(* 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 Masahiko Koumura

Date: Friday, January 11, 2008, 9:48 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Dispatch of Representative of the Government of Japan Yasushi Akashi to Sri Lanka
  2. Holding of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year
  3. New Law Regarding the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law
  4. Temporary Detention of a Defense Attache of the Japanese Embassy in China
  5. Regarding the Replay of the Handball Qualification Tournaments for the Beijing Olympics

1. Dispatch of Representative of the Government of Japan Yasushi Akashi to Sri Lanka

Minister:
The Government of Sri Lanka decided to withdraw from the Ceasefire Agreement with the rebel organization, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). During the recent visit to Japan by President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, I held talks with the President and at that time he mentioned the promotion of ethnic reconciliation. Therefore, I am very concerned that Sri Lanka's decision to withdraw from the Ceasefire Agreement could lead to the escalation of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Given this situation, I have decided to dispatch Representative of the Government of Japan Yasushi Akashi to Sri Lanka from 13 to 15 January. I would like to call once again for the Government of Sri Lanka to continue to make efforts toward a political solution through dialogue.

Related Information (Japan-Sri Lanka Relations)

2. Holding of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year

Minister:
It has been decided to appoint His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince to the post of Honorary President of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year to be held in 2008. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Brazil and the aims of the exchange year are to celebrate this milestone and carry out a wide range of exchanges with Brazil. In April, the Government of Japan will host a commemorative ceremony in Tokyo. Furthermore, a visit by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince to Brazil in June is currently being considered.

The Japan-Brazil Exchange Year commences today in Japan, and the opening ceremony for the event in Brazil will be held next week. Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Hitoshi Kimura will be in attendance. Senior Vice-Minister Kimura will organize today's Welcome Reception.

We would like to use the opportunity of this exchange year to greatly advance Japan-Brazil relations.

Related Information (Press Release)

3. New Law Regarding the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law

Question:
Today the New Law Regarding the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law will be enacted. Please tell us of your thoughts on this matter.

Minister:
I have strongly hoped that the new law would be enacted. The international community expects it upon us and it would also be in Japan's national interest. I do not know of any country throughout the world that is opposed to Japan engaging in refueling activities. If I were stretched, I could point out that the Rodong Sinmun of North Korea has expressed its opposition, but as for all other countries, the government-related officials I have met to date have all expressed their expectations concerning Japan's activities and all mass media outlets, with the exception of one North Korean newspaper and domestic media, have been uniform in expressing their expectations for Japan's activities. Therefore I am somewhat mystified as to the domestic opposition to the law. But anyway my feeling is that I would like to see it passed into legislation in the Diet.

In the event that the law is successfully enacted, the Maritime Self-Defense Force will be able to go about their duties in a straightforward manner. And at the same time, I have mentioned them since before as one of the twin wheels, but we will engage in humanitarian reconstruction, assistance for the political process and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, which Japan has achieved successes in, as well as the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) which Japan will take a central role in as we move forward, and we also will offer dynamic support and assistance in a variety of areas, including agricultural support, support for development of road networks, and assistance in educational and health issues. This assistance can be done without making any law. In order to mobilize the Self-Defense Forces, legislation is required and it is for that reason that we have created a law for the current issue at hand, but even without legislation, to date we have provided assistance, though with a variety of difficult conditions, totaling 140 billion yen, the second largest amount to be contributed by any country around the world. Although there are still problems outstanding in terms of law and order in Afghanistan, the national standard of living particularly is improving very gradually, as I mentioned in yesterday's deliberations. Five million refugees have also returned home to Afghanistan and economic growth is at 10%, with the school attendance rate also heading upwards, particularly with education of women, whose school attendance rate in the past was 0%, but has now reached around the 35% level. We must not merely focus on the negative aspects of the situation, but also turn to consider positive aspects such as the improvement of the standard of living for the people and in this regard the Government of Japan is committed to make efforts to create a better tomorrow for such people. These are activities that we will continue with, regardless of whether the law is enacted or not. Of course it would be preferable to find ourselves in a situation in which we could promote both of our activities as two pillars.

Question:
How do you intend to promote the enactment of the new law to other countries? Also, please give us your view on the necessity for a permanent law for dispatching the Self-Defense Forces.

Minister:
The enactment of the new law is being watched with interest by other countries and I am sure they will be aware of what is happening, but there will also be an official announcement through diplomatic channels regarding the law.

As I have said since before concerning a permanent law, I think that rather than always implementing a special measures law as a stop gap measure, it would be better to have permanent legislation in place. It would be pointless if a permanent law or legislation cannot be enacted and for such a law to be compiled we would need to engage in various discussions with opposition parties. Activities stipulated in the counter-bill submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), would, as far as I can judge, for the most part be possible to implement without a law being enacted, and for part of the Self-Defense Forces could effectively do nothing. Therefore, virtually I cannot find any significance. However, in the counter-bill there is something very positive about the use of weapons, which could be significant in future discussions on a permanent law. It is significant that the DPJ have put a proposal forward themselves, with content, which the DPJ would be unlikely to have agreed if it had been put forward previously by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). There are various points to be further discussed also within the LDP, but that is the feeling I get.

Also, at the current point in time, although it may initially look difficult for the LDP and DPJ to overcome their differences concerning the treatment of the United Nations Resolution, we may be able to come to some understanding through discussions. The creation of a permanent law and making an active international contribution, I believe, are necessary.

Question:
As for the timing, are you aiming to submit such a bill during the upcoming regular Diet session? Also, what format do you anticipate consultations with the DPJ to take?

Minister:
I do not know. I have not presumed to go so far.

Question:
With regard to refueling activities there have been those who have pointed out that the realities of these activities remain unclear. What is the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on taking due care in the compilation of the exchange of notes and proceeding with this issue?

Minister:
Basically the vessels that are being refueled should be vessels used in the Operation Enduring Freedom-Maritime Interdiction Operation (OEF-MIO), and refueling should contribute to such OEF-MIO activities. I think therefore it is necessary for it to be clearly stated that this is the purpose of refueling.

However, such activities cannot all be accounted for and resolved in one document, like the exchange of notes that you mentioned, and it is important for efforts to be carried out thoroughly on-site, and we are attempting to make wide-ranging efforts.

Various things were pointed out, but they were overly exaggerated and those things that were mentioned as suspicious were in fact almost, though in my view completely, clarified and shown to be untrue, thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry of Defense. From the point of view of ordinary people, at least the overly-exaggerated points, such as that much of the fuel supplied by Japanese vessels was used in the Iraq war, were completely cleared up.

Related Information (Statement by Prime Minister)

4. Temporary Detention of a Defense Attache of the Japanese Embassy in China

Question:
I would like to ask a question concerning the defense attache in Beijing. Similar incidents have occurred before so I imagine you have taken measures to prevent their recurrence. I have the impression that it has happened again. What are your thoughts on this issue? And please tell us what measures you will take in the future to deal with this kind of problem.

Minister:
I intend to ensure that all of our embassy staff clearly understand that it is better for people in their position not to frequent places which can incur suspicion. At the same time, although the attache was not forcibly detained, just for confirmation we have communicated to the Chinese side what the status of a diplomat entails under the Vienna Convention.

Therefore, for our part we must work to ensure that our diplomats understand that it is better not to frequent places that will incur suspicion, and even though the attache was not forcibly detained and only underwent voluntary questioning, just for confirmation we have communicated to the Chinese side how a diplomat is defined under the Vienna Convention.

Question:
Are you intending to call the attache back to Japan to hear his side of the story or to remove him from his position early and recall him to Japan?

Minister:
That is a matter that will be decided later.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

5. Regarding the Replay of the Handball Qualification Tournaments for the Beijing Olympics

Question:
Regarding the Olympic handball qualification tournaments, it has been reported that they will be replayed this month in Tokyo. This decision is creating a lot of conflict as the other three Asian countries, specifically the three Middle Eastern countries, are opposing it. How do you see this issue?

Minister:
That is not a matter that a Minister for Foreign Affairs should comment on.

Question:
Japan's relations with the Middle East are relatively good but it seems that television viewers are becoming more and more unsympathetic to what the Middle East is saying. What are your views on this?

Minister:
I have the impression that there are complicated mires everywhere in the world of human beings, but my own view is that it is not appropriate for the incumbent Minister for Foreign Affairs to interfere in such matters by saying this or that should be done.


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