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Koizumi eyes N. Korean nuke topic in Europe tour from Sat.

TOKYO, April 25 Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will leave Japan on Saturday morning for a European tour in which he will discuss with his counterparts how to recreate international cooperation in efforts to help postwar Iraq as well as resolve issues relating to North Korea.

A main topic in planned summits in Britain, Spain, France, Germany and Greece will be postwar Iraq, but Koizumi also hopes to discuss news that North Korea admitted to having nuclear weapons in talks this week with the United States and China.

Koizumi told reporters Friday evening he hopes to ''compare notes (with leaders of the European states) over issues related to Iraq and North Korea, as well as ties between Japan and Europe.''

Koizumi, who supported U.S. President George W. Bush in the war on Iraq, will aim to persuade French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday in Paris and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder the following day in Berlin to try to cooperate again with Washington.

Chirac and Schroeder opposed the invasion of Iraq and have said various envisioned projects to help rehabilitate and reconstruct the Arab country should be led by the U.N.

However, Washington has said such projects should be led by countries whose blood was shed in the conflict, namely the U.S. and Britain.

Koizumi will begin his eight-day trip on Saturday with a visit to London and a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest ally in the war, the officials said.

He will then fly to Spain to meet on Monday in Madrid with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who also backed Bush in the war.

Koizumi also plans to meet with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on May 2 in Athens before returning to Japan on May 3.

The Japanese premier will also meet with leaders of the European Union (EU) including European Commission President Romano Prodi, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and the European commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, on May 2.

Koizumi and the European leaders plan to release a joint statement probably urging North Korea to resolve the issue of its abductions of Japanese and security concerns as part of efforts to normalize ties with Tokyo.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping a number of Japanese people in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and only five have returned to Japan, in a dispute that has prevented Tokyo and Pyongyang from normalizing bilateral ties.

Japan has put 15 Japanese on its official list of the victims of abductions. At least three of the people were abducted from Europe by North Korean agents.

The Japanese and European leaders are also expected to release an initiative aimed at boosting direct investments between Japan and the EU, the officials said.

Though Koizumi backed Bush in the Iraq war, Japan did not send troops to the conflict because its Constitution renounces war.

The premier has said his clear support for the U.S. does not mean that Tokyo will give up involvement in various Iraq-related projects through a U.N.-led international framework.

In Paris, Koizumi will also meet with Koichiro Matsuura, chief of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and discuss how the international community will work to preserve cultural assets in post-conflict Iraq, the officials said.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Apr 28, 2003
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