SEOUL – Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and new South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun agreed Tuesday to continue working with the United States toward peacefully resolving North Korean nuclear issues, a Japanese official said.
In their first summit parley, which followed Roh’s inauguration as president, the two leaders also decided to work on strengthening future-oriented bilateral ties based on recognition of their nations’ “unfortunate shared past,” the official said.
They agreed to advance economic and cultural ties, including the conclusion of a bilateral free-trade agreement.
The official, who declined to be named, said neither mentioned reports that North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan the previous day, an event which intensified tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Koizumi and Roh, who met for roughly 50 minutes at the Blue House presidential office, concurred that the North Korean missile standoff is a serious problem and reiterated the importance of continuing trilateral coordination.
Roh said South Korea is prepared to contribute actively to efforts to peacefully and diplomatically resolve the impasse surrounding Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development, according to the official.
Koizumi told Roh he hopes Japan and North Korea will be able to normalize diplomatic ties by resolving such issues as the abduction of Japanese nationals and the nuclear and missile rows.
Koizumi emphasized the importance of urging North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons development program and making it understand the benefits of becoming a responsible member of the international community, the official said.
Regarding former President Kim Dae Jung’s policy of engaging North Korea in dialogue, Roh said he will continue such efforts, according to the official.
In his inauguration speech, Roh announced a dialogue-oriented approach toward North Korea, which he called the “policy for peace and prosperity” on the Korean
Koizumi attended Roh’s inauguration ceremony in the morning at the National Assembly.
The leaders did not release a joint statement or hold a news conference after the meeting.
Koizumi is the first Japanese prime minister to attend the inauguration of a South Korean president since Noboru Takeshita attended the inauguration of Roh Tae Woo in 1988.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said Tuesday that North Korea launched a missile on Monday. The missile reportedly was launched from South Hamgyong Province on the country’s eastern coast and fell into the sea after traveling 60 km.
High hopes for Roh
OSAKA — South Korean residents in Japan expressed high hopes Tuesday for newly inaugurated South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun.
“I hope he will approach North Korea with a peaceful policy and create a channel to reunification as soon as possible,” said Lee Ryong Gi, 27, at the Osaka headquarters of the Korean Youth Association in Japan.
“President Roh is a person who has really experienced hardships. I believe he will make the citizens his priority,” said Han Pok Cha, a 56-year-old shop owner in Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, Japan’s largest Koreatown.
Roh had visited a sailing school at Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture 20 years ago for a Japan-South Korea friendship race prior to the Seoul Olympic Games.
Yoshio Inoue, the 53-year-old head of the sailing school, described the new president as sincere and hardworking.
Inoue recalled Roh suddenly spoke in Japanese on the last day of his stay and said he had begun a six-month program to study the language.
“He picked up sailing and Japanese quickly and was a person with good intuition,” Inoue said. “I hope he will have confidence and achieve his goals.”
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