(* This is a provisional translation by a translation service company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Aso

Date: Friday, November 18, 2005, 11:02 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Cabinet Meeting/Informal Cabinet Meeting
  2. Foreign Minister Taro Aso's Visit to Okinawa
  3. New Flu Virus
  4. Adoption of the Resolution on Human Rights by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly
  5. Japan-Russia Foreign Ministerial Talks

1. Cabinet Meeting/Informal Cabinet Meeting
2. Foreign Minister Taro Aso's Visit to Okinawa

Minister:
During the Cabinet Meeting, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Measures against Declining Birthrate, Minister of State for Gender Equality Kuniko Inoguchi reported that the female ratio of advisory board members is now 30.9%, achieving the target of female ratio; 30%, by the end of FY2005, six months before the deadline. I reported my attendance at APEC Meeting and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshihiro Nikai also reported in this vein.

In the Informal Cabinet Meeting, someone reported that Japan unfortunately lost the competition to be host of the Rugby World Cup 2011, but New Zealand won and will be the host of it.

Considering the recommendations given in the 2+2 Joint Statement on the realignment of U.S. Forces, since we would like to seek the understanding and cooperation of local communities I wanted to visit Okinawa as early as possible as the Foreign Minister. I am planning to visit Okinawa on the 24th and 25th of November, and schedules have been arranged. Details will be announced shortly.

Question:
Regarding your visit to Okinawa, will you have meetings with the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture and the Mayor of Nago City?

Minister:
We are arranging meetings with both of them.

Question:
How do you plan to ask for their understanding?

Minister:
I understand the sentiments of the local communities, but it is also significant that Futenma Air Station will be returned and 7,000 of U.S. servicemen, accounting for more than one third of the 18,200 U.S. servicemen, will leave Okinawa, according to the Joint Statement. Being that the nature of this issue is to both maintain deterrence and capabilities of U.S. Forces in Japan and reduce Okinawa's burden, I believe I will be asking for their understanding on that.

Related Information (Press Release)

3. New Flu Virus

Question:
Regarding the new flu virus issue, it is said that it is only a matter of time before human-to-human infection occurs. What measures do you take against it as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Minister:
We have to avoid the landing of flu, but it is the season of migratory birds. The information has been coming from China since yesterday, and BBC and CNN have also reported about it. We would like to ask infected countries to collect and release information impartially.

Question:
How about measures for Japanese living overseas?

Minister:
It is difficult to locate areas in case we should provide Tamiflu to the Japanese nationals. If there are specific areas in China or other nations will be located, we could deal with it. However, if flu spreads via migratory birds, it is difficult to locate exact areas and respond to it. The anti-virus is still insufficient in quantity as I have heard. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is in charge of this issue. I don't have enough materials to answer this question.

4. Adoption of the Resolution on Human Rights by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly

Question:
The resolution on human rights in North Korea was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, but some Southeast Asian nations voted against it. What do you think of this result?

Minister:
We have made many efforts for this matter. 84 in favor, 22 opposed and about 60 abstained. There may be in Japan a variety of discussions over immediate imposition of sanction against North Korea. We appreciate this result because the adoption by an impartial third-party body like, United Nations, would "pressure" North Korea to consider taking various measures including accepting the U.N. special rapporteur and improving its human rights situation. I believe this is a big step in the context of "dialogue and pressure". Favorers are steadily growing and the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly adopted it. We appreciate it as an enormous step forward.

Related Information (Press Release)

5. Japan-Russia Foreign Ministerial Talks

Question:
During the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministerial Talks held the day before yesterday, we heard that you proposed joint development of the Northern Territories. Please clarify the situation.

Minister:
As I told you before, I prefer not to read newspapers because it is likely cause mistakes. Therefore, I didn't read such articles carefully. I am not sure any more what I said to press reporters, which might have to misunderstanding. So, let me say it again. I discussed the Northern Territories with Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov on 16 November 2005 in Busan, but I didn't propose any joint development of the Northern Territories. During the meeting, as I remember, I generally stated that Japanese and Russian positions over the Northern Territories remain significantly apart, and therefore, we should build up trustful relations for this issue. I don't recall that I took up so-called joint development in concrete terms at all. When the press asked me what to do for that, I answered in general terms that it would not make any progress if both countries would be just claiming sovereignty over the Northern Territories, and it might be an idea to conduct some joint project without clarifying the issue of sovereignty. Russia may ask what the advantages are. It would at least contribute to the improvement of living standards of residents in the Northern Territories, and I think it could be a new approach for Japan and Russia to do something jointly while claiming sovereignty over the Northern Territories. What I meant to say was that it would be great if joint project involving the local residents could lead to mutual trust between Japan and Russia. Maybe the press misunderstood what I said or my way of saying was somehow misleading. But I didn't officially propose any joint development, and that is the fact.

Question:
Did you propose any idea of a joint project during the meeting?

Minister:
I didn't. I stated that in order to solve the issues of the Northern Territories, we have to carry on negotiators. On the other hand, we can't make any progress if this kind of thing is totally excluded. So we believe we have to work jointly in various fields, and such work is already in process such as human resource development, for example, Russia, there existed neither local autonomy nor the system of collecting local tax before. It is not just confined to Russia. For instance, when I was Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications received a son of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, President of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. We touched upon various issues such as assistance in developing local autonomy legislation and local taxation which Libya didn't know before. The Local Autonomy College has foreign students from some countries including Vietnam. Local autonomy is an important element for nation's development. There are a lot of requests for training programs from countries that have recently received the importance of or didn't have local autonomy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives such requests and forwards them to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications that accepts students for training in the Local Autonomy College. Japan also dispatches instructors to those countries. There are many cases and Japan-Russia relation is one of them. I feel that Japan-Russia relations, not just in the area of the Northern Territories but also in many other areas, have been slightly changing from the Soviet era. We have to encourage such changes.

Question:
Let me confirm. You didn't propose joint development. Did you propose a joint project?

Minister:
I didn't officially propose any joint project.

Question:
Will you propose such joint development in the future?

Minister:
I don't know. It would be meaningless if Russia didn't agree. I haven't stated this matter at the official level. I haven't told this concept to government officials or the European Affairs Bureau officially since I became Minister for Foreign Affairs only two weeks ago. However, it doesn't make any progress if both countries are just claiming sovereignty over the Northern Territories. Therefore, it is important for both countries to do something together. We haven't discussed details yet, but I think we would be able to build mutual trust through it. So far, I have no idea if we could advance it as a project after sounding the Russian side.

Question:
Regarding joint project, are you thinking of solving the issue of the Northern Territories by building mutual trust through joint projects, like, so to say, economic cooperation as pump-priming?

Minister:
We have to conduct economic cooperation. Since we don't have much contact, we have to do something to build mutual trust. I think working together might be a new approach. It doesn't make any progress if both countries are just claiming without doing anything. Though I have no idea how they will respond to it, it contributes to improvement of living standards of the local residents, where infrastructure is poor compared with mainland Russia. Working together is a way of building mutual trust. Economy can be of importance as a possible new approach. Improving social infrastructures can be an idea. I have no specific idea on a project. I myself think, it is important to work together.

Related Information (Japan-Russia Relations)


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