(* 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 MACHIMURA Nobutaka
Date: Thursday, August 30, 2007, 7:05 p.m.
Place: In front of Ministerial Reception Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Concept of "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity"
- North Korean Issues
- Issue of Takeshima
- Talks with Cao Gangchuan, Minister of National Defense of the People's Republic of China
1. Concept of "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity"
You have just finished the taking-over ceremony for Minister for Foreign Affairs, and you are probably setting out with renewed resolve. Could you please comment on that?
Minister Taro Aso was a great predecessor, so I feel that unique frontiers have been opened. As diplomacy is a matter of continuation, I think it is necessary for me to do my best, taking over the fruits of the efforts of the various people who came before me. Former Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeshi Iwaya commented that Mr. Aso's team was a "dream team," and that my team would probably be a "miracle team." I feel that I have to do my very best so that we can become a miracle team. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Aso said that if I ever had any problems, he would give me guidance, so I will be counting on his support.
The other day you said that you had not yet taken over Former Minister Aso's policy of the "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity," and that you would decide what to do about it upon speaking with him. What is the status of that?
I spoke with him about it today, and I understand the concept very well. I think it is good that he has launched a new concept in the area of diplomacy. In fact, Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva of Finland, whom I met with the day before yesterday, commented that he is very happy about the fact that Japan is showing an interest in Northern Europe and regions such as the Baltic states. The concept has had the effect of leading the foreign ministers of other countries to make statements like this, so I believe that it is indeed good. It is very important concept, and I intend to inherit it.
2. North Korean Issues
Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State, commented at press conference that the United States intends to bring up the Japanese abduction issue at the United States-North Korea Working Group. This will likely have an impact on the Japan-North Korea Working Group. Could you please comment on this?
Up to now as well, the United States, China, and other countries have properly and appropriately raised the abduction issue, and have applied pressure in this manner. Accordingly, I believe that there are merits and advantages to addressing individual issues within the framework of the Six-Party Talks-more than if they were addressed separately. In that sense, we are very grateful to these foreign partners for their assistance in resolving the abduction issue. I do not believe that this will have an immediate impact on the Japan-North Korea Working Group next week then and there, but we intend to value this as an extremely positive background factor.
In relation to this, Assistant Secretary Hill indicated that the issue of the removal of North Korea from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism will depend on its progress in disablement and denuclearization. What is the status of collaboration between Japan and the United States in this regard? In other words, Assistant Secretary Hill's statement gives the impression that the United States will probably take the abduction issue into consideration, but it may remove North Korea from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism depending on how much progress is made in denuclearization.
I have not yet heard Assistant Secretary Hill's statement, so I do not have a correct awareness and it is probably better if I do not comment in one way or another. I will say, however, that the Six-Party Talks have been organized with the major objective of "creating a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula." What type of action the United States will take in what type of situation is not necessarily clear-cut. It would be great, however, if that is achieved someday. At the same time, the United States will be thoroughly taking up the abduction issue with North Korea while closely consulting with Japan, so we will be moving in a positive direction overall while maintaining a thorough mutual understanding, and I think that this is important. But I think that of course some topics will progress faster than others.
3. Issue of Takeshima
Shimane Prefecture has enacted an ordinance for "Takeshima Day." Going forward does the government intend to be proactively involved in this regard, including participating in ceremonies and so forth? I believe that Shimane Prefecture, as with the Northern Territories, has made numerous requests to the government calling for the creation of a department inside the government to handle this matter. What are your thoughts on a response to this?
Did something happen with Takeshima?
No, nothing in particular. I would like to hear your thoughts as the new Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I see. When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs previously, the ordinance on "Takeshima Day" was passed, and I recall quite well the result being that exchanges between the leaders of Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were interrupted, and it triggered a rapid shift in Japan-ROK relations overall to a very unfriendly atmosphere. Local governments decide matters based on their respective ideas. ROK requested the government to put a stop to this, and Japan refused, saying that it could not do so based on its principle of local autonomy. This is something that respective local governments carry out, and I in turn intend to respect the actions of local governments. As for whether government personnel will participate in "Takeshima Day" on February 22, they have not participated the past two times. Going forward, I will once again carefully think about what to do, and I think it is now necessary to give careful consideration to whether there are factors for changing the precedent of the past two times.
As for setting up a department to handle this, I have only just been appointed, so this is my first time to hear about that type of idea. I therefore plan to consider it carefully.
4. Talks with Cao Gangchuan, Minister of National Defense of the People's Republic of China
Please tell us about the main issues in your talks now with the Chinese Minister of National Defense.
This was my first meeting with Minister Cao Gangchuan, but his greeting words were "I know you; I have seen you on TV many times." This morning, Minister Cao Gangchuan met with Minister of Defense Masahiko Koumura, and had an extremely productive discussion. Various decisions were reached regarding defense exchanges, human exchanges and exchanges of marine vessels. I am particularly glad that an agreement was reached to build an emergency report system for the East China Sea. There is a consensus between the leaders of Japan and China that a decision must be reached sometime this fall or winter regarding the future joint or single development of oil, natural gases, and other resources in this area. The existence of a working emergency report system will be extremely effective for the prevention of unexpected contingencies, so in my meeting with Minister Cao Gangchuan I expressed my delight at the agreement reached between Minister Cao Gangchuan and Minister Koumura. Also, I welcomed the idea of defense exchanges, expressing my opinion that such exchanges are conductive to mutual understanding as the two sides get an idea of each other's equipment, training methods and human resources, and in that sense they will contribute to the efforts for greater transparency of China's military expenses that are coming under criticism for their rapid increase. China has issued a White Paper on Defense as part of their efforts to improve transparency, but I expressed our wish to see such efforts advanced further. Also, I frankly shared with Minister Cao Gangchuan the concerns voiced in Japan over the anti-satellite missile test conducted by China earlier this year.
How did Minister Cao Gangchuan react to this?
He did not make any particular comments on this issue. However, on two or three occasions he expressed his delight that an agreement has been reached on the expansion of exchanges, saying that this is a wonderful success. At the end of the meeting he touched upon the Taiwan issue, and I confirmed that there will be no changes in Japan's policy with respect to Taiwan.
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