(* 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 Masahiko Koumura

Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 4:07 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Greetings
  2. Visit to the United States by Foreign Minister Koumura
  3. Situation in Myanmar
  4. North Korean Issues
  5. Approach to World Trade Organization (WTO) Negotiations
  6. Media Reports on a Visit to the United States by Prime Minister Fukuda
  7. Issue of Gas Fields in the East China Sea

1. Greetings

Minister:
Thank you in advance for your help from now on. Last night, I made remarks at my first press conference at the Prime Minister's Office and there is no point in repeating everything I said then. So I would prefer to just open the floor to questions from you. That said, please understand that I have not yet received a thorough explanation from within the Ministry and therefore I will respond to you to the degree that I am able to respond to you. Thank you for your understanding in this regard.

2. Visit to the United States by Foreign Minister Koumura

Question:
Although it has not yet been approved by the Diet, there are reports that tonight you will be departing for the United States. Presuming that you do indeed receive approval from the Diet, what would the itinerary be for you to do in the United States?

Minister:
Assuming approval can be obtained in the Diet I will board a plane at 7:30 this evening so that I can make it to the meeting on environmental issues. If possible I would also like to make a speech to the United Nations. I understand that all of those involved in Diet Affairs Committee proceeding have been making earnest efforts to make it possible for this visit to happen.

Question:
Has this upcoming trip to the United States been under consideration for a while now? Or was it decided within a matter of hours after you assumed the office of Foreign Minister? Please share with us whatever background there is to this.

Minister:
Since it was yesterday that I assumed the post of Foreign Minister, I myself only heard about it yesterday. Naturally this meeting has been scheduled for a while and the situation is such that it would of course be better for the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs to go, than not to go. Therefore, if it is at all possible to go, I was told that I should be going and therefore, if the situation allows me to go, I do intend to go.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

3. Situation in Myanmar

Question:
Considering the situation in Myanmar, there are reports from the United States on possible economic sanctions. At the current juncture, what approach does the Government of Japan intend to take in this regard?

Minister:
For its part, the Government of Japan is calling upon the Government of Myanmar to take a restrained approach. We intend to pay close attention and watch the situation as it develops.

Related Information (Japan-Myanmar Relations)

4. North Korean Issues

Question:
I have two questions I would like to ask about North Korean issues. First of all, please tell us once again of the stance that Japan will be taking vis-à-vis the Six-Party Talks that will be held beginning tomorrow. Another point is that there appears to be a movement within the US Congress to add as a precondition for the removal of North Korea from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism, the condition that the abduction issue be resolved. From your position as Foreign Minister, how do you evaluate these two points?

Minister:
I will respond to your second question first. Considering that the Government of Japan has consistently called on the United States to refrain from the removal of North Korea from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism until the abduction issue is resolved, I think it is indeed fine that there is a movement that is aligned in the same direction as the Government of Japan.

Regarding our approach to the Six-Party Talks, Japan will approach from the perspective that it would be good if we are able to make some progress through the Six-Party Talks in a direction that would lead us to normalization of the relations by simultaneously solving the issues of nuclear, missiles and abductions, as well as settling past issues.

Question:
Regarding that policy, would it be safe to say that basically there is no difference between the former ministry and the new ministry under Foreign Minister Koumura?

Minister:
Basically, it has not changed. After all, when it comes to diplomacy we must respond based on fundamental principles as well as, in response to the prevailing situation. In taking a response to the prevailing situation, of course there may be a minor difference depending on who is actually taking action and that is something that cannot be specifically measured but I do believe that the principles do not change.

Question:
It has only been a short time since the launch of the new Cabinet but were there any specific instructions from Prime Minister Fukuda regarding the stance that he would want to be taken in the Six-Party Talks? Moreover did you speak with Prime Minister Fukuda about the policy to be maintained in dealing with the upcoming talks? Have you had the time to speak about this? Please fill us in on these points.

Minister:
Unfortunately there has not yet been time to discuss this. Prime Minister Fukuda has for a long time, and especially recently, been very much involved in this matter. For my part as well, although recently I have not been involved in a concrete manner, I have had diverse involvement with this for a very long time, and therefore I do not think there is anything that has changed in the basic principles.

Related Information (Six-Party Talks on North Korean Issues)

5. Approach to World Trade Organization (WTO) Negotiations

Question:
The current round of negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) seem to be coming to a crucial stage. Were there any directions regarding those negotiations from Prime Minister Fukuda?

Minister:
There were no particular instructions in that regard.

Question:
I am sure there are some extremely sensitive issues particularly those focusing on agriculture. Can you tell us of your views in regard to how you will move forward with these negotiations?

Minister:
Considering the fact that agriculture is an extremely sensitive issue, I believe that we must continue to understand the sensitive nature of the issue, but move forward with anything that we can make progress on. That is my stance. Here is another instance in which it is important in diplomacy to respond to the prevailing conditions, and therefore I intend to give careful study to each and every one of the specific issues at hand, and to think about on which matters we may compromise and also to identify on which matters we cannot compromise. Through that process we must continue to somehow make overall progress and that is the process that I will bear in mind as we move forward.

Related Information (Japan and WTO)

6. Media Reports on a Visit to the United States by Prime Minister Fukuda

Question:
There have been some reports in certain media alleging that there is consideration underway for Prime Minister Fukuda to visit the United States in the month of November. Can you comment on this?

Minister:
Right now, we do not know the exact itinerary of the Diet, so there are no concrete considerations underway. However, it is a fact that in light of the Japan-US relations, the Prime Minister will have to make a trip. And this does not only apply to the timing for a visit to the United States, but also to that to China: it is a fact that consideration is being given to a possible schedule. Still I do not think those considerations have reached the stage of focusing on exact dates as to when the Prime Minister would go.

7. Issue of Gas Fields in the East China Sea

Question:
My question concerns Japan's relations with China. What approach will you take as Foreign Minister in the consultations on the issue of gas fields in the East China Sea?

Minister:
This is a matter that has been described by the leaders of both Japan and China as related to our "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests". Therefore, when it comes to this issue, as long as we are able to resolve it in a spirit of mutual compromise, I believe that we will be able to ensure the peoples of both of our countries that this is indeed a matter of "the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests". Still, if you are asking whether or not this will be resolved in the near future, in light of the fact that the fundamental principles underlying the positions taken by our two nations are different, this is an extremely difficult issue for both Japan and for China. Although it is difficult, it must be settled and I believe that once it is settled, it will be of mutual benefit to us both.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)


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