Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun agreed Saturday that both dialogue and pressure are needed to prod North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons programs, although Roh preferred to place more emphasis on discussions.
At a joint news conference after their meeting in Tokyo, Koizumi said if Pyongyang escalates the nuclear crisis, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. will work together closely and deal with the matter in a “stricter manner,”
Roh, however, made it clear that his position is slightly different.
“To resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, I believe dialogue and pressure should be conducted simultaneously,” he said. “But the South Korean government puts greater weight on dialogue.”
Roh also emphasized that North Korea will be able to receive a “wide range of assistance” from the international community if it abandons its nuclear weapons program.
The summit concluded a series of bilateral meetings since last month between leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States aimed at boosting close cooperation in dealing with Pyongyang.
It also pointed to the difference of opinion the two leaders have over where the emphasis should be placed: dialogue or pressure. Koizumi apparently hopes to emphasize pressure while Roh believes it is necessary to send a milder message.
Last month, Roh and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to consider “further steps” if Pyongyang escalates the crisis over its nuclear weapons program. In separate talks, Koizumi and Bush said North Korea will face “tougher measures” if the problem escalates.
The approaches of Koizumi and Roh to a potentially heightened crisis were a focus of attention at Saturday’s summit, but the two leaders ended up merely urging the North not to make the situation worse and “reconfirmed the principles” agreed upon in their respective talks with Bush.
They avoided mentioning either of the phrases “tougher measures” or “further steps” because of South Korea’s opposition to increased pressure on the North, Japanese officials said.
Although the two leaders underlined the need to resolve the issue diplomatically, they agreed that Pyongyang’s development or possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.
Koizumi and Roh also expressed strong hopes that Japan and South Korea will be included in multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear standoff at the earliest possible date.
“The participation of Japan and South Korea is essential in order to comprehensively resolve the issue,” Koizumi told reporters.
North Korea, the U.S. and China held three-way talks in Beijing in April to discuss ways to resolve the nuclear standoff. During those talks, Pyongyang officially admitted possessing nuclear weapons. Another round of talks is expected in the near future.
On Saturday, Roh supported Japan’s policy that the issues of nuclear weapons, missile development and kidnapping of Japanese nationals by North Korea should all be settled before the diplomatic relationship is normalized.
It is the first time a South Korean leader has expressed support for Japan’s position on the abduction issue. South Korea has been reluctant to do so previously because it has not officially admitted that South Korean nationals have also been abducted by the North.
Roh also emphasized the importance for Japan and South Korea to build a future-oriented relationship, despite the history of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, between 1910 and 1945.
“The issue of history will not come to an end with a president’s declaration,” he said. “It is necessary for the people of both countries to continue efforts (for mutual understanding) toward the future.”
Despite Roh’s resolution, the issue of historical perception was again in the limelight earlier this month when Taro Aso, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said the 1939 decree forcing Korean people to adopt Japanese names “stemmed from Korean requests for surnames.”
Roh’s visit also coincided with the enactment of war contingency bills Friday that define the rules under which Japan can respond to attacks by a foreign enemy.
“It is an undeniable fact that people in neighboring nations are alarmed by the change in Japan’s defense policy,” Roh said.
But Roh added that it would not be a problem if Japan, with the cooperation of South Korea, takes the initiative in maintaining peace and prosperity in northeast Asia.
On other issues, Japan and South Korea agreed to cooperate with each other to begin government-level negotiations at an early date to conclude a free-trade agreement.
The two leaders also agreed to promote talks to start shuttle flights between Tokyo’s Haneda and Seoul’s Kimpo airports, while Japan agreed to provide visas for South Korean students taking school trips to Japan.
Roh is on a four-day visit to Japan as a state guest. He is expected to make a speech in the Diet on Monday before returning home later in the day.
Roh’s business pitch
Visiting South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said Saturday he will make efforts to realize a more favorable environment for Japanese investment in South Korea.
“We are particularly interested in Japanese investment and we want to make efforts to minimize inconveniences,” Roh said in a speech at a meeting with Japanese business leaders in Tokyo.
He emphasized that Japan and South Korea are very close and thus Japanese investment is important to his country.
Roh also expressed gratitude for Japanese investment and economic cooperation, saying, “Japanese investment and cooperation have become a major driving force for South Korea to overcome the recent currency crisis.”
About 30 business leaders from both countries participated in the meeting, held at the State Guesthouse in Tokyo, including several heads of South Korean business lobbies.
Yuzo Seto, chairman of the Japan-Korea Economic Association and an adviser at Asahi Breweries Ltd., told Roh that many Japanese companies want to increase their investment in South Korea.
“Ninety-three small and midsize (Japanese) companies in our association have so far voiced strong interest in investing in South Korea, and 27 of them hope to entrust their manufacturing operations to South Korea in one way or another,” Seto said.
Other Japanese executives who attended the meeting include Yotaro Kobayashi, chairman of Fuji Xerox Co., Tadashi Okamura, president of Toshiba Corp., Tsutomu Kanai, chairman of Hitachi Ltd., and Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp.
Roh’s wife at school
Kwon Yang Suk, the wife of South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, was welcomed Saturday by students at a Korean school in Tokyo with dance and musical performances.
Kwon, who is accompanying her husband on a four-day state visit to Japan, spent time at the Tokyo Korean School in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward, where students gave her flowers and performed traditional Korean music and dances dressed in Korean clothes.
“You’re great because you may become trilingual in Korean, Japanese and English. I hope you will be active in the world,” she told students.
The president’s wife, who presented the school with three personal computers, applauded after the performances and observed students attending classes. She also took photographs with children at the school.
About 800 students attend the Tokyo Korean School, which is comprised of primary, middle and high schools.
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