Press Conference by the Press Secretary January 16, 1998

  1. International support to the Republic of Indonesia
  2. Apology to prisoners of war
  3. Economic crisis in Asia

  1. International support to the Republic of Indonesia

    Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nobuaki Tanaka: The Government of Japan welcomes the agreement between President Suharto of the Republic of Indonesia and Managing Director Michel Camdessus of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was reached on 15 January and outlines new policy measures to restore economic stability in Indonesia. This new agreement includes some new reform measures, which we would expect to be put into practice as soon as possible. We hope that, through these measures, confidence in the Indonesian economy would be restored and that the economy would regain stability. Indonesia is a very close friend of Japan, and the stability and development of Indonesia is quite important, not only for Indonesia itself, but for the entire Asia-Pacific region. From that point of view, we would continue to provide support. You may recall that Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto called President Suharto on Monday, in order to point out that it is essential for Indonesia to abide by the agreement between Indonesia and the IMF. This telephone call was made prior to the announcement of these new measures. The credibility of the Indonesian economy was put into doubt after the Indonesian Government announced its new fiscal budget, with a 32 percent increase. In this context, Prime Minister Hashimoto made his point very clear to President Suharto, stating that it is very important for Indonesia to abide by the agreement reached by Indonesia and the IMF last year, in order to put the economy back on a normal path of recovery. You may also recall that we have committed to provide Indonesia with a yen loan equivalent to about US$154 million for structural reform within that country. It is our hope that this kind of assistance would be useful in getting over the current difficulty that the country is now faced with. We are now also considering dispatching high-level officials to Indonesia, in order to strengthen our dialogue with the Government of Indonesia and see that the Indonesian Government would faithfully implement the measures that were reached recently with the IMF. Also, we would like to ascertain the political impact in Indonesia.

  2. Apology to prisoners of war

    Q: This week, Prime Minister Hashimoto apologized to British prisoners of war for actions taken during World War II. Does the Japanese Government have any plans to extend that apology to Australian prisoners of war, and if not, why not?

    Spokesman Tanaka: Our sense of apology and our sense of remorse was addressed to all the countries which have gone through the experiences of the last world war. You may recall that, at the time of the 50th anniversary of World War II, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement by the Government of Japan to express its sincere feeling of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for the damages and suffering for the one-time past of Japan. This apology was addressed universally. Since the time of this apology, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom has been elected to his current position and has just concluded a visit to Japan. Therefore, we took the opportunity of this recent visit to once again express our feeling, so that this new bilateral relationship would be cemented in the future. Please be reminded that our apology is extended to all the countries who shared the same disastrous experiences.

    Q: So, are you saying that Prime Minister Hashimoto's statement from this week was just a restatement of what then-Prime Minister Murayama said on the 50th anniversary?

    Spokesman Tanaka: No, it is not really a restatement, but a new determination. Every time we make this type of statement, it is our expression of a new determination to build a new era together with other countries, particularly this time with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is a young, fresh face in the international community and who has shown sufficient capability to lead that country and Europe into the 21st century. So, we wanted to share with him our perception for the new era.

    Q: So, you do not see a need to extend that apology to particular countries?

    Spokesman Tanaka: Whenever the opportunity arises and whenever necessary, we do not hesitate to renew our determination.

  3. Economic crisis in Asia

    Q: What does the Japanese Government think of the comments of some politicians who say that Japan should play a bigger role in tackling the problem of the economic crisis in Asia?

    Spokesman Tanaka: It would be good for you to note the initiative that the Government of Japan floated last November, I believe, to create some kind of Asian Monetary Fund. This initiative was realized in the Manila Framework which was agreed on last November, I believe. From the outset, the Government of Japan has been very active in responding to the emerging financial crisis in the Asia-Pacific region. We already sensed a kind of ripple effect from Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, and so forth. So, we took initiative from the beginning. In Thailand, for example, we had been in very close contact with the Thai Government. At that time, the Prime Minister of Thailand was Mr. Chavalit Yonchaiyudh. Our Ambassador had been in very close contact with then-Prime Minister Chavalit Yonchaiyudh. So, the IMF package that was agreed to later on by the Thai Government and the IMF was, in fact, a result of the very close collaboration that the Government of Japan had with the Thai Government. The Finance Minister of Thailand also visited Japan to tide over these financial difficulties, and he had a series of talks with Japanese banks at that time. The Government of Japan provided support for that. So, we have taken considerable initiatives, and we believe that this financial crisis must be tackled with other countries and organizations that are in a position to do so, particularly the IMF and the United States -- a major contributor of financing in this region. So, we believe that a concerted effort by the international community is essential for whatever package we have to make. I believe that we have taken initiatives in this regard.

    Q: You said that a Japanese official will visit Jakarta soon. Can you give us any more details about this?

    Spokesman Tanaka: At this time, I cannot divulge any more information about this. But, we would certainly like to see high-level exchanges.

    Q: -- concerning the economic crisis?

    Spokesman Tanaka: Yes, we would like to assess the situation in Indonesia and see if these measures should actually be put into practice, and also see the impact in that country and the implications within Indonesia and to the region as a whole.

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