Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 15 October 2009

  1. Foreign Minister Okada's trip to Asia
  2. Questions concerning the visit to Japan by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates
  3. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Okada's visit to Afghanistan
  4. Questions concerning the East Asia Summit and related meetings
  5. Questions concerning support from the Government of Japan to Afghanistan

I. Foreign Minister Okada's trip to Asia

Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura: Good afternoon. First, let me briefly share with you Foreign Minister Okada's recent trip to Asia.

Foreign Minister Okada wrapped up his Asian visits and has returned to Tokyo this morning.

Minister Okada started his trip last Thursday, the 9th, by accompanying Prime Minister Hatoyama, who attended the 2nd Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit.

On the 11th, departing from the Prime Minister, Minister Okada visited Afghanistan to examine Japan's future assistance to the country. There, he paid a courtesy call on President Hamid Karzai and met with Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta and other high level officials, and discussed Japan's assistance to Afghanistan. Minister Okada also visited a vocational training institution and a local school.

In Pakistan, Minister Okada paid a courtesy call on President Asif Ali Zardari and saw Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Minister Okada said that Japan would continue to support Pakistan's efforts in economic reform and its stable development.

His last stop was Indonesia. From the 13th to the 14th, Minister Okada visited Jakarta and the earthquake-hit West Sumatera Province.

In Jakarta, Minister Okada held a series of meetings with high level government officials, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. At the meetings, Minister Okada reiterated his sympathy for the loss of lives and the damage caused by the recent earthquake that occurred off the coast of Padang, and conveyed that Japan would consider additional assistance for the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas. They also discussed challenges the two countries face in bilateral and regional areas and agreed to further strengthen existing Japan-Indonesian cooperation.

Yesterday, in West Sumatera, Minister Okada visited Pariaman and Padang -- those two cities -- where he viewed completely collapsed schools, hospitals and libraries. He visited and hailed the disaster relief efforts being made by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and other relief organizations. Minister Okada said to the Governor of West Sumatra, "We, the earthquake-shaken neighbors, must help each other at a time of difficulty."

Another, as you may know, next year, October 2010, Japan will host the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP 10 in Nagoya.

The year 2010 has been declared as the International Year of Biodiversity and there is a call for global efforts to reserve the biodiversity. As a host nation, the Government of Japan has appointed Mr. Kiyoshi Araki as Ambassador in charge of the COP 10 in order to lead this important conference.

Thank you for your patience. Now I would like to invite your questions.

Related Information (Press Release: Foreign Minister's Visit to China)
Related Information (Press Release: Foreign Minister's Visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan)
Related Information (Press Release: Foreign Minister's Visit to Indonesia)

II. Questions concerning the visit to Japan by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Q: About Mr. Gates visit to Japan, when is he actually going to meet Mr. Okada?

Mr. Kawamura: His detailed program will be worked out over the next couple of days. He is going to see Foreign Minister Okada and will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hatoyama and other Government high ranking officials. The details will come out later.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

III. Questions concerning Foreign Minister Okada's visit to Afghanistan

Q: What main issues came under discussion during the Minister's visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Mr. Kawamura: The main mission of Foreign Minister Okada's visit to Afghanistan included an examination of how Japanese aid was perceived and delivered. The main objective was to consider and study how Japan should incorporate its efforts into the Afghan's efforts to reconstruct the country and how Japan could lead to the stability of the country.

From that perspective, he visited the actual areas where Japanese efforts are being offered, and where Afghanistan's local efforts are being made. He saw Foreign Minister Spanta and other relevant Government officials and exchanged views frankly.

I believe that his visit to the country provided necessary inputs for further thoughts on how and what Japan should do for the future of Afghanistan.

Q: In the bilateral discussions, the principle thing that the Prime Minister of Afghanistan and Pakistan asked -- they were again asking the same thing: the future of refueling.

Mr. Kawamura: True, in Pakistan, there was a request for the continuation of the replenishment service by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. That request being placed, we will consider in a comprehensive way what Japan could do for the region.

Q: Do you still think that it was a successful meeting, although the requests from one side were not accepted by the other? Can you still call it a successful meeting?

Mr. Kawamura: Definitely I think it was a successful visit. First of all, as Foreign Minister, he was able to visit the sites and the places where Japanese efforts are offered, and those experiences and observations of the situations in those two countries will definitely serve his way of thinking in the coming months.

Related Information (Press Release)

IV. Questions concerning the East Asia Summit and related meetings

Q: About the East Asia Summit and related meetings to be held next week, what are Japan's expectations toward that summit?

Mr. Kawamura: First of all, the participation by the Prime Minister and/or the Foreign Minister has not been decided, so we have to -- it will take a little bit more time to be clear about how Japan will represent itself to the countries. But having said that, the East Asia Summit is a very important opportunity for us to continue our collaborations for the recent challenges the region faces. We will have a good opportunity to meet with the leaders there to discuss how to continue our joint exercises.

We may come back later with more details.

Related Information (East Asia Summit)

V. Questions concerning support from the Government of Japan to Afghanistan

Q: At the moment is there some sort of effort to build a project for the people who are being used by the terrorists for financial benefit -- A place where they can come to get some jobs that are free from the terrorist organizations? It is one thing to build schools or roads or something, which is not going to earn money. According to my information there are innocent people and they have no jobs and they are very easy to be exploited by terrorists. If there is some sort of income sources for them, like a factory or some shops or something where they can get jobs, they become free from this financial exploitation.

Mr. Kawamura: I understand you are talking about the case of Afghanistan. Actually during Minister Okada's trip to Afghanistan this time, the income incentive was a major focal point of talks, and through a series of press conferences and briefings he had a chance to clarify his thoughts. He discussed with his counterpart in Afghanistan this issue -- the income incentive for potential or former Taliban soldiers. It is important. As you pointed out, from that perspective, Mr. Okada underlined the vocational training, or agricultural training, which would provide disincentives for local farmers and people to join the Taliban, because they would provide the means for living though official training or agricultural/technical transfer programs.

Q: The main focus is on agricultural training?

Mr. Kawamura: Japan has agricultural programs already; yes, it could be one of the focuses.

Q: My own thinking is, agriculture is sort of training only, because the land isn't really there. They are working the land, but it may be a very primitive sort of cultivation. But, new jobs to make them self-sufficient where they produce something, in a Japanese factory -- maybe one or two small units -- where they can make light parts...

Mr. Kawamura: Sorry, I couldn't catch the last part of your question.

Q: They can start some projects there where they can produce some motor parts or something small that they produce there and bring back.

Mr. Kawamura: Bring it back to Japan for export?

Q: Yes. Those people could get good jobs.

Mr. Kawamura: It could be an idea to support the increased production of Afghanistan. To be honest, I am not an expert in this area. But aside from the discussion of Minister Okada's future programs in agriculture in Afghanistan during his recent trip, as I understand, Japan is planning to introduce a new way of planting, new types of crops which would support an increase in productivity in Afghanistan. The Republic of Korea and Japan are trying to introduce these projects with the help of NGOs -- for example, soy bean programs have been introduced; that is one area. I am not certain whether those final products are directed to those service providers of technology, but at least for the purpose of productivity growth, those programs seem to be effective.

Q: I am not an expert in this, but the agricultural land, the rural land in which these terrorists are illegally living, are effectively a small place -- it can be controlled by allied forces. The farm land is a big place but there are only one or two people working it, in a small country, you have very small plains. But maybe 10,000 people could work in factories. It gives more opportunity than agriculture. The only thing that terrorists are doing is to provide opportunities to the people. Because it is kind of a war between the two sides -- your efforts against their efforts.

Mr. Kawamura: The bottom line would be to collect various information, including on security conditions in the country, and develop a program which would most productively serve the purpose. And the opinion of the local NGOs would also be important for us to listen to carefully. In such a comprehensive way we will develop future programs for Afghanistan.

Q: To be very frank, I am doubtful of any efforts. Because there are certain aspects of the financial situation in the country... Local think tanks are saying that democratic countries have certain systems that are well-built, but in Afghanistan they are not. So, from where to start and how to implement -- sometimes it is very hard. Here we have some planning of a project, but then going into the country and implementing it within the whole system -- the Afghan Government is not very strong at implementation.

Mr. Kawamura: Thank you very much for your frank observation. We need to keep close contact and discuss intensely what will be best for the people in the region, and I hope that we can discuss in a separate format because this is a question and answer session with journalists about Japanese policy. The policy discussion itself should be pursued in a separate forum I think. Thank you for your understanding.

Any other questions? Thank you very much for your attendance.

Related Information (Japan-Afghanistan Relations)

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