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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi hopes to visit South Korea this weekend to discuss a wide range of issues, including ways to deal with North Korea, ministry sources said Monday.

Tokyo and Seoul are trying to arrange a three-day visit for Kawaguchi that would begin Friday evening, with a meeting with South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Choi Sung Hong planned for Saturday, the sources said.

Kawaguchi told a news conference last week her planned visit is meant to build on the close and healthy overall bilateral ties.

Kawaguchi and Choi are expected to reaffirm the accord reached last week by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung to advance Japan-South Korea relations “to a higher level.”

Koizumi and Kim agreed in their talks in Tokyo on July 1 that Kawaguchi would visit South Korea in the near future as part of efforts to promote bilateral ties.

The two foreign ministers are expected to reconfirm that the successful cohosting of the World Cup soccer finals last month will help the two neighbors continue developing friendly relations, the sources said.

They will also discuss North Korean issues, including the fatal exchange of gunfire late last month between North and South Korean naval vessels in the Yellow Sea and the talks between the Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea being planned for later this month at the earliest.

During her stay, Kawaguchi also hopes to have an opportunity to talk with young South Koreans, according to the sources.

Koizumi stresses calm

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday it is important for Tokyo to calmly seek normalized diplomatic ties with Pyongyang despite inter-Korea rows after their naval clash last month.

“It is important (for Japan) to deal with the issue in a cool-headed manner without responding to (the North’s alleged) provocation” of South Korean sailors in the fatal June 29 gunbattle in the Yellow Sea, Koizumi told reporters.

His remarks came after the South Korean Defense Ministry said Sunday it has concluded that the naval clash was triggered by an “ill purposed” intentional surprise attack against South Korean naval vessels off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast.

Koizumi did not directly comment on the result of Seoul’s investigation into the naval incident, only saying, “That was the result of the South Korean probe.”

“We need to tell North Korea patiently how desirable it would be for North Korea to obtain the international community’s cooperation for regional security as well as benefits both for North Korea and the world,” Koizumi said.

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