Press Conference 18 April 2003

  1. Assistance to Iraq by Japanese civilians through the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) of the United States of America
  2. Telephone conversation between the Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush of the United States
  3. Visit to Japan by Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
  4. Questions concerning reopening of Embassy of Japan in Baghdad
  5. Questions concerning upcoming multilateral talks involving North Korea
  6. Question concerning dispatch of Japanese civilians to ORHA
  7. Questions concerning cost of reconstruction of Iraq
  8. Question concerning Iraqi debt to Japan
  9. Question concerning possible attendance by Japanese Government officials at upcoming Boao Forum for Asia

  1. Assistance to Iraq by Japanese civilians through the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) of the United States of America

    Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming. Today I have three announcements to make at the outset.

    The first announcement is that the Government of Japan today decided to dispatch four or five civilians to Iraq to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) which was set up by the Government of the United States of America to administer Iraq until a new Iraqi administration is established. For the time being, it will be four or five personnel, and the number will be increased in accordance with the local situation.

    The purpose of this dispatch is for these civilians to cooperate with the work of ORHA, especially in the fields of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction work in Iraq. The personnel will be selected from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant ministries of the Government of Japan as well as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and private corporations. We expect that these personnel will join the ORHA office in Baghdad and other cities if necessary at the end of April or early May.

    At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering the early return of Japanese diplomats to Baghdad to reopen our Embassy there. We hope that this will enable Japan to have better and closer coordination with ORHA and other organizations in Baghdad and to make Japanese assistance to the Iraqi effort to rebuild the nation more effective.

    Related Information (Assistance to Iraq by Japanese Civilians through the ORHA (U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance))
  2. Telephone conversation between the Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush of the United States

    Mr. Takashima: The second announcement is about the telephone conversation between the leaders of Japan and the United States.

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had a telephone conversation with President George W. Bush on 16 April, in which Prime Minister Koizumi stated that he was pleased that the military action was nearing its end and that Japan would play an active role in the humanitarian and reconstruction assistance effort in Iraq together with the international community, including the United Nations.

    President Bush expressed the appreciation of the United States for Prime Minister Koizumi's support over the issue of Iraq and for the humanitarian assistance of up to US$ 100 million that Japan had recently pledged.

    The two leaders also discussed issues concerning North Korea, and President Bush said that the US was making progress to enter in multilateral talks with North Korea in the near future and that he believed that it was important to get Japan and the Republic of Korea involved in this dialogue in the future.

    Prime Minister Koizumi responded that should the three-party talks be realized, he would welcome it as a step toward a peaceful solution of the issue. He said that he hoped that the meeting would evolve in the future into multilateral talks that include Japan and the Republic of Korea, and that he wished to continue the close coordination with the United States, as well as the Japan-US-Republic of Korea tripartite coordination.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  3. Visit to Japan by Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

    Mr. Takashima: The third announcement is about the visit to Japan by Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

    The Foreign Minister of East Timor, Dr. Horta, will be visiting Japan as a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 23 to 26 April.

    During his stay, he will be meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi and other Government officials to discuss bilateral issues, including Japanese assistance to East Timor.

    Related Information (Japan-Timor-Leste Relations)
  4. Questions concerning reopening of Embassy of Japan in Baghdad

    Q: You mentioned the reopening of the Embassy in Baghdad. How many people would that involve sending back to the Iraqi capital?

    Mr. Takashima: We do not yet have a specific number for the personnel needed to operate the reopened Embassy. Prior to the evacuation, I believe that there were four diplomats. They evacuated Baghdad prior to the beginning of military action, and we are considering sending them back to Baghdad as soon as possible.

    Q: Do you know what condition the Embassy is actually in?

    Mr. Takashima: The Embassy was actually looted recently, and almost all the equipment was stolen. Therefore, it will take time to restore the Embassy to its normal operational status.

    Q: Do you know approximately when those personnel may be sent back?

    Mr. Takashima: We are considering dispatching an investigative team to the Embassy and then bringing all of them back to Baghdad. However, no date has been set yet.

    Q: Would they be sent from Jordan?

    Mr. Takashima: The diplomats concerned are all in Amman in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

    Q: So the investigative team will also be sent from there?

    Mr. Takashima: That is what we are considering.

    Q: You mentioned that one of their duties would be to help coordinate any help that Japan may give to Iraq, to coordinate the rehabilitation of the country. In terms of the Japanese nationals actually in Iraq now, how many are there exactly?

    Mr. Takashima: We understand that more than 60 Japanese are there currently, and most of them are members of press.

    Q: How many are so-called human shields?

    Mr. Takashima: I believe only three are remaining there and they will be leaving sooner or later.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
  5. Questions concerning upcoming multilateral talks involving North Korea

    Q: On a slightly different topic, what are Japan's hopes for the coming talks among the US, North Korea and China? What would you want to see come out of that at this stage?

    Mr. Takashima: We welcome this three-party meeting to be held in Beijing shortly, because we regard this meeting as an initial step toward the diplomatic and peaceful solution of the North Korean nuclear issue. In addition, by showing the North Koreans' intention to participate in this three-party dialogue, we hope that they will show willingness to restart talks on the normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea, which have been stalled since last October.

    Q: Officials of Japan, the US and the Republic of Korea are meeting today in Washington, D.C. I believe that it is Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly from the US side. This meeting is before the multilateral talks in Beijing next week. What will be the nature of the talks? Also, when all these talks are finished, probably on Wednesday, will the US then debrief Japan on the contents of those talks, and would it be possible that James Kelly will come to Japan afterwards to talk with Minister for Foreign Affairs Kawaguchi about the talks in Beijing?

    Mr. Takashima: To answer the first part of your questions, today's meeting in Washington is to have further coordination of the policies vis-à-vis North Korea among Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States. We are expecting to have a detailed explanation of the American policy or intention with regard to their forthcoming meeting with North Korea and the People's Republic of China. Furthermore, we will share with them our view on these talks, including the strong wish of Japan to be involved with the Republic of Korea in this multilateral dialogue as soon as possible.

    To answer the second part of your questions, we are confident that we will be fully debriefed on the content and outcome of the discussion the United States, China and North Korea will have afterwards. However, I have no idea whether Assistant Secretary of State Kelly will be coming to Japan, because nothing has been decided yet.

    Q: Will you actually send officials to Beijing to just sit on the sidelines?

    Mr. Takashima: Not that I know of.

    Q: Will any Japanese Embassy officials, not particularly to be allowed to be present at the talks, but be around to get an idea of what is being discussed?

    Mr. Takashima: Just as reporters, somebody will be around. My understanding is that it is a closed-door meeting among the United States, China and North Korea.

    Q: I understand that the basis of this new compromise is the concept of what some people have described as "bilateral negotiation within a multilateral framework." Is that something that sounds familiar? And is that something that was discussed with Japan ahead of the planned meeting?

    Mr. Takashima: My understanding is that the tripartite discussion will be fully participated in by all those three parties. China will be an active participant in the discussion. Therefore, this will be the beginning of multilateral talks - starting with three parties - and we are very much hopeful that this will be expanded later.

    Indeed, during the telephone conversation with Prime Minister Koizumi on 16 April, President Bush said that he was also expecting Japan and the Republic of Korea to be involved in future discussions.

    Q: Is there an understanding that down the road in this multilateral framework, North Korea and the United States will ultimately engage in bilateral negotiations?

    Mr. Takashima: There will be various types of encounters within the framework of multilateral talks. We expect that the North Koreans will be able to meet with the American delegation at some stage. Similarly, Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun of North Korea had direct talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States in the State of Brunei Darussalam last year when they both participated at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held there.

    Q: That was before October, was it not?

    Mr. Takashima: Yes, it was in July.

    Q: I understand Japan has been encouraging the United States to meet bilaterally with North Korea. Is that true up until now?

    Mr. Takashima: Not necessarily encouraging, but any form of discussion between Japan and North Korea, or North Korea and the United States, or among three parties or six parties is welcomed by Japan because we believe that North Korea should be once again brought back into discussion in order to resolve the nuclear issue and other issues, peacefully and diplomatically.

    Q: In recent days, there have been strong messages coming from Washington regarding this three-party meeting. One was that the United States wants the dismantling of the entire nuclear weapons program, to just yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had talked to officials of the Department of Defense saying that there would be no reward to North Korea for showing up at the table. How does Japan respond to that?

    Mr. Takashima: We are also urging North Korea to dismantle all their nuclear weapon development programs and also not to restart the reprocessing plant. One of the key elements in the discussion between Japan and North Korea is to resolve these security issues peacefully and diplomatically, along with the abduction cases, before reaching the full normalization of relations between our two countries. Beyond that, the US Government has its own policies, as does the Japanese Government. So we do not make any comments on what the American side may be doing.

    However, as I have said before, Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea are fully coordinating our policies, and consulting with each other very closely, so the American policy would be known to Japan through the tripartite discussion to be held today in Washington, D.C.

    Q: How high on the agenda is the abduction issue for the eventual multilateral talks? Will that be a sticking point for Japan? Does Japan accept a resolution with North Korea without the resolution of the abduction issue?

    Mr. Takashima: We made it very clear that without resolving these abduction cases in a satisfactory manner to Japan, it is simply impossible for us to finalize the normalization talks. Thus, this is high on the agenda as far as we are concerned. We are hopeful that this Japanese position will be made known to North Korea through various channels, although we have already been telling them through the various existing channels. This is a very serious matter, and we hope that this seriousness would be recognized by the North Koreans.

    Q: How serious is public opinion in influencing your policy with North Korea?

    Mr. Takashima: This is not only public opinion but also the view of the Government of Japan, since Japanese nationals have been abducted in such a manner that is quite unacceptable to Japan. Therefore, we are requesting formally to North Korea to come up with more information on so-called deceased abductees and the return of the families of five abductees who are currently in Japan.

    Q: Has there been any progress?

    Mr. Takashima: Unfortunately not, and we are urging them to respond positively.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  6. Question concerning dispatch of Japanese civilians to ORHA

    Q: Going back to Iraq, I believe that last week at the press conference, you said that the Government of Japan would have to assess the nature of ORHA and what relation to military action it would have and what the involvement of the international community would be. I was wondering whether these issues have been cleared.

    Mr. Takashima: The office in charge of legal affairs made a study and concluded that dispatching civilians to the Office of Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance is legal within the framework of the Japanese legal system. Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government itself concluded that an early dispatch of personnel to ORHA would enable us to have a better idea of what sort of assistance we could provide to help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of postwar Iraq. Moreover, we would also be in a better position to coordinate our assistance effort with the international efforts so far, for which the leading role has been taken by the United States.

    Q: Would their job be purely to assess? If you like, to make a feasibility study or what have you on what needs to be done or what Japan could be doing? From what their investigations come up with, would that eventually lead to perhaps an estimate of the cost of reconstruction?

    Mr. Takashima: One of the purposes of dispatching civilian personnel to ORHA is to have a closer look and coordination with that Office in terms of making assessments, as well as actual coordination of the work to be done by ORHA and the possible Japanese participation in that work.

    In addition, the assessment of the necessary cost for the reconstruction of the nation, of Iraq itself, would be done primarily by international institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This will also be closely monitored and participated in by Japanese officials.

    Q: In deciding on who is going to be sent, what kind of people will be dispatched? What are the criteria for choosing who will go? What will the expertise be of the people?

    Also, when they are actually in ORHA, what kind of position will they have in the organization? What kind of seniority? And, will they work as a separate kind of Japanese group, or will they work very closely with the US officials?

    Mr. Takashima: The selection is currently under way within the Government of Japan of who should be dispatched and from which ministry or department. We are considering to select so-called experts who have sufficient expertise and enough career experience to work with American officials in ORHA. Currently, discussion of the selection is under way within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as other governmental agencies, such as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

    Related Information (Assistance to Iraq by Japanese Civilians through the ORHA (U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance))
  7. Questions concerning cost of reconstruction of Iraq

    Q: I am curious about Japan's role in the rebuilding of Iraq. I am wondering whether there have been any numbers discussed beyond the US$ 100 million in humanitarian aid. What kind of price tag do you expect the Government to pay? And comparing that to the first Gulf War when there was a considerable contribution by Japan in the amount of US$ 13 billion, I am wondering whether we are looking at something of a comparable level this time. What kind of numbers is being kicked around?

    Mr. Takashima: The US$ 100 million figure represents the response by the Government of Japan to the calls from United Nations agencies, the so-called Flash Appeal for the Humanitarian Requirements of the Iraq Crisis. However, this is not for the reconstruction.

    For the reconstruction, we do not expect the sum to reach the enormous amount of money involved during the previous Gulf War because of the current economic and fiscal conditions of Japan, where we have a huge budget deficit. We will make our best effort to assist in the reconstruction of postwar Iraq. As far as a price tag is concerned, since no assessment or estimate has been made available yet - and this should be done by international organizations such as the World Bank and the UNDP - we are waiting for their calculations of the estimated cost.

    Indeed the war is still going on, and there has been no announcement of the conclusion of military action. Therefore, it is a little premature for us to come up with any fixed figures or even a rough estimate.

    Q: In 1991, a lot of that US$ 13 billion was to help pay for the military cost of the war?

    Mr. Takashima: The Constitution of Japan prohibits Japan from participating in military action. Therefore, the Government of Japan decided not to pay the cost of military items, for example, for bullets or bombs. At the time of the previous Gulf War, the money was earmarked for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Kuwait, humanitarian assistance and personnel expenses for the nations that participated in the military action at that time and for various assistance to the neighboring countries affected by the war. This will also be the case this time around. For this current Iraqi war, the Japanese Government will make it very clear that the money should not be used for direct military expenses.

    Q: However, it could be used for the payroll of US soldiers?

    Mr. Takashima: We hope not. During the Gulf War, we discussed this issue with the countries concerned, and they agreed that they would honor the Japanese request of how the money should be used.

    Q: Does that come out of JICA? Or where does it come from?

    Mr. Takashima: The US$ 100 million amount is from the Government budget.

    Q: Right out of the budget?

    Mr. Takashima: Yes.

    Q: Will any future contributions be some sort of aid program?

    Mr. Takashima: For example, in addition to the US$ 100 million for humanitarian assistance, we also provided, again, US$ 100 million to Jordan to help them cope with the economic hardship they are suffering due to this military action. In total, the amount so far pledged by the Japanese Government is more than US$ 200 million, about US$ 203 million.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
  8. Question concerning Iraqi debt to Japan

    Q: This morning, Minister of Finance Masajuro Shiokawa made a few comments about forgiving Iraqi debt. He actually said that Iraq should repay its debt to Japan and other nations because it can afford to do so without any problems, and there will be a meeting of the Paris Club on 23 or 24 April. Could you confirm that date?

    Mr. Takashima: I am not quite sure of the exact date, but a Paris Club meeting will be held soon in Paris under the chairmanship of the French Ministry of Treasury.

    The issue of Iraqi debt is primarily handled by the Ministry of Finance, so I would refer you to them. We understand that this issue will be discussed internationally.

    Q: The actual amount of debt seems to be unclear. Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Hitoshi Tanaka mentioned that it was around US$ 6 billion, Mr. Taku Yamasaki from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said around US$ 7 billion, and this morning, Minister Shiokawa said around US$ 8 billion. Do you know how much the actual amount is?

    Mr. Takashima: I do not have the exact figure either, but my understanding is that it is 600 billion yen, which is about US$ 5 billion yen at the current exchange rate.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
  9. Question concerning possible attendance by Japanese Government officials at upcoming Boao Forum for Asia

    Q: With regard to the upcoming Boao Forum on the island of Boao in China, is there any plan for the Prime Minister or any other Government officials to attend?

    Mr. Takashima: Nothing has been decided on who will represent Japan at the Boao Forum this year. Whether or not Prime Minister Koizumi will attend once again has also not been decided.

    Q: Are preparations being made now?

    Mr. Takashima: This matter is primarily handled by the Prime Minister's Office, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not received any information so far.

    Related Information (Boao Forum for Asia)

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