Visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro told Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Sunday that he is willing to play a role in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis, government officials said.

He made the comments during an afternoon meeting at the Iikura House in Tokyo. The foreign ministers of the two countries were also present.

“If there is anything I can do, I am prepared to do so within the capabilities of what can be done,” Japanese government officials quoted Castro as saying.

Koizumi told Castro that the resolution of the North Korea issue was very important, not just for Tokyo and Pyongyang, but for the entire region.

The Cuban leader responded by saying that even if North Korea had nuclear weapons, it would be pointless to use them against Japan.

“It is possible for countries such as Japan, China, Russia and South Korea to cooperate and exert influence on North Korea, and a solution can be brought about through political efforts,” Castro was quoted as saying.

At the same time, however, he stressed that Cuba’s ties with the reclusive state were no longer what they once were.

“(Former North Korean leader) Kim Il Sung was a calm and kind man, but I have had no contact with (North Korea’s) leaders since his death,” he said.

As communist countries, Cuba and North Korea maintain friendly relations with each other. Tokyo has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Castro also met with House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki and former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto earlier in the day.

On the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North, Castro told Watanuki that it was the first time he had heard of the issue and that he was unable to understand the reason behind the abductions. He suggested there are ways for Japan to resolve the issue, such as through cooperation with China, the officials said.

Koizumi and Castro also discussed the Iraq situation.

Koizumi explained that Japan was doing its utmost to make international cooperation compatible with Japan’s partnership with the United States.

Castro said there was still a chance that Iraq would respect a U.N. resolution to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, and that he would like to do what he could to help defuse the situation.

Castro arrived in Tokyo on Saturday for an unofficial three-day visit. It is the second time the 76-year-old Cuban leader has visited Japan. His first visit was in December 1995.

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