Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Abe, Roh hold summit in shadow of N Korean test


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun held a summit yesterday, with both sides condemning North Korea's nuclear weapons test but making little breakthrough on sensitive historical disputes.

Roh said the test would make it difficult for South Korea to maintain its engagement policy with the North.

Abe called for "harsh measures" against North Korea and he warned of a "dangerous nuclear age" should the reported atomic test be confirmed.

"The development and possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea will in a major way transform the security environment in North Asia and we will be entering a new, dangerous nuclear age," Abe said at a news conference after the one-hour summit with Roh.

Abe arrived for the meeting, the first between leaders of the two countries in more than a year, just as North Korea claimed to have conducted its first-ever test.

Roh also condemned the tests saying it was his "warning" and "prediction" that it would severely affect ties between the divided neighbors.

Still, he said Seoul would seek to resolve the situation through dialogue.

Abe, who assumed office just two weeks ago, was in Seoul after his one-day summit in China, where he and President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) agreed that a test by North Korea would be "intolerable" and vowed to work to persuade Pyongyang to return to the six-nation talks aimed at getting it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Ties between Japan and its neighbors have been strained over visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine by Abe's predecessor, territorial disputes and what Japan's neighbors see as Tokyo's failure to repent for wartime atrocities.

At the first top-level summit between China and Japan in five years, Abe apologized for Japan's past aggression and vowed to handle the shrine issue appropriately.

Abe repeated the apology in Seoul, saying Japan "caused tremendous suffering."

Hu said Abe's decision to seek talks so soon after taking office was a "turning point" that will lead to improved ties.

Roh said Abe's visit came "at an appropriate time."

While in Seoul, Abe refused to comment on his potential visits to the controversial shrine as he said he didn't want it to become a political issue. But he added, "I take the emotions of the Korean people seriously."

Roh said after the meeting that historical disputes needed to be resolved between the Asian neighbors for their relations to improve.

"Unless the history issues are resolved, it would be a serious stumbling block in the development of the two countries," he said.

Roh said Abe was unclear about visits to Yasukuni, but he believed Abe would not go.

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