(* This is a provisional translation by "WIP ジャパン" for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Aso

Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2006, 10:58a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Cabinet Meeting/Informal Cabinet Meeting
  2. Domestic Politics
  3. Foreign Minister Aso's foreign visits

1. Cabinet Meeting/Informal Cabinet Meeting

(See Japanese version)

2. Domestic Politics

(See Japanese version)

3. Foreign Minister Aso's foreign visits

Question:
I believe that over the New Year you will be planning your foreign visits. What stage is this planning at present?

Minister:
I spoke of the 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity' and therefore can name such countries between Western Europe and Russia as Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia; but as these countries also have their schedules, planning will have to take place. At first I thought I would be visiting the United States, too, but the schedules of the parties to the '2+2' Meeting: the Japan Defense Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the other parties, cannot be readily coordinated, so I believe January will be impossible.

Question:
What is the significance of your visiting the countries in the 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity' at this time?

Minister:
After announcing our intention, it is important to make things happen with more than just words.

Question:
If it is going to be difficult to hold the "2+2" Meeting in January, when do you think you will aim for?

Minister:
There are various issues such as the realignment of U.S. forces, and the other day the second round of consultation with Okinawa took place, the first to be attended by the new governor of Okinawa. Taking these kinds of things into account, I think the earlier the better; but the reality of the issue is that, with the deliberations on the budget getting underway, the holidays at the beginning of February seem to be the only time that could be found during February. So far I have only looked at the calendar, and it depends also on the schedules of the other parties, including the Japan Defense Agency.

Question:
The 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity' is something you announced yourself. What are Prime Minister Abe's thoughts regarding this concept?

Minister:
Asking people their thoughts is your job, not mine. Basically, Prime Minister Abe and I have not engaged in any preliminary talks about the 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity' at any length or in any detail. Therefore, I have not asked him what he thinks of the idea. If he does have anything to say regarding it, I am sure he will say it. Basically, I don't expect there to be that much variance between us on the issue, so I have not seen fit to ask.
Happy New Year!


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