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Lee expresses condolences to quake-hit Japan in phone talks with Kan

   ABU DHABI -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had a phone conversation with Japaneses Prime Minister Naoto Kan to deliver a message of condolence to the Japanese people reeling from unprecedented damage caused by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, according to Lee's aides.

   The 8.9-magnitude quake devastated Japan's northeastern region and was followed by a tsunami on Friday, with Japanese police saying the death toll is likely to surpass 16,000, while the meltdown of quake-jolted nuclear power plants is raising fears of destructive radiation.

   "It is impressive that Japanese people are responding to the disaster in a calm manner," Lee was quoted as telling Kan by his senior secretary for public affairs, Hong Sang-pyo. Lee is on a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

   Lee added that as Japan's closest neighbor, South Korea offers condolences and Seoul is ready to provide all possible support for search-and-rescue efforts, Hong said.

   In response, the Japanese leader said his government was trying to save as many lives as possible, calmly and rationally dealing with the earthquake and tsunami, Hong said.

   Kan assured that his government will make utmost efforts to minimize the fallout from nuclear reactors affected by the quake.

   An explosion at the aging Fukushima atomic plant blew apart a building housing one of its reactors Saturday, media reported.

   Kan said although a tiny amount of radiation is being leaked into the air, there has been no reports of massive radiation pollution.

   He stressed that the current situation in Japan is different from a 1986 reactor accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was the Soviet Union at the time, the senior secretary said.

   (Yonhap News)

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