Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has called on officials in Russia's far eastern region to help convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Mr. Koizumi spent the final day of his Russian visit in an area, which, geographically, is far closer to Tokyo than to Moscow.

During a stopover in Russia's far east, Prime Minister Koizumi held a long meeting with a key official, who has close ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Konstantin Pulikovsky is President Vladimir Putin's representative in the remote region, and has met Kim Jong-il on several occasions. Mr. Pulikovsky reportedly told the Japanese leader that a conciliatory approach is the best way to resolve the dispute with Pyongyang.

He said increased pressure from the outside will only harden the reclusive Korean leader's resolve to defy international opinion on the nuclear issue.

For his part, Mr. Koizumi and aides have promised to cooperate with Russian diplomacy, urging North Korea to immediately reverse its decision to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In the past few days, North Korea has not only withdrawn from the NPT but has suggested it might resume testing its ballistic missiles after a three year moratorium.

This has alarmed Japan, given its proximity to the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. Koizumi has placed a priority on improving economic links with Russia. He told his Russian hosts, Japan wants to boost trade ties with the far east, in particular regarding the large oil reserves now being pumped near Sakhalin Island.

The Japanese prime minister discussed possible oil and gas pipelines to carry resources from Siberia to Japan.

Trade and investment between the two countries have long been hindered by a territorial dispute dating from 1945, when the then-Soviet Union occupied four islands, which Japan calls its Northern Territories.