The First Press Conference, 27 June 2008
- The outcomes of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting
- G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting exchange of views on the Republic of Zimbabwe
- The "balanced" G8 approach to issues related to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Union of Myanmar, and North Korea
- Questions concerning North Korea
- Question concerning the Republic of Zimbabwe
- Question concerning the cancellation of the Japan-Federal Republic of Germany bilateral meeting
- Follow up question concerning North Korea
- Question concerning the Government of Japan's evaluation of the outcome of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings
- Question concerning the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Question concerning the tone of discussions at the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting
- Follow up questions concerning the Republic of Zimbabwe
Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama: Good evening everybody. Thank you for coming to my briefing again this evening.
Since the outcome documents have been already delivered and I am sure you have already read these documents, maybe my briefing this time around, in the wake of the very successful ending of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting, I would just give you my observation, maybe the Japanese Government's observation, on the outcome of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. I had the privilege of attending, or at least monitoring, all the proceedings of today's Meeting so I think you can take my observation, which is based on my own monitoring of the proceedings.
First point is really related to what Foreign Minister Koumura mentioned in his initial statement at his Joint Press Conference. The point which I am making now is toward the end of his initial statement. He mentioned as follows: the G8 countries share common values and common responsibilities and as partners, the G8 as a group has a very special responsibility to take on any issues of interest or concern in the international community. Having said that he went on to say that in this G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting, he believes the G8 as a group, the foreign ministers jointly succeeded in sending out a very strong, coherent couple of messages to the international community on issues like the DPRK, Iran, the Middle East, Sudan, and also last but not least, Zimbabwe. He also promised that the outcome of this meeting will be reported to the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to be held in Hokkaido starting from 7 July, and we feel very confident that the foreign ministers' discussions on all these important political issues will be also appreciated by the G8 leaders. That is my first point.
My second point is really this: there were indeed very good, or I would say spirited, exchanges of views among the G8 foreign ministers on a couple of occasions. One notable example is of course the adoption of a standalone G8 Foreign Ministers' Statement on Zimbabwe. Originally, the Zimbabwe portion was part of the Chairman's Statement, however, that was the situation up to the level of political directors who worked so hard to prepare for their respective foreign ministers. And then what happened today was that a consensus emerged based on very strong views of several foreign ministers that the G8 foreign ministers should send a very clear and strong signal to the international community including the Zimbabwe Government, SADC, the African Union and other related organizations who can also make a contribution to improve the situation in Zimbabwe.
I am not allowed even as a spokesperson to give you who said what, but at least I am allowed to tell you the expression used by one foreign minister in the course of the discussion on Zimbabwe. One minister said something like this: "We should remember that the very same day that we meet today, in Zimbabwe, the Presidential run-off election is going to be held and if we do not issue a strong, clear message of political will, we will not respond to the expectations on the part of the international community on this issue."
I think in the end, all the G8 participants and foreign ministers agreed and formed a consensus to issue a separate Foreign Ministers' Statement on Zimbabwe, like another separate statement on Afghanistan, so the outcome is that we have one G8 Foreign Ministers' Chairman's Statement, very comprehensive, plus a special Statement on Afghanistan and another special Statement on Zimbabwe. What is also important is that this special Statement on Zimbabwe is a joint statement, not just a Chairman's Statement. This is a joint G8 Foreign Ministers' Statement on Zimbabwe.
III. The "balanced" G8 approach to issues related to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Union of Myanmar, and North Korea
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Foreign Ministers' Meeting agenda was mainly divided into two parts; one is a focus on issues of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The other is the issue of peacebuilding, fostering consolidation of peace in various countries in the world. And it seems to me that one good example is if you look at the Iran part. I just want to draw your attention to the expression that goes like this, somewhere in the middle part of the paragraph on Iran: "We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the issue through the dual-track approach and urge Iran to respond to the calls by the international community..."
If you also look at the paragraph on Myanmar, which I explained to you yesterday, the very last sentence of this Myanmar paragraph: "We are prepared to respond positively to substantive political progress undertaken by Myanmar." So the point which I am making is really that there seems to be a kind of interesting rules of engagement in dealing with these issues. In the case of the DPRK, we use the expression "to employ dialogue and pressure." Now, in the case of Iran, "dual approach," meaning incentives and also pressure or sanctions. In the case of Myanmar, we are talking the same kind of approach. There seems to be a kind of convergence of approach to these kinds of issues. Of course, these are all difficult issues but there seems to be a consensus among the G8 countries to employ both, so it is a sort of balanced approach, I believe, to the DPRK, Myanmar and Iran.
I could go on, but I think I had better stop. I am very happy to answer your questions if you have any.
Q: I would like to ask, if I may, about the abduction issue because that, I think, is of great concern to everybody here in Japan. The Japanese Government has said repeatedly that it wants to see progress or resolution of the abduction issue. I am just wondering, can you clarify what exactly the Japanese Government defines as "progress"? Is it progress on the fate of the 12 remaining Japanese on the official list who are still missing or is it progress on people who are not officially on the list? As you know, some groups have up to a couple of hundred people on the list. So what exactly do you mean by progress and what exactly is a satisfactory resolution to this issue? And related to that question, North Korea has said of course it will reinvestigate the issue. Do you have any plans over the coming days or weeks to meet with North Korea specifically to talk about the abduction issue?
Mr. Kodama: In answer to your first question, our answer to that is we have identified, to date, 17 abductees officially - abduction being perpetuated by the North Korean regime. And out of 17, only five have returned to Japan, so the remaining 12 are still missing and we request strongly the DPRK to return all these missing abductees to Japan and in any case, to give us a reply or firm evidence on what has transpired with all these abductees.
Now, on the other hand, as we all know, indeed this was mentioned by Foreign Minister Koumura today in the session on the DPRK, he mentioned as follows: Japan hopes to advance Japan-DPRK relations together with the advancement of the DPRK denuclearization process and Japan's basic stance remains unchanged, i.e. Japan is determined to resolve, in a comprehensive manner, the issues such as abductions and nuclear missiles, and at the same time, settle the unfortunate past, and thereby normalize the diplomatic relations with the DPRK. Now, we are dead serious in engaging with the DPRK to break impasse on all these issues, including the issue of abduction. In this respect, Foreign Minister Koumura went on to say that from 11-12 June, this month, the Japan-DPRK Talks were held in Beijing. The DPRK side expressed their intention to start a reinvestigation on the issue of abduction and in return, the Japanese Government expressed its intention to relax certain restrictions imposed on the DPRK.
Having said that, we are still in a stage of what we call a promise, word for word, so we would like to move to the next stage, i.e., action for action or reciprocal progress on both sides, and thereby achieve meaningful progress on the issue of abduction. Now you may ask, how do we define "progress" in looking at the issue of abduction? For the time being, let me just stop here by saying in the last official talks between Japan and the DPRK, North Korean Ambassador Song Il-Ho responded to our head of delegation, Director-General Saiki, when Mr. Saiki asked, "Previously the DPRK maintained the issue of abduction was over, but Ambassador Mr. Song, are you saying that now the DPRK has changed its stance and will reinvestigate the matter?" He said yes, so we took this as certain tangible progress. Yet of course Foreign Minister Koumura hastily added that we have to ascertain how the DPRK will start its reinvestigation and we would like to contact the DPRK side and to proceed on these reinvestigation activities.
Q: I have two questions. The first concerns the Statement on Zimbabwe. Would it be a fair description of that statement that it is a declaration of the G8 not to accept or see the Zimbabwe Government and the still existing president as legitimate? Is it a statement that the G8 says that they no longer regard the Government as legitimate?
And the second question, or perhaps you would like first to answer that one?
Mr. Kodama: I can tell you this: yes, why I said there was a spirited discussion among ministers is really in the end, this statement was drafted by the ministers themselves, which was rather unusual. So I would rather leave it as it stands for you to decide. In paragraph four, I think the message is very clear: "The results of the March 29 elections must be respected and that any dialogue between the parties must allow a legitimate government to be formed. We will not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people." So this, of course, strictly speaking, this statement does not say the G8 foreign ministers as a group does not recognize the legitimacy of the Mugabe incumbent government, but at least this much is mentioned. It is up to you to decide or interpret.
Q: The second question concerns Japan and Germany. There was a bilateral talk scheduled for yesterday and the talk couldn't take place because the German Foreign Minister preferred to watch the semi-final of the European Football Championship and that is the reason why he came late to Japan. Can I please get an official comment by the Japanese Government about how the Japanese Foreign Ministry feels concerning that situation and whether you feel that Germany takes the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting very seriously?
Mr. Kodama: I enjoyed personally the semi-finals when I returned to my hotel and there was really elation all over Germany, especially the scene of Berlin and some plaza when Germany won the semi-final against Turkey, so congratulation to the German team for that. I am sure Foreign Minister Koumura enjoyed and appreciated the very positive contribution of your Foreign Minister, Dr. Steinmeier, who he actually met last time in Munich in February this year when Mr. Koumura attended the 44th Munich Security Conference. On that occasion, I remember, they discussed quite extensively how to govern the G8 support for Afghanistan and I remember they had a very good discussion on that. And last night, although he arrived a little late, still I think he managed to join his other G8 colleagues and then he led the discussion on Afghanistan which was appreciated by the G8 members. I have to check but I think today there was a brief meeting between the two, Mr. Koumura and Dr. Steinmeier. You could check with your minister.
Q: Do you have confirmation of when the next round of the Six-Party Talks will be held?
Mr. Kodama: No. I could only tell that Japan, together with the other members, very much looks forward to the next round of the Six-Party Talks at our earliest convenient date, but on the other hand that Japan, around lunch time, received from the Chinese Foreign Ministry the North Korean declaration on DPRK nuclear activities, so of course we have to look into all those documents on the declaration.
VIII. Question concerning the Government of Japan's evaluation of the outcome of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings
Q: Since you mentioned that the results of this G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting will be forwarded to the leaders at the Summit, can I have your evaluation of Japan's achievements at this Meeting and how the whole process, not just the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting, but the whole series of various ministerial meetings, how these meetings and the discussions will be reflected in the upcoming Summit?
Mr. Kodama: Again, as we all know, the G8 Summit will discuss four agenda items: the world economy, including rising food prices and the issue of the crude oil price hike and its implications for the global economy or developing countries and so on; number two, climate change will definitely be given high priority; and then thirdly, African development; and fourthly, political issues. So in any case, I think under the banner of political issues, I think our leaders - Prime Minister Fukuda, President Bush, President Sarkozy, Gordon Brown of the UK - will certainly follow the discussions of their foreign ministers in Kyoto, I would say, but the time will certainly be limited for the leaders. They have to discuss other important issues so my feeling is that in this Kyoto two-day meeting, if I may, at least from the Chair's perspective, Afghanistan-Pakistan will be an important item; from Japan's perspective of course Myanmar will continue to be important; and then the issue of nonproliferation, the DPRK, Iran, will be another important issue; and then the Middle East plus maybe Zimbabwe. After all, day one, 7 July of the G8 Summit Meeting, is described as the G8 plus eight African participants focusing on Africa, so it is possible that our leaders will discuss Zimbabwe and also maybe Sudan if they have time. That is my assessment or expectation.
Q: So it is about this Chairman's Statement. The second sentence says we will strengthen our assistance to the democratically-elected government to advance stability and economic development in Pakistan. So does it mean that the G8 is distancing from President Pervez Musharraf because the democratically-elected government is in conflict with the president and they are asking the president to resign?
Mr. Kodama: Not at all. What the ministers mean by this sentence, of course including the Japanese Government's position - actually I accompanied Foreign Minister Koumura when he paid a visit to Islamabad in early May this year and after Islamabad, he went on to visit Kabul. When he was in Islamabad, he paid a courtesy call on President Musharraf, then met with Prime Minister Gillani, and I think Mr. Zardari. All the political leaders received Foreign Minister Koumura and he had very extensive discussions on how the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan had been making progress. The president had been elected and then this prime minister was elected based on the recent general election, so there is a democratically-elected government in Pakistan.
But we think, as I mentioned yesterday, Pakistan's geopolitical importance is well understood by the G8 members, and also we know Pakistan is a de facto nuclear power, and Pakistan is a neighbor of Afghanistan, so in all these respects, the G8 is in unison to believe that Pakistan's stability is vital in our fight against terrorism. Also, we strongly encourage both Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate more and to work out better collaboration in fighting against terrorism, especially along the border.
Q: Foreign Minister Koumura spoke of a candid exchange and active discussions, and another participant spoke of "tough discussions," which is probably the same, it is just less diplomatic. Can you tell us what issues were hotly discussed, and was North Korea one of them?
Mr. Kodama: I think the most hotly-debated issue was Zimbabwe. Evidence of that is that a part of the draft was done by the ministers themselves. Of course, they discussed and expressed their views and so on. In some parts it may be that minor revisions or corrections or changes were made, but I would say very colorful exchanges were made when they discussed Zimbabwe.
Q: A follow up question. You mentioned earlier in this press conference that there were split discussions on the issue of Zimbabwe. Can you tell us what were the lines of arguments which were exchanged, without mentioning countries?
Mr. Kodama: I cannot really be very specific on this but at least the discussion really focused on how strong we as the G8 foreign ministers send out our message to the Zimbabwean authorities and also to the rest of the world. So the discussion really centered around a much stronger approach and so on. This is, in the end, a consensus document, a balanced document, I think.
Q: Just a follow up on that. Since I know you cannot name names, when you said several, how many of the foreign ministers...
Mr. Kodama: I am sorry, I am not allowed to give you any numbers.
Q: When you said some had stronger views, some had not so strong views, where on the spectrum did Foreign Minister Koumura stand in that discussion?
Mr. Kodama: I can't really tell where he stands. I think he was an excellent Chair for today's long discussions. When the discussions got heated, as the Chair, he had to try to guide the course of discussion toward a consensus. That is why I think he did his best.
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