Press Conference by Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura

Date: Monday, October 17, 2005, 06:30 p.m.
Place: 4th Floor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Q: South Korean Ambassador Mr. Ra Jong-Yil and Chinese Ambassador Mr. Wang Yi visited you. Could you tell us what has been discussed?

Minister Machimura: Both Ambassadors, based on the instructions from their capitals, carrying a memorandum of talking-points, came to file a protest to Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. They said that they cannot withhold their astonishment and anger, for the visit was made irrespective of the fact that they have been requesting (the Prime Minister) to refrain from visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, on a number of occasions. As to China, incidentally two astronauts on board a spacecraft have returned safely early this morning. On such an occasion of national celebration, the Chinese side said that the visit is indeed inappropriate with regard to its people's feelings.

Q: What were your reactions to them?

Minister Machimura: On my part, I told them that Prime Minister Koizumi visited the Shrine in a private capacity, and explained the three points which the Prime Minister has always been stating: firstly, the visit is to mourn the war dead; secondly, the visit is to offer appreciations to the fact that Japan's prosperity today is based on such precious sacrifice; and thirdly, the visit is to pledge that Japan will never again wage a war. I told that the same explanations have already been made, but with these feelings in mind, the Prime Minister visited the Shrine. At the same time, I said that the intention to create good, future-oriented relations with neighboring countries including China and the Republic of Korea remains unchanged, as it has been illustrated in the Statement by Prime Minister Koizumi on August 15, 2005.

Q: Ambassador Wang Yi (of China) told the media earlier that the visit this time will only hurt Japan-China relations. You are scheduled to visit China this weekend, but has this been discussed?

Minister Machimura: No.

Q: How will the Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine affect your visit to China this weekend?

Minister Machimura: As I have spoken in the Diet, irrespective of the fact that there has been a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine or not -- or precisely there has been one -- I believe that candid Ministerial talks should be held. So I don't intend to change my plans to visit China.

Q: Has there been communication from the Chinese side to cancel this weekend's visit?

Minister Machimura: No.

Q: As to the Republic of Korea, President ROH Moo Hyun is expected to visit Japan in December. Has there been any remark on this from Ambassador Ra Jong-Yil?

Minister Machimura: Nothing in particular.

Q: Prime Minister Koizumi has always been saying that he would decide appropriately as to when he would visit the Yasukuni Shrine. From a diplomatic perspective, how would you view the visit this time?

Minister Machimura: I think the Prime Minister visited the Shrine as a result of his deciding appropriately. As today is the first day of the Annual Autumn Festival of the Yasukuni Shrine, he chose this very timing.

Q: Around what time and how were you informed of the Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine?

Minister Machimura: Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister informed my secretary of it this morning.

Q: What time was it?

Minister Machimura: After eight. I suppose it was between eight and nine but I do not remember it precisely.

Q: There have been speculations that the Prime Minister would visit the Yasukuni Shrine at the time of the Annual Autumn Festival. Has Director-General Sasae's visit to China at this time around been planned due to such anticipation?

Minister Machimura: There is no connection. I do not even know that there has been a decision that the Prime Minister would visit the Yasukuni shrine during the Annual Autumn Festival.

Q: The Japan-China Director-General level meeting was not held in Beijing today. Do you think that Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine had any effect on this?

Minister Machimura: I have been told that the Chinese Foreign Ministry communicated with the Japanese Embassy in China on this at working-level.

Q: Do you think that the visit (to the Shrine) will affect in any way the visit to Japan by Mr. BAN Ki-moon, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea?

Minister Machimura: We intend to welcome his visit but the rest is up to how the Government of the Republic of Korea will decide.

Q: Is it the same for Mr. ROH Moo Hyun, the President of the Republic of Korea?

Minister Machimura: Yes. It is not fair that one incident affects the entire bilateral relationship. This is what Prime Minister Koizumi has always been saying on various occasions.

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