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Germany

Japan's Koizumi to Discuss North Korea and Economy with Germany

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is in Europe for a three-country tour aimed at increasing ties between his country and the European Union and discussing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

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Koizumi and Schröder strengthen ties between partners.

On Sunday Junichiro Koizumi arrived in Europe for meetings with the leaders of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. "Germany has played a leading role since the birth of the EU, while Poland and the Czech Republic will be joining it next year. I want to strengthen the ties between Japan and the EU, " the Japanese prime minister told reporters, explaining his travel itinerary.

During his meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the second this year, economic issues will figure prominently as the two leaders discuss the problems facing the world’s second and third largest economies. The subject of declining exports to each other’s countries will be high on their list. Although Germany remains Japan’s biggest trading partner in Europe, German exports to Japan dropped to just over 12 billion euros last year, while Japanese exports to Germany fell more than 16 percent to less than 23 billion euros.

Friederike Bosse of the Japan Initiative of German Businesses says the downturn is not likely to improve any time soon, given the climate of recession in both countries. Japan, which has been struggling to pull its economy up out of the doldrums, has often been cited as Germany’s economic future if the European powerhouse is not able to turn back the deficit and improve the business climate at home. Bosse says the two leaders will most likely exchange notes on the subject, but she doesn’t expect anything dramatic to come out of the meeting.

North Korea and Iraq

On the subject of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the Japanese prime minister will be looking to Germany for assistance on a prickly international issue. Koizumi’s visit comes at a time when officials from the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States are preparing for a crucial round of talks in Beijing at the end of August. Although Germany is not participating in the negotiations and does not wield a great deal of political influence in that part of the world, it does have the advantage of maintaining a diplomatic representative in Pyongyang, something most western governments do not have.

In addition to discussing the threat of North Korea’s nuclear buildup, Koizumi is also expected to address the issue of rebuilding Iraq. Unlike Germany which opposed the U.S-led war on Iraq and is still reluctant to enter the country without a clear United Nations mandate, Japan is preparing to send a contingent of troops to Baghdad for non-combat operations.

In an interview with the German paper Welt am Sonntag, Koizumi said as a member of the international community his country would play its role in the reconstruction of Iraq. U.N. Resolution 1483 clearly establishes the basis for this, he explained.

In the same interview, the prime minister said Germany and Japan need to work together in reforming the U.N. Security Council. Those countries who contribute significantly to peace and security in the world, should have a permanent seat on the council, he said. Neither Germany, which is currently participating in the council’s rotating membership, nor Japan have a permanent seat. Such a move would mean an increase in prestige and political influence on the world stage for both countries.

After work comes culture

After a day of political activities Koizumi and Schröder are scheduled to fly to southern Germany for an evening performance of "Tannhäuser" in Bayreuth. The Japanese leader is a keen fan of the German composer Richard Wagner and made time in his travel plans to take in the opera festival. Schröder for his part will be the first ruling chancellor to visit the annual classical opera festival in honor of Wagner. He is also returning Koizumi’s invitation to the World Cup Soccer game held in Yokohama in June last year. Back then the Japanese prime minister had offered to fly the chancellor to Japan at the end of the G-8 summit in Canada so that the avid soccer fan Schröder could watch the final game between Germany and Brazil.