SEOUL — South Korean President Kim Dae Jung said Monday that direct talks between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il are necessary to break the ice in normalization talks and that he is willing to support them, Japanese officials said.
Officials from Japan’s three-party ruling coalition quoted Kim as saying the Japanese and North Korean leaders will accept normalization if they are satisfied with the outcome of such direct talks, and that he would do what he could to help realize them.
Kim met with a group Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, and New Conservative Party Secretary General Takeshi Noda at the Blue House, his official residence in Seoul.
The Japanese lawmakers told Kim it will take time for Japan to enact a law giving permanent foreign residents, many of whom are Korean, the right to vote in local elections.
Kim said: “I really hope the issue will be resolved by the end of this year,” according to the officials.
Nonaka said there are some LDP members who are against the idea and added he will set up a team to discuss the issue among the coalition parties, the officials said.
The issue of voting rights for foreigners will be discussed during a 72-day extraordinary Diet session convening Thursday.
Earlier in the day, they met with Unification Minister Park Jae Kyu, who told them that North Korea’s No. 2 man, Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, is expected to visit South Korea before the end of the year.
Nonaka and two other Japanese officials exchanged opinions with Park on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Early this month, Kim Yong Nam canceled a planned visit to New York, where he was to attend the U.N. Millennium Summit and have talks with Kim Dae Jung.
At a separate meeting with former South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil on Monday, Nonaka vowed to make efforts to enact the foreign suffrage bill.
Kim is also chairman of the (South) Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union.
The LDP should settle unresolved issues over the legislation to allow the ruling coalition to reach an agreement, Nonaka said.
Nonaka told Kim that some LDP members are opposed to the legislation, adding that there will be no favorable results if the party’s leadership gets it through by force.
Kim reiterated his hope for early passage of the bill, which gives foreigners permanently settled in Japan, mostly Koreans, access to local public office elections.
The bill can be passed if the alliance’s secretaries general display their initiative, he said.
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