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Japanese, South Korean Leaders Hold Talks

The leaders of Japan and South Korea say they will continue working together to revive stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Japan and South Korea on Friday called for North Korea to quickly return to stalled six-way talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

The call came in a joint declaration after talks between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun at a resort in Japan's Kagoshima Prefecture.

Mr. Koizumi says the two governments will closely cooperate with each other and the United States to resolve the nuclear crisis and other issues concerning North Korea.

Three rounds of talks in China have made little progress. In September, North Korea refused to join South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States in a fourth round.

Officials say that at Friday's meeting, Prime Minister Koizumi sought Mr. Roh's support for Japan's efforts to resolve the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea decades ago.

Japan says it assumes eight Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents during the Cold War are still alive. The Stalinist state says all of them have died. Five others were allowed to return to Japan two years ago.

The issue is an emotional one for Japan. Public anger toward North Korea is high after Japanese officials recently said that tests on remains Pyongyang handed over to Tokyo were not those of two abductees, as Pyongyang had claimed.

Some Japanese politicians, and many voters, favor imposing economic sanctions on North Korea if the issue is not resolved. Prime Minister Koizumi, however, has said sanctions would be a last resort.

South Korea has been pursuing reconciliation with the communist North and opposes sanctions.

President Roh says he appreciates Mr. Koizumi's calm and cautious attitude so far toward sanctions. He says South Korea will do what it can to help resolve the abduction issue.

On Saturday, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura is to meet with his South Korean counterpart Ban Ki Moon at the same heavily guarded resort where their bosses met on Friday.

The summit is part of a regular series of meetings between officials from South Korea and Japan over the past few years. After decades of estrangement, because of South Korean anger over Japan's harsh colonial rule early in the last century, the two countries have seen relations warm considerably in recent years.