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4TH LD: Koizumi, Blair agree to seek 5-way talks on N. Korea.

HAKONE, Japan, July 19 Kyodo


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed Saturday on the importance of launching five-way talks involving Japan and South Korea to peacefully resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

The two leaders, meeting in the hot-spring resort town of Hakone near Mt. Fuji, also confirmed the importance of international cooperation to promote the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.

''I received understanding and strong support'' from Blair on Japan's efforts to launch the five-nation talks, Koizumi told a joint news conference after their meeting.

The United States, China and North Korea launched three-nation talks in April to diplomatically resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff, and efforts are under way to expand the talks to include Japan and South Korea.

While stressing North Korea's nuclear problem poses a danger to the international community, Blair told the news conference, ''Japan and South Korea have got to be involved'' in talks to get a successful resolution to the nuclear issue.

Koizumi, meanwhile, expressed concern during the news conference about any early adoption of a U.N. Security Council statement denouncing North Korea's nuclear weapons development program, saying there is a need to wait for the North's response to the proposed five-way talks.

Japanese officials later told reporters that Koizumi also explained Japan's stance of seeking a comprehensive resolution to security issues that also include the North's abduction of Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Blair arrived in Japan from the United States on Friday night for a three-day visit.

Before arriving in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Blair gave a speech in Tokyo in the morning to business executives and lawmakers, urging Japan to play a more active role in global politics to deal with issues including North Korea.

Blair also called for a stronger global coalition to deal with terrorism, while reiterating that Britain plans to adopt the euro although the time is not yet ripe.

On Iraq, Koizumi welcomed international unity for the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, while Blair stressed the importance of the international community's cooperation toward that end.

Koizumi, meanwhile, reiterated full support for Blair's decision to go to war against Iraq along with the U.S.

Koizumi's reiteration came with the British prime minister finding himself deeper in crisis at home in the wake of David Kelly, a British government expert on Iraq's weapons, being found dead Friday in a wooded area in Britain after he was reported missing by his family.

The Defense Ministry adviser was an alleged source of a BBC report in late May about the British government's use of intelligence reports ahead of the war with Iraq.

Blair, as well as U.S. President George W. Bush, has been under fire at home for deciding to wage war against Iraq based on unconfirmed information about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Opposition lawmakers in Japan have also criticized Koizumi for strongly backing Bush and Blair on the Iraq war.

In Washington on Thursday, Blair and Bush defended their decision to go to war against Iraq, insisting that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was trying to rebuild the country's nuclear arms program.

Blair, meanwhile, welcomed Koizumi's efforts to enable Japan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces personnel to Iraq to assist in reconstruction work, by planned enactment of new legislation next week.

Japan's efforts for the dispatch of the SDF and its contribution for the reconstruction ''are of tremendous importance,'' Blair said.

On Iran, Koizumi and Blair agreed on the need to press the nation to wipe out the international community's concerns over its nuclear program, the Japanese officials said.

The officials said Myanmar's prolonged detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is of concern for both leaders, but they did not have time to fully discuss the issue.

On bilateral issues, Koizumi and Blair adopted three documents on the environment, information technology, and science and technology to boost the bilateral relationship.

The two leaders also discussed bilateral investment and tourism promotion.

Blair's visit marks his third trip to Japan as prime minister following one in January 1998 and another in July 2000 for the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa.

Blair had planned to visit Japan in April but put off the trip because of the Iraq war, which began in March. He is to leave for South Korea on Sunday afternoon.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 22, 2003
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