(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso

Date: Friday, June 22, 2007, 9:50 a.m.
Place: Press Conference Room in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Cabinet Meeting
  2. Initiation of a Pilot Program for Human Resource Development for Peacebuilding, "Terakoya"
  3. Breakdown of the WTO negotiations
  4. North Korean issues
  5. Cluster bombs

1. Cabinet Meeting

(See Japanese version)

2. Initiation of the Pilot Program for Human Resource Development for Peacebuilding, "Terakoya"

Minister:
First of all, I will talk to you about the concept of human resource development for peacebuilding, which I previously proposed in a speech. Since we are talking about an endeavor that will aim to cultivate professionals in peacebuilding, we must request and gain the cooperation of all those concerned as this is not something that can be accomplished by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acting on its own. After speaking with various organizations, a conclusion was reached that this will be launched with the cooperation of Hiroshima University. As such, I am pleased to state that finally we are going to see the beginning of the "Terakoya" Project. This afternoon, the President of Hiroshima University will be coming and I will meet him.

Related Information (PKO and International Peace Cooperation)

3. Breakdown of the WTO negotiations

Question:
Given that the negotiations at the WTO G4 meeting have broken down, it appears that the G6, which Japan was scheduled to participate in, will not be held. It is a fact that these two meetings were deemed to be extremely important for the WTO negotiations and therefore I would like to ask, what is the view of the government of Japan on the breakdown of the WTO G4 meeting?

Minister:
The matter of agricultural subsidies on the United States side could not be agreed to. Furthermore, agreement could not be reached on lowering of tariff schedules for industrial products by Brazil and India. I think this is the background to the breakdown. It's easy to just imagine these things, but since we were not a party to these negotiations, I cannot say for sure, but perhaps that is what it was. Looking forward, although the G4 did not work out, it is a fact that the negotiations will be reopened under the Doha Development Round and separate from the G4, I believe that from about the end of July overall negotiations will be relaunched as a Doha Development Round. There problem is the so-called "four issues", the tariff cap, the rate of tariff items, numbers, and subsidies. Many matters are spoken of, but I am certain that for all of the countries concerned, these four issues came up and for Japan's part, there is the issue of agriculture. I am sure there are portions where even if one side will say that it agrees to compromise on a matter, the other side will say that it would be no use for that compromise. These matters must be negotiated and therefore, I believe that it's going to require quite some time. What each country thinks is different, but we all share the same feelings of wanting agreement. As such, I think things are going to be heating up over the summer.

Related Information (WTO)

4. North Korean issues

Question:
Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State, Christopher Hill visited North Korea. Would it be possible for you to give us an explanation of what discussions have taken place until now between North Korea and Assistant Secretary of State Hill?

Minister:
No. Pyongyang is not the place where it is so easy to get in touch with what is going on, and there is always the concern that conversations are being listened to, and therefore, it is not so easy to do that. We have to be very careful that this is not the repetition of another failure, and therefore, I have nothing to say.

Question:
Given that Assistant Secretary of State Hill has visited North Korea, one gets the impression that this will steadily lead to other developments such as the holding of Six-Party Talks in July, which could be followed by a ministerial level conference at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). What are your views, including your thoughts on this scenario?

Minister:
At the very least, this time, Assistant Secretary of State Hill has gone and I suppose that he must have met with the new foreign minister. Based on that, I would hope that all of the discussions are proceeding well. Not that I intend to be writing any optimistic articles. As I have said in the past, concerning this kind of discussion, in January, when I said, "It won't go so easily," you all wrote that it would go well. I maintained my stance that "It is not a matter that can get done so easily." And in fact, that is the way it has worked out. This time, Assistant Secretary of State Hill went to North Korea, but I doubt that it is going to proceed smoothly and come together. In fact, it has come to the level at which observers of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are being called, but I do not suppose the money transfers have been completed. North Korea has not stated that it has completely received all of the wire transfers. More precisely, it is clear that the United States used the Federal Reserve Board to ensure that the transaction will go smoothly, but the other side seems to say that "We appreciate the efforts of the United States, but the funds still have not come in." As far as how I think things will go from here, honestly speaking, I doubt that this is the kind of discussion that will quickly lead to holding of the Six-Party Talks. If working-level discussions can be held by the time of the ARF meeting in August in Manila, it would be great. However, when considering how much time the IAEA inspections will take, in light of the fact that the inspectors have been to those facilities before, I do not really think it is going to take all that much time.

Question:
To begin with, the Banco Delta Asia issue should not be related to the denuclearization talks. Furthermore, it appears that there are many people in diplomatic circles who feel it a bit strange that, despite the fact that the delay has extended this far, Assistant Secretary of State Hill has visited North Korea and there are talks of assistance. What is your view on this matter?

Minister:
I suppose that the US Department of State is recognizing and reflecting that "Things seem to have gone in a direction different from that which was expected. Things didn't go all that well." From our perspective, it seems that somehow the bank exchanges and wire transfers, which specifically US banks and the Federal Reserve Board stated they would not engage in, turned out to have a powerful effect on the financial sector, which was not something they expected in advance and in fact resulted in a very large response. The fact that the response was more than expected makes the policy decision a little different. Once the decision has been made, it's not so easy just to decide to stop things. From the outset, this has been a matter involving money-laundering and therefore, any talk of legitimizing that is not acceptable for the Department of the Treasury. Even beyond the Treasury Department, next over at the Department of Justice, this was viewed as a big problem. Once this decision has been made, this is how it turned out. Although it was needed, this whole matter has taken a little bit too much time. That's why when seen from the perspective of other countries, it seems that the other four countries are being kept waiting because of the talks between these two parties. I guess that in light of that, they rushed into it. But we would prefer to have them stand their ground and not compromise so easily. I'm sure we will receive reports, and after seeing those reports, we will decide how to move forward on this.

Question:
As for receiving a report, when do you expect Assistant Secretary of State Hill to provide Japan with an explanation?

Minister:
I don't suppose Assistant Secretary of State Hill wants to spend all that much time there. That's why I suppose he will be heading back soon. On his way back, I believe he will stop over in Seoul and Tokyo, and I suppose we will receive a report at that time.

Question:
Is there a specific date and time when an explanation will be provided?

Minister:
I don't know.

Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

5. Cluster bombs

Question:
Regarding the series of issues pertaining to cluster bombs, currently an Experts' Meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) has been taking place since 19 June in Geneva. The government of Japan has now for the first time stated that it is in support of entering into negotiations on the treaty prohibiting cluster bombs. Could you please once again explain your perspective and understanding on this first expression of intent to participate?

Minister:
We have maintained a consistent position on this matter. I am quite certain that we have continuously said the same thing, which is that we must consider this with a view to striking a balance between issues pertaining to humanitarian matters and security guarantees. Given that this is a matter in which we will be considering making an international promise, if we are to go forward with that consideration, views will differ amongst the countries that are manufacturing them, countries that possess them, and those that use them. Basically, when it is concerned about cluster bombs of Japan, we do not use them in other countries but rather in our own territory and in fact, this is a matter of disposing of unexploded bombs, so it is quite similar to the discussions regarding landmines. From that perspective, this discussion pertains to be extremely effective as a weapon, both from a defensive standpoint and an offensive standpoint and therefore, there are two aspects to this matter, including how to use such weapons and the humanitarian side. When conducting these types of international negotiations, it is extremely ineffective if only some of the people get overly excited and rush forward, as was the case last time. This would not be such a meaningful endeavor, which is what I have said in the past as well.

Related Information (Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation)


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