea has called on Japan to be cautious in imposing economic sanctions on the North, which warned Wednesday that it would view sanctions as an act of war.

The South has voiced concern that isolating the unpredictable regime could further jeopardize stalled six-nation talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear arms program. The talks involve the Koreas, Japan, the U.S., China and Russia.

Japan confirmed via DNA analysis that the cremated remains its delegation brought back from Pyongyang last month were not those of abductee Megumi Yokota. It then lodged a protest with the North.

A man said to be Yokota’s North Korean husband had told the delegation the ashes were Yokota’s.

Yokota is one of 10 Japanese citizens Tokyo believes were abducted by North Korea. Pyongyang has said eight of the 10, including Yokota, are dead and the other two never entered its territory. Japan remains unconvinced and is seeking further information on all 10.

The findings have triggered further calls from Japanese lawmakers and relatives of the abductees for economic sanctions on the North. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said economic sanctions are a likely option, although he did not specify how or when Japan would apply them.

During the news conference with Koizumi, Roh said North Korea may not have deliberately given Japan the wrong remains, and lauded Koizumi for his “cool-headed and careful” approach.

“I don’t think it would be in Japan’s interests if an impatient decision were to hinder the establishment of diplomatic relations or if six-nation talks were to be adversely affected,” Roh added.

The six-nation talks have been stalled since the last round in June, when participants agreed to reconvene by the end of September.

During the news conference, Roh also expressed hope that Japanese citizens would take steps on their own initiative to resolve issues related to Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

In the talks with Koizumi, Roh referred to the prime minister’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine in the same context, according to a Japanese government official.

Roh told the news conference that he believes South Korea needs to “watch for people in Japan to start debating to try to resolve the issues on their own.”

Roh said it is not useful for South Korea to keep seeking apologies from Japan in an emotional way.

“I came here thinking that I would not want to pose issues such as those relating to history that could prompt Japanese citizens to react emotionally and negatively,” he said.

Noting it is difficult to comment on the troubled past between the two sides when the current bilateral atmosphere is so healthy, Roh said learning about history and resolving issues related to it will produce a good future.

“I think we constantly look back on history and discuss historical issues in order to contribute positively to a correct future,” he said, adding there is no doubt the future for the two countries involves peace and coexistence.

Doubling of flights

IBUSUKI, Kagoshima Pref. (Kyodo) Japan will consider doubling the number of shuttle flights between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Seoul’s Kimpo airport to eight per day, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday.

“Shuttle flights between Haneda and Kimpo are very popular. We will give positive consideration to boosting the number of flights from four to eight,” he told a news conference with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun after their one-day summit.