Kim invites Japanese emperor to visit S. Korea

Kim invites Japanese emperor to visit S. Korea

TOKYO, Oct. 7 Kyodo South Korean President Kim Dae Jung invited Japanese Emperor Akihito on Wednesday to pay a state visit to South Korea, an Imperial Household Agency official said. Kim conveyed the invitation during an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on the first day of his four-day visit to Japan, the official said. Similar invitations were extended to the emperor during the visits to Tokyo by Presidents Roh Tae Woo in 1990 and Kim Young Sam in 1994. A Japanese government source said Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi will express his commitment to realizing the first-ever visit by a Japanese emperor to South Korea when he meets Kim on Thursday, though he will not specify a date. Tokyo intends to watch how bilateral ties improve following Kim’s visit to determine the timing of the imperial visit. South Korea has informally suggested that the emperor visit the country in 2002 when the two nations co-host the World Cup soccer finals, the source said. The emperor’s visit has not materialized although four South Korean presidents, including Chun Doo Hwan in 1984, have made state visits to Japan. Japan has been reluctant to proceed with such a visit because of fears of anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea because of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. At a banquet held at the Imperial Palace later in the day, Emperor Akihito expressed ”deep sorrow” for the suffering inflicted on the Korean people during Japan’s colonial rule. ”The history of close exchanges (between Japan and Korea) had a reverse side at one period when Japan brought great suffering to the people of the Korean Peninsula,” the emperor said. ”The deep sorrow which I feel over this never leaves my memory.” In his speech, Kim proposed that the two countries make efforts together so they can leave firm bilateral relations as a legacy for further generations. The banquet was the largest ever held at the Imperial Palace for a foreign dignitary, with 167 people attending. This is Kim’s first trip to Japan since becoming president in February. He spent much time in Japan, however, as a political exile when South Korea was ruled by military-backed regimes and was kidnapped from a Tokyo hotel room in 1973. Kim and his wife Lee Hee Ho, who arrived in Japan shortly after noon, attended a welcoming ceremony at the Akasaka Palace in downtown Tokyo. Japanese imperial family members and cabinet ministers attended the 15-minute, open-air ceremony. Security was tight in and around the state guesthouse, with some 16,000 regular and riot police mobilized. Kim also attended a meeting of Korean residents in Japan held at a Tokyo hotel. He pledged to make efforts to have the residents made eligible to vote in local Japanese elections. On Thursday morning, Obuchi and Kim will hold talks during which the Japanese premier is expected to express his ”deep remorse and heartfelt apology” to the Korean people for the colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Japanese officials said. The expression will be included in a joint declaration to be signed by the two leaders in a bid to pave the way for a ”new partnership for the 21st century,” the officials said. Obuchi and Kim will announce the declaration at a joint news conference after their talks. ”The Seoul-Tokyo joint declaration is expected to be a milestone in the friendly and cooperative, future-oriented Korea-Japan relations for a new era,” a spokesman for Kim said in Seoul. The joint declaration will be tagged with an ”action plan” of detailed cooperation programs, which will cover a variety of issues — from security, politics, economics and cultural exchange to global cooperation, the Japanese officials said. Obuchi and Kim may also sign Thursday a provisional fisheries agreement which the two countries concluded in time for Kim’s visit. Kim is accompanied by Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Hong Soon Young, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Kim Sun Gil, and Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Park Tae Young. The South Korean leader will then attend a luncheon to be hosted by Japan’s major business organizations. On Thursday afternoon, Kim will deliver an hourlong speech in the House of Councillors plenary session hall. After spending three days in Tokyo, Kim will fly to Osaka on Friday to meet Korean residents in the city, which has the largest Korean community in Japan. Kim will wrap up his four-day visit Saturday after meeting cultural celebrities in Osaka.

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