Press Conference, 20 October 2006
- Visit to Japan by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani
- Japan-Viet Nam Joint Statement Available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website
- Message by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration
- Grant Aid to the Republic of Serbia
- Visit to Japan of the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Yuri Baluyevsky
- Questions concerning Plans for Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1718
- Questions concerning the Situation in the Republic of Iraq
- Question concerning the Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting between Japan, the US, and the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Mr. Taniguchi: Good afternoon and thank you again for joining me.
There is a bulletin-board notice I should first introduce, which is about the visit of Iraqi Oil Minister, Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, to Japan at the invitation of the Government of Japan.
The Iraqi Oil Minister is scheduled to come to Japan on Sunday, 22 October, and leave on Tuesday, 24 October.
During his three-day stay he is slated to meet many leaders both in government and in business. Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari and Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso both are meeting him on Monday, 23 October, subject to change. He is also meeting people in the business community extensively.
Mr. Taniguchi: Next let me remind you that on the Ministry's website the Japan-Viet Nam Joint Statement has already been made available together with a notice that negotiations on a Japan-Viet Nam Economic Partnership Agreement will start anytime soon.
III. Message by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration
Mr. Taniguchi: Another bulletin-board item is the message which Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso issued on 19 October, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration. In Japanese you can read it on the Ministry's website.
Mr. Taniguchi: There is also a press release dated 18 October about the grant aid the Government of Japan decided on that day to extend to the Republic of Serbia. The amount of money is up to 454 million Japanese yen, and it is supposed to help improve the water supply system in the city of Belgrade.
Mr. Taniguchi: The last announcement I would like to make before taking questions is about the visit of the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Yuri Baluyevsky.
General Baluyevsky came to Tokyo on Tuesday, 17 October, and spent three full days before departing to the Russian Federation earlier today, 20 October. He met Admiral Takashi Saito, Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Office of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) on the first day, 17 October, and spent two hours discussing the so-called "mil-mil" exchanges. Among the issues they discussed was the one on the situation in this part of the world. They shared each other's views on North Korea, to take just one example.
If I may add a footnote here it has been more than ten years since the then Deputy Minister of the Russian Defense Ministry came to Tokyo in March 1995 and thereby started regular visits of highest-ranking defense officials to and from the two countries. Last year Admiral Saito's predecessor, General Hajime Massaki, visited Russia. Earlier this year, Head of the Ground Self-Defense Force General Tsutomu Mori also made a visit to Russia.
The intensified relationship was demonstrated earlier this month by the visit of four vessels from the Russian Navy to the port of Maizuru in order to get engaged in the 8th Japan-Russia Joint Exercise for Maritime Search and Rescue Operations. Two destroyers, one large and the other small, one Kilo-class diesel-powered submarine, and a rescue tugboat came to join the exercise.
Q: Mr. Spokesman, may I ask you something related to the ongoing situation related to diplomacy around North Korea? Our lawmakers are in discussion about how Japan can support, for example, foreign vessels to inspect ships from and to North Korea. As of now, we have some restrictions under our constitution, and currently what kind of problems do we have with regard to that aspect if we commit to inspecting ships under our domestic law?
Mr. Taniguchi: Thank you for the question. Let me point out first that no operation that will be conducted by the Japan SDF is going to be done unless under the existing framework of various legislature. You are probably thinking of a situation whereby a law called the Law Concerning Measures to Ensure the Peace and Security of Japan in Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan will be made effective, and by extension the ship inspection operations are going to be conducted. It still is pretty much a hypothetical question, but if I should answer your question what sort of problems will exist in that case when Japan is going to conduct a ship inspection, the crux of the problem if I understand it correctly is whether the operation is going to be enforceable enough. The type of ship inspections is currently classified into seven categories: monitoring of navigation, confirmation of existence, inquiry about vessel's name and so on, onboard inspection and confirmation, request for route change, instruction to captain, approach and pursuit and so on and so forth. If you read these definitions carefully, all stipulate that the Japanese side should make requests. It is not enforceable enough. Politicians and legislators are debating whether it would be necessary for Japan to have a special law that will make it possible for the ship inspections to be enforceable as much as possible, but that is a kind of matter that is to be discussed by the Diet members, so I should not say any more in addition to what I have already said.
Q: What kind of timeframe is the Government of Japan thinking of in terms of coming up with a conclusion to this issue?
Mr. Taniguchi: There are many things that the Government of Japan could do immediately. One of them is to activate the law that I mentioned, the law about the situations in areas surrounding Japan, and the so-called situations in areas surrounding Japan. How we can define it is also divided into several categories, and the passing of the United Nations (UN) resolution calling for all the nations to impose economic sanctions against in this case North Korea is pretty much applicable to the sixth category stipulated by this law as situations in areas surrounding Japan. So the Japanese Government considers if this law can be used, and, as I said, by extension it can also use another law that is about the ship inspections, but yet again the ship inspection law is not as enforceable as might be deemed necessary.
In terms of the time frame, I cannot tell because again it is a matter that legislators are discussing. Probably they are urging themselves to move swiftly and to come up with a new law if necessary, as soon as possible, but again I am not in a position to make a prediction about how soon that will materialize.
Q: You repeatedly are saying that whether Japanese commitments are enforceable regarding ship inspection or not, taking that for granted, which points do you think could be dangerous for the SDF to conduct such activities?
Mr. Taniguchi: It is hard for me to define the situation you are talking about in one way or another, and I must speculate to some degree about what sort of situations would make it difficult or even dangerous for the SDF personnel to conduct the inspection operations against vessels, but if I read the definition stipulated by the law, the inspector must request the shipmaster of a vessel to stop the vessel in question, and with the consent of shipmasters and others, inspect and confirm the documents and the cargo on board the vessel in question that is stopped. It clearly says that it needs the consent of the shipmaster of the vessel in question, and then one should ask, if the shipmaster does not give you any consent, which I must say is likelier in those cases, what will happen, that is the matter of question, and a lot of people are thinking about how to tackle this problem.
Q: As you said, in the initial stage, maybe the Government has to declare a kind of emergency situation when the Japanese SDF troops are to commit shipping inspections, but even so there are some critics against declaring such a situation. If the Government fails to declare such an emergency, then what can Japan do? What can Japan commit to following UN Security Council Resolution 1718, and what kind of result do you think can emerge?
Mr. Taniguchi: I probably should remind the viewers of your program that it has been the Government of Japan that launched its own sanction programs earlier than anyone else, and after the Japanese Government pronounced what they will do, then came the UN resolution. In that sense, I should humbly point out that the Japanese sanctions might have served as a precursor or a harbinger for UN Resolution 1718, and so far the banning of incoming ships and the banning of personnel coming from North Korea to Japan, and the banning, effectively, of all imports from North Korea together I think have made up one of the strongest sanctions programs ever conducted by any regional government, and it seems to me that the situation looks encouraging because an increased number of countries like China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) seem to be expressing their worries about the situation in North Korea. It seems also that the Chinese Government is again willing to impose its own sanctions against North Korea. So apart from the inspection of cargo there is ample room for the international community and Japan to send a powerful message to North Korea by imposing such sanctions as those I mentioned.
Q: Does that mean that you are sure that the Government of Japan is sure to declare an emergency to make the current domestic law effective to commit ship inspections?
Mr. Taniguchi: No, I cannot say in any way that I am sure that the Japanese Government is going to do things one way or another. Everything is going to be a function of the surrounding situation, literally, but I am saying that if Japan is to go on actually conducting the inspection of cargo it is going to be made legal, because there is an existing framework of the law that I mentioned, so that is the only point that I am making. Whether the Japanese Government is going to call the situation part of the situations surrounding Japan as stipulated by the law is once again going to take a lot of elements into consideration when the Government is actually going to activate the arrangements.
Q: Could I ask on this subject, what are the major sanctions that China is taking against North Korea? Could you outline them?
Mr. Taniguchi: I can only read newspaper articles, so I am as informed as you are. I am not sure if this or that sanction is actually being imposed against North Korea, but if you look at what the Chinese Government is doing, it is clearer than at any time before that the Chinese Government is actually committed to stopping North Korea from going nuclear, and from conducting rather dangerous tests of their nuclear capacity. So I can only cite those factors, but I am not sure what sanctions the Chinese Government is or is not really imposing against North Korea.
Q: Some media have reported that there is a major plan by the Japanese and US troops regarding ship inspections. For example, the Japanese Maritime SDF will stay around Tsushima, and then US vessels will surround the Korean Peninsula, and Japan will provide kind of logistics for those US vessels. Is there any such plan around in the Government, or aside from that what is the major plan right now?
Mr. Taniguchi: I am sorry, I do not know anything about it, and even if I did know, that is the kind of thing that I cannot say as spokesperson in an official capacity.
Q: I have a question about the Republic of Iraq and the analysis of the Iraqi situation here. To be a little more specific than that, at the moment on the New York Times page one there is a link to a radio interview with Mr. John Burns, who has just returned to Baghdad after a spell out, and he is being asked how is the situation. Mr. Burns is making a number of points which I am sure will have been noted here, but the general conclusion is that the situation is not at all good, and that applies on several different fronts within Iraq now. What is the feeling here about this developing situation in Iraq, specifically Baghdad?
Mr. Taniguchi: Overall in general terms I must say that some people within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not very optimistic, but at the same time we do see the situation where hope still exists. There is the possibility that the fledgling administration of Iraq may grow with the help and support of the international community. You may call it wishful thinking, but we still hope that that is a remaining possibility, and as I said, soon the Iraqi Oil Minister is coming to Japan after his tour in Australia, and he is scheduled to go to the People's Republic of China after spending a couple of days in Japan. The prime purpose for his visit of course is to sell the possibility that there is hope in the oil industries in Iraq, and therefore you must invest in our oil industry; that is the powerful message that he has promised to give to the business community here in Japan.
The number of people he is scheduled to meet is impressive, a whole array of business leaders, including heads of the major trading companies, and so he is in a position to say to Japan that you must feel at ease to invest in our industry, so that is one message. He said the same to the Commonwealth of Australia, and he will also say the same to the Chinese oil industry people as well. You must have an economic engine that is working in order for you to stabilize the situation, so we understand that his visit is going to be an important one, and I hope that the Japanese business community is going to be even more supportive of Iraq developing the oil industry. But I should not deny the obvious fact that there still have been suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in Iraq, especially, as you point out, in Baghdad, so we have heightened our effort to provide, for instance, security to the Japanese Embassy people. That testifies that we are not relaxed at all in looking at the situation, which I admit is deteriorating not ameliorating.
VIII. Question concerning the Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting between Japan, the US, and the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Q: Regarding the foreign ministers' meeting, how do you evaluate the results? We saw that both ministers confirmed their commitment to the alliance, and if there is anything that you would like to add to what they have achieved I would like to hear it. Secondly, did US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk about the additional sanctions by the Japanese Government?
Mr. Taniguchi: About the last point, she was not specific about any kind of sanctions of any Government, Japanese or Korean, but the prevailing atmosphere was pretty much summarized by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the ROK Ban Ki-Moon's statement that the gathering of the three foreign ministers from South Korea, Japan, and the US has been long overdue, and it has been quite some time since the three of them got together and engaged in a very extensive dialogue about regional affairs. Also, when Mr. Ban Ki-Moon thanked Dr. Rice and Mr. Aso for each one's support to his bid for the UN Secretary-Generalship the floor was filled with applause, so there clearly existed a sense of comradeship or close cooperation between the three nations. The crux of the meeting, the main purpose of it, was to give a signal in a very clear fashion to Pyongyang that you are looking at a unified, consolidated front. In that sense I think the meeting has gone very successfully, and I gather that each one of the three foreign ministers, Dr. Rice, Mr. Aso, and Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, all were very satisfied with the results.
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