(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese. The original text is in Japanese.)
Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso
Date: Tuesday, August 7, 2007, 10:23 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Cabinet Meeting
- Decision by International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Case Regarding Seizure of Japanese Fishing Vessels
- North Korean Issues
- Visit to the Middle East by Foreign Minister Taro Aso
- Acceptance of Gratuities by Minister of Justice Nagase
2. Decision by International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Case Regarding Seizure of Japanese Fishing Vessels
Yesterday, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany made a decision in the case filed by Japan regarding the seizure of fishing vessels by Russia. It was during the night, but I believe that it has appeared in some newspapers.
The decision recognized 10 million rubles (approximately 46 million yen) as a reasonable amount for a security with regard to the 88th Hoshinmaru. I believe that the Russian side was demanding 22 million rubles, more than twice that. Russia has been ordered upon payment of the 10 million rubles to promptly release the vessel and allow the unconditional return of the crew to Japan. Based on the calculation of the amount of the security, it was clearly judged that the price of the vessel should not be taken into consideration and that Japan's assertions were recognized.
In regard to the 53rd Tomimaru, Russia's internal procedures have already been completed, and it has been decided that the vessel is to be confiscated. The objective of requests by the Japanese side has been lost, and it has been judged that a decision cannot be made for the vessel's prompt release. Nevertheless, the decision in general terms indicates that the unjust and hasty confiscation of a vessel contradicts the aims of the system for prompt release stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and Japan positively assesses this point.
In response to this decision, Japan requests prompt execution on the Russian side and the prompt release of the 88th Hoshinmaru and its crew once the security is paid. I hope that this decision be an opportunity for Russia to improve its domestic systems regarding the seizure and release of foreign fishing vessels and the operation of these systems, and that it will lead to preventative measures by Japan against the long-term detainment of fishing vessels. Older persons may know this, but Japan has not filed a suit regarding this type of matter until now. This is the first case.
I believe the Six-Party working group on economic and energy aid will be discussing the provision of assistance equivalent of the 950,000 tons of heavy oil. This will be in response to the next phase of measures, but North Korea has not yet specifically implemented its next phase of measures. Is it right to be encouraging North Korea by going ahead with discussions on energy assistance? I think perhaps it is meaningless to move forward with talks about the assistance equivalent of the 950,000 tons of heavy oil when North Korea has not concretely implemented its next phase of measures. What are your thoughts on this matter?
The working group will be meeting on August 7 and 8, and I think that the matter will be discussed then, so I would like to refrain from commenting at this phase. As for the content of the assistance equivalent of the 950,000 tons of oil, to be honest, whether food will be included is somewhat unclear as well, so I am unable to comment regarding the next phase.
In terms of Japan, it is the case that Japan will not be able to provide aid unless progress is made in relations between Japan and North Korea, including the abduction issue?
Regarding the assistance equivalent of the 950,000 tons of oil, Japan will not be providing this or that unless progress is made on issues such as the abduction issue.
You will visit the Middle East soon. In the midst of the inner-Palestinian conflict and, moreover, the unstable political situation in Israel, what do you anticipate to accomplish on this visit?
Concerning the concept of the "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity," in March, we had discussions in Japan with Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, where we came to an agreement to begin a feasibility study. Three months later at the end of June, we held the first working level meeting in the Middle East, and I will visit the region because of this. The Palestinian territories contain the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and within the West Bank exists a large mix of areas that the Palestinian Authority is properly managing along with areas where Israel has exerted significant power. Then there is the oasis-like region of Jericho, and we really hoped to hold the meeting there. However, in light of the unstable situation there, we had inquired about postponing the working level meeting, but they insisted on having us participate, thus we sent people. Therefore, the first-round working level meeting was held with the participation of the Foreign Ministry and JICA officials along with other personnel at the end of June. Thereupon we were told that there have been countless trilateral meetings between Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority in the past, but it is extremely meaningful since the three parties first came together in aim for raising money, and that it was Japan that made the talks possible. The discussions are now advancing in a very concrete manner.
Therefore, I am not very knowledgeable about discussion surrounding the Gaza Strip. I am sure there are various other projects within the West Bank. The discussion about how to build farming communities requires quite an amount of time. It is said that the success of kibbutz (collective farming communities) in Israel had an extremely large effect on the country at the time of its establishment. Since the climate is essentially the same, this farming would involve becoming able to export goods through Jordan from the eastern bank of the Jordan River. This means that Jordan would possess a great deal of influence. Creating agricultural products peacefully--that is where work exists. Thus income will be born and foreign currency will be earned through the sale of such products. This farming will serve as the base for the country in many ways. It will start off on a small scale at first, but it is sure to grow larger to deliver agricultural income for the country. The Palestinian Authority gets money in large part through donations from Palestinians living in different countries, and, in consideration of this, I am told by many people that it is hard to believe that the project will succeed, or that it would take close to a miracle for the project to succeed. Japan is to take a completely different approach from other countries in the past, and I know that this has earned the project much attention. So, in light of this, I think that we have to continue to observe the situation, and while I cannot say immediately that there is no danger, if the three parties believe that the project will be profitable the possibility for its success will emerge. We have to make efforts in aim for its success.
There are reports that the local office of Minister of Justice Nagase accepted gratuities in relation to inquiries on the visas of foreign research students from the students' receiving organization. Furthermore, it appears that a few Chinese were unable to receive visas. Was the Foreign Ministry approached in any way by Minister of Justice Nagase's side?
I do not believe so. If nothing more, Minister Nagase has never visited me regarding this matter.
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