(* 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: Monday, August 27, 2007, 1:35 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Minister:
Overall during my two terms--11 months with the Koizumi Cabinet and 11 months with the Abe Cabinet--I held this office for a total of one year and 10 months. During that time I was able to go to various countries--around 41 countries and 9.5 times around the world.

I believe that Japan's diplomacy following the World War II has been conducted based on the three pillars of "placing the United Nations at the heart of our diplomacy" "the Japan-US alliance" and "friendly relations with neighboring nations." I have been able to launch the "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" as a new axis of Japan's diplomacy, and this has received a high degree of praise overseas. I think that perhaps this could be considered one of the fruits of this one year and 10 months.

A number of events took place. In July of last year when North Korea launched missiles, unanimous approval was given at the United Nations Security Council, including China and Russia, with Japan taking the lead. Subsequently, when being told about nuclear testing in October, the negotiations took roughly one week. I was able to work with then Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, and I believe that these were significant achievements.

During a surprise visit to Baghdad we fooled most of the staff at the Foreign Ministry and the police. In terms of actions, I remember being able to go on this covert visit.

As for the recent press conference with four parties, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan, the foreign minister of Israel entering Jericho in the Palestinian territories was at least an extremely rare occasion, and the situation was such that it was first time on the Israeli side for this to be covered on television. At least Saeb Erakat, Chief of the PLO Steering and Monitoring Committee, stated at the press conference that Japan will indicate in advance what it would be like if peace is achieved in the Palestinian territories. There were thus very moving aspects for the people who were there. It was memorable, and I believe that the evaluation has been higher than we thought it would be.

In terms of events, I have mentioned those three things. Aside from that, I got the feeling that staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were not walking with confidence. I pay a great deal of attention to the fact that at least staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as diplomats, must walk with dignity and confidence. I thus did a variety of things, thinking that this is something I had to address at the very least. With a view to strengthening diplomatic power, I received support from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito, and so on and was able to set the two courses of increasing the number of embassies and increasing the number of staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That pretty much sums it up.

Above all, I am grateful for the support that I have received over this one year and 10 months. Thank you very much.

Question:
Do you have any advice for the succeeding minister?

Minister:
The issues I just mentioned have all yet to be brought to conclusion. Therefore, as strengthening diplomatic power, the issue of Jericho regarding the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity," and the issue of an "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" are all underway, I would really like to see these issues brought to proper conclusion. That is my sincere feeling on this.

Question:
In reverse, have you yourself left any unfinished business?

Minister:
I believe the North Korean issue is one order of unfinished business. I believe that gatherings with North Korea and Japan-North Korea talks must be further developed in the future, so, as of now, I unfortunately feel that we have yet to reach conclusion on this.

Question:
When you first took office, in response to a question regarding how previous Foreign Minister Shigeru Yoshida, your grandfather, would currently feel about your assumption of the position, you remarked that you thought he would look down from heaven and worry about whether you are really capable. If Mr. Yoshida was looking, how do you think he would evaluate your job over the past 1 year and 10 months?

Minister:
I wonder what he would say. I think he would likely praise my work such as with Israel and the "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity." He was the Foreign Minister in a period when the Cold War was just getting underway, and I served as Foreign Minister after the collapse of the Cold War structure. At any rate, the environment from one era to the next has changed greatly. I also think that, in regards to Japan-U.S. relations, he would feel that at the very least we should have promoted stronger discussion on the right to collective defense, and that some issues were left unattended. I think that is how he would feel.


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