Press Conference, 30 January 2007
- Press speculation about resumption of the Six-Party Talks
- English text of Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso's policy speech available online
- Announcements available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
- Grant aid to the Republic of Uzbekistan
- Technical training for medical equipment to the Republic of Iraq
- Visit to Japan by Mr. Massimo D'Alema, Deputy Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy
- Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Vice President Cheney of the US
- Follow-up questions concerning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
- Follow-up questions concerning the Six-Party Talks
- Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Foreign Minister D'Alema of Italy
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon and thanks as always for coming to join me for the press conference.
First, I know that of great interest to you is when the Six-Party Talks on North Korean denuclearization will resume. It looks on the US side like they are purchasing airline tickets that get to Beijing on 8 February, and here also the press has just started to run stories saying exactly that, but I have not been instructed yet to be articulate on that, so please be just a little bit more patient to get the confirmation.
Mr. Taniguchi: Second, our website here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has drawn the second biggest number of viewers, indeed second only to that of the US Department of State, among the Government Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the world, according to a survey.
But that is not really my point.
I just wanted to remind you that on our website there have been new entries, and let me briefly touch on them.
Firstly, the comprehensive policy speech that Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso delivered at the opening of the current Diet session is up, in English, for you to look at. There you will see that he laid stress yet again on what we think will make the fourth pillar of Japan's diplomatic policy, namely to create the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity. As this is among the most important speeches for the Foreign Minister, please may I suggest you pay heed to it.
Mr. Taniguchi: Secondly, announcements have been made on the following diplomatic events:
In the Union of Myanmar, on 29 January, the Government of Japan and the United Nations (UN) decided to extend assistance totaling US$948,200 through the Trust Fund for Human Security to a project entitled "Support to Ex-Poppy Farmers and Poor Vulnerable Families in Border Areas";
Mr. Taniguchi: In addition, yet to be uploaded are the announcements that regard the following. To coincide the Second "Central Asia plus Japan" Intellectual Dialogue that is going on today in Tokyo, the Government of Japan decided to extend a grant aid totaling 595 million yen to the Republic of Uzbekistan, and both Governments exchanged notes on January 26. The money will be used to help implement what is called "The Project for Improvement of Primary Medical Services in the Tashkent and Djizak Regions"
Mr. Taniguchi: Number two, in the Republic of Iraq, in the Governorate of Al-Muthanna, the Government of Japan will conduct technical training for medical professionals in terms of the maintenance and management of medical equipment.
VI. Visit to Japan by Mr. Massimo D'Alema, Deputy Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy
Mr. Taniguchi: Number three and last, Mr. Massimo D'Alema, Deputy Premier and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy, is coming to Japan tomorrow. He will meet Foreign Minister Aso over dinner tomorrow, after making a courtesy call to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is scheduled to meet parliamentary leaders and leave from Hiroshima on Sunday, 4 February, where he will make a tour of the Peace Memorial Park.
Q: Regarding Mr. Cheney's visit, I would imagine that among the issues that would be discussed would be the US's new Iraq policy, and Mr. Cheney would probably ask Prime Minister Abe or Minister for Foreign Affairs Aso for Japan's understanding or support for the new US Iraq policy. Would that be safe to assume that that will take place in their meetings?
Mr. Taniguchi: Certainly nothing is going to be more important than discussing Iraq policies, as seen from both Governments' perspectives.
Q: Do you think that Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma's recent remarks might be mentioned during their meetings?
Mr. Taniguchi: I cannot speculate, but the Government Japan's position has been made clear repeatedly. The Government of Japan has continued to support the US effort in Iraq.
Q: You mentioned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website drawing the second biggest number of viewers, second to the US State Department. What do you see as the major reasons that this has happened?
Mr. Taniguchi: It has been more than a year since the press team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started to pay much more attention to the website and the utility thereof, and actually over the past year or so a huge number of content pages have been added to the website. It is a multi-layered structure, and if you dig deep into the website you will get much more information than first meets the eye. Basically, if I may say so, hard work has paid off.
Q: Do you see this as a reflection of the Abe Administration or Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's administration's keenness to boost Japan's profile, or does it have nothing to do with the Administration and is just basically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' efforts?
Mr. Taniguchi: I am having a bit of a hard time connecting one to another. Obviously both administrations, both Koizumi's and Abe's, have been keen on raising the profile of Japan in the world diplomatic arena. That has been obviously a strong impetus for the press team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work really hard to make this happen, but I do not know if I can say anything further than that.
Q: Regarding the Six-Party Talks, I just wanted to ask if you could give us a little background about the Chinese proposal to set up five working groups. Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the Chinese Government proposed this in the last Six-Party Talks and Japan and the other parties said they were going to discuss it. So far, how are the discussions going within the Government of Japan?
Mr. Taniguchi: You may be aware that Foreign Minister Aso mentioned that the bilateral relationship between North Korea and Japan will be discussed in the overall framework, and mention has been given to the possibility that among the five subcommittees under the umbrella of the Six-Party Talks framework, one subcommittee is probably going to be dedicated to talking through the bilateral issues between North Korea and Japan. But to put it simply, nothing has been made clear yet, so we are still waiting to see what exactly is going to take place in Beijing.
Q: Regarding the details on the five working groups, the Government of Japan is aware of course of the details, and are just not making it public?
Mr. Taniguchi: I have not been instructed yet to be specific on that.
Q: May I touch on another subject? I am interested in the visit of the Foreign Minister of Italy, and I would like to ask a few background questions. The first is I understand that Italy and Japan are going to sign a kind of memorandum. Could you be more specific about that? I have asked the Italian Embassy and they do not seem to know yet about the content. Can you give me some points about this memorandum? I guess that it is cultural.
Mr. Taniguchi: The first thing I have to say is that his visit has been long overdue, and we have been very enthusiastically waiting for this to happen. As you may be aware, I understand that he is going to make himself available for many occasions being held under the title "the Spring of Italy"(Primavera Italiana). This is going to be a huge event to boost the cultural ties between Italy and Japan, and it is a prolonged effort between March this year and June. But in terms of what kind of document both Governments are going to sign, frankly speaking I do not know yet.
Q: As you mentioned, there is a "primavera" that concerns a touch upon most of the cultural and commercial aspects of the relations between Italy and Japan. But from the political point of view, may I say that there is a fall, if not winter. May I touch upon a couple of subjects, specifically the UN Security Council reform, which still sets Japan and Italy apart. The other point is that I am sure that you know that Italy has been forwarding a petition at the UN on the death penalty. They are proposing a moratorium on the death penalty, and I understand that Japan is not going to support this. How then would you define the political, not cultural, relationship between Italy and Japan? "Under construction?"
Mr. Taniguchi: It is up to you to dub the nature of the bilateral relations in whatever fashion, but I would not think that the bilateral relationship is undergoing a terrible period of time. You mentioned Italy's opposition to the G4 proposal, but if you ask politicians in Italy whether Japan's bid for the permanent UN Security Council membership is going to be acceptable from Italy's point of view, they would say it is all right for them. It is one thing for them to be opposed to the G4 proposal, but it is going to be quite another for them to be opposed to Japan's bid. That is how I view it.
As for other things, let us say that in terms of the cooperation between the Italian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, I think that that has been going on for some time, since Japan started dispatching a squadron of ships to the Indian Ocean and the Arabic Sea in December 2001. As an important member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the recent visits of Foreign Minister Aso and Prime Minister Abe to the NATO Headquarters I think have also been well received by the Italian Government. Overall, I see no reason to be pessimistic or reserved about the bilateral political relationship as well.
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