Press Conference 19 November 2002

  1. Extension of the term of the overseas operations of the Self-Defense Forces
  2. Announcement of the Eighth Asia-Pacific Journalists Meeting
  3. Question concerning the dissemination of press information by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  4. Question concerning the status of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea
  5. Question concerning the statement on refugees by Mrs. Sadako Ogata

  1. Extension of the term of the overseas operations of the Self-Defense Forces

    Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima: Good afternoon, thank you very much for coming. Today I have two announcements that I would like to make.

    First, the Government of Japan today extended the duration of the dispatch of the Maritime Self-Defense Forces which are currently conducting cooperation and support activities overseas under the terms of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law by six months until 19 May 2003. The Government of Japan also decided today to change the basic plan of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law to enable the Self-Defense forces to transport heavy equipment to be used for maintenance work on the airfield for the United States Armed Forces engaged in anti-terrorism activities.

    For your information, the Self-Defense Forces of Japan have made 140 refueling operations to American and British naval vessels, which amounts to 234,000 kiloliters of fuel. In addition, C-130H transport planes of the Self-Defense Forces have completed112 transportation operations both in Japan and overseas since 16 November 2001 when the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law was enacted.

    Related Information (Counter Terrorism)
  2. Announcement of the Eighth Asia-Pacific Journalists Meeting

    Mr. Takashima: The second announcement is about the 8th Asia-Pacific Journalists Meeting which will be held in Tokyo on Thursday, 28 November 2002. The theme of this year's meeting will be "New Pop Culture and Lifestyles in Asia -- Emerging Common Values and Their Implications for Regional Integration." Six journalists from six Asian countries will make presentations, which will be followed by discussions. Everybody, especially Tokyo-based journalists from both the domestic and foreign media, is cordially invited. Details are available at the Foreign Press Center in Uchisaiwai-cho.

    Related Information (Japan-Asia Relations)
    Related Information (Japan-Pacific Relations)
  3. Question concerning the dissemination of press information by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    Q: I have a question about the dissemination of information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to press journalists and others, the pace and speed of dissemination as well as the amount of information been reduced? Could this be due to the change from the paper distribution system to the website delivery system?

    Mr. Takashima: We are trying not to make any changes to the quality or the amount of information that is disseminated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the press and others, and I will look into that.

    Q: Is there any information regarding the kidnapping case in Madrid, Spain?

    Mr. Takashima: I am not quite sure if that news has been dealt with by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as public information. Let me look into that.

  4. Question concerning the status of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea

    Q: I would like to ask about the North Korean situation. As I understand it, the North Korean side made some statements in the past week. Meanwhile, the impression that I get is that the Japan-North Korea dialogue has come to a stalemate. Can you give us an update on what the status is right now?

    Mr. Takashima: We recognize that several statements have been made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in North Korea. We regard that as a sort of usual reaction by the North Korean regime when they face some kind of uncomfortable situation stemming from actions or non-actions of other countries.

    In connection to the communication between Japan and North Korea, we have been maintaining one or more communication channels with them. One of them is the regular diplomatic communication channel based in Beijing between the two embassies of the countries concerned and we have been discussing general issues of bilateral concern and interest. We are hopeful that the North Koreans will agree to hold the security talks by the end of November. Also, we are waiting for their sincere and meaningful response to the questions and issues regarding abduction cases and the dismantling of their nuclear development program that we have raised with them.

    Once we find that their attitude is sincere and their response is acceptable to us, then we will make a counterproposal for the date of the second round of talks on the normalization of relations between our two countries.

    Q: I would like to follow up on what you said. You said that the Governments of Japan and North Korea are having regular consultations through the two embassies in Beijing. First of all, when you said "frequently," how frequently do they meet?

    I have another question that is related to this issue. Is it correct to say that you are waiting first for a sincere gesture or answer from Pyongyang before deciding a date for the security and normalization talks?

    Mr. Takashima: To answer your second question first, the two sets of talks are both described in the Japan-Democratic People's Republic of Korea Pyongyang Declaration. One is the negotiation talks on the normalization of relations. The North Korean side proposed at the Kuala Lumpur meeting that they wanted the second round of normalization talks to be held toward the end of November, and to which we are still withholding our response. We would like to have clarification on the issues and answers to the questions we raised concerning the abduction cases and the nuclear development program, which was revealed by the North Koreans to the American envoy.

    The other set of talks is on security matters. This is separate from the official normalization talks, and the Japanese and the North Korean side agreed to hold these security talks by the end of November. We are still of the position that this agreement on the date, by the end of November, still stands and we are waiting for the North Korean side to reply to that agreement.

    To answer your first question about the diplomatic channels in Beijing, we confirm and recognize the existence of that sort of communication in Beijing through diplomatic channels. However, we do not reveal the details of that communication, including the frequency of the dialogue.

    Related Information (12th Round of the Japan-North Korea Normalization Talks (Evaluation and Outline))
    Related Information (Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration)
  5. Question concerning the statement on refugees by Mrs. Sadako Ogata

    Q: This touches upon a totally different subject. Over the weekend, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations along with various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) held a seminar on accepting refugees and this was covered by several media. My question is regarding a statement read by the organizers from Sadako Ogata, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She made a very strong assertion against Japan's reluctance to accept refugees. I was wondering if you have any comments on this. I understand that this is a matter that is dealt with by the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, but could this also be developing into a diplomatic issue?

    Mr. Takashima: You are quite right to say that this refugee issue has to first be handled by the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau. However, having said that, let me say a few words on it. Firstly, we recognize and know that Mrs. Ogata made that statement at the meeting, and we have read the press report on that.

    There are several ways to measure the degree of admittance of refugees to a country. So far, judging from the number of applications made, the acceptance rate in Japan is not as low as you may think, but the percentage is about the international average. That is the basic position of the Government of Japan. However, at the same time, the Government of Japan, especially the Ministry of Justice, is reviewing the refugee policy in general. This review, when it is concluded, may lead to some amendment or revision of the Japanese policy vis-a-vis refugee issues. Currently however, I can only say that we are studying the situation. If necessary, we will implement necessary reforms based upon the results of that review.

    Related Information (Refugees)

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