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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Koizumi, Roh to meet Monday with aim of easing tensions


Staff writer

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will meet with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun in Seoul on Monday in a bid to mend soured bilateral ties, the Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday.

The focus of the talks will be whether the two Asian leaders can ease the tension caused partly by Koizumi's remarks about his controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

The two sides had been unable to formally set a date for the summit due to Tokyo's refusal to agree to "show some token of sincerity" regarding such thorny issues as the South Korea-controlled islets Japan claims, Japanese school textbooks criticized as whitewashing history, and Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni, which enshrines Class-A war criminals along with the war dead, according to South Korean media reports.

Anti-Japan sentiment ballooned in South Korea after the Shimane Prefectural Assembly designated Feb. 22 as "Takeshima Day" in March, to assert Japan's claim to the group of islets in the Sea of Japan. The islands are called Tok-do in South Korea.

A top ministry official dismissed the Korean media reports, saying the government had been unable to set a summit date due to the Diet schedule on postal reform.

But another senior ministry official said setting a date for the talks took time because Tokyo was pressing Seoul "to talk about a future-oriented relationship," rather than negative issues in the past.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said the two leaders are expected to discuss such issues as North Korea's nuclear development and joint studies of history.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura will accompany Koizumi to Seoul, but it is unclear whether he will have a separate meeting with his counterpart, Ban Ki Moon, Takashima said.



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The Japan Times

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