Press Conference, 4 December 2007

  1. Visit to Japan by President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan
  2. Second "Japan-Plus-GUAM Meeting"
  3. Cultural Grant Aid to Romania
  4. Third Strategic Dialogue between Japan and the Russian Federation
  5. First Asia-Pacific Water Summit
  6. Announcements available on the MOFA website
  7. Election of Ms. Fumiko Saiga as Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
  8. G8 Conference on "The Role of Foreign Policy in Guaranteeing a Secure Energy Supply and Protecting the Global Climate"
  9. Senior Officials' Meetings in Canberra
  10. Week dedicated to enhancing public awareness of North Korean human rights abuses
  11. Questions concerning Japan-People's Republic of China relations

I. Visit to Japan by President Emomali Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: First off, permit me to make a longer-than-usual opening statement as I have a bunch of stuff that's all worthy of note.

Let me begin with some of the incoming visits of dignitaries and leaders from abroad.

From the Republic of Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon is now visiting Japan. His Majesty the Emperor of Japan will be meeting him in the morning time of Wednesday, 5th of December. The president sent of late the first ever ambassador representing his country to Tokyo, and the ambassador, Mr. Davlatali Shomahmadovich Saidov, presented his credentials to His Majesty, yesterday, 3rd of December.

That's good news as it's been nearly six years since Japan opened its embassy in Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan.

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II. Second "Japan-Plus-GUAM Meeting"

Mr. Taniguchi: Now, from the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, its Secretary General Mr. Valeri Chechelashvili, a Georgian gentleman who assumed the responsibility as Secretary General in June this year, and his colleagues, called national coordinators, from the member-nations of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova are visiting Japan from today until Friday, 7th of December.

They are here to take part in the second "Japan-Plus-GUAM Meeting," the first one of which took place in June this year. The gathering of the four nations, I am saying this only for your information, institutionalized itself when the heads of the member-states met in May last year for a summit meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, and decided to adopt its current name. The secretariat is based in Kyiv, with Mr. Chechelashvili its first Secretary General. While in Japan they are scheduled to meet Mr. Masahiko Koumura, Minister for Foreign Affairs, as well as Mr. Masakatsu Koike, a Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and to join events that commemorate the GUAM's decennial.

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III. Cultural Grant Aid to Romania

Mr. Taniguchi: The other item I have on Eastern Europe is about a new cultural grant aid we are giving to Romania. Called "the Project for the Improvement of Audio-Visual Equipment of National Museum of Contemporary Art," the Government of Japan is extending grant aid that is up to a maximum amount of 38.8 million Japanese yen. The museum is a center of gravity, as it were, for the country's culture and art activities, and is situated inside the magnificent Congress Palace in Bucharest.

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IV. Third Strategic Dialogue between Japan and the Russian Federation

Mr. Taniguchi: Before I forget, I should say Mr. Shotaro Yachi, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, is slated to go to Moscow, the Russian Federation, to have the third Strategic Dialogue with his counterpart, Mr. Andrey Denisov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The dialogue will take place on Thursday, 6th of December.

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V. First Asia-Pacific Water Summit

Mr. Taniguchi: Now back to the Tajik President's visit, he is here also to participate in the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit, taking place yesterday and today in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Japan. This is an event that a not-for-profit organization called Japan Water Forum organizes. Its salience, however, goes without saying because, for one thing, the Summit received the attendance as well as key-note speeches of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan and his close friend and colleague, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander from the Netherlands. The Japanese Crown Prince and the Dutch Prince are Honorary President and Chair, respectively, of the United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

I should also say in this connection that Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia of Tuvalu and Mrs. Ielemia, and President Emanuel Manny Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia, are here in Japan also to take part in the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit.

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VI. Announcements available on the MOFA website

Mr. Taniguchi: Now, on such topics as Japan-Swiss Confederation Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations; a UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) hosted symposium on climate change and human security, scheduled on Sunday, December 9th in Kyoto; the visit of Mr. Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, to Japan; and on the assistance the Government of Japan is extending to the Republic of the Philippines, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Republic of Djibouti, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Haiti, I should request that you take a look sometime later at our English language website for relevant information.

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VII. Election of Ms. Fumiko Saiga as Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Mr. Taniguchi: Though already uploaded on to the website, I must nonetheless touch on a news item that has rejoiced us all. That is about the election of Ms. Fumiko Saiga, Ambassador in Charge of Human Rights and Member of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As you may be aware, Japan has joined of late the ICC, and on 30th November, New York time, when a by-election of ICC judges took place, Japan's candidate, Ms. Saiga, was elected as a judge, winning 82 votes out of 105, the largest number among all candidates.

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VIII. G8 Conference on "The Role of Foreign Policy in Guaranteeing a Secure Energy Supply and Protecting the Global Climate"

Mr. Taniguchi: Two more items, only briefly.

Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Itsunori Onodera was in Berlin, the Federal Republic of Germany, on this last Monday, 3rd of December, to take part in the G8 Conference on "the Role of Foreign Policy in Guaranteeing a Secure Energy Supply and Protecting the Global Climate." Since assuming his office as Senior Vice-Minister he has been really a globetrotter.

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IX. Senior Officials' Meetings in Canberra

Mr. Taniguchi: Next, today, 4th of December, Canberra is hosting a senior officials' meeting (SOM) between Japan and the United States, and the other SOM between Japan and Australia. They will be followed tomorrow by yet another SOM among the three, Australia, Japan and the United States. All part of the strategic dialogue that's been going on for some time between and among the three Pacific democracies, the meetings are being attended by Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mitoji Yabunaka of Japan, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Michael L'Estrange of Australia, and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns of the United States.

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X. Week dedicated to enhancing public awareness of North Korean human rights abuses

Mr. Taniguchi: Last but not least, I must ask you to take note that the upcoming week of December 10th will be the week dedicated to enhancing public awareness of the human rights abuses that have gone on in North Korea. On the final day, 16th December, the Government of Japan is holding an event at Nissho Hall, Tokyo. The film, "Megumi" will be shown there. Mr. and Mrs. Yokota, Megumi's parents, are going to have a talk with Ms. Riyoko Ikeda, a renowned Manga artist who is also an opera singer.

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XI. Questions concerning Japan-People's Republic of China relations

Q: My questions are really about Japan-China: the meetings in Beijing at the weekend. There was an open-house discussion at the Ministry last week, and it was suggested at that time that there was an attempt to get a sort of provisional agreement between Japan and China which would not prejudice their respective positions on the law of the sea. In other words, there would be some form of agreement, which would be a kind of interim agreement. This is my understanding. My question is whether any progress was made in that direction during the weekend meetings, involving the Foreign Minister and all the Chinese officials?

Mr. Taniguchi: There has been an agreement since the visit of Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China, to Japan last April, that both countries have to look at a relatively wider area for joint development of the gas fields. The definition "relatively wider area" still has room for discussion, and indeed both nations, China and Japan, are still miles apart from one another when it comes to where that "relatively wider area" should be. But I should stress very firmly that there has been a stronger than before political will on the side of the Chinese Government, so that a final agreement would be forged sooner rather than later, hopefully by the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda sometime soon.

Q: When you said "relatively wide", did you mean geographically relatively wider, or embracing more areas of joint policy? I am not quite clear what "relatively wider" means.

Mr. Taniguchi: It means a relatively wider area in a geographical sense of the word.

Q: Can you elaborate at all on that? The area under dispute, obviously, is a limited area, so why do you need to embrace a "relatively wider area"? I am not quite clear what the motivation is.

Mr. Taniguchi: That is exactly where there is a discrepancy between the two governments. As I said, it is taking time for both nations to strike an agreement as to where that wider area should refer to. I should not like to delve further into the definitional matter, because that is exactly the point on which the two nations are spending time to actually forge a deal.

Q: The timing of the Prime Minister's visit has not been decided yet. It is not likely to be this year, presumably?

Mr. Taniguchi: It has been repeatedly expressed that sooner rather than later (should an agreement materialize), but it will depend, first of all, on the situation in the Diet, whether Prime Minister Fukuda can make a visit within this year, within this month, to Beijing. And also the Chinese side has to spend more time to think really hard on this issue, about the East China Sea Gas Fields. But again, both nations are in full agreement that the visit should be made as early as possible.

Q: Just one more question, if I may, on the China-Japan dialogue. Again, the words one of your colleagues used was that the various Japanese ministers would be looking for cooperation on the architecture of Sino-Japanese cooperation on regional integration, and so on. Was there in fact any substantive discussion on Japan's and China's different approaches to Asian economic integration?

Mr. Taniguchi: To be honest, there is a will shared by both nations that they have to be key players in forming any sort of regional architecture. And so when various ministers met each other in Beijing last week, they expressed that will, that in the future China and Japan should play a key role, a leading role, in forming the regional architecture. And on your question, "what sort of architecture?" they are looking at, I cannot say much at the moment. But please note that the high-level ministerial meeting involving a host of different ministries with different portfolios of the economy, took place as the first such meeting last week. It is projected that the second one is going to take place within the upcoming year, next time in Tokyo. So, over time, you will see that the high-level Economic dialogue between the ministers is going to play an increasingly important role to form wider architecture that is going to be necessary in the East Asia scene.

Q: A follow-up question on the gas field issue. I think last time when Mr. Sasae met with his Chinese counterparts in Tokyo, in November, they said they were expecting to have another meeting: I think he said within the same month. We are already in December, but anyway, is there any agreement when Mr. Koumura went to Beijing when the next agreement is going to happen?

Mr. Taniguchi: Well, I am not aware whether it is going to take place within this month or not, but again, given the strong will expressed from the Chinese side, that an agreement should be made sooner rather than later, you can expect that the meeting (will be arranged) any time soon. "Any time soon" will be the maximum that I can say at the moment.

Q: Is the next meeting supposed to be in Tokyo or Beijing?

Mr. Taniguchi: The last one took place in Tokyo, so it will be in Beijing.

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