Press Conference by the Press Secretary 24 September, 1999

  1. Japan's assistance to Taiwan in the aftermath of the earthquake
  2. Situation in East Timor
  3. Meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura and Foreign Secretary Jaswant Singh of the Republic of India
  4. Status of the situation regarding the Japanese hostages in Central Asia
  5. Visit to Japan by Coordinator for North Korea William Perry of the United States

  1. Japan's assistance to Taiwan in the aftermath of the earthquake

    Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata: Good afternoon. Firstly, about the earthquake in Taiwan. In my press conference last Tuesday, at that point I said that we were dispatching an advance team to Taiwan to actively consider the dispatch of an Emergency Rescue Team from Japan. Things have happened rather quickly since then. On that very day, on Tuesday, we dispatched a rescue team of 70 people, all rescue experts. On the next day, we sent out a team comprising 35 people, I believe. Then, on Wednesday 22 September, we dispatched a Medical Rescue Team of 11 people. All together, 120 people have been dispatched to help combat this terrible disaster. They have been carrying out rescue and medical care activities in central Taiwan, where the damage is the heaviest. I believe their activities on the ground are very highly-appreciated by the people of Taiwan and we do hope that as many lives as possible can be saved.

    Also on Tuesday, we announced an emergency grant assistance of US$500,000 to be extended through our non-governmental organization, that is the Exchange Association, to its counterpart in Taiwan. This US$500,000 is to be used by the Taiwan side for the purchase of goods and materials which they may need in order to carry out their relief activities. We are also in the process of making the arrangements for sending some relief material to Taiwan. We are looking into the needs in this regard. The Taiwan side has been communicating to us some idea of the sort of items that they may need. We also have the Emergency Rescue Team operating on the ground, so they will have some idea of possible things that may be needed. We are trying to decide on the items to send as soon as possible, and as soon as it is decided we will make the arrangements for that kind of assistance. That is on Taiwan.

    Related Information (Earthquake in Taiwan)
  2. Situation in East Timor

    Mr. Numata: Just a word on East Timor. Director-General for International Social Cooperation Hideaki Ueda of the Foreign Ministry was dispatched to the Republic of Indonesia on 18 September. The team comprised four people from the Foreign Ministry, headed by Director-General Ueda. The mission exchanged views with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who was also in Indonesia at the time. They, and Mrs. Ogata, went to East Timor on 19 September, and they have had consultations with the Government of Indonesia and the United Nations related organizations in Jakarta on 20 September. Director-General Ueda has since come back, but some other members of the mission stayed behind and they have carried out further trips to West Timor, and also to East Timor were they went to Dili on 22 September, I believe, together with the representatives of the United States of America, the Kingdom of Thailand, Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom. It was in fact a joint mission of these five countries: Japan, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. I expect that the findings of this joint humanitarian support mission will probably be announced in some form or another in Jakarta very soon.

    Related Information (Timor-Leste Situation (Archives))
  3. Meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura and Foreign Secretary Jaswant Singh of the Republic of India

    Q: Your Foreign Minister met the Indian Foreign Secretary at the United Nations.

    Mr. Numata: Yes.

    Q: Can you tell us what they talked about and what impression Mr. Koumura had of the talks?

    Mr. Numata: Firstly, Foreign Secretary Singh of the Republic of India and Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura met in July on the occasion of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). So, they met twice. In fact, they had met before when Foreign Minister Koumura was State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Secretary Singh was the Deputy Commissioner of the National Planning Commission. I think that through these meetings the friendship is being strengthened. In July, the two foreign ministers affirmed the importance of developing Japan-India relations further as we go into the 21st Century. In this meeting in New York, when they met on 21 September, they also underlined the importance of developing our bilateral relations through dialogue. They did note with appreciation the progress being made through various dialogues between the two countries. For example, in August there was the Japan-India Dialogue on Investment, involving people from both government and the private sector. In early September the Joint Committee Meeting of the Japan-India Scientific and Technological Cooperation was held and Foreign Minister Koumura, on this occasion, expressed the hope that there would be further dialogue in such areas as culture and security. There is also the question of the Indian Foreign Secretary's visit to Japan, for which Foreign Minister Koumura had extended an invitation and Foreign Secretary Singh said that he was committed to his wish to visit Japan at an early date and would like to coordinate the timing as soon as possible after the general elections in India.

    They also discussed nuclear non-proliferation and the India-Pakistan dialogue, among other issues. On the question of nuclear non-proliferation, Foreign Minister Koumura expressed the hope that India would participate in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the earliest possible opportunity after the establishment of the new government in India. He also said that if India shows a positive response toward this participation in the CTBT, Japan will be prepared to take another look at the steps that we have taken with respect to our assistance to India in the wake of the nuclear testing last year.

    Foreign Minister Koumura also said that we have been concerned about this report about the draft Indian Doctrine about Nuclear Weapons and we are watching with keen interest how this draft is going to be handled by the Indian Government. Foreign Secretary Singh responded by saying that, first, with respect to India's nuclear policy draft, that it did not represent the official position of the Indian Government, but that it was a compilation of non-governmental experts, so it should not be taken as an expression of official policy. With respect to the CTBT, Foreign Secretary Jaswant Singh said that as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in the United Nations General Assembly last year, India does not intend either to destroy the nuclear non-proliferation regime, or to stand in the way of the early coming into effect of the CTBT. He said that after the general elections it was India's wish to move towards participation in the CTBT on the basis of a broad consensus to that end after the general election.

    Foreign Minister Koumura also mentioned the conference which is scheduled to take place in Vienna from 6 to 8 October, which is designed to promote the coming into force of the CTBT. Japan is going to chair that conference and Foreign Minister Koumura expressed the hope that India would attend the meeting. The Indian Foreign Secretary replied by saying that he would like to consider this positively with a view to participating in that conference. Those were the main points.

    With respect to the India-Pakistan dialogue, Foreign Minister Koumura expressed Japan's concern about the continuing tension between India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and expressed the wish that both India and Pakistan would go back to the spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration and to resume the dialogue as soon as possible. To which Foreign Secretary Singh said that India was working hard to establish friendly relations with its neighbours, including Pakistan, and that it was in complete agreement with the idea of promoting the process of dialogue with Pakistan on the basis of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. As I said at the beginning, we do feel that it was a meeting of significance in what is now the evolving dialogue between Japan and India.

    Q: So is Foreign Minister Koumura satisfied with the prospect of India signing the CTBT, within this year or early next year?

    Mr. Numata: Foreign Secretary Singh did not say that India would sign the CTBT in the course of this year, but his response was that after the general elections, India wanted to move in the direction of participating in the CTBT on the basis of a broad consensus. I think that our position, that is Foreign Minister Koumura's position is that we strongly hope that it will become a reality.

    Q: Regarding the East Timor crisis, we noticed that a lot of Asian countries contributed to the peacekeeping force. Up until now, of course, Japan for legal reasons, has said that it will not send any forces to East Timor. Is Japan committed to this refusal, or is there the possibility of a change in the attitude in the Government?

    Mr. Numata: If you are asking about the possibility of Japan's participating in the multinational force in the form of sending our Self Defense Forces personnel, the legal arrangement is such that we cannot do that. So, it is not really a question of our refusing to do it, but our being unable to do it. At the same time, we have said very clearly that we will make a substantial financial contribution to the multinational force, and we are working intensively to try and get the proper picture of this multinational force so that we can have a clearer idea of just what is needed, especially in the context of facilitating the participation of the developing countries. A number of the developing countries may feel that they would like to participate, but they may be hampered financially. We are trying to identify the needs in that regard, and we are working intensively to get in touch with the United Nations and the countries concerned to get some idea of this picture so that we can come to a quick decision.

    Q: So do you think that the financial contribution from Japan will make a balance for the demands from a lot of the regional countries that Japan play a leading role in the settlement in the crisis of the area, not only in the political but also on the military level?

    Mr. Numata: I do not know whether you are right in saying that there is a demand from the Asian countries for Japan to take part, in the military sense, in the multinational force. I do not think that that is necessarily the case.

    Q: I am not talking about that.

    Mr. Numata: You are not implying that? OK, we have established that. My next point is that our contribution to restoring peace and stability in East Timor has taken a variety of forms. In the process leading to the Indonesian acceptance of the international security presence, we talked intensively with Indonesia, and we have been offering very frank and friendly advice to Indonesia, saying that if Indonesia could not fulfill its primary responsibility for restoring law and order in East Timor, then Indonesia should accept the support from the international community. We conveyed that message in many ways including the conversations that Foreign Minister Koumura had with Coordinating Minister Ginanjar in Auckland and then the conversation between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Coordinating Minister Ginanjar in Auckland, as well as the conversations that our Ambassador in Jakarta had with President B.J. Habibie.

    At the same time, we have been saying that it is also important not to lose sight of the effect of all this on the stability of Indonesia as a whole, and also the stability of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, especially at a time when the Asia-Pacific economies are showing signs of recovery. We have been putting forward this point as well in our consultations with other countries who were in Auckland. We have been making this contribution in terms of our diplomatic efforts, in terms of friendly persuasion vis-a-vis Indonesia, and also in terms of contributing to the formulation of the position of the international community as expressed in the United Nations Security Council Resolution. At the same time, this question of what Japan can do in the context of peacekeeping operations or multinational peacekeeping or peacemaking operations, as you know this has been the subject of very active debate in Japan. What our present law envisages is the United Nations peacekeeping operations in the traditional sense, for which certain conditions have to be fulfilled. That does not make it possible for us to send our people to the multinational force. You mentioned at the end of your question the possibility of the consideration of these issues within Japan. That perhaps is a separate issue in the sense that to the extent that East Timor has sharpened the attention of the public, and the people in the political world, on this whole set of questions; perhaps there are some signs that these issues may be debated, but which direction this sort of debate may take is at the moment a bit beyond my mandate as a spokesman to speculate on.

    Q: On the same issue, as a matter of principle, if East Timor declares itself to be an independent state, is Japan ready to recognize this state regardless of Indonesia's position?

    Mr. Numata: I must say that at this point it is a hypothetical question, but as a result of the popular consultation, as a result of the direct ballot, the preference of the people of East Timor has been expressed. The international community is trying to make sure that this transition will take place according to the wish of the East Timorese people, on the basis of the results of that popular consultation of the direct ballot. In trying to ensure that this transition will take place smoothly, of course the international community expects that all of this will take place in close consultation with the Government of Indonesia and with the understanding and help of the Government of Indonesia, but we are still a bit early in the game as far as this future process is concerned. So I think that I had better refrain from directly answering your question, especially if you ask me "despite the opposition of the Government of Indonesia."

    Related Information (Japan-India Relations)
  4. Status of the situation regarding the Japanese hostages in Central Asia

    Q: If we move to Central Asia, do you have any idea about any of the latest developments regarding the Japanese hostages and whether the Government of Japan has to pay some ransom for the hostages?

    Mr. Numata: I cannot really comment on any details of the information that is reported in many ways through the media and elsewhere, given the highly sensitive nature of the subject, and given that whatever comment I or any other people in our Government make could also affect the whole course of events and possibly in a not-very-desirable manner. I do have to ask for your indulgence for my sticking to the vow of no comment.

    Q: There are some reports claiming that the kidnappers are Islamic, or that they claim that they are related to Islam. Did Japan contact any Islamic countries to request for help or to intervene in this crisis?

    Mr. Numata: The only thing that I can say in that regard is that we have been working very hard. We have been doing our utmost to obtain the safe release of these hostages in close cooperation with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and through various other channels. I think that I have to leave it at that.

    Related Information (Japan-Kyrgyz Republic Relations)
  5. Visit to Japan by Coordinator for North Korea William Perry of the United States

    Q: I have heard that Mr. William Perry is now visiting here in Japan.

    Mr. Numata: Yes he is here today.

    Q: Do you have any information about that?

    Mr. Numata: His meetings are taking place this afternoon. He is meeting Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka right at this moment from 14:30. Then he will meet Prime Minister Obuchi at 15:00, and then he will be having dinner with Foreign Minister Koumura at 19:00 this evening, so I have not had any read-outs of those meetings yet.

    Related Information (North Korea's Missile Launch)

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