Press Conference Following the 59th Session of the UN General Assembly

September 22, 2004

[Opening Statement]

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: I left Japan for this overseas tour on September 13 and will return on September 23. This is a 10-day trip, the longest I have taken abroad since assuming office. The tour has taken me to Brazil, Mexico, and finally to New York in the United States. I had summit meetings with the leaders of these countries, as well as taking part in various events whose memory I will cherish for a long time. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the hospitality I have enjoyed on this trip and the cooperation extended to me by the governments and peoples of the nations I visited.

In my address to the General Assembly of the United Nations I stressed the need to reform the world body. I also stated that Japan would continue to pursue its policy of playing an active role commensurate with its status through international coordination, centered on the United Nations, in tackling the various challenges facing the international community today.

Nearly 60 years have passed since the United Nations was established, and the membership today has nearly quadrupled compared to those early days. To ensure that the United Nations can respond effectively to the needs of the twenty-first century, I believe there is a need to reform the United Nations.

With this in mind, while in New York I convened the Meeting of the Leaders of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. Our four nations agreed to cooperate in the area of United Nations reform, offering to cooperate with one another and to support each other's candidacy for permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

This does not mean we are limiting consideration of new permanent members to these four nations; there are certainly others willing to serve on the Security Council, either as permanent or nonpermanent members of the body. We will continue to cooperate with African and other member nations while working for the reform of the United Nations and its Security Council.

I also took part in a number of bilateral meetings. In my summit meeting with US President George W. Bush we held a candid exchange of views on a wide range of issues, including UN reform, the Japan-US security relationship, Iraq, and North Korea. I have had several meetings with President Bush in the past, and this time we met despite his ongoing presidential campaign and other factors in his extremely tight schedule. We agreed that Japan and the United States would continue to exercise leadership to address various issues facing the world today.

Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of the Interim Government of Iraq, and Hamid Karzai, President of the Transitional Administration of Afghanistan, were both in New York. This was a good opportunity to meet with them. Prime Minister Allawi and President Karzai both expressed their gratitude for the humanitarian and reconstruction support activities Japan has carried out so far. In particular Prime Minister Allawi thanked us for the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to Samawah in Iraq. The residents of Samawah have been very cooperative with the activities Japan's SDF are carrying out there. Both leaders expressed their hopes that this ai! d would continue to be provided. In response I told them that Japan will continue providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

It is our wish that Iraq and Afghanistan establish stable, democratic governments. But no matter how much support the United States and the rest of the international community offer them to help them achieve this goal, it is the Iraqis and Afghans themselves who must show unity and make efforts to establish these governments. I told both Prime Minister Allawi and President Karzai that the people of their nations must show the international community that they have the will to create stable, democratic governments. Then Japan, along with the rest of the world, will spare no effort in helping the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I believe this trip has been extraordinarily meaningful in terms of laying the foundation for increasingly firm relations between Japan and Latin America and advancing moves toward the realization of UN reform. The Agreement between Japan and Mexico for the Strengthening of the Economic Partnership in particular is a key part of the development of closer relations between Japan and that region.

In Brazil and Mexico, as well as here in New York, I was greatly moved to see how Japanese and the descendants of Japanese are active in various walks of life. I was greeted very warmly by the Japanese communities in Brazil, Mexico, and New York, and I would like to express my gratitude for their warm welcomes. It is my hope that the Japanese, too, will show equally warm welcomes to the many foreigners who come to visit our country. We must be ready to invite direct investment and visitors from overseas. This was a substantive trip that underlined the need for cooperation with the international community and reconfirmed my desire to create a more open Japan.

Related Information (Prime Minister's visit to Latin America)
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[Q & A]

Q: My question is on the topic of Japan's candidacy for permanent membership on the UN Security Council. America has in the past expressed support for Japan's candidacy, but Washington does not seem to have a very positive attitude toward the reform of the United Nations and the Security Council. This subject did not come up in the summit meeting you had with President Bush. What plans do you have to gain support from the United States on this point?

Secondly, China appears rather reluctant to support Japan's bid for a permanent seat due to the historical background between the two nations. Considering that Sino-Japanese summit meetings are not ongoing, how do you intend to seek further support from China?

Prime Minister Koizumi: With regard to UN reform, I believe that American cooperation is indispensable. Support from all of the current permanent members, the so-called P5, is of course necessary, and the wishes of the P5 nations will certainly be reflected deeply in any UN reform efforts. There is certainly a need for US cooperation, and that is why I discussed this matter with president Bush. The president stated that there has been no change in America's policy of supporting Japan. There have been no specific proposals with regard to reform at the High-Level Committee in the United Nations, but we will have working-level consultations on these matters.

China is, of course, also a P5 nation, and has significant influence. But I believe that China shares the awareness that the United Nations requires reform so it can reflect the world's voices more accurately. I believe there is a need for continued cooperation with China in the area of UN reform. We will work to carry out close consultations and build cooperative relations with China and other neighboring countries. This is of course a very difficult task, and it is not yet clear which countries will raise their hands as candidates for permanent membership in the UN Security Council. But Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan have raised their hands together in what I believe is the first such joint move, and the leaders of these four countries got together to d iscuss these matters of. This will play a part in further promoting moves toward the reform of the United Nations and Security Council, including discussions in the UN High-Level Committee.

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Q: At the Japan-US summit meeting the subject of BSE, or "mad cow disease," came up. I believe it has been agreed that talks on resuming the beef trade between America and Japan will take place in the future, but I would like to ask about the timing of the resumption of this trade. Do you think it will be possible within this year?

Prime Minister Koizumi: Yes, BSE did come up in my talks with President Bush. With regard to the resumption of the beef trade, our two nations agree that trade should be resumed as soon as possible. But the question of safety remains. To what extent can we ensure that cattle are not infected with BSE? I believe that more scientific research is needed to determine this. On this point, the US views do differ somewhat from Japan's views. So what sort of efforts do we need in order to make actual progress? I believe that we need further input from scientists and other experts. Japan and Ameri! ca will continue consultations on these issues. We do see eye-to-eye on the need for resumption of the beef trade, but food safety remains an important concern for the Japanese people, and I am sure people around the world share this same concern. We would like to carry out the needed discussions in a way that does not unduly delay the reopening of beef shipments between our countries, and we are carrying out consultations to that end.

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Q: I would like to ask about the realignment of US military forces stationed in Japan. Discussions at the summit meeting defined two principles underlying realignment efforts, namely the maintenance of US deterrent force in Japan and the reduction of the burden shouldered by local residents in communities affected by the bases. What specifically is meant by "reducing the burden" on these communities? Does this refer specifically to downsizing the bases in Okinawa? Secondly, I would like to ask about the possibility of a review of the SACO agreement, which includes measures for the return of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa.

Prime Minister Koizumi: First, with regard to the US military forces stationed outside America, it is clear that the United States is now carrying out realignment of its forces in places around the world. The US forces in Japan provide a very valuable deterrent capability, as well as playing a key role in the defense of Japan. At the same time, the residents in areas where US bases are located have been expressing the strong desire for their burden to be reduced. We need to balance the need for this deterrent capability with the need to reduce the burden on the Japanese people.

Many of the US bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. A major challenge for us is the reduction of the burden placed on the Okinawan people by the many bases and facilities located there. From this perspective, we have been proceeding with the reversion of Futenma in accordance with the SACO report while engaging in consultations with local residents. As we consider alternative locations for the functions of the bases now concentrated in Okinawa, we confront the fact that candidate municipalities for replacement facilities tend to oppose moves to bring the facilities to their locales. This has caused the Okinawans to continue to shoulder most of the burden of these bases.

We must consider as a nation how to deal with this issue. This is not so much an issue to be decided bilaterally between Japan and America as it is a question to be approached at the domestic level. If we are to reduce the burden on the Okinawan people, where can we relocate these facilities? This is something for the Japanese themselves to consider separately from the context of Japan-US relations.

We need to consider the issue of reducing burdens on local residents while also bearing in mind the deterrence provided by the US military forces in Japan. We will continue to consult with the United States in this connection. We are not yet at the stage where we can consider specific municipalities to host US bases and facilities.

Q: Will it be possible for Japan to serve as a permanent member of the UN Security Council while maintaining its present Constitution as-is?

Prime Minister Koizumi: To give a short answer, I believe it is possible. The international community has undergone major changes over the years, and Japan, too, has gone beyond simple financial cooperation to engage in peacekeeping operations. Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been providing assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq within the constraints of its current Constitution. We will continue to offer this kind of assistance.

Japan can play a considerable role in the international community with the Japanese Constitution in its present form. In the years to come Japan will be able to enjoy peace and prosperity only so long as the world is peaceful and prosperous. It is not wise to adopt the attitude that problems in other countries are not issues for Japan to deal with. Japan has to cooperate with other members of the global community. The UN Security Council is a key decision-making body, and it will not be easy for the Japanese people to accept it if Japan is unable to take part in that decision-making process. The Japanese people need to work to earn their rightful place in the world, and I believe it is reasonable for Japan to have permanent UNSC membership as one way to work toward this status.

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