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Japan's Koizumi vows to keep pressure on North Korea, continue economic reforms -AP

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Jan 06,2003
TOKYO - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi began the new year defending his economic reform plans, telling a news conference Monday that his critics were focusing only on the downside of his restructuring efforts. Koizumi also vowed to continue his efforts to push North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program and to establish formal diplomatic relations with the enigmatic communist nation once the security issue and other problems between the two countries are resolved. "This is in North Korea's best interest," he said. "I intend to continue with diligence negotiations with them." Koizumi stressed, however, that resolving concerns over North Korea's nuclear program cannot be done through bilateral talks alone, and must also involve the United States and South Korea. Koizumi had little to say about the stickiest issue he faces with North Korea - the future of five Japanese nationals who were abducted to North Korea decades ago but returned to Japan in October. The five abductees returned after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted the kidnappings for the first time. North Korea says five abductees survived and eight others have died. They were kidnapped to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and culture. Normalization talks have since broken down because North Korea wants them to come back and has refused to allow their families, and the American husband of one, to join them in Japan, which has caused outrage here. On the economy, Koizumi reiterated his vows to stick to his reform platform, which focuses on cleaning up the bad-debt debacle which has weighed heavily on Japan's main banks and been a major drag on the country's economy for more than a decade. Opposition lawmakers and many analysts have criticized his reforms as a factor aggravating Japan's growing trend toward deflation, in which prices fall into a downward spiral, cutting the value of such investments as stocks and real estate. Koizumi said he was unconcerned by the criticism, but acknowledged he wants the government to work closely with the Bank of Japan to fight deflation. "There is too much emphasis on the negatives," he said. "I think this is strange." On other issues, Koizumi indicated he was not planning to call parliamentary elections in the near future. It has been widely speculated that he would call such elections as early as later this month. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- @AP Material contained in JoongAng Ilbo On-Line Service is protected by copyright and shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither this AP Material nor any portion thereof may be stored in computer except for personal and non-commercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omission therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing.
by Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Writer
January 06, 2003




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