Press Conference 18 February 2005

  1. Upcoming Japan-US Security Consultative Committee Meeting, Japan-US Foreign Ministerial Talks, and other meetings
  2. Emergency grant aid to the Palestinian Territories
  3. Status of Okinotorishima island
  4. Question concerning Japan-US-ROK trilateral cooperation
  5. Follow-up question concerning upcoming Japan-US Security Consultative Committee Meeting

  1. Upcoming Japan-US Security Consultative Committee Meeting, Japan-US Foreign Ministerial Talks, and other meetings

    Assistant Press Secretary Akira Chiba: Thank you very much for coming to today's briefing. Before taking questions, I would like to give some announcements.

    First, Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura will be leaving this evening to the United States of America (US). Foreign Minister Machimura will attend the Security Consultative Committee (SCC, or so-called "2+2" Meeting), as well as Japan-US Foreign Ministerial Talks, and other meetings.

    The Committee will exchange views on such current security issues which need to be discussed between Japan and the US as the recognition of the security environment, common strategic aims, roles and duties, the strengthening of Japan-US security and defense cooperation including the review of the formation of US forces in Japan, the achievements and development of Japan-US security and defense cogeneration, and the stable presence of US forces in Japan.

    Taking this opportunity, Foreign Minister Machimura will have talks with Ms. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, and Mr. Stephen J. Hadley, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, to exchange views on future Japan-US relations and matters of common interest.

    Related Information (Japan-The United States Relations)
  2. Emergency grant aid to the Palestinian Territories

    Mr. Chiba: The second announcement concerns the Government of Japan's decision to provide US$30.0 million in grant for infrastructure building in the Palestinian Territories.

    On 18 February, the Government of Japan decided to implement, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Trust Fund for the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), emergency grant aid totaling US$30.0 million. This assistance will be extended as part of the US$60.0 million supplementary budget for FY2004 to support the Middle East peace process, which was set up on 1 February.

    The employment situation has worsened throughout the Palestinian Territories, especially in the Gaza district, since the eruption of clashes at the end of September 2000. Damage to the social infrastructure, including roads, is so severe that reconstruction is urgently needed to stabilize the people's livelihood. Following a United Nations (UN) unified appeal issued on 11 November last year for the Palestinian autonomous areas, this assistance will be provided for the total of five projects implemented by the UNDP: Rehabilitation of Municipal Infrastructure in Beit Hanoun and Rafah, Rehabilitation of Destroyed Agricultural Sector in Northern Gaza Strip, Paving of Internal Roads in Rural Communities, Construction of Schools and Additional Classrooms, and Upgrading of Water Supply and Distribution Systems in Rural Areas; and the two projects implemented by the UNRWA: Re-housing of Refugees Whose Shelters Were Demolished in Rafah, and Emergency Employment Creation through Rehabilitation of UNRWA Installations. It is expected that through these projects, jobs will be newly created for about 2,600 Palestinian workers, thereby largely easing the unemployment problem.

    At a time when a historic opportunity has arisen for the Middle East peace process under the new government of Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the Government of Japan hopes that such assistance will contribute to the improvement of livelihood of the Palestinians, who are facing economic difficulties, and also to strengthening of the new Abbas government. The Government of Japan intends to continue proactively extending assistance for Palestinians to solve the Palestinian problem, which is the key to the solution of the Middle East peace process.

    Related Information (Emergency Grant Aid to the Palestinian Territories)
  3. Status of Okinotorishima island

    Mr. Chiba: A question was asked earlier today concerning Okinotorishima. The island, under the Tokyo Municipal Government, has been known as an island under Japanese jurisdiction since 1931, long before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came into existence. Having ratified the Convention in 1996, Japan registered its domestic laws concerning its territorial waters, in which Okinotorishima is included as an island, to the Secretary-General of the UN in 1997. Seven years passed without a single claim.

    As recently as in 2004, a research vessel of a certain country, having violated Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by ignoring necessary procedures, was asked why it took the liberty to do so. It justified its trespassing on grounds that they construed Okinotorishima as a rock.

    Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines that "an island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide." This is exactly what Okinotorishima is.

    In the same Article, there is a paragraph stating that "rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no EEZ or continental shelf." This paragraph talks about a rock which is inhabitable and does not define what an island is. The definition of an island is spelled out in Paragraph 1, and there is no room for lay interpretation and this does not serve as a pretext for arbitrary intrusion. Vessels of a single country have been repeatedly trespassing, 18 times in the Pacific and as often as nine times around Okinotorishima alone, by defining the nature of foreign soil at their discretion.

  4. Question concerning Japan-US-ROK trilateral cooperation

    Q: I would like to ask about the trilateral cooperation between Japan, US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) for the Six-Party Talks. There are many unconfirmed reports and comments which state that the three countries are planning to hold meetings of working- or ministerial-level later next week, around 24 February. I was wondering if you can confirm that. Could you tell us the latest situation of the consultation?

    Mr. Chiba: The five parties are of the same opinion that it is very important for North Korea to come back to the table of the Six-Party Talks. For this objective, the five parties will undertake necessary cooperation. One such undertaking is now being held in the People's Republic of China to which the US and ROK have sent envoys to discuss this matter with their counterparts in China.

    As for the question you have just mentioned concerning Japan, US and ROK, we are aware of the news reports, but at this stage, nothing is decided. I should refrain from commenting on it.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations Six-Party Talks on North Korean Issues)
  5. Follow-up question concerning upcoming Japan-US Security Consultative Committee Meeting

    Q: At the "2+2" Meeting in Washington, DC, what will be discussed regarding the issue of bringing North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks?

    Mr. Chiba: Of course, Japan and the US are both parties to the Six-Party Talks, and both share a very strong commitment to this framework. Naturally, this will be discussed at the "2+2" Meeting since it is also a security matter and ministers in charge of security will be attending it.

    As to the details of the discussions, since the talks have not started yet, I wish to refrain from commenting.


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