Press Conference, 10 October 2006

  1. Dispatch of the Senior Advisor for Reconstruction and Development of Mindanao to the International Monitoring and Support Team in the Republic of the Philippines
  2. Debt Relief for the Republic of Honduras
  3. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
  4. Visit by High School Students from the Independent State of Samoa to Japan as Part of the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Student Exchange Program for the Future
  5. Questions concerning North Korea's Announcement of a Successful Nuclear Test
  6. Questions concerning the Selection of Mr. Ban Ki Moon as the Next Secretary General of the United Nations

I. Dispatch of the Senior Advisor for Reconstruction and Development of Mindanao to the International Monitoring and Support Team in the Republic of the Philippines

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Thank you very much for coming. It has been an eventful couple of days and I would be happy to take as many questions as you wish to pose, but let me just quickly walk you through the items that are new.

The first one is on dispatching a Japanese official to Mindanao, the Republic of the Philippines. Today on 10 October the Government of Japan decided to dispatch First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines Masafumi Nagaishi as Senior Advisor for Reconstruction and Development of Mindanao to the International Monitoring and Support Team (IMST) for the Mindanao Peace Process in the Philippines.

Formerly with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Mr. Nagaishi will start working later this month, stationed in the IMST headquarters in Cotabato City, Mindanao, as the leader of the socioeconomic assistance aspect of the IMST for the assessment of the needs for rebuilding the conflict-affected areas.

I must remind you that Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso visited the Philippines in late July and delivered a speech on Japan-Philippines relations. In that speech he mentioned that Japan would send an official to the IMST. I am happy to announce that his pledge is now being fulfilled and that Mr. Nagaishi is going to be the first non-Muslim member taking a leadership role in the reconstruction process of the Mindanao region.

Mr. Nagaishi is an experienced expert in areas such as disaster relief and also worked in Ache, Republic of Indonesia, when the region was hit by the devastating tsunami back in 2004.

Related Information (Press Release)

II. Debt Relief for the Republic of Honduras

Mr. Taniguchi: The second and the third items are about Japan's Official Developmental Assistance (ODA).

Firstly, with the Government of the Republic of Honduras, the Japanese Government came to an agreement to give up all the commercial credit that the Japanese Government has insured. The amount is more than 5 billion Japanese yen. The exchange of notes took place on 6 October, Honduras time.

Related Information (Japan-Honduras Relations)

III. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Mr. Taniguchi: Next, as you may recall, on 8 October 2005 a big earthquake devastated many parts of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. On the same day this year, there took place commemorative events, which included an opening ceremony for the medical operations building of the central hospital in Battagram. They constructed the facility using Japan's ODA money that is part of the 4 billion yen non-project grant assistance that the Japanese Government pledged to that country.

Related Information (Japan-Pakistan Relations)

IV. Visit by High School Students from the Independent State of Samoa to Japan as Part of the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Student Exchange Program for the Future

Mr. Taniguchi: Now, from the Independent State of Samoa, a group of six high school students came to Japan at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5 October and are scheduled to leave on 12 October. That constitutes a part of the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Student Exchange Program for the Future. Though not so large in scale, we have been doing the student exchange grogram with the Pacific Island nations for about ten years.

Related Information (Japan-Samoa Relations)

V. Questions concerning North Korea's Announcement of a Successful Nuclear Test

Q: I have been hearing that the Government of Japan has yet to confirm whether or not North Korea has actually conducted a nuclear test, but some countries are saying that is has been confirmed, for instance, the Russian Federation. How is Japan going about confirming this? Is it going to do this on its own, or is it gathering information from the United States?

Mr. Taniguchi: The Government of Japan is still trying hard to actually confirm that it was really a nuclear test. Involved Ministries and Government agencies are the Defense Agency, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Ministry of the Environment. Those are the Ministries and Governmental organizations that are conducting a host of different forms of research to detect radioactivity in the air. Possibly because the event took place underground, it has been difficult for Japan to confirm that it really was a nuclear test. As you point out, there are countries, such as Russia, that came quick to acknowledge openly that they were 100 percent sure that what happened in North Korea was in fact a nuclear test, but the Government of Japan has not yet confirmed that this was the case.

Q: Just to follow up, are you saying that the Government of Japan is trying to gather information its own? Or is it trying to get information from the United States or other neighboring countries as well?

Mr. Taniguchi: The US, I think, on its own part is also doing similar research, and of course there have been close consultation and information exchanges between Japan and the US, but the Government of Japan by itself is conducting its own research activities.

Q: We are anticipating a resolution from the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Is the Government of Japan going to make any sort of proposal before it confirms that North Korea actually conducted this nuclear test, or are they going to go ahead with some sort of proposal before that confirmation?

Mr. Taniguchi: What has happened already is that at 10:30 New York time yesterday, which was 9 October, they started the unofficial consultation meeting. By they I mean the Security Council under the chairmanship of Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Mr. Kenzo Oshima. All the participating nations on the Security Council strongly condemned the announcement by the North Korean Government about the nuclear testing. From the US, there was a suggestion about a possible resolution, and they agreed on the need to conduct expert-level meetings and consultations thereafter. That is the process which is going on now, but what actually is taking place and what kinds of proposals the Government of Japan is or is not going to propose, those are things that I cannot disclose at the moment because of a promise made among the participating nations.

Q: The New York Times has reported so-called "sniffer" planes are out there sniffing to see whether there is radioactivity in the air or not, and this in itself is an indication of the great efforts being made to establish the facts. Does the Government of Japan have a sense of how long this process is going to take to determine whether or not this was a conventional or a nuclear explosion?

Mr. Taniguchi: I have to say that there is no such thing as a Governmental view about the amount of time it may take to confirm this, but conventional wisdom would hold that it would take a couple of days; that is, two or three days. The Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK), as far as I am aware, has been saying something similar. I guess that this is going to be the case.

Q: So it is within this week that there should be a clear understanding?

Mr. Taniguchi: It is hard for me to say that everything is going to be made clear within this week, but given that if anything is in the air, it will be more difficult for anyone to detect those pollutants as time goes by...

Q: Just to follow up on the previous question, you mentioned that there needs to be an expert-level consultation. Could you go into more detail on that? What do you mean by expert-level consultations?

Mr. Taniguchi: In order for the UN Security Council to accelerate the process of thinking about resolutions or actions that are to be taken up by the Council, that is part of the normal procedure. It takes Ambassadors to make a consultation official, but there are many people in the delegations that each participating nation sends to the UN, and those are the people who are involved in thinking about what is to be done. I am referring to those unofficial meetings.

Q: I am confused on the procedure for the sanctions. There are a lot of Japanese Cabinet Ministers today saying that they are studying what sanctions will be taken by the respective ministries. Will this be done after there is a resolute Security Council action, or are there things that Japan will do that are separate from whatever the Security Council may or may not do?

Mr. Taniguchi: We are at the moment single-mindedly focused on accelerating the process on the UN Security Council floor. The first priority is for Japan to push this case onto the UN Security Council floor, and then possibly come up with a resolution, which will have to be much stronger than Resolution 1695.

Q: I believe in the Diet at the moment they are talking about North Korean issues, and I believe that later this afternoon they are going to hold some sort of election on North Korea. What does that do?

Mr. Taniguchi: I understand that that is going to be a decision by the legislative body, and it goes without saying that because of the distribution of sovereign right, the legislative body has its own say. If you are referring to a possible resolution that may come out of the House of Representatives, I think that is the House of Representatives that wants to send its own message to North Korea and to give a signal. That is separate from whatever the administration of the Government of Japan is going to do.

Q: This is a follow-up to an earlier question. Last night Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned that Japan is going to seek its own sanctions, and today there have been reports in the local media of possible sanctions planned regarding exports and imports. What is the exact scope of the sanctions that Japan is considering right now?

Mr. Taniguchi: I am afraid I cannot say anything about it. That is exactly the thing that is being discussed right now, and it is too early for anyone to disclose any components that are going to constitute the package.

Q: Just procedurally, will they have to write up new legislation in order for the sanctions to take effect?

Mr. Taniguchi: Some may take new legislation and some may not, but the Japanese Government is at the moment single-mindedly focused on what is to be done on the UN Security Council floor.

Q: With the nuclear issue reaching a new level, is there any view in the Government that the humanitarian issues regarding North Korea, namely the abduction issue, will be put on the back burner?

Mr. Taniguchi: Absolutely not. The Government of Japan, especially the current administration under Prime Minister Abe, has put enormous effort into pushing the abduction case further by combining experts and by pulling together relevant officials to set up a virtual office under the guidance of Ms. Kyoko Nakayama, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Abe's administration is very much focused on the abduction issue. But one does have to say, given that the nuclear issue has been made much more urgent because of the North Korean claim, the Government of Japan is at the moment trying to pursue the direction that I have been laying out.

Q: That means to push hard, or focus, on the nuclear issue?

Mr. Taniguchi: At the moment yes, but that does not mean that we are going to put the abduction issue on the back burner.

Q: The Chinese apparently got a 20-minute advance notification of the test from the North Koreans, and the Chinese made a call to the US Embassy to notify the United States. Was there also such notification as far as you know made to Japan as well?

Mr. Taniguchi: The Government of Japan came to know via the Government of the People's Republic of China that there might be a nuclear test at 10:30 Japan time on 9 October, which is 9:30 Beijing time.

Q: It is being reported that within North Korea forces have been moved steadily in the direction of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) over a period of years. If you go back four or five years ago and compare the present troop configuration, there is an advanced stationing of forces closer to the DMZ. Is that generally understood or agreed to be true intelligence within the Government of Japan?

Mr. Taniguchi: The simple answer to your question is that I do not know. I am aware of such reports, but I cannot deny or confirm them.

Q: Does the Government of Japan still believe in the Six-Party Talks as the only format to resolve this issue? It seems that they have not prevented yesterday's experiment.

Mr. Taniguchi: It is too early to say whether the Six-Party Talks are history. That remains the format that many nations, including Russia, China, the ROK, Japan, and the US are committed to pursuing, so that should be the one that the North Korean regime has to come back to.

Q: Coming back to the issue of the test and whether it was nuclear or conventional, I cannot recall a comparable case in a certain number of years where a similar level of doubt existed. When India tested, India tested. When Pakistan tested, Pakistan tested. It seems extraordinary that this uncertainty prevails still for the first time. Am I right that this is the first time that we have seen such uncertainty?

Mr. Taniguchi: I do not have sufficient knowledge to say yes or no to your question. The fact that it is taking more time than usual for countries such as Japan and the United States, or even the ROK, its neighbor, to confirm that the test conducted by North Korea was really a nuclear test may be the result of many factors. One of them might be that the size of the detonation may have been smaller than was anticipated, or it could be because the test took place underground. Therefore it has been hard for anyone to detect the radioactive elements in the air. There may be many reasons, but I do not know for sure.

Q: Would you agree that this degree of uncertainty is unprecedented?

Mr. Taniguchi: In order to agree with that assumption, I would have to know more about previous cases. Frankly, I do not know much about what it was like in the aftermath of India's and Pakistan's tests, for instance.

Q: There are reports that North Korea may be conducting more nuclear tests. During the time while the Japanese Government is still trying to verify whether the past test was really a nuclear detonation, how is it going to respond? Is it going to be verifying the tests that happened on Monday but also attempting to verify whether North Korea is going to conduct more tests?

Mr. Taniguchi: If indeed North Korea is going to try to do another test, that is going to be a terrible violation of the internationally accepted norms, or the unified view held by countries that include its immediate neighbors: China, the ROK, Russia, and Japan. I would like to believe that this is not going to happen, but we are remaining very watchful about what is happening, as has always been the case. I can say only that the Japanese Government, together with the Governments of the United States and other countries, is paying even keener attention to North Korea.

Q: Does the Japanese Government still view that the spirit of the Pyongyang Declaration is still intact?

Mr. Taniguchi: If you want me to say that it is no longer effective, I cannot agree with your assumption. The Pyongyang Declaration is an official Declaration agreed upon by both countries, Japan and North Korea, and by both countries' Governments. I do not think that it is no longer effective.

Also, the Pyongyang Declaration touched on many other aspects that are equally important, such as the abduction issue, which you mentioned earlier. That is one of the most important issues from the Japanese perspective, so we would urge North Korea again and again to come back to the Six-Party Talks and to reconfirm that the Pyongyang Declaration is still intact.

Q: So are you implying that it is up to the North Koreans for the Pyongyang Declaration to stay intact?

Mr. Taniguchi: That is a very good question for me to answer tactfully. It is there. The Pyongyang Declaration is still there, and the North Korean Government has never said that it is no longer intact. I would first and foremost hope that the North Korean Government comes back to the Six-Party Talks and in so doing at the same time shows that their commitment to the Declaration also remains intact.

Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

VI. Questions concerning the Selection of Mr. Ban Ki Moon as the Next Secretary General of the United Nations

Q: The next UN Secretary General is said to be Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the ROK. I was wondering, what was Japan's stance toward Mr. Ban? Was Japan supporting other representatives, for instance from Thailand or Sri Lanka?

Mr. Taniguchi: The Government of Japan has repeatedly made it clear that they would hope to have someone from the Asian region. After Mr. Ban was elected by the UN Security Council to be the next Secretary General, we think it a very happy development, given the fact that the ROK is almost the epitome of the outstanding growth that the Asian region has experienced over the past 35 years, during which time no one from the Asian region became Secretary General. The Government of Japan celebrates together with the people of the ROK the selection of Mr. Ban as the next Secretary General of the UN.

Q: What is your perception of Mr. Ban as a person and as a leader?

Mr. Taniguchi: I have not met him personally, but based on my knowledge he is a respected person and a very experienced diplomat. It would be hard for anyone not to like him.

Related Information (Japan-ROK Relations)
Related Information (Japan and United Nations)

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