Press Conference, 20 May 2008
- Announcement concerning return of Japan Disaster Relief Team
- Forthcoming speech by Prime Minister Fukuda
- Announcement of overseas visits by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Inauguration of the Japan Culture Advance Team (J-CAT)
- Statement on Japanese ODA
- Question concerning inauguration of new Government in Taiwan
- Question concerning possible attendance by the Imperial Family to the Beijing Olympics
- Questions concerning Japanese ODA
- Question concerning Japan-Taiwan relations
- Questions concerning TICAD IV
- Question concerning speech by US Ambassador Schieffer
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Hello and good afternoon. Permit me first to introduce some of the events and developments of late.
May I first tell you that from the PRC (People's Republic of China) 61 members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team are coming back to Tokyo. They will be arriving in Tokyo very early tomorrow morning. Upon the request from Beijing, the Japanese government is today sending a medical disaster relief team to the PRC.
Secondly, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is slated to make a speech in this week. On Friday, the 23rd of May, Prime Minister Fukuda will deliver a speech on the Global Fund and on the importance to contain HIV/AIDS, TB (tuberculosis) and malaria from further spreading at an international symposium. For more detail, please see the announcement that's already uploaded on the ministry's web site.
Thirdly, let me tell you who are making visits abroad from the Foreign Ministry.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, the 21st of May, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Hitoshi Kimura will be visiting (the Republic of) Colombia to attend an event to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Prior to that, Senior Vice-Minister Kimura visited (the Union of) Myanmar to urge the authority to accept rescue and aid personnel from Japan and other countries.
Also, tomorrow, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Kenichiro Sasae will be visiting Israel to discuss the current situation and prospect on the Middle East peace process with his counterparts of the Israeli government and of the Palestinian Authorities.
Next, this is a touch fun subject matter, and that's about us starting a new program to send a team of young Japanese men and women to some of the East European countries as volunteer instructors of the Japanese language and culture, the culture being Japanese manga, anime, and the like that attracts lots of attention these days in countries like (the Republic of) Bulgaria, (the Republic of) Hungary, (the Republic of) Poland and Romania, the countries where the volunteer instructors will be spending two years, starting from January next year.
The team, comprising as many as 30 Japanese men and women, mostly young, I believe, but some may be pretty much senior, has a brand name, J-CAT, which stands for Japan Culture Advance Team. And to kick it off Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Itsunori Onodera will hold a launch event at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, the 26th of May at the Fuji TV head office building in Odaiba, Tokyo. That's also the day we will start receiving applications from those interested.
That being my fourth item, the fifth and last announcement is on Japan's overseas assistance. Some of the newly decided extensions of aid include the following: To (the Republic of) Tajikistan, about US$34 million for road rehabilitation; to (the Republic of) Djibouti, up to about US$8.6 million for enhancement of sea transport capability; to (the Republic of) Yemen, about US$7.3 million for school construction; to (the Republic of) Mali, about US$19 million for supply of potable quality water and road construction; and, to (the Republic of) Angola, US$39 million for emergency rehabilitation for port facilities.
Q: What is the Japanese Government's view regarding the inauguration of the new Government in Taiwan?
Mr. Taniguchi: On the inauguration of the new Government of Taiwan, I would like to say that to solve the problems related to the cross strait relations between Taiwan and PRC, what is desirable is to have peaceful and direct dialogues between the two parties, and the sooner the dialogues would be started, the better would be served the interests of both parties.
Q: There is a rumor going around mostly in the weekly media about the possibility that some of the members of the Imperial Family would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. Can you confirm this?
Mr. Taniguchi: I cannot deny or confirm this. I have no information.
Q: I have a question on Prime Minister Fukuda's announcement this morning about doubling ODA (Official Development Assistance) to Africa. Can you give us a little more detail as to, for example, the allocation of aid, or how much of it is going to be grant aid and how much is going to be Yen Loans? Also, given the tight fiscal situation, how does the ministry plan to secure the necessary budget going forward?
Mr. Taniguchi: To the latter part of your question, please note that this is not going to be a one-year budget allocation; it is going to take a couple of years at least for the program to be complete. So that I hope answers a part of your question. And in terms of the detail, I would like to say something about that but I should not because those are the very points that Prime Minister Fukuda is going to reveal in the upcoming TICAD IV (Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development) meeting perhaps when he makes an opening statement for the meeting. So please be a little bit more patient.
Let me just also add, when you speak of ODA, it is divided into many components but in addition to ODA, the Japanese Government is seeking such means as something called OOF (Other Official Flows) of money, including Loans provided by JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) or trade insurance; those would be the means with which the Japanese Government would enhance its aid policies toward African nations.
Q: So those won't directly come from the state budget?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, not necessarily. When it comes to JBIC loans, JBIC is pretty much a self-sustained body and it could provide financial aid itself to the African nations.
Q: President Ma expressed in his inaugural speech that his Government should seek enhanced relations with the US and Japan. What is the Japanese Government's reaction?
Mr. Taniguchi: Taiwan, being one of the largest trading partners for Japan and it being also a prime source of visitors to Japan, and indeed if you look around tourist spots in Japan, they are all filled with an increasing number of Taiwanese visitors who have to be cherished by the local communities in Japan...what President Ma said about the importance of enhancing the Taiwanese-Japanese relationship is a welcomed sign and should be appreciated by the Japanese. In terms of the Taiwanese-Japanese relationship, as has been the case, I hope it will remain peaceful, stable and fruitful.
Q: Since you mentioned TICAD IV, I understand there will be a ministerial meeting the day before TICAD IV actually begins. What exactly is going to be on the agenda for that meeting?
Mr. Taniguchi: While I cannot reveal the minute details of the agendas, let me just say this TICAD IV meeting is going to be all about a couple things: pro-growth, pro-investment and therefore pro-infrastructure. And the growth scenario, growth story will be a predominant theme of the whole TICAD IV process. So that is about it.
Q: And on a separate issue, US Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer just gave a speech at FCCJ today at lunch and he very strongly urged that Japan increase its defense spending and also kind of reform its arms procurement procedures. What is the Foreign Ministry's response to this?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, I should have taken a look at the transcript if that is available of Ambassador Schieffer's speech, but I understand the US side has expressed concerns of that sort many times in the past and the Japanese Government certainly has taken that concern into consideration and will do the same in the future. Over the last several years the relationships between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the US Government have expanded in both scope and responsibilities. For instance, the Japanese Government has been operating for a long period of time in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to provide fuel and water to NATO naval ships and US ships. That is one good indication that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have upgraded and strengthened the cooperative relationships with the US. But when it comes to the budget allocation, I think the Ministry of Defense has continued to try to do its utmost to have an efficient, functioning and financially sensible build-up of its capacity. That will be all that I should say and can say.
Q: He noted especially about some political resistance against the issue of host nation support and apparently referred to this chaos in the past month because the bill did pass the Diet. How is the Foreign Ministry dealing with the US side to kind of ease their administration and to prevent similar things from happening in the future?
Mr. Taniguchi: The fact that the divided parliament has nonetheless been able to pass the resolution in order for the Japanese Government to provide the kind of support you mentioned to the US military has been a very good achievement and one should hope, given the huge importance that the US presence continues to play toward both Japan and to the region, the presence of the US military here in Japan is going to cause a minimum amount of frustration on both sides.
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