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Koizumi, Roh Back Six-Party Nuclear Talks, Seek Understanding on History

South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun, left, meets Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the presidential Blue House in Seoul
The leaders of Japan and South Korea have agreed to pursue joint research aimed at easing tensions over the countries' differing perceptions of history. In a brief "shuttle summit," they also pledged cooperation on efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The formality of Monday's summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun stood in sharp contrast with their last two meetings, held in resorts with the leaders wearing casual dress.

This time, they delivered a joint statement in suits and ties outside the presidential Blue House in Seoul. Mr. Koizumi acknowledged the tensions in the two countries' relationship. Mr. Koizumi said he takes seriously the feelings of many Koreans who are troubled by Japan's treatment of history.

South Koreans accuse Japan of ignoring atrocities during its colonial rule of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Over the past few months, tensions have flared between the two countries, in part because of new Japanese textbooks that some people in Asia say gloss over its aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

President Roh urged Mr. Koizumi to stop visiting the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals. Mr. Roh requested that Tokyo establish a separate memorial without Yasukuni's painful connotations. President Roh added that the issue of history is central to the South Korean-Japanese relationship.

Mr. Roh said true cooperation with Japan will not be possible until the two countries can agree on a shared view of the past. Toward that end, the two leaders agreed to establish a joint institute for historical research.

Monday's summit also included discussion of the North Korean nuclear weapons issue. Both leaders backed continued cooperation within multinational talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capabilities.

North and South Korea hold talks this week in Seoul, and Mr. Koizumi said he hopes they produce progress on the nuclear issue.

He also invited President Roh to visit Japan sometime next year.