(* 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: Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 9:57 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Visit to Yasukuni Shrine
  2. Misconduct by the Defense Facilities Administration Agency
  3. Self Defense Forces Presence in Iraq

1. Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

Question:
In the question and answers after your speech in Nagoya last Saturday, you stated matters related to the Emperor and the visit to Yasukuni Shrine. However, your point was not clear. Please let us know the tenor of your speech.

Minister:
I heard that various things are mentioned in newspapers. From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead enshrined there, since I imagine they died for the Emperor, I stated what they might have felt. I've never said that I would like the Emperor to visit Yasukuni Shrine in the current situation. Since my speech was videotaped, you can watch the videotape and understand that I've never said that. The tenor of my speech was how to change the current situation into an atmosphere in which the Emperor as well as government representatives could naturally mourn for the war dead without witnessing ill feeling from neighboring countries. My intention was to raise a question how we can naturally extend our appreciation to and show our respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives for our nation. That is why I stated that a visit by the Emperor as a national symbol would be the best. I just raised a question. As you know, there are many issues to be resolved before that. We have to think how to resolve these issues. That's the basic tenor of my speech.

Question:
There is an idea to establish a national mourning facility where everybody can naturally mourn for the war dead without witnessing ill feeling in neighboring countries. What do you think of it as a solution?

Minister:
Do you think Yasukuni issue is resolved domestically when an alternative facility is established? I personally feel that it is not so easy that people stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine but visit an alternative facility when established. I know some are insisting on such an idea.

Question:
Do you think it is better to separately enshrine the Class-A war criminals or change Yasukuni Shrine's status from religious entity to special public entity?

Minister:
That is also one way, but just one way. As I keep saying, there are a lot of opinions. I cannot say this is the only way. Various people should seriously consider various opinions. The war dead sacrificed their lives for the nation, family, etc. We are trying to solve this matter with our way of thinking 60 years after they died. That is why this type of issue is confusing. I believe it is a common sense that the war dead sacrificed their lives for our nation at that time. If future generations don't treat them in a proper way, who would act as they did in time of emergency? They would not be able to accept that they be criticized as stupid or whatever after they served for the nation. I personally feel so.

Question:
When you mentioned the Emperor's visit to Yasukuni Shrine in your speech, you stated the biggest barrier was distinction between public and private. Please explain this matter a little bit more. Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe stated yesterday that he visited there as private individual. What do you think of it?

Minister:
If I remember correctly, the Emperor's first visit was in 1945, just after the war. After that, the Government of Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty September 1951 and the Treaty has officially taken effect since 28 April 1952. I believe the Emperor's visit started that year. The Emperor's last visit was, I believe, in October 1975 after Prime Minister Miki's visit.

Question:
No, it was November 1975.

Minister:
Which day was it?

Question:
It was 21 November 1975.

Minister:
OK. Let me continue based on that date. Prime Minister Miki visited there in August 1975 and the Emperor's last visit was in November 1975. For some reason, the Emperor has not been there for about 30 years. In my personal opinion, Prime Minister's visit is the direct reason why the Emperor suddenly stopped visiting, but some propose other reasons. What I wanted to say was that we need to clarify these reasons why the Emperor stopped visiting Yasukuni.

Question:
China and ROK have criticized your statement again. Do you think the tenor of your statement didn't travel correctly?

Minister:
Even if it traveled correctly, it depends on how they take it. The Government of Japan has been repeating nearly the same thing for a long time even after Mr. Koizumi became the Prime Minister. You are following up Prime Minister Koizumi's statement and as you know, we never say we will go to war again. In that sense, it is possible that even if our true intention travels correctly, they may not take it such a way. It is pretty difficult to answer your question.

Question:
You said it is one way to separate the spirits of the Class-A war criminals from the shrine. Did you state this matter in the past?

Minister:
I don't think I talked about the Class-A war criminals to the press. This has a lot of problems. However, we need to gather various opinions from experts to solve the problem. There is no simple solution. This problem is prolonged and the history may fade with time. There may be wrong rumors. We have to deal with this matter from all angles. We also have to refer to people who clearly remember the situation at that time for our reference.

Related Information (Prime Minister's Visits to Yasukuni Shrine)

2. Misconduct by the Defense Facilities Administration Agency

Question:
Top officials of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency were arrested for bid-rigging for the projects commissioned by the Agency. Please tell us your impression of this collusive bidding at the initiative of the government agency. Also, do you think this turmoil in the Agency will affect the realignment process of the realignment of U.S. Forces given that the Agency is in charge of convincing local governments of the realignment?

Minister:
A Violation of law is always wrong, as is shown by the Livedoor case. It is a minimum requirement to comply with law. I am not saying that you can do anything you want if you are not violating the law. If the bid-rigging case is true, it is clearly a mistake. I am also concerned that the Defense Facilities Administration Agency may delay in taking actions to deal with various responsibilities. The Government of Japan must tackle this in cooperation with all the other related ministries. The realignment of U.S. Forces is very important. The agreement of the 2+2 Meeting appears to be somewhat like an interim report, and there have been some advancement in convincing local governments such as reducing their burden. At the same time, it is significant for Japan to maintain the presence of U.S. Forces in Japan. The question is how to strike the right balance. It is not solely a matter of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency. We, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will continue to commit to this matter.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

3. Self-Defense Forces Presence in Iraq

Question:
Regarding the Self-Defense Forces presence in Iraq, some media reported that SDF will initiate withdrawal in March 2006. Is this true?

Minister:
You had better ask the newspaper concerned. At least for Japan, we haven't discussed the timing of withdrawal from Iraq in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And if we look at the way forward, a new government is young to be established in Iraq, and the Cabinet is being organized now. And the biggest issue for the new Iraqi administration/government is to restore public security. Continuity and stability of economic and social policies restoration of public security will only be achieved through. Once security is restored, Japan will be able to support Iraq in a variety of ways other than the deployment of SDF, for example, through the participation of the private sector, NGO and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. The very aim of reconstruction of Iraq is to achieve such a circumstance as soon as possible. People speak of the security situation being good here and bad there, but at least when security is restored in a participation region, withdraw from that region will be possible. On the other hand, concrete things like March or May, haven't come up in the agenda of our discussion yet.

Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)


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