Zhu hails thaw in U.S.-North Korean ties


TOKYO, AFP

Mainland Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji on Sunday hailed a thaw in U.S.-North Korean relations and called on Tokyo and Pyongyang to normalize ties, officials said.

Zhu, who is on a six-day visit to Japan, said Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and he discussed last week’s accord between the United States and North Korea in Washington.

“I am very glad that a new momentum has emerged between the United States and North Korea,” Zhu said when he met Takako Doi, leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, a party official said.

In the accord announced on Thursday, Washington and Pyongyang vowed to seek an end the hostility that has persisted since the 1950 53 Korean War and to arrange a visit to Pyongyang by President Bill Clinton.

During the talks with Doi, Zhu expressed hopes for further progress in talks between South and North Korea, the SDP official said.

South Korea’s Kim Dae-jung and the North’s leader Kim Jong-il held a summit from June 13 to 15 which produced a landmark declaration to end decades of enmity and move toward peace and reconciliation.

“I hope (South and North Korea) can achieve solidarity and a unity of their countries,” Zhu said.

Zhu, who arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, will fly to Seoul on Tuesday to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which is to take place on Friday and Saturday with some 25 heads of government taking part.

At the Sunday talks, Zhu called for rapprochement between Japan and North Korea.

“As a matter of course, I hope that the normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea will be achieved,” he told Doi.

Japan has decided to offer 500,000 tons of rice aid to North Korea, but the decision sparked protests among political and opinion leaders who insist such aid should be conditional on progress in the kidnap cases.

During separate talks with Japanese Communist Party leader Tetsuro Fuwa, Zhu agreed to maintain close ties with Tokyo in achieving peace and stability in the region.

Following the talks, Fuwa told reporters: “I said we should work together … at a time when we observe dramatic movements towards peace in Asia and the Korean peninsula. And Mr. Zhu said he totally agreed with me.”

Zhu said Beijing and Tokyo maintained a favorable partnership, but underlined the need to remember their bitter history, including Japan’s brutal 1937-45 occupation.

“I have confirmed that we have maintained our cooperative partnership,” Zhu told Doi. “The mainstream (of the partnership) is favorable, but there must be old issues and new issues.”

Later on Sunday afternoon, Zhu and his wife, Lao An, visited the main factory of Fanuc Ltd., Japan’s top industrial robot manufacturer, in Yamanashi, west of Tokyo.

“Progress in (technology) is really fast,” Zhu was quoted by a television network as saying when he watched a high technology assembly line of industrial robots.