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South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun arrived Friday in Tokyo for his first state visit to Japan, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and discuss ways to reach a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear problem.

The summit Saturday will complete a recent series of talks between leaders of Japan, South Korea and the U.S. to consider how to encourage North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

Koizumi and Roh are expected to confirm their position that nuclear issues should be settled through dialogue, but that North Korea could face harsher measures if it makes the present situation worse.

Roh and his wife, Kwon Yang Suk, arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport a little before 2 p.m. It is Roh’s first to Japan since he took office in February.

The couple attended a banquet in the evening hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace.

In a speech at the banquet, the Emperor emphasized the importance of the close relationship between Japan and South Korea, adding that people of the two nations should make further efforts to strengthen ties.

However, the Emperor’s speech made no direct mention of sensitive topics related to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, unlike similar occasions in the past.

Since the first visit to Japan by a South Korean president in 1984, the Emperor has always made some reference to the two countries’ history.

Roh was also expected to follow the precedent set by his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, who did not touch on bilateral historical issues when he attended a banquet at the Imperial Palace in October 1998, according to government sources.

The lack of historical references indicates the two countries are putting priority on forward-looking relations and not dwelling on the past, the sources said.

“We should not be shackled to the past forever,” Roh said before departing Friday. He was speaking at a ceremony for South Koreans who have given their lives for their country.

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