Press Conference, 17 November 2006

  1. Welcome Reception for Chinese Cultural Festival 2006
  2. Agreement on the Establishment of the International Fusion Energy Organization
  3. Grant Aids to the Republic of Costa Rica and UNICEF
  4. Documents available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website
  5. Question concerning the Agreement between Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Accelerate Deployment of a Missile Defense System
  6. Question concerning a Media report on North Korean Chemical Weapons Smuggled into Japan
  7. Questions concerning the Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to Implement a Worldwide Certification System for Japanese Food
  8. Questions concerning the Possibility of a Visit to Japan by the Prime Minister and President of China

I. Welcome Reception for Chinese Cultural Festival 2006

Mr. Taniguchi: Good afternoon, thank you for coming.

First, tonight the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are jointly hosting a reception for "Chinese Culture Festival 2006", at the Hotel Okura.

Minister for Education, Sports, Science and Technology Bunmei Ibuki and Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuhito Asano are going to welcome the Chinese delegation, headed by Mr. Sun Jiazheng, Minister of Culture of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Wang Yi, is also going to attend.

The festival is taking place from today, 17 November, until 22 December, when the final event, which is a film festival featuring the Shanghai film industry, is going to end. That is about the welcoming reception for the Chinese Culture Festival.

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II. Agreement on the Establishment of the International Fusion Energy Organization

Mr. Taniguchi: Also, there will take place on 21 November in Paris a signing of the agreement on the establishment of the International Fusion Energy Organization for the joint implementation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.

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III. Grant Aids to the Republic of Costa Rica and UNICEF

Mr. Taniguchi: A couple of other things, if I may. One is cultural grant aid to the Republic of Costa Rica for the Project for the Improvement of Judo Equipment of the Costa Rican Institute for Sport and Recreation. That is up to 25.9 million yen. Also, the Government of Japan decided to extend grant aid to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the Project for Infectious Disease Prevention for Children in the Republic of Sierra Leone. That is up to a total of 229 million yen.

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IV. Documents Available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website

Mr. Taniguchi: In addition, you can see on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the Joint Statement of the 18th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting [PDF].

Already available not in English but in Japanese are the gist of the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, and also there is a release on the selection of Mr. Chusei Yamada, former Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of India, as a member of the International Law Commission (ILC). He was elected as such for his fourth term, gaining 144 votes.

V. Question concerning the Agreement between Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Accelerate Deployment of a Missile Defense System

Q: Could you give us some details about this agreement that was formalized yesterday in Hanoi between Foreign Minister Taro Aso and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speed up deployment of a missile defense system?

Mr. Taniguchi: I am afraid I cannot elaborate beyond that. The agreement was to accelerate the already agreed-upon process. It takes a complicated process, of course, including the deployment of hardware like missiles and upgradings of radar capacity and so forth, but it also takes software, as it were, to combine the radar equipment and analytical tools on both sides. The agreement forged between the two Ministers, I could say, was basically to agree on the necessity of further accelerating the process.

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VI. Question concerning a Media Report on North Korean Chemical Weapons Smuggled into Japan

Q: There was a report last week in a weekly magazine saying that North Korean agents had smuggled sarin nerve gas manufactured in North Korea into Japan, that US military bases in Okinawa were the supposed target, and that this gas is still in storage somewhere in Japan. Has the Government either confirmed or denied this magazine report?

Mr. Taniguchi: The Government has said nothing about it. Certainly members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including myself, have read the article, but did not see anything attributable to a Government source. I simply do not know whether that is the case or how we can verify that.

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VII. Questions concerning the plan of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to Implement a Worldwide Certification System for Japanese Food

Q: On another subject, several weeks ago the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that it was looking at inspecting and certifying Japanese restaurants overseas, presumably after complaints from Japanese returning from overseas that so-called "Japanese restaurants" really were not serving adequate or proper Japanese food. Do you have any details on what prompted the possibility of setting up this system?

Mr. Taniguchi: I should like to urge the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to answer your query about it, but on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I would be delighted to answer your question in the following fashion.

We have been running a council, called the Overseas Exchange Council, looking at how best we could advocate Japanese soft culture, including Japanese food, overseas, knowing that Japanese food has gained even more popularity in many countries. And yet we have also recognized that in some countries, simply displaying what is called "Japanese food" while maintaining something dramatically different, can be observed as an increasing phenomenon.

In order for someone to run a raw-fish-centric restaurant, I mean sushi bars and so on, first of all you have got to have a distribution network whereby you can easily purchase very fresh fish and seafood materials. Without such distribution networks, it may be hard to run Japanese sushi restaurants.

But the reality once again is that there are many countries where sushi bars are being run without appropriate distribution networks for the seafood materials. That has been a source of grave concern for both Ministries from the viewpoint of promoting Japanese food. Clearly that sort of concern has been the motive of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

I hope that we can pursue two goals at the same time: one is to promote Japanese food, while at the same time the other is to maintain a high standard of quality of Japanese food around the world.

Q: If I could just follow up, I am sure that those of us who eat Japanese food around the world probably think it is a good idea to have some sort of certification system, but it seems quite unprecedented to get a Government involved. Would Japan welcome any sort of reciprocity, such as the Italians certifying whether an Italian restaurant in Japan is authentic, or a French restaurant, for example? As far as the Government is concerned, could this be a two-way street?

Mr. Taniguchi: I have not thought about that. We have given thought to which one would be a better surveillance framework. One would be to have it run by private sector, such as the Zagat or Michelin rating systems, or the other, which is going to be run, as is the case with this one, directly or indirectly by a Government agency, and the Ministry of Agriculture seems to have jumped into the latter option.

But that said, it has just started or is just about to start, and if it is not going to work as designed, they can give it a second thought and they can improve the system. The ultimate goal of course is to promote Japanese food, and what is called "sushi police" is not going to do any good for the better image of Japanese food, I believe.

Q: Just to explore this theme a little bit more. That thing actually started a lot of fuss in Russian, because Russia it is a very popular, this so-called Japanese food, although it is not Japanese at all, by the way. The question was, how to certify the really Japanese restaurants? What kinds of steps are the Ministries to take just to make clear what is good and what is not good, so to speak?

Mr. Taniguchi: I think that is a very good question, which I cannot answer. I would once again urge the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to lay out the plan and then try to say as much as possible to the outside world, because as you say, many people are eating Japanese food or so-called Japanese food in many countries, and so this idea of creating a rating system has attracted a lot of attention from the world. But I am afraid I cannot say anything further than what I have already said.

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VIII. Questions concerning the Possibility of a Visit to Japan by the Prime Minister and President of China

Q: A report recently came out that arrangements are being made for the Prime Minister and President of China to visit Japan sometime around March of next year. Are there any such arrangements or preparations being made? What are the prospects of them coming to Japan?

Mr. Taniguchi: Certainly there was a report speculating that the first visit would take place sometime early next year, and one of the articles suggested that it would be in March, which I deny by saying that nothing has been made concrete or complete; we are still working hard on scheduling the visits.

Q: In case it ever pushes through, the sequence would be the Prime Minister first, and then the President?

Mr. Taniguchi: Probably Foreign Ministerial visits will precede that, but I am just guessing based on what the Chinese Foreign Minister said to the members of the Japanese press. It is just a "guesstimate", and I have to reiterate what I have just said, that in terms of the scheduling, it will depend on lots of things. I cannot say for sure at the moment.

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