Press Conference by the Press Secretary 23 March, 1999

  1. Visit to the Republic of Korea by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi from 19 to 21 March
  2. Policy of Japan and the Republic of Korea toward North Korea
  3. Prospect of resumption of food aid by Japan to North Korea
  4. Joint technological research between Japan and the United States of America on a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system
  5. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov of the Republic of Uzbekistan from 23 to 27 March
  6. Visit to Japan by Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara of the Syrian Arab Republic from 24 to 26 March

  1. Visit to the Republic of Korea by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi from 19 to 21 March

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: Good afternoon. I will start with a brief read-out on Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's trip to the Republic of Korea. As you know, he was in Seoul on 19 and 20 March. On Sunday, 21 March, he visited this historic site called Haein-sa near the city of Taegu in more or less a southern part of the Republic of Korea. We do feel that this was a very significant visit in the following sense. Firstly, the two leaders reviewed the progress of the plans outlined in the Joint Declaration which they signed in October last year and the Action Agenda which was attached to the Joint Declaration. They reaffirmed that the plans outlined in the Joint Declaration and the Action Agenda were being steadily translated into action and they expressed satisfaction over this. Secondly, they discussed issues related to North Korea in considerable depth and they saw eye to eye on a number of points. Prime Minister Obuchi, on his part, expressed his support for the engagement policy as enunciated by President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea. The two leaders agreed on the importance of Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America working in close coordination and cooperation. Prime Minister Obuchi, for his part, expressed his view that this policy of engagement or a comprehensive approach should include elements of dialogue as well as elements of deterrence. He also emphasized the need to address questions related to security as well as humanitarian issues, such as the question of suspected abduction cases in the case of Japan and similarly, in the case of the Republic of Korea, cases of a number of missing nationals of the Republic of Korea, which have given rise to the problem of separated families as well. Prime Minister Obuchi further called on North Korea, and this call in fact was made jointly with President Kim in the Joint Press Conference which the two leaders gave at the end of the Summit meeting. They called on North Korea to open the doors to dialogue aiming at reconciliation and exchanges. I might also mention that Prime Minister Obuchi in his policy speech at Korea University made the following call which is that, "I would like to take this opportunity to appeal again to North Korea. We are prepared to work toward improving relations and request that North Korea open the doors of dialogue toward reconciliation and exchange, rather than heighten confrontation and tension." All in all, through this third Summit meeting between Prime Minister Obuchi and President Kim, their personal bond of friendship and trust was further strengthened. We do feel that the positive upward trend in the Japan-Republic of Korea relationship, which clearly emerged out of President Kim's visit to Japan last October, has been considerably solidified, thus moving the future-orientated friendship and cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea a step further. That is my read-out from Prime Minister Obuchi's visit to the Republic of Korea.

    Related Information (Japan-Republic of Korea Relations)
  2. Policy of Japan and the Republic of Korea toward North Korea

    Q: Did Prime Minister Obuchi specifically discuss the missile issue with President Kim?

    Mr. Numata: Yes. The missile issue came up in a number of forms. When Prime Minister Obuchi expressed his support for the engagement policy on the part of President Kim, he made the point firstly that, as I stated earlier, the elements of dialogue and deterrence are both necessary and in the dialogue it is necessary to take up such issues as, not just the suspected underground nuclear facilities, but also the missiles issue, as well as humanitarian issues such as the abduction cases and so forth. He further said with respect to the missiles issue, that it is of utmost importance to prevent North Korea from launching its missile again and to that end, it is necessary to give them a strong warning as well as to indicate that should they launch their missile again, they might be faced with certain disadvantages. Prime Minister Obuchi also said that it is necessary to call on North Korea to refrain from all kinds of missile-related activities, that is development, production, testing, export and so forth. I might also add that President Kim, on his part, in the Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister Obuchi, said that with respect to the policies toward North Korea, there is basically no difference of position between the Republic of Korea and Japan. He went on to say the threat of North Korean missiles are a threat, not only to Japan, but also to the Republic of Korea, and North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles should not be produced or used. There was quite a meeting of minds between the two leaders on these issues.

    Q: The Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday that there are some differences between Japan and South Korea on policies towards North Korea.

    Mr. Numata: I do not think I can entirely blame the tendency on the part of some of your colleagues to focus more on the perceived differences, rather than on the perceived agreements. In this particular case, I think it is quite fair to say that the perceived agreements and convergence of views far outweighs the perceived areas of difference. Having said that, I would also make the point that what is important is for the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States to work hand in hand towards the same objectives. There is no doubt that the same objectives are shared. There is no doubt that the policies pursued by Japan and the Republic of Korea and also the United States are in harmony. Having said all that, I would also make the point that there are different circumstances existing in each country, so if your question is whether Japan and the Republic of Korea and the United States would necessarily adopt identical policies at all times, perhaps that may not be the case, but that is only natural. I would say that it is a question of emphasis, but I do find some of the emphasis in the media perhaps not entirely being balanced. Perhaps I should stop my comments on the behavior of the media at this point and respond to the next question.

    Related Information (North Korea's Missile Launch)
  3. Prospect of resumption of food aid by Japan to North Korea

    Q: Did the issue of Japan resuming food aid to North Korea come up at all?

    Mr. Numata: In the general context of Prime Minister Obuchi explaining that, and this is a position which has been enunciated by Prime Minister Obuchi a number of times since last January in his policy speech to the Diet, if North Korea responds constructively to the concerns on the part of the international community, that is on missiles and suspected nuclear facilities and also to the humanitarian concerns such as the abduction cases and so forth, we, on our part, will be ready to work towards the improvement of our relations, to engage in dialogue and so forth. When we talk about that, if there are constructive responses from North Korea, some of the steps that we might be contemplating along the road to our coming out with some constructive responses, may conceivably include the resumption of food aid and possibly the resumption of our normalization negotiations. To the extent that these are the ideas in Prime Minister Obuchi's mind, those ideas were discussed, but if your question is whether there was a very specific, detailed, focused discussion on when Japan might or might not be able to resume its food aid and so forth, the answer is no.

    Related Information (North Korea's Missile Launch)
  4. Joint technological research between Japan and the United States of America on a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system

    Q: It seems that there are escalating statements made by China and Russia recently against the TMD program between Japan and the United States. Is Japan concerned about this development?

    Mr. Numata: We have been taking a number of opportunities to explain to our Chinese and Russian colleagues what this BMD is all about, and I very deliberately used the term "BMD," ballistic missile defense, as opposed to TMD, because what we have in mind as we are entering into joint technological research, as opposed to joint development or joint deployment of the system with the United States, is a system which is purely defensive, which is designed purely to defend Japan against the threats of ballistic missiles. We have been explaining to the Chinese and Russian sides that this is in no way meant to trigger an arms race nor is it meant to give an adverse effect to the peace and stability of the region. What we are contemplating is to start joint technological research on BMD from fiscal year 1999. It is not our intention at all to expand the framework of this program to third countries or third areas. It is certainly our intention to keep our program and our possible participation as transparent as possible. We will continue to explain to our friends that such is indeed the case.

    Q: Do you have any idea about the budget designated by the Japanese Government to this research?

    Mr. Numata: I have not got the number in front of me, but it is not all that massive an amount, given that it is still in the stage of joint technological research.

    Related Information (Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements)
  5. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov of the Republic of Uzbekistan from 23 to 27 March

    Q: I believe there is a visit today by the President of Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan.

    Mr. Numata: Yes, Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov of the Republic of Uzbekistan is visiting Tokyo from 23 to 27 March.

    Q: Is it also part of the Silk Road diplomacy?

    Mr. Numata: Yes, to the extent that it is located in the area. To the extent that we are keenly interested in developing our relations with the countries of that general region.

    Related Information (Japan-Uzbekistan Relations)
  6. Visit to Japan by Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara of the Syrian Arab Republic from 24 to 26 March

    Q: Tomorrow, I think the Syrian Foreign Minister is visiting. What are the main points that Japan would like to raise with the Foreign Minister?

    Mr. Numata: Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara of the Syrian Arab Republic is visiting Japan from Wednesday, 24 March to Friday, 26 March as the guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will be meeting Prime Minister Obuchi, Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura and other people in the course of his visit. As far as the main topics which may come up in the course of his meetings with our leaders are concerned, they will probably cover bilateral, Japan-Syria relations, as well as the question of Southern Lebanon and the Middle East peace process, including the Syrian track negotiations as well as other issues related to that region. In fact, Foreign Minister Shara has visited Japan four times in the past, including unofficial visits. However, he has not been here since 1995, so we have pleasure in welcoming him after an interval of four years. We expect that those will be the general areas to be covered. I mentioned Southern Lebanon. I think you are aware of the initiative taken by Foreign Minister Koumura in the course of his travel through the Middle Eastern countries this past January in which he made a Four Point proposal with respect to the resolution of the Southern Lebanon issue. I may briefly recapitulate them. The first is that the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon should be implemented as stipulated in United Nations Security Council Resolution 425. The second point is that the aforementioned withdrawal should be toward a comprehensive Middle East process. The third point is that the process of withdrawal should not be hindered and parties should discuss concrete steps without any preconditions. The fourth point is that the international community should render its support to the stabilization of Southern Lebanon after Israeli withdrawal. In the discussion of Southern Lebanon, these points may also come up in the sense that Syria has an interest in the question of Southern Lebanon and Syria also, I think, has a considerable degree of influence on the issue as well.

    Related Information (Japan-Syria Relations)

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