Moo-Hyun (L) and Koizumi (R)
Roh Moo-Hyun will meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday to stop North Korea’s drive to develop nuclear weapons.
“Close cooperation between South Korea and Japan is very important in solving the North Korean nuclear problem and improving inter-Korean relations”, Moo-Hyun said in a memorial day speech at Seol’s national cemetery.
The president’s meeting with Japan is the third leg of a diplomatic triangle including the summits of the two Asia leaders with US President George W. Bush last month.
Military option out
The talks are not expected to discuss a military option. “They agree that they want a peaceful resolution to the problem”, said Keio University professor Masao Okonogi.
The difference was on how to achieve such a resolution, the professor explained. South Korea and Japan are both opposed to economic sanctions against North Korea.
“But if the United States decides to act, Koizumi would have to support Bush… (Moo-Hyun) will appeal to Japan not to move too far in the direction of America”, Okonogi said.
Moo-Hyun has come under attack in South Korea for his scheduled meeting with the Japanese Emperor Akihito on June 6, the memorial day for national martyrs.
Japan colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. During the Japanese rule, Koreans were banned from using the Korean language and were brought to Japan as forced workers. Korean women were forced to be sex slaves for the colonial troops.
The two leaders will also discuss the possibility of a free trade agreement, which has been under study since 1998.
Seoul hopes that such an agreement could help its trade deficit with Tokyo.
Moo-Hyun’s four-day visit to Japan came a day after Washington and Seoul agreed to a timetable for pulling back US forces from the demilitarised zone.
The zone is a stretch of no-man’s land that divides the capitalist South from the communist North Korea.
A top US army officer in South Korea said that plans to withdraw the troops from the zone would not weaken the country’s defences.
“We remain committed to the tenets of the 1953 mutual defence pact”, Lieutenant General Charles C. Campbell, commander of the US 8th Army, told The Korea Times in an interview published on Friday.
“We may implement them differently than we have done in the past, but the commitment remains as unequivocal, strong and as enduring as ever”, he said.
The two Koreas continue to be technically at war. While an armed truce ended the 1950-1953 Korean conflict, it did not lead to a peace treaty.