Japan told South Korea on Friday that the two governments should keep expressing strong concerns over India’s nuclear tests last week and Pakistan’s suspected preparations for its own tests so that North Korea will not be encouraged to follow suit.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto made the comment to South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Park Chung Soo, Foreign Ministry officials said. Hashimoto told Park that the two countries should cooperate in dealing with the issue, the officials said. Park responded that the South Korean government is highly concerned about the situation concerning India and Pakistan, but the two did not discuss the issue further, the officials said.

Japan has frozen new yen loans to India to protest its nuclear tests. Japan and South Korea are members of an international consortium to build two nuclear power plants for North Korea to replace a Soviet-designed reactor that they fear North Korea was using to develop atomic weapons.

Hashimoto and Park expressed hope that bilateral fisheries negotiations will be concluded by the fall when President Kim Dae Jung makes an official visit to Japan, the officials said. Park said that negotiations will be settled harmoniously with both sides making concessions, they said.

Park told Hashimoto that Kim is willing to establish a new age of friendship with Japan to extend into the 21st century, the officials said. Hashimoto also told Park that Japan is considering extending economic assistance to South Korea through the Export-Import Bank of Japan, according to the officials. The officials declined to elaborate on the details of the assistance, saying that it is currently under negotiation.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said Friday that Hashimoto may make an official visit to France in late July after visiting the United States.

“The government is considering the possibility,” Muraoka told a regular press conference. If realized, the France trip will be the first for Hashimoto since he became prime minister in January 1996.

Muraoka said that French President Jacques Chirac, who is widely known as a Japanophile, has earnestly requested Hashimoto to visit France since 1996.

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