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North Korea understands that relations with South Korea will not improve unless Pyongyang strives to strengthen ties with Japan and the United States, an envoy of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung told Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Monday.

Hwang Won Tak said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il well understood Kim Dae Jung’s words to this effect at the landmark inter-Korean summit last week in Pyongyang.

Hwang, senior secretary for diplomacy and security for Kim, was here to brief Japan in detail about the inter-Korean summit and to confirm Pyongyang’s willingness to work toward normalizing diplomatic relations with Japan. Hwang is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori today.

During the inter-Korean summit, held from last Tuesday to Thursday in Pyongyang, the two Kims signed an agreement to work toward the eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement promises to reunify some of the tens of thousands of families that have been separated for 50 years.

Hwang said the South Korean president stressed that it would be difficult to carry out agreements between the two Koreas without endorsements from Japan and the U.S., calling on Pyongyang to work to improve ties.

Regarding normalization talks between Japan and North Korea, Hwang told Kono that the South Korean president conveyed to his northern counterpart Japan’s eagerness to advance negotiations, the official said.

Kim Jong Il replied that he received Japan’s message “with pleasure” and asked his southern counterpart to convey his words back to Tokyo.

Hwang also said Kim Dae Jung underlined international concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs. Kim Jong Il was “seriously listening,” the official quoted Hwang as saying.

In April in Pyongyang, normalization negotiations between the two countries were resumed for the first time in almost eight years, but the two sides postponed the next round of talks, which would have taken place last month in Japan.