Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Following the Fifth Asia-Europe Meeting

October 9, 2004
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[Opening Statement]

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: In visiting Viet Nam for the first time in two and a half years for the ASEM 5 Summit with the leaders of Asia and Europe, I have been struck by the dynamism of this country and have been impressed by its great potential for future development. I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to the government of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and the people of Viet Nam for their very warm welcome and hospitality.

Three new Asian countries and ten new European countries participated for the first time in this expanded ASEM Summit, and the leaders here conducted a lively exchange of views on strengthening political, economic, artistic, sports, and cultural ties between Asia and Europe to the benefit of the people on both continents.

Between the summit sessions, moreover, I held a bilateral meeting with French President Jacques Chirac and had the opportunity of renewing my friendship with many other leaders. Tomorrow, I will have a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

The Asian side was represented by the ASEAN countries plus China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. These countries will be meeting again at the summit level in Laos next month, and I hope to see the cooperation with these countries continue while also pursuing closer ties with European countries.

Asian economies are now doing quite well, and enhancing cooperation with Europe should become a positive factor for our economic development. As was mentioned in the Chairman's Statement, we will need to vigorously pursue further cooperation. Over the past two days, the leaders expressed their views very actively, and we were very short of time. Under the excellent chairmanship of the Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, however, we managed to conclude all our meetings precisely on schedule.

In the discussions I emphasized the necessity of reforming the United Nations in order to solidify the concerted initiatives of the international community. There is a need for international society to coordinate its actions in various regions of the world, including the issue of North Korea, and on such issues as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear non-proliferation.

It is important for all countries to carry out reforms and achieve economic growth, of course, but at the same time we also need to protect our precious and irreplaceable environment.

I emphasized this point, and I believe that the leaders of Asia and Europe shared this perception with me.

The key to achieving environmentally sustainable economic development, I believe is science and technology. Next year, in 2005, a World Exposition will be held in Aichi, Japan, precisely on the theme of coming up with environmentally friendly technologies and rediscovering Nature's Wisdom. I believe it is meaningful for Asia and Europe to cooperate toward this end.

Following ASEM 5, the Republic of Korea will succeed Japan as the ASEM's Asian Coordinator to support the ASEM chair. The next ASEM will be held two years from now in Finland, and we look to Republic of Korea playing an important coordinating role. Each country has its own ideas about the ideal shape for this forum, we held lively talks on this topic as well. Japan will, of course, continue to play an active role in the ASEM process, hosting the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Kyoto next May, where the subject of ASEM's future will be addressed. Through such efforts, Japan hopes to continue making a positive contribution to the ASEM process as a vital bridge linking Asia and Europe.

Once again, I would like to thank the Vietnamese government and the people of this country for hosting and making excellent preparations for this very large and important meeting and for their warm welcome and hospitality.

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[Questions and Answers]

Q: Would you describe this ASEM meeting as having built a foundation for fulfilling the Japanese government's goal of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council?

Prime Minister Koizumi: We had a very lively exchange of views on the issue of reforming the United Nations, including the Security Council. I believe that this is a very important topic. Last month, at the UN General Assembly, I had an opportunity to meet with the leaders of Brazil, Germany, and India, and we agreed to cooperate with each other to gain permanent membership. Each country has its own views of UN reform, though, so to answer the question of whether we have been able to lay the foundations for such reform, I would say that we have been making an ongoing effort to lay such foundations. The meeting in New York was one such foundation, and we have to build on them one by one.

My understanding is that everyone favors UN reform, but there are differences of opinion regarding what kind of reforms should be implemented. Japan needs to mutually cooperate with and support the bids of Brazil, Germany, and India to gain permanent membership, and we have made clear statements to that end.

In the ASEM context, however, there are countries that do not completely share these views. A panel on UN reform has been appointed by the UN Secretary General, and countries are still considering how they would evaluate the recommendations of this high-level panel in carrying our reforms. Japan has expressed its will to become a permanent member, but this is not enough, as different countries have different viewpoints, some of which were expressed here at ASEM.

I am fully aware that reaching our goal will be a long and arduous task. But ASEM is a key forum for promoting reform, and because everyone agrees that some sort of change is necessary, I believe that momentum for UN reform has reached a new high at this meeting.

Q: Japan is Viet Nam's biggest partner in the field of development cooperation, but in recent years, Japan's total official development assistance has continued to decline. Do you think that this will affect Japan's assistance to Viet Nam?

Prime Minister Koizumi: Japan believes that Viet Nam will emerge to become a core member of the ASEM process. Japan is the biggest donor of ODA to Viet Nam, and we continue to attach great importance to development assistance to Viet Nam. For Japan, ODA is an important means by which we can promote global peace and stability.

It is true that there are fiscal restraints, and Japan's ODA policy must have the understanding of the Japanese people, but we will continue to attach great importance to development assistance to Viet Nam. We hope to implement assistance as efficiently as possible so as to help Viet Nam achieve its full growth potential, and, while there are fiscal restraints, I wish to attach importance to cooperation with Viet Nam.

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Q: Although brief, you did have a short encounter with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the ASEM talks. How do you view the future of Japanese-Sino relations, including the prospect of a bilateral summit with President Hu Jintao?

Prime Minister Koizumi: The importance of Japanese-Sino relations may grow larger, but it will certainly not get any smaller. Since I assumed the office of Prime Minister three years ago, I have been saying that China's rapid growth should not be perceived as a threat but rather as an opportunity for our mutual benefit. At the time, imports from China were rising rapidly, and many Japanese companies were adversely affected. Three years later, thanks to China's rapid growth, there has been a large rise in Japanese exports to China, and the volume of trade between our two countries has grown tremendously, growing threefold over the past decade.

Today, the United States is Japan's largest trading partner, but by as early as next year, China could emerge as our biggest partner. In this light, the Japanese-Sino relationship is not a concern just to our two countries; as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told me in our brief exchange, it is also important for the rest of Asia and for the entire world as well. This is a view on which we see eye to eye. Next month, there will be an APEC Leaders' Meeting in Santiago, Chile, as well as an ASEAN plus 3 Summit in Laos. I therefore believe that there will be plenty of opportunities for a bilateral summit when it is convenient for both sides to hold one. I very much look forward to having such meetings.

In the light of the importance of our bilateral relationship I look forward to deepening our ties in the future.

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Q: I understand that Japan was the first to restore economic assistance to Myanmar after the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. What kind of economic cooperation does Japan offer to Myanmar, and how does this tie in with Japan's policy of seeking the democratization of this country?

Prime Minister Koizumi: The question of Myanmar's democratization was discussed actively by the leaders attending ASEM 5, and considerable concern was voiced regarding Myanmar's policies. I understand the concern about the lack of democratization, but I do not think that excluding Myanmar from the ASEM process would encourage the Yangon regime to promote democracy. Rather, by inviting Myanmar into this dialogue, we can expose Myanmar to the serious concerns that are being voiced and encourage the government to implement reforms. If they wish to play a more important role in the international community, they will realize that they need to sincerely address these concerns.

Japan's economic cooperation with Myanmar is currently limited to humanitarian aid. In the days ahead, we will continue to encourage the democratization process. Representatives from Myanmar heard the concerns that were expressed, so instead of excluding them from such an opportunity, we should invite them and encourage them to carry out domestic reforms. Through the ASEM process, I hope that Myanmar will decide to work toward greater democratization.

In the light of the importance of our bilateral relationship I look forward to deepening our ties in the future.

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Q: I understand that the participants at this ASEM Summit supported the Six-Party Talks involving the DPRK. Pyongyang, however, has not yet indicated its agreement about the next round of talks. Many more people in Japan, meanwhile, are calling for economic sanctions against the DPRK. How will you pursue Japan's relations with Pyongyang, and are economic sanctions a realistic possibility?

Prime Minister Koizumi: Japan's policy toward the DPRK has been very consistent. Two years ago I visited Pyongyang to meet with Mr. Kim Jong-il, and this resulted in the signing of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. We talked of achieving a comprehensive resolution to all outstanding issues, such as those pertaining to abduction, nuclear development, and missiles, and then moving on toward normalization.

We have not yet received a clear response about the fate of the abducted Japanese nationals who are considered missing, nor on the suspected development of nuclear weapons. The international community continues to hold misgivings about the DPRK's intentions. We have launched a bilateral working-level forum to discuss these issues, and we intend to continue demanding clear answers.

In dealing with the DPRK, I believe we should use both dialogue and pressure. The United States is also hoping for a peaceful resolution to the North Korean issue through the framework of the Six-Party Talks. That being the case, if North Korea faithfully lives up to its obligations outlined in the Pyongyang Declaration, the gains for the leadership would be far greater than threatening the world with nuclear weapons. I stressed this in my meeting with Mr. Kim in May, and we will continue to work with North Korea so that they will respond in good faith.

A growing number of people in Japan are calling for economic sanctions against Pyongyang. But we must consider whether such sanctions would be really effective. Economic sanctions are admittedly an option in pursuing dialogue and pressure, but they should not be regarded as a given. With perseverance, we can induce North Korea to abide by the Pyongyang Declaration and to pursue the Six-Party Talks in good faith.

There will be a working-level meeting in mid-November. In this and other meetings, we will continue to urge North Korea to respond in good faith.

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