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Japan, S. Korea to Seek Dialogue With N. Korea - 2002-07-13

Japan and South Korea agree to seek a dialogue with communist North Korea. The agreement came Saturday when Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met her South Korean counterpart Cho Sung-hong, and the country's president, Kim Dae-jung.

Officials of South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said Ms. Kawaguchi supported Seoul's policy of engaging North Korea.

A return to dialogue with Pyongyang would put President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine" policy of engaging the North back on track.

The policy, aimed at improving relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, suffered a setback last month, when the two Korean navies engaged in a gun battle. Several South Korean sailors died and at least 19 were wounded in the fight near a disputed maritime border. North Korea also indicated it had suffered some casualties.

President Kim's office says he told the Japanese foreign minister he hopes the clash will not derail his sunshine policy. Saturday, Mr. Kim also indicated he hopes Tokyo will help persuade Washington to hold talks with North Korean officials.

Since the clash, South Korea has been attempting to coordinate policy on North Korea with Japan and the United States.

South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Choi Sung-hong has said he hopes for contact between the two Koreas later this month at a regional security forum in Brunei. North Korea's foreign minister is expected to attend the forum.

According to South Korean officials, Ms. Kawaguchi also discussed boosting bilateral ties. Many South Koreans are unfriendly toward Japan, a result of Tokyo's 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula until the end of World War II.

Ms. Kawaguchi ends her visit to Seoul Sunday.