Press Conference 8 April 2003

  1. Task Force on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance to Iraq
  2. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the People's Republic of China
  3. Follow-up questions concerning reconstruction assistance to Iraq
  4. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's upcoming visit to Europe
  5. Questions concerning North Korea
  6. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's visit to China
  7. Question concerning travel advisory in connection with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

  1. Task Force on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance to Iraq

    Assistant Press Secretary Jiro Okuyama: Good afternoon. At the outset, I have two announcements to make.

    For the first announcement, I would like to mention that the establishment within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of a Task Force on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance to Iraq was announced yesterday. This task force will be attached to the Director General for Middle East and African Affairs and will be coordinated by the recently appointed Ambassador in Charge of Reconstruction Assistance to Iraq, Mr. Fumiaki Takahashi.

    The task force held its first meeting with the attendance of Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi yesterday. The jobs of the task force will be firstly, to coordinate Japan's assistance in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction to Iraq; secondly, to liaise and coordinate with the various domestic governmental agencies concerned; thirdly, to liaise and coordinate with foreign governments and international institutions; and fourthly, to engage with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

    I would like to take this opportunity to map out Japan's basic stance on humanitarian and reconstruction assistance vis-à-vis the situation in Iraq. We believe that rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq and the stability of civil life there will be important not only for the Iraqi people but also for the stability of the entire Middle East region. The success or failure thereof is a matter which directly affects the national interests of Japan for two reasons: one, the Middle East is a major producer of energy in the world; and two, the region will have great impact on Islamic countries in general. Therefore, we would like to engage ourselves actively in this task and make positive contributions to this end in close consultation and cooperation with related countries, the United Nations and other international organizations concerned.

    In order for us to do this, we believe that the following five principles are important: firstly, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq should be maintained; secondly, the governing regime of Iraq should be decided by the Iraqi people themselves, and good governance in Iraq should be established by the Iraqi people; thirdly, international collaboration and cooperation should be sought through sufficient involvement of the United Nations to implement humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq; fourthly, drawing upon its own experience in the past relating to rehabilitation and reconstruction, Japan will engage itself in a seamless manner in various phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction on the way to full-scale reconstruction; and lastly, Japan will call on the active participation of the private sector, including NGOs.

    As Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi announced on 4 April, she is planning to visit Great Britain, the French Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, which are playing an important role amidst the existence of various opinions within the international community on the issue of Iraq. Foreign Minister Kawaguchi will explain the five principles I have just mentioned and will engage in exchanges of views with the Foreign Ministers of the three countries. We expect that she will meet Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer of Germany on 10 April, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw of the United Kingdom on 11 April, and the appointment with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique De Villepin of France is under coordination at the moment(*). As mentioned, she will leave for Europe Wednesday evening.

    (*)now confirmed on 10 April

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
  2. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the People's Republic of China

    Mr. Okuyama: The second announcement is about Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's visit to the People's Republic of China.

    Foreign Minister Kawaguchi has just returned from China, and yesterday she held a number of meetings, including with State Councillor (and former Foreign Minister) Tang Jiaxuan, and a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao. To be succinct, through these two meetings as well as the meeting with current Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Zhaoxing, which took place earlier, both sides agreed on the importance of high-level exchanges between the two countries for the furtherance of bilateral ties between the two countries.

    In the meeting with Premier Wen, there was no discussion on the international situation. Their discussion only focused on bilateral relations, whereas in the meeting with State Councillor Tang, they discussed Iraq and North Korea. I will briefly mention to you what was said about these two points. On Iraq, Mr. Tang said that he is concerned with the emergence of humanitarian issues as a result of the expansion of the war and also the possible impact on the world economy. He believed that the issues in the aftermath of the war should be dealt with within the framework of the United Nations. He also said that the authority and the role of the United Nations Security Council will need to be maintained and that the UN should continue to play a sufficient role in the whole affair.

    On North Korea, Mr. Tang stated that it has been the constant position of China that a solution through dialogue should be sought which is aimed at a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the realization of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. He highly values the efforts made by Japan for the peaceful solution of this issue, and he expressed his opposition to the emergence of nuclear weapons and war in the Korean Peninsula.

    In response, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi said that Japan is appreciative of China's efforts and that it shares the same view with China on the pursuit of a peaceful solution of this issue and also on the opposition to the emergence of nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula.

    Related Information (Visit to the People's Republic of China by Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister for Foreign Affairs)
    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  3. Follow-up questions concerning reconstruction assistance to Iraq

    Q: In regard to the reconstruction, Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States of America said yesterday that the war is drawing to a close, so now they can have a better idea on what kind of reconstruction needs to be done in Iraq, and it is easier for them to assess what kind of damage has been done and therefore what needs to done. You said that Japan has set up this task force headed by Ambassador Takahashi. Have you any idea now of how much reconstruction as a whole may cost the international community and what percentage of this Japan may consider taking on?

    Mr. Okuyama: We think that even with the current turn of events over Iraq with the coalition forces there, it is a little too premature to predict what the entire rehabilitation and reconstruction cost will be in the aftermath of military action. Right now, what we are doing is closely studying the UN Flash Appeal for the Humanitarian Requirements of the Iraq Crisis now with us, of which the amount is US$ 2.2 billion. We are still checking what the specific items involved are organization by organization since it is a consolidated appeal. As the situation develops, we are considering what we can do in response to this emergency appeal. However, this only relates to the humanitarian assistance portion of the whole picture which is to come. If I may repeat, at the moment, we have no definite calculation of how much the cost of the whole reconstruction will be.

    Q: Of the US$ 2.2 billion in humanitarian assistance, do you have any idea what part of that Japan will take on? I know that there has been talk that you consider Japan's contribution to the UN budget, but is there any idea of what part of that amount will be Japan's?

    Mr. Okuyama: We are still in the midst of inter-agency coordination, so at the moment we cannot say even roughly how much.

    Q: When will you make the decision?

    Mr. Okuyama: We are trying certainly to strike an appropriate timing for the announcement to be made, but I cannot say now exactly when.

    Q: With regard to the task force, how many people are involved in that?

    Mr. Okuyama: I do not have the exact number, but it is led by Ambassador Takahashi, and also one deputy-director-level person from each of the departments concerned, so overall there are at least nine. The departments are the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, the Foreign Policy Bureau, the Arms Control and Scientific Affairs Department, the Multilateral Cooperation Department, the North American Affairs Bureau, the Economic Bureau, the Economic Cooperation Bureau, the Intelligence and Analysis Bureau, and the Treaties Bureau. In adding up the number, of course, you have to consider the superstructure, such as the Foreign Minister, two Senior Vice-Ministers, and three Parliamentary Secretaries, Vice-Minister, relevant Director Generals and others. All these people are involved. However, as far as the main body of the task force is concerned, it is from Ambassador Takahashi down to the representatives of these bureaus. They cannot work independently and will form a group as a kind of coordinating body. At the same time, each bureau that I named will activate their human resources to help with the process, so it will actually involve all the staff members of these bureaus and departments.

    Q: In terms of financing, initially, will, for example, the UN Flash Appeals be funded through the official development assistance (ODA) budget? So if Japan, for instance, decides to pay US$ 500 million for humanitarian assistance, where would that money come from?

    Mr. Okuyama: Technically speaking, since the region under discussion is composed entirely of developing countries, the funding would come from the ODA budget. That is how the Japanese budget is made. If it involves assisting advanced countries, that would be non-ODA budget.

    Q: If the ODA budget for this year is about US$ 4 billion, does that mean that you would have to cut back on other ODA projects in order to fund humanitarian assistance there?

    Mr. Okuyama: That is something that we shall have to see. That is a point that we need to consider, but no decision has yet been made.

    Q: It is quite easy to understand why you cannot put a number on how much your assistance is going to be because the war is still ongoing and destruction is continuously taking place in Iraq. We see reports every day that there are a lot of civilians and property being destroyed because of the bombing. Do you think that in order to make a comprehensive policy of reconstruction it would be better to ask for a stopping of the destruction and try to solve the issue in a different manner? Otherwise, the destruction will be as overwhelming as it appears on television, so Japan might be more convincing in appearing that it is trying to prevent more destruction before it starts talking about how to rebuild Iraq.

    Mr. Okuyama: I would rather refrain from commenting on the operational aspects of what is happening in Iraq, but certainly it has been the constant position and the very strongly announced position of the Government of Japan, that we would like to see this war come to an end as early as possible and also with minimum civilian and military casualties.

    Q: In order to achieve that, did you make any appeal to the American or British forces?

    Mr. Okuyama: We have done so as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi directly mentioned the matter to President George W. Bush in the telephone conversation with him. In addition, as Prime Minister Koizumi has said on many occasions through his public appearances, it has been his constant wish. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi had a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Powell of the United States last Friday, and she reiterated Japan's stance to him. I cannot predict what kind of exchanges Foreign Minister Kawaguchi will have with the foreign ministers of the three countries, but I am certain that Japan's position will be conveyed once again directly to the Governments of the UK, Germany and France.

    Q: Did Japan publicly call for the surrender of Iraq in this war?

    Mr. Okuyama: I understand from the press report that Prime Minister Koizumi referred to this recently, but I do not have the exact quote.

    Q: Is it normal Japanese foreign policy to call on another government to surrender in a certain war?

    Mr. Okuyama: Although I do not have the exact quote, I think that it was another expression of Prime Minister Koizumi's sincere wish that the war should come to an end as soon as possible with minimum casualties.

    Q: Are you considering in your assistance that governments that did not support the war not get as much as governments that did support the war?

    Mr. Okuyama: I would rather not speculate on this. We have heard the various remarks made by the governmental officials of the US and the UK as well as other governments. What each country does at what phase of this continuous process is something that we do not see, and since there are discussions now ongoing, we cannot really speculate.

    Q: When you talk about the "sufficient role of the United Nations", what exactly do you mean by "sufficient role"?

    Mr. Okuyama: When Foreign Minister Kawaguchi first referred to her plans to visit the three countries subject to the approval of the Diet, she said that she would go to these countries to gauge the mood of each country. Right now, there are different views which are being floated, and some of them are changing, so it is not enough for us to just sit back and watch the television screen to judge what the British and the American position is. Direct contact and in-depth discussion is absolutely necessary for us to get the views from these countries.

    We have our five principles, one of which is sufficient UN engagement, and we just leave it there because to see where the international consensus will go is an important mission that Foreign Minister Kawaguchi has. So we will submit these five principles and see what their reaction is.

    Q: You mentioned the help of the private sector, does that also include corporations on top of NGOs?

    Mr. Okuyama: These are very general terms. We do not mean to connote commercial interests. What we are saying is NGOs, civil society groups, and perhaps private organizations. When we refer to the private sector, we do not necessarily mean commercial interests. That is not what we mean but we would like to form a kind of all-Japan team because sometimes we have been criticized for lack of coordination and cooperation with NGOs and civil society groups in general. We are in the formative stage of cultivating our relationships with NGOs, so that is the first thing that we have to do.

    Q: Would there be a possibility, for example, as with Afghanistan, that Japan may host a similar kind of rehabilitation and reconstruction conference in Tokyo to get all major players in one place and plan for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq? Is that an idea?

    Mr. Okuyama: There is no such idea at all at the moment.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
    Related Information (Special Announcement by the Press Secretary (April 4))
  4. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's upcoming visit to Europe

    Q: On the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, yesterday the two agreed on the basic framework of a tentative Government of Iraq. It seems that British and American forces will temporarily be in charge and take the leadership in the country. Will Foreign Minister Kawaguchi point out her opinions on how the government should be formed during her meetings, specifically with Mr. Straw?

    Mr. Okuyama: I think the chronological order is that first, we would like to know what comes out of the US-UK summit talks of which the results are yet to be announced. We expect that to happen later today, Japan time. We need to glean information, perhaps indirectly or directly, from the talks and then see what we will bring to Europe.

    Q: At the moment, which view would you say that Japan is closest to? Which nation's, the American or the British position or what have you? Which one does Japan agree with most at this stage?

    Mr. Okuyama: We are in favor of sufficient UN involvement. As long as there are countries that advocate sufficient UN involvement, I think we are in a good position to form a common view with these countries. Right now, very few people - I am not quite sure if there is any country - are calling for no UN involvement at all. However, I would rather not say with which country we feel affinity and with which country we feel distance.

  5. Questions concerning North Korea

    Q: On North Korea, next week the families of the abductees will be visiting New York, and a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be accompanying them. What is the stance right now of the Government of Japan in resolving this issue? Can you update us on what the current status is?

    Mr. Okuyama: First of all, we are interested in the outcome of the informal consultation to be held at the UN Security Council on 9 April and what is going to happen to North Korea's status in terms of their membership to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As far as Japan's stance vis-à-vis North Korea goes, we still believe that the Japan-Democratic People's Republic of Korea Pyongyang Declaration provides us with the best avenue to solve the pending issues in a comprehensive manner, including the issue of abductees, which is a high priority of the Government of Japan.

    We are also watching very carefully developmens on the Korean Peninsula. In recent days, we have not seen signs of any movement on the part of North Korea apart from press reports that Chairman Kim Jong Il reappeared after a prolonged absence. In any case, we would like to see some progress in the normalization talks. Our door is always open, and we are willing to discuss various issues with them, including the issue of abduction.

    Q: I have a question on principle. China is a nuclear power, and it has weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, yet Japan gives it assistance and ODA. On the other hand, North Korea is not yet a nuclear power, but Japan is taking a rather aggressive policy toward it according to your own description. Why does Japan not regard both countries with the same standard of countries that own weapons of mass destruction?

    Mr. Okuyama: North Korea has declared its intention to withdraw from the NPT, and we have serious concerns about the possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That is a situation which is totally different from the situation relating to China, and the ODA issue is another. We cannot bring how we deal with North Korea into a kind of equation with our response to China.

    Q: Does that mean you consider North Korea as a threat but not China, despite the fact that North Korea is not officially on the nuclear powers list?

    Mr. Okuyama: The self-defense capabilities and policy of Japan has various aims. First of all, they are exclusively for self-defense, and Japan will never have an offensive posture. However, the defense policy is based on various possible factors relating to the neighboring regions of Japan, and North Korea certainly is a concern, and right now, it is a rather big concern.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
    Related Information (Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration)
  6. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's visit to China

    Q: Did Foreign Minister Kawaguchi invite the Chinese premier to visit Japan?

    Mr. Okuyama: She handed over a personal letter from Prime Minister Koizumi to Chinese Premier Wen. I cannot go into the details, but the letter includes three basic points: first, to congratulate him on his new appointment; second, to reinforce bilateral ties; and third, to ask him to visit Japan at the earliest possible time.

    Q: There was a report on Kyodo News that Premier Wen would visit Japan only if Prime Minister Koizumi promised not to visit Yasukuni Shrine. Is that right?

    Mr. Okuyama: What he said was that in order to bring about the mutual high-level visits, both sides should earnestly work together to create a good atmosphere. He was appreciative of the invitation from Prime Minister Koizumi, and he hoped that Prime Minister Koizumi would visit China in an appropriate atmosphere. He is trying to see as many Japanese guests as possible.

    Q: So Yasukuni was not specifically mentioned?

    Mr. Okuyama: There was no mention of Yasukuni in Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's meeting with Premier Wen or State Councillor Tang, although the name came up during the meeting with Foreign Minister Li.

    Q: Why was that?

    Mr. Okuyama: Foreign Minister Li said that learning lessons from history in order to build the future is a basic principle on which Japan-China relations should be developed. He regarded the issue of Yasukuni as a matter which hurts the feelings of the Chinese people. Of course, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi explained that Prime Minister Koizumi's intention is to reaffirm Japan's vow never to resort to war, and that it is with this pledge for peace in mind that he visits Yasukuni Shrine.

    Q: Do you understand it that the Chinese side wants some assurance in regard to Yasukuni?

    Mr. Okuyama: Please ask the Chinese side.

    Related Information (Visit to the People's Republic of China by Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister for Foreign Affairs)
    Related Information (Historical Issues)
  7. Question concerning travel advisory in connection with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

    Q: In regard to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued travel advisories on Friday in regard to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and various other destinations. Since then, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare cleared all the suspected infections of SARS. Do you have any information about any new suspect cases in Japan and are there any plans to add any other destinations on travel advisories or travel warnings?

    Mr. Okuyama: As far as the suspected cases are concerned, I am not updated on the numbers. I stated yesterday what the travel advice is for all regions and countries. The situation is being constantly reviewed, but at the moment there are no plans to add other cities, regions or countries.

    Related Information (WHO | World Health Organization)other site

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