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Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006

Abe, Roh jointly blast Pyongyang as threat to the world


Staff writer

SEOUL -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, holding their first summit, jointly condemned North Korea's underground nuclear test as a serious threat to the region and the rest of the world.

"President Roh and I agreed on the view that the North Korean nuclear test, if it was really carried out, is a serious threat to Japan, South Korea and other neighboring countries, as well as a threat to the peace and stability in the world," Abe told a news conference after meeting with Roh on Monday, the second day of Abe's first overseas trip since taking office Sept. 26.

He was in Beijing the day before on a fence-mending tour to the two neighboring countries.

Abe said the test was particularly threatening given the possibility that Pyongyang could develop nuclear weapons for missile warheads, he said.

Roh told a separate news conference his government will find it increasingly difficult to push ahead with its "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North, which focuses on dialogue rather than pressure, South Korea's Yonhap News reported.

Abe said his government will immediately start considering additional sanctions on Pyongyang, but he declined to elaborate.

He said Japan would step up cooperation with the United States as well as with South Korea and China.

In a phone conversation after his news conference in Seoul, Abe and President George W. Bush agreed the U.N. Security Council should take "stern" action against the communist nation, including measures based on Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which clears the way for use of force as well as economic sanctions.

Abe's meeting with Roh marked the first summit between Japan and South Korea in about a year. His predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, angered China and South Korea by making annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni Shrine.

Abe and Roh agreed to foster "future-oriented" relations, but Roh also told Abe that in doing so, Japan needs to face up to its past. Roh said the Yasukuni issue and Japan's handling of its former sex slaves in Asia must be addressed.

Abe told Roh the Yasukuni Shrine issue will be handled "appropriately," repeating his message to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Sunday. Abe reiterated that he will not say whether he has visited or will visit Yasukuni as long as it remains a diplomatic and political problem.

Abe also said his government will operate under the 1993 government statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which admitted the Japanese military used sex slaves. Roh did not press either issue further, according to Japanese officials.

Acting quickly to meet with the Chinese and South Korean leaders shows that Abe, who is known as a hawk, wants to soften his image and demonstrate a strong intention to mend the strained relations with Japan's neighbors and get start his administration off to a running start, officials said.

After their meeting at the Blue House presidential office, Abe attended a banquet hosted by Roh. The prime minister returned to Tokyo on Monday night.

On the sidelines of the summit, Abe's wife, Akie -- who is a fan of Korean dramas and is learning Korean -- visited elementary schools to observe the education system and to meet with students.



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The Japan Times

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