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North Korean leader Kim Jong Il indicated at this week’s first-ever inter-Korean summit that he is willing to work toward normalizing ties with Japan, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official quoted South Korean President Kim Dae Jung as saying Saturday.

Kim Dae Jung briefed Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on the landmark Pyongyang summit by phone in the morning, the official said. Mori, who was at a hotel in Nagoya on a campaigning trip for the June 25 general election for the Lower House, talked with the South Korean president for about 20 minutes.

During their conversation, South Korea’s Kim said he conveyed Mori’s message of “strong will and eagerness” to normalize relations with Pyongyang, and quoted North Korea’s Kim as saying, “I am willing to accept Prime Minister Mori’s message,” the official said.

Kim Dae Jung also told Kim Jong Il of “the importance of progressing simultaneously on improving relations between the two Koreas, between Japan and North Korea and between the United States and North Korea.”

Kim Dae Jung obtained Kim Jong Il’s “understanding” on the issue, the Japanese official said.

Governmental negotiations to establish diplomatic ties between Japan and North Korea resumed in April for the first time in seven and a half years, but the second round of negotiations, scheduled for late May, was canceled at the North’s request.

The South Korean president also told Mori that he “fully explained” to Kim Jong Il how crucial the issue of North Korea’s alleged nuclear and missile development is to the Korean Peninsula and all of Northeast Asia.

Mori told Kim Dae Jung that he will “work strenuously” to make progress on the normalization talks with the North and that he intends to “lead other Group of Eight nations in backing up the positive movement which has started between the two Koreas” during the G8 summit in Okinawa in July.

Hwang Won Tak, senior secretary for diplomacy and security for Kim Dae Jung, is to hold talks with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Monday and with Mori on Tuesday for a more detailed briefing.

U.S. to consult allies

NEW YORK (Kyodo) President Bill Clinton told a South Korean presidential envoy Friday that the United States plans to consult Japan and South Korea to coordinate policy toward North Korea in the wake of the inter-Korea summit, a White House official said.

Clinton, who was in New York, met with Hwang Won Tak, a senior aide to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, to get an account of the three-day summit Kim had in Pyongyang with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Il, the official said.

Clinton told Hwang that he found the outcome of the summit “on balance to be hopeful” and said it is important that the U.S. and South Korea consults with Japan and other allies on what to do next.

Hwang, who accompanied Kim to Pyongyang for the historic summit, will be visiting Tokyo early next week to brief Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on the outcome of the summit.

“The president feels very appreciative of President Kim for giving us such a good feel for what’s going on,” the White House official said.

“We obviously are going to spend some time ourselves thinking about the implications of this and want to consult both with the South Koreans and the Japanese about how to take this forward,” the official said.