Press Conference, 1 July 2008
- Dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel to Africa
- Questions concerning the Senkaku Islands
- Questions concerning the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon, let's get started.
Yesterday, Monday 30 June Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced that Japan would send staff officers of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to the UNMIS, or the United Nations Mission in Sudan, and that he intends also to send SDF personnel as instructors to some of the Africa-based PKO centers.
Peace-building is among the priority issues for the Government of Japan. It's also likely that G8 leaders will discuss it at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit.
Q: About the trip made by the five members of the House of Representatives of Japan that brought them above and over the Senkaku Islands - in response to that the Taiwanese Government is talking about making a new plan for defense. What is the Government of Japan's reaction going to be?
Mr. Taniguchi: The Senkaku Islands, historically speaking, in terms of the jurisdiction, and according to accepted international law, in all those respects, belong, inherently to Japan and there is no room for dispute of any kind. That's the position of the Government of Japan. Anyone is absolutely free to do whatever in the territory that belongs to his or her nation, but so far as the action taken by some of the members of the House of Representatives is concerned, I don't think it is appropriate now for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make any comment on that. As to the plan, whatever it is, discussed by the Taiwanese authority, I do not think it is appropriate either for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make any comment at the present.
Q: I have heard that some of the members who went over to the Senkaku Islands are now asserting that Japanese Self Defense Forces assets should be used to protect the Senkaku area. Is there any concrete plan like that at the moment?
Mr. Taniguchi: I don't think it is appropriate, yet again, for me to make any comment on the remarks that you say you have heard from the members of the House of Representatives who went over to Senkaku and on whether or not there is any concrete plan like that, as you mentioned. The shortest answer is, I am not aware of that.
Q: Do you know that the Taiwanese side had already sent some of the aircraft of the Taiwanese Air Force to that area when the Japanese Coast Guard's aircraft was flying over the Senkaku area?
Mr. Taniguchi: I personally do not know, I have not been informed of that so I cannot deny or confirm that. That said, I must urge the viewers of your program and the readers of the publications of the Taiwanese media, given the important relationship that Taiwan and Japan have, any sort of escalation, militarily or otherwise, would serve no one, neither the Japanese nor the Taiwanese. I think the latest dispute involving the tragic sinking of a fishing boat, I think, has been very much well solved by both sides and the tension that rose temporarily, I think, has been calmed down successfully, to the benefit of both sides and peoples. I would very much like to call on the people in Taiwan to look at how important the bilateral relationship has been and will be.
Q: The budget for the G8 Summit has been reported in this morning's newspaper. The sum is said to be 60 billion yen which is 20 billion yen less than what the Kyushu Okinawa Summit cost in 2000. How have those savings been made?
Mr. Taniguchi: That is a difficult question for me to answer. I don't have a broken down figure for that, but as is the case with the Kyushu Okinawa Summit, the bulk of the budget was spent and will be spent this year for personnel costs because you've got to draw a lot of police assets from all across Japan. The most costly element of the budget that was spent eight years ago, that will be spent this year is for the police officers and security personnel.
Q: There's a breakdown in the article I saw. It says that about 30 billion of the 60 billion will be used by the National Police Agency for security, 25.5 billion will be spent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on organizing the event itself. Three years ago when the British Government organized the G8 conference at Gleneagles in Scotland the total amount spent by the British Foreign Ministry was 2.68 billion for organizing the event minus security ? 2.68 billion in Scotland, 25.5 billion in Hokkaido. Why is it so much more?
Mr. Taniguchi: They are all in dollar terms?
Q: Yen terms. The Gleneagles Summit cost 12.7 million pounds which at today's exchange rate is 2.68 billion yen. The budget for Hokkaido is 25.5 billion yen in terms of what Gaimusho spent. Nearly nine times as much.
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, you're asking a very difficult question. I'm not sure what sort of security arrangement was done for the Gleneagles Summit and I don't have a firsthand knowledge about the differences or similarities between the two arrangements, so I would rather hesitate to answer your question.
Q: That is minus security, that is taking out security. It is just the cost of organizing the conference venue, accommodation, transport for delegates and the media center. In Gleneagles, all of that cost 2.68 billion yen, but this time in Japan it is costing 25.5 billion yen. It is a huge difference. What reason could there be?
Mr. Taniguchi: You are asking me to say my opinion based on my speculation. I don't have the exact figures, once again, but you could say this is going to be the largest ever G8 Summit meetings, plural, because many outreach nations are involved and those nations, the representatives of the outreach nations, the number of which is the largest in the history of the G8 Summit Meeting, and they have got to stay, not in the Toyako area, but in Sapporo, and the operation, naturally, has become very much complicated. Logistics, also, has become very, very complicated and that will be one of the reasons. Once again, I am just making speculation on that. Secondly, as far as the media center is concerned, it is loaned from the construction company to the Government of Japan and it is going to be reused. I have to stress that, because we are very much conscious of the three R's: recycle, reuse and reducing any materials to be spent for the G8 Summit Meeting.
Q: Do you think that accounts for the exponential rise in cost?
Mr. Taniguchi: Again, it is really hard for me to say which is the cause and which is not.
Q: The other cost is the 30 billion yen for the National Police Agency. The cost of security at Gleneagles was 72 million pounds, which is 15 billion yen. So again, it is costing twice as much to secure this summit as it did...
Mr. Taniguchi: Because the Government of Japan has learned an important lesson from the July 7 incident that coincided with the Gleneagles summit.
Q: What is that lesson?
Mr. Taniguchi: To provide as much security as possible in order for Japan not to repeat such tragic events that hit London.
Q: So, Japanese taxpayers are getting good value for money, are they? From this Summit?
Mr. Taniguchi: If nothing will have happened, the answer would be, definitely, yes.
Q: When you say, nothing will have happened...
Mr. Taniguchi: Nothing of the sort that you saw on the 7th of July.
Q: So there is no way this Summit could have been organized more cheaply?
Mr. Taniguchi: Cost-wise, the Government of Japan has been continuing a massive belt-tightening effort and any money spent unnecessarily will be put into public scrutiny. We have got to disclose everything that we spend, so long as it's an object for disclosure.
Q: So it could not have been any cheaper?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, it is hard to say. You could do it less costly, there is always room for you to do that, but it is still too early to give judgment on that.
Q: I have learned that heightened security already has been provided to the area and nationwide. To what extent is it affecting the tourists coming to Japan from abroad? Is there any effect?
Mr. Taniguchi: Maybe you have got longer lines or queues at the passport control boxes, but I am sure the passport control officers are doing their utmost not to cause too much of a burden on the tourists.
Q: Another question on a similar subject. A number of activists and journalists who have come to Japan to take part in events connected to the G8 have been detained and questioned for quite long periods at Narita Airport. Why is that happening?
Mr. Taniguchi: When you say a number of journalists or activists, how large is this?
Q: Yesterday I went to a press conference at the Diet and there were five people there, and they spoke to two others who have been through this. So, I know of seven altogether.
Mr. Taniguchi: OK, seven out of how many?
Q: I do not know.
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, it's a matter of relativity. I cannot speak on that without knowing how large or how small.
Q: But I was not asking that. I am just asking why this is happening.
Mr. Taniguchi: It is to provide security. It is to provide a maximum amount of security. You are talking about inviting a huge number of leaders from abroad.
Q: So these people are suspected of being a security risk?
Mr. Taniguchi: Suspected... I am not sure. Probably the officers in charge had found reasons for further questions.
Q: Some of the people who were questioned were not allowed into Japan, but they were given a period of stay that expired on 4 July, in other words, before the Summit and before the events which they were hoping to attend. Why was that?
Mr. Taniguchi: Once again, when you say some, I am not sure what sort of people they are. If they are from a visa waver nation, or if they are from any other nations. I cannot speak generally.
Q: I met a British passport holder and a US passport holder who, instead of the normal 90 day stamp, were given a special stamp which said they had to leave by 4 July.
Mr. Taniguchi: You are not in the right place to ask that question because I am not in charge of passport control. That is the kind of question you should pose to the Ministry of Justice.
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