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Koizumi Voices Concerns about North Korea - 2003-10-21

Speaking at the APEC meeting in Bangkok, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says he is concerned about North Korea, from its kidnapping of Japanese citizens to its nuclear ambitions. The Japanese leader also urged Burma to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says multi-lateral talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis are important for solving the crisis peacefully. He also says Japan is still concerned about its kidnapped citizens.

Mr. Koizumi made his comments about North Korea at the end of the two-day meeting of 21 leaders gathered in Bangkok for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Japan has one of the biggest economies in the APEC grouping, and plays a leading role in development in Asia.

Mr. Koizumi saod that as far as Japan is concerned, the problem is not just about nuclear weapons. There are the abduction issues as well as missile issues. He says we need to deal with North Korea comprehensively, encompassing all these issues.

Mr. Koizumi was referring to 13 Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North Koreans in the 1970s and 1980s for spying purposes. Nearly a year ago, the five surviving kidnap victims were allowed to visit Japan, but were forced to leave their families behind in North Korea as insurance they would return.

North Korea is a near neighbor of Japan, and on Monday the reclusive nation test-fired a short-range missile. North Korea is continuing to insist that the only way it will give up its nuclear ambitions is if Washington signs a non-aggression treaty. But President Bush, repeating Washington's long-held stance, said again at the APEC summit that a non-aggression treaty is out of the question.

Mr. Bush says he is instead urging four nations besides the United States, including Japan, China, Russia and South Korea, to give the Stalinist state written assurances it will not be attacked.

Mr. Koizumi says he has been prompting Burma, also known as Myanmar, to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Rangoon, after recovering from surgery last month. International leaders have been asking for her release.