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Japan, South Korea Still Disagree on Approach to North Korean Nuclear Crisis


At a summit between the leaders of Japan and South Korea, a statement emerged Saturday that papers over their differences on how to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons development. However the two are still divided over how much pressure should be placed on North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun say they agree that development of nuclear weapons by North Korea cannot be tolerated. They both say they want to see a peaceful resolution of the issue.

But a statement issued in Tokyo on Saturday by the two governments stopped short of explicitly mentioning any tougher measures - such as economic sanctions against the North.

At a joint news conference, Mr. Koizumi said pressure, and what he called "additional measures," are the way to obtain a peaceful solution. The Japanese leader said he and Mr. Roh "reaffirmed" principles they agreed to in separate meetings last month with President Bush.

Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Bush said after their meeting in late May that both dialogue and pressure should be used in dealing with Pyongyang.

In his remarks Saturday, Mr. Roh agreed that pressure had its place in dealing with North Korea. However, the South Korean president said he told the Japanese prime minister that Seoul wants to place the emphasis on dialogue with Pyongyang.

South Korea and China have expressed concern about Washington and Tokyo's apparent desire to apply economic sanctions against North Korea, and have urged caution.

Saturday's public statements suggest there is still disagreement between Tokyo and Seoul on how much pressure on North Korea would be appropriate.

The issue will be discussed by diplomats from Japan, the United States and South Korea during a meeting beginning next Thursday in Hawaii.

There was one other public note of discord on Saturday. The South Korean president says he told Mr. Koizumi about growing concern in Asia over Japan's new war contingency legislation.

The laws, which cleared Parliament on Friday, give the Japanese government more power to respond to a foreign attack or perceived threats of such an attack. Opponents in Japan say the legislation runs counter to Japan's pacifist Constitution. Some Asians fear it could revive militarism in Japan, an especially sensitive issue in the region that was subject to brutal colonization by Imperialist Japan in the early-to-mid 20th century.

On Japan-South Korean issues, Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Roh discussed a bilateral free-trade agreement. They reaffirmed efforts to launch shuttle flights between Seoul and Tokyo's domestic airport, and agreed to start visa-free travel for South Koreans to Japan.

Mr. Noh is due to address Japan's lower house of Parliament Monday before returning home.