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

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso

Date: Friday, May 18, 2007, 9:08 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Cabinet Meeting
  2. Iranian nuclear issue
  3. Right of collective self-defense

1. Cabinet Meeting

(See Japanese version)

2. Iranian nuclear issue

Minister:
Today, the Cabinet approved various measures in order to implement Security Council Resolution 1747 on the nuclear activities of Iran, one of which is to freeze the assets of organizations and individuals designated by the Resolution. I believe that this issue requires a resolute response, keeping in mind its close relationship with the maintenance of the nonproliferation regime as well as North Korea's nuclear issue. Japan will further urge Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment-related activities and return to the negotiations in accordance with the Resolution.

Related Information (Press Release)

3. Right of collective self-defense

Question:
Today, an expert panel on security will hold its first meeting at the Prime Minister's Office to discuss the right of collective self-defense. Japan has been making various efforts on development of its missile defense program in response to North Korea's missile launches. What do you expect will be discussed at the meeting?

Minister:
Other than the concept of the right of self-defense, it does not seem very pertinent whether this self-defense is collective or individual. Nevertheless, it is natural for a nation to have the right of self-defense. It is a matter of course that a state has the right of self-defense, but in the case of Japan, theological arguments, if you like, have been going on for a long time amid various debates on legal interpretations, such as while Japan has the right it cannot "exercise" it. However, the change in security environment surrounding Japan, beginning, I believe, with the launches of the Rodong and Taepodong missiles, has begun to dramatically alter the consciousness of the people. There was also the sinking of a suspicious vessel and a number of other incidents -- I have from before harbored the belief that the people living on the side of the Sea of Japan are more acute to the security environment compared to the people on the side of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, incidents such as the missile launches in July of last year and the so-called nuclear test in October of last year have contributed to the dramatic change in the people's consciousness toward Japan's security in the context of the world order in the aftermath of the collapse of the Cold War structure. That is my first point.

The other point is that the wider world expects Japan to make the sort of contributions it made in the Golan Heights or Timor-Leste, for instance, or previous to that in Cambodia, or more recently in the supply missions in the Indian Ocean and the activities of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), etc., in Iraq. There have been opinions that Japan should fully address this situation in which it cannot take care of its own affairs, even though it wants to do so, due to existing laws or interpretations. Taking these factors into account, the Prime Minister believed that it would be appropriate to discuss specific cases and four cases are being presented.

For example, in the case where a US ship travels side by side with a Japanese ship during its oil transport and supply mission on the Indian Ocean and the Japanese ship is attacked, the US ship that is receiving the oil would protect the Japanese ship. According to the rulebook, however, Japan is to look the other way if a US ship is attacked. Is this agreeable to everyone? I believe various aspects would not come to light unless specific cases are raised. I believe this need to draw up and study such cases is at the backdrop of the "Panel for Rebuilding the Legal Foundation in terms of Security" being launched and convened.

Question:
What sort of discussions are you personally expecting?

Minister:
We have had various theological arguments so-to-speak on this issue for quite some time now. However you look at it, for a nation to perish by observing the law is the equivalent of "the tail wagging the dog." I believe the fact of the matter is how can we harness the law in order to protect the nation. We often come across the word "deterrence," which is essentially made up of three components: (1) Strength in reference to deterrence; (2) National will to exercise that strength for the security and defense of the nation; and (3) Making it known to other countries that Japan has the will to exercise that strength. I believe deterrence works only when all of these three components are there. It is a matter of analyzing the issue and seeing what we should do based on that. There are countless examples in the world as to what happened when each is neglected. The strength to prevent the destabilization of the Northeast Asian region with these three components in place is deterrence. People often ask how much deterrence is enough. But that is up to the opponent, so I believe it is not a matter that is quantifiable.

Question:
I have a related question. Four cases have been presented, but what are your views concerning deliberations on other matters? For example, I believe three conditions and various restrictions are attached to individual right of self-defense. Do you believe these should be left in place?

Minister:
I understand that the cases were selected because they are concrete, easy to understand examples. As to other cases, one can only imagine.


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