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ATAMI, Shizuoka Pref. — South Korean President Kim Dae Jung on Sunday called on Japan to extend as much food aid to North Korea as it can.

The urging came during a breakfast meeting that wrapped up two days of talks between Kim and Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at this hot-spring resort city south of Tokyo.

During the breakfast, the two leaders spent much of their time discussing the situation in North Korea in a relaxed atmosphere, with both appearing in casual attire, a Japanese official said.

Kim explained that the current North Korean regime is stable, with supreme leader Kim Jong Il firmly holding the reins of political power.

However, he stressed that the economic situation in the North is “very serious,” as the country was hit by a severe drought and typhoons last year, and that the situation is expected to worsen in the coming year because of a food shortage, the official said.

“North Korea would probably appreciate it very much if Japan provides food assistance,” Kim was quoted as saying.

Mori replied that while the Japanese government is considering providing food assistance to North Korea, there are still voices in Japan urging caution toward such an action.

Tokyo is considering providing more rice aid to North Korea than the 195,000 tons requested earlier this month by the World Food Program for the next four months. The amount currently being discussed ranges from 300,000 to 500,000 tons.

However, some members within Mori’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party oppose large-scale rice aid as little progress is being made in the talks to normalize ties between the two nations.

During Sunday’s meeting, Kim also asked for Japan’s economic cooperation in Seoul’s efforts to help build North Korean infrastructure.

Mori said it is difficult to gain public support for such an idea in Japan as there are concerns that economic assistance might end up strengthening North Korean military power, the official said.

The prime minister was quoted as saying that normalization of Tokyo-Pyongyang relations would be a prerequisite for providing economic assistance for infrastructure.

Saying that North Korea’s missile deployment plan must be stopped, Mori reiterated that Japan and South Korea should closely coordinate policies with the United States in Washington-Pyongyang missile talks.

Kim agreed that close coordination between South Korea, Japan and the United States is necessary in dealing with Pyongyang, and that improvement of Tokyo-Pyongyang ties is indispensable for the detente process between the two Koreas.

Kim left Japan for Seoul shortly after noon Sunday.

Mori treated for fever

ATAMI, Shizuoka Pref. — Japanese officials revealed Sunday that Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was suffering from a high fever Saturday and had a Self-Defense Forces doctor treat him before his summit meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

Mori had a temperature of 38.8, the officials said, and he received an injection and intravenous drip treatment.

Some Japanese newspapers reported in Sunday editions that Mori was dozing off during a press conference after the summit meeting.

The officials said Mori refused to receive another injection before the press conference despite the doctor’s advice, because he feared that the drowsiness would worsen.

The fever was gone by Sunday morning, the officials added.

Allaying flight crunch

ATAMI, Shizuoka Pref. (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Lee Joung Binn agreed Sunday to seek a way to alleviate the shortage of flights between the two countries, a Japanese official said.

In a meeting at this hot-spring resort city, the two ministers agreed that although the problem falls under the jurisdiction of aviation authorities, they should join in efforts to solve it.

“We should seek progress on the issue from the viewpoint of promoting exchanges between the peoples of the two countries,” Kono was quoted as saying.

South Korean President Kim Dae Jung proposed to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Saturday that the two countries study the possibility of opening a shuttle plane service to solve the problem.

In Sunday’s meeting, the two foreign ministers also agreed to jointly urge the European Union to contribute more to a New York-based international consortium charged with providing two nuclear reactors to North Korea, the official said.

Japan, South Korea, the EU and the United States are executive board members of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), established under a 1994 nuclear agreement between Pyongyang and Washington.

The accord commits North Korea to freezing and eventually dismantling its current nuclear facilities in exchange for the two reactors.

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