Japan ready to consider S. Korea request for help

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TOKYO, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Japan said on Thursday it would consider any request from South Korea for assistance, after the Korean won sank to a 10-1/2-year low, but a spokesman said Seoul had not yet asked for Asian crisis talks.

South Korea appealed this week for a summit with Japan and China on the global financial crisis, which has starved its banks of dollars and accelerated the country’s worst capital flight since the Asian financial crisis a decade ago. [ID:nSEO278751]

Its central bank cut rates on Thursday and government agencies were spotted supporting the won KRW=, pushing the currency up 1 percent and reviving Seoul stocks.

Japan’s chief government spokesman, Takeo Kawamura, said South Korea’s ambassador to Japan visited the prime minister’s office on Wednesday for discussions but added there had been no formal request for a meeting.

“At present, Japan is not thinking of offering any support,” Kawamura told a news conference. “I saw media reports that South Korea has requested for a Japan-Korea summit, but we have not got a formal request from Korea.”

“In the past, Japan has had experience supporting (South Korea) through an IMF fund, so that’s something we must think about. But at present, it’s not something that has come up officially.”

Japan, China and South Korea had planned to hold a three-way summit meeting this year but the idea was shelved when Yasuo Fukuda resigned as Japan’s prime minister in September.

Japan and China have the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, with a combined $2.8 trillion stockpile, and with Seoul they have provided the firepower for a pact to guarantee the region’s currency stability since capital fled the region in the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak wanted to hold talks on the global crisis with leaders of China and Japan, most probably later this month, a presidential Blue House official said this week.

Lee called last week for the three countries to speed up a plan to create an $80 billion pool of currency swaps among east Asian countries to act as a buffer against financial turmoil, replacing a series of individual swap agreements.

Under the existing system of swaps, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing effectively allow poorer Southeast Asian nations to draw on some of their dollar reserves in times of crisis. (Reporting by Yuzo Saeki, Leika Kihara; Writing by Rodney Joyce; Editing by Sophie Hardach)