• Kyodo

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Japan and South Korea should work together to seek a negotiated solution to North Korea’s alleged nuclear weapons development, top officials of Japan’s ruling coalition and South Korean President-elect Roh Moo Hyun agreed Monday.

Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi heads, Tetsuzo Fuyushiba from New Komeito and Toshihiro Nikai from the New Conservative Party congratulated Roh on his electoral victory ahead of the Feb. 25 inauguration ceremony.

During the meeting, Roh stressed the need for Japan, South Korea and the United States to keep in close contact, saying he plans to convince the North to give up its nuclear arms ambitions.

The president-elect also urged Japan to attempt to restart normalization talks with the North in a bid to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, the lawmakers said.

Yamasaki and his coalition colleagues said they agree with Roh and emphasized the need for Roh and Koizumi, who plan to meet later this month, to confirm their pledge to seek a negotiated settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue, the lawmakers told reporters.

Roh also said he wants Japan to prove it is a “peace-loving” country, in reference to Koizumi’s contentious visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. Roh said there are historical issues to be resolved but he would like to deal with them “by jointly building the future and sharing hopes.”

Koizumi has paid homage at the Shinto shrine honoring 14 Japanese Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s 2.47 million war dead three times since taking office in April 2001 — in August of that year, last April and on Jan. 14.

The visits have provoked anger, chiefly from China and South Korea, where memories of Japanese colonial rule and military aggression before and during World War II linger.

The secretaries general also scheduled a meeting with departing President Kim Dae Jung before winding up their visit Tuesday.

The Japanese lawmakers were forced to return to Narita airport Sunday because their All Nippon Airways plane could not land at South Korea’s Inchon International Airport due to thick fog. They arrived at Inchon airport early Monday aboard a chartered ANA flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

Roh also met with Naoto Kan, president of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Roh reportedly told Kan that the North Korean nuclear issues could be resolved if the Washington engages in dialogue with Pyongyang, cautioning an absence of dialogue may lead to the U.S. using force against North Korea.

Kan meanwhile told Roh that the DPJ opposes Koizumi’s Yasukuni visits.

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