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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated his call for a world free of nuclear weapons and a denuclearized Korean Peninsula on Saturday after North Korea announced it is leaving an international treaty designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“It is very regrettable, and I have serious concerns about North Korea, which declared (its intent) yesterday to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Koizumi said in a speech delivered at the Kurchatov Institute.

The prime minister made the comments at an international conference at Russia’s top atomic-energy research institute. He also said Japan and Russia will restart a joint project to decommission retired Russian nuclear-powered submarines in the Far East as part of an attempt to settle what he called “negative legacies of the 20th century.”

Koizumi also discussed the importance of dealing with problems related to energy development and the environment in the 21st century.

The prime minister, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday for a four-day visit to Russia, delivered the speech to hundreds of participants at a conference commemorating the centennial of the birth of Igor Kurchatov, the country’s top atomic-energy researcher.

The institute is known for its atomic energy research, including the development of nuclear weapons in the past.

“Nuclear arsenals must be abolished,” Koizumi said. “It is a substantial concern for the global society that there are countries that are suspected of targeting the development and possession of nuclear weapons.”

Koizumi reiterated his demand that North Korea immediately rescind the decision to leave the NPT and take prompt actions to scrap its nuclear development program.

North Korea has also declared it is ending its commitments under a nuclear-safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Koizumi said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin shared concerns about North Korea’s nuclear developments in the summit talks at the Kremlin on Friday.

At the talks, both leaders condemned North Korea’s move, although Putin pointed out in a news conference that Pyongyang has left the door open for a solution through negotiations.

Koizumi unveiled a plan to review and restart a denuclearization project jointly launched by Japan and Russia in 1993, which has seen little progress.

The project features a plan to dismantle about 40 retired Russian nuclear submarines — in particular the 20 in Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan coast — in the Far East region.

Japan blames the slower-than-expected progress of the denuclearization project on the lack of a body to organize the tasks and paperwork from many government ministries and agencies.

The plan calls for Japan and Russia to each set up a governmental task force exclusively to deal with the matter.

“Conservation of the environment and economic development must be compatible,” Koizumi said.

As a means of realizing the goal, Koizumi pushed for Japan’s plan to operate an environmentally friendly thermonuclear-reactor in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

The core technology used in the International Experimental Thermonuclear Reactor was developed at the Russian institute, Koizumi said in his speech.

Koizumi toasts ties

MOSCOW (Kyodo) Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi voiced his resolve to improve ties with Russia in a pledge to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other dignitaries at a Kremlin banquet on Friday evening.

Koizumi made the promise in a toast in which he told the Russians a story from the 19th century of how the Japanese helped a Russian admiral who was shipwrecked while traveling to Japan to sign a treaty to open diplomatic ties.

The prime minister, in Russia on a four-day visit, said he hopes an “action plan” on bilateral ties he signed with Putin earlier in the day will serve as a “sea chart” for the two countries to develop bilateral relations.

Russia-Japan ties must be upgraded to a new level based on the action plan, Putin was quoted as saying in his toast.

After the banquet, Putin invited Koizumi to his private residence inside the Kremlin for a fireside chat.

The two leaders discussed matters such as North Korea and Putin’s visit to Japan in 2000, Japanese officials said.

The events of the story Koizumi told at the banquet took place during an 1855 voyage by Russian Adm. Evfimii Putyatin.

Putyatin’s ship sank off Shimoda, southwest of Tokyo. The local Japanese built a new ship for the Russian admiral, who returned to Russia by the ship after signing the landmark treaty.

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