• Kyodo

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South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said Wednesday that the wording of a recent South Korea-U.S. joint statement regarding tensions on the peninsula was meant as a “warning” to North Korea.

Roh made the remarks in a meeting with Japanese correspondents in Seoul ahead of his first visit to Japan as a state guest, scheduled for Friday to Monday.

He was referring to a joint statement issued May 14 with U.S. President George W. Bush. The statement says, “While noting that increased threats to peace and stability on the peninsula would require consideration of further steps, they expressed confidence that a peaceful resolution can be achieved.”

The threat came in the form of the words “further steps.”

After talks between Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on May 23, both told reporters they had agreed that further escalation of the situation by North Korea will require “tougher measures.”

Roh on Wednesday also emphasized the necessity for South Korea and Japan to forge a cooperative, neighborly relationship that will have a positive impact on Northeast Asia as a whole.

“I’d like to tell Japanese people to think together about the new future of Northeast Asia, including China, and join hands to create such a future,” he said.

Roh expressed hope that his visit will help to further strengthen friendly bilateral ties to the point where Emperor Akihito will be able to visit South Korea.

“I believe if the results of my visit to Japan are good and bilateral relations progress in a more friendly direction, Emperor Akihito may visit South Korea at an appropriate time,” Roh said.

A visit by the Emperor to South Korea has been a sensitive issue due to strong anti-Japanese sentiment stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean leader also said bilateral exchanges and cooperation will press ahead despite recent controversial remarks by Taro Aso, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

On Monday, Aso apologized for but refused to retract comments he made over the weekend that infuriated Koreans. Aso claimed they voluntarily adopted Japanese names during Japan’s colonial rule.

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