Press Conference by the Press Secretary 30 March, 1999

  1. Humanitarian assistance from Japan to Kosovo Albanian refugees and displaced persons
  2. Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
  3. Assumption of office by President Luis Gonzalez Macchi of the Republic of Paraguay
  4. Cabinet decision to revise the Three-year Program for the Promotion of Deregulation
  5. Response of Japan to the situation in Kosovo
  6. Support of Japan for the Middle East peace process
  7. Reported cooperation between North Korea and the Syrian Arab Republic on weapons development

  1. Humanitarian assistance from Japan to Kosovo Albanian refugees and displaced persons

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: Good afternoon. I would like to start with a comment on Kosovo. As you know, the situation on the ground there is worsening. There are massive attacks on the Kosovo Albanians and there are a great number of people who have either been displaced or become refugees. It is reported that in the course of the past couple of days, 50,000 to 60,000 people have joined the ranks of the refugees. We are very much concerned about this worsening of the humanitarian situation there. We have been extending humanitarian assistance to the refugees and the displaced people from Kosovo. We already extended US$ 2.3 million assistance to these people in August 1998 and then in October 1998, we extended further assistance amounting to US$ 7.3, totaling US$ 9.6 million. In addition, on 23 March, we announced emergency grant assistance to the refugees in the former Yugoslavia in general, a part of which would be extended to the Kosovo refugees. That emergency grant assistance amounted to US$ 14.4 million. But in the light of this worsening humanitarian situation, we do expect that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will issue an appeal for further assistance to these refugees from the international community and it is our intention to consider further humanitarian assistance promptly, in response to this appeal which is likely to be made by the UNHCR. One other point about Kosovo, which is that we have learned that Prime Minister Evgenii Primakov of the Russian Federation is going to Belgrade under the instruction of President Boris Yeltsin to engage in a mediation effort. He is scheduled to see President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and others. We have appreciated the efforts made by Russia thus far to achieve peace in Kosovo. We welcome these efforts now being made by Prime Minister Primakov and we do hope that there will be progress toward peace.

  2. Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: My next announcement is about the visit of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He has had his meeting with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and other leaders of the Japanese Government. The meeting with Prime Minister Obuchi took place yesterday in which Prime Minister Obuchi expressed our continuing support and encouragement to Vietnam as Vietnam pursues its policy of doi moi, that is, reform and modernization. As an expression of our support, Prime Minister Obuchi expressed our intention to provide further support to Vietnam. Firstly, the exchange of notes took place with respect to Japan's commitment of yen loans amounting to 88 billion yen for fiscal year 1998. In addition to this, Prime Minister Obuchi told Prime Minister Khai that we are looking actively at the possibility of extending a part of the special yen loans which were announced in December last year when Prime Minister Obuchi attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three meeting in Hanoi. By these special yen loans, I mean our intention to extend yen loans amounting to 600 billion yen over a period of three years to such countries as Kingdom of Thailand, Malaysia, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of the Philippines and Vietnam. There are a number of projects put forward by Vietnam as possible projects for this special yen loan, and Prime Minister Obuchi told Prime Minister Khai that a mission is now being dispatched from the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) to study two projects in particular, that is the project to construct a bridge in Haiphong -- the bridge is called the "Binh" bridge -- and another project is the rehabilitation of Haiphong harbor. Pending their findings, Vietnam may be the first country to benefit from this special yen loan. Prime Minister Obuchi also said that as a part of our effort to support Vietnam in its policy of doi moi, especially in the wake of the Asian economic and financial crisis which is affecting Vietnam, we will be looking into the possibility of extending some further assistance to Vietnam as an extension, if you will, of the New Miyazawa Initiative, that is, applying the same sort of ideas contained in the New Miyazawa Initiative to Vietnam. With that in mind, we will be dispatching a mission within the month of April to engage in a policy dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities to explore ways of extending our assistance along the lines of the New Miyazawa Initiative.

    Related Information (Japan-Viet Nam Relations)
  3. Assumption of office by President Luis Gonzalez Macchi of the Republic of Paraguay

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: My third announcement is about the Republic of Paraguay. The domestic situation in Paraguay has become somewhat unstable in the wake of the assassination of Vice President Luis Maria Argaña. President Raul Cubas Grau resigned on 28 March and Luis Gonzalez Macchi, the Speaker of the Senate, has assumed the post of the President. This change in the presidency has taken place in accordance with the Paraguayan Constitution and in a peaceful manner. We welcome the assumption of office by the new President, President Gonzalez. We do hope that under the leadership of President Gonzalez, Paraguay will be able to further solidify its democratic system which has steadily been developed. In fact, we strongly hope that such will be the case, and we are also convinced that such will be the case.

    Related Information (Japan-Paraguay Relations)
  4. Cabinet decision to revise the Three-year Program for the Promotion of Deregulation

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: My last announcement is about the Cabinet decision made today to revise the Three-year Program for the Promotion of Deregulation. In 1995, the first program for promoting deregulation was formulated. At that time, it was a five-year program and then it was decided to accelerate it and to make it into a three-year program. That three-year period ended in March last year. The Cabinet decided on a new Three-year Program for the Promotion of Deregulation in March last year. The Cabinet decision made today is to revise a portion of that three-year program. In coming to this revision of the program, we have elicited opinions from various circles, both at home and abroad. We have been engaged in active consultations on the subject with the United States of America, the European Union (EU) and a number of other countries. We have also elicited views from, for example, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the European Business Council in Japan. The program encompasses a large number of items -- some 917 items of which 248 are new items. I will not go into all the details of that, but let me say that one feature of this revised program is that it sets out the procedures for public comments on the formulation of regulations and so forth -- public comments -- otherwise known in other countries as notice and comment. What is envisaged is that pertinent proposals and drafts of government and ministerial ordinances shall be released and widely made available to the general public and business, that is, in the stage of the drafting, these drafts will be made available so that the general public can comment on them. Final decisions on these matters shall take into account the opinions and information submitted by the general public and businesses. We envisage a further revision of this program by the end of fiscal year 1999, a revision based on the opinions and views thus elicited so that this will continue to be a sort of moving process whereby we interact with the views and opinions of the public.

  5. Response of Japan to the situation in Kosovo

    Q: Do you expect Japan to accept some refugees from Kosovo in the future?

    Mr. Numata: We are a bit far from Kosovo so I do not know whether that will come up as a realistic proposition, but we are very much concerned about the fact that there is a very heavy exodus of refugees from Kosovo. We understand that between the night of 28 March and the morning of 29 March, some 60,000 Kosovo Albanians have come into the Republic of Albania, which was at the rate of about 5,000 refugees coming in per hour. We also hear reports that about 3,000 refugees have come into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 3,000 have come into Montenegro, and 4,500 to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This does present problems of an enormous scale and that is why we do feel that it is very important for the international community to provide emergency assistance. That is why I said earlier that our intention is to respond to the forthcoming appeal by the UNHCR as promptly as possible.

    Q: Do you consider that these refugees are the result of NATO attacks on Yugoslavia?

    Mr. Numata: This is a result of the situation on the ground in Kosovo, and by the situation on the ground, I do include the fact that the Serbian authorities have re-started their attacks on the Kosovo Albanian community as well.

    Q: Is Japan still informed about the military operations by NATO?Mr. Numata: We are not a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We are not a part of the NATO military operation, obviously. However, we have an embassy in Belgrade. There are five of our embassy staff still remaining in our embassy and we do get reports hour-by-hour through our embassy and other means.

    Q: Does the United States inform Japan in advance?

    Mr. Numata: Yes. We were informed about the NATO operation in advance, about 20 minutes before the attack started. In that sense, we are being apprised. That is one thing, but it is quite another to be informed about every single detail of the military operations as they take place. Obviously, we are not a direct party. I might add that we are not a direct party to the attack itself. As Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura stated in the statement that issued on 25 March, we understand NATO's use of force as measures that had to be taken to prevent humanitarian catastrophe or further increase in victims. So we are presently following the development of the situation with great concern. The humanitarian problems continue to exist as you see, for example, in the exodus of the refugees.

  6. Support of Japan for the Middle East peace process

    Q: Recently, many leaders from the Middle East have come to Japan and many more will be coming in the next days and weeks. Is this a coincidence or is this some kind of Japanese effort to try to push its peace plan in the Middle East?

    Mr. Numata: It is a reflection of our active interest in the region. It is also a reflection of the fact that our active interest in the region is being reciprocated by the Middle Eastern leaders, so it is a synergy taking place. Yes, there have been Middle Eastern leaders visiting and who are scheduled to visit Japan. Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara of the Syrian Arab Republic was here from 24 to 26 March. In the course of our meetings with Foreign Minister Shara, we discussed the Middle Eastern peace issue, including the Syrian track and also South Lebanon. We will be welcoming His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, from the Gulf region. Speaker of the Knesset Dan Tichon of the State of Israel was in Japan from 19 to 24 March on a parliamentary visit by invitation from our Parliament. He met the Speakers of our House of Representatives and House of Councillors. He also called on Foreign Minister Koumura. The question of the Middle Eastern peace came up. From our side, we emphasized the importance of progress in the Middle Eastern peace negotiations based on the Wye River Agreement. So in general, yes, we continue to be keenly interested in the Middle Eastern peace process and we welcome these opportunities to exchange views with the leaders from that region.

    Related Information (Japan-Middle East Relations)
  7. Reported cooperation between North Korea and the Syrian Arab Republic on weapons development

    Q: I read in a Kyodo dispatch that Japan expressed its concerns to Syria because of the alleged cooperation with North Korea in the field of arms development. Do you think that Syria is developing arms with North Korea or buying arms from North Korea?

    Mr. Numata: There have been some reports which suggested that possibly there may be some cooperation between Syria and North Korea. You may remember when North Korea launched its Taepdong missile over our heads, so to speak, at the end of August last year, there were reports to the effect that missile experts from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria may have been there witnessing the launch. There have also been reports that North Korean military missions have been visiting Syria. I am talking about reports in the public domain. There have been reports in the public domain to at least give us questions. We do not know the details of that, but to the extent that these reports raise questions, we do feel that it is necessary for us to convey our concern about this whole question of North Korean missile development and possible proliferation of these missiles to third countries. So it was in that sense that in his conversation with Foreign Minister Shara, Foreign Minister Koumura said the following. He said that North Korea's development of weapons of mass destruction and missiles is a serious problem directly affecting Japan's security and we are concerned about reported moves on the part of North Korea to proceed with its missile development in collaboration with other countries. So we do hope that Syria, on its part, will act bearing in mind this concern on the part of Japan. The response from Foreign Minister Shara was that it is inconceivable that Syria would act against Japan's security interest or would adopt policies which might damage Japan's security interest.


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