(* 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: Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 9:25 a.m.
Place: In front of the Ministers' Room in the House

Main topics:

  1. US-North Korea Consultations
  2. Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yabunaka's Visit to the United States
  3. Torch Relay of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
  4. Nomination of Bank of Japan Governor

1. US-North Korea Consultations

Question: First of all, I would like to ask about the US-North Korea consultations in Singapore. These consultations were held again after a long time in this format and I would like to ask your view about whether or not immediate progress will be made on the declaration issue.

Minister:
I hope the progress will be made, but at the current time I do not know whether or not the progress will actually be made. I hope that North Korea will make a complete and correct declaration, that's all.

Question:
Regarding the method for the declaration and other details, there are various reports. Do you place more emphasis on the method for the declaration or on the content? Please explain how you will evaluate things going forward.

Minister:
Of course, the content. The order for my evaluation would be: content, then method, then timing.

Question:
Following the consultations this time, Mr. Akitaka Saiki, the Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, will arrive in Beijing today. What is his mission?

Minister:
Naturally, he will get information about North Korea. He will receive a detailed briefing on what kind of consultations took place.

Question:
It is being reported that if a compromise has been reached this time between the United States and North Korea, then there will be an immediate advance forward and probably the overall situation will change greatly with progress. At the same time, this week the deadline for extending Japan's economic sanctions is approaching. Is it correct to say that there are possibilities of a change of this extension depending on what actually takes place?

Minister:
That would be rather difficult unless progress actually was made in Japan-North Korea relations.

Question:
Are you saying that even if progress is made between the United States and North Korea, the policy of extending the economic sanctions is a fixed policy?

Minister:
If there is absolutely no advance made in Japan-North Korea relations, then that would be rather difficult.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)
Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

2. Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yabunaka Visits the United States

Question:
At the same time, Mr. Yabunaka, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, will visit the United States. What will his mission be?

Minister:
Mr. Yabunaka will go to participate in policy talks at the vice-ministerial level that have been decided far in advance. This is not a particular mission. Rather, this will take place as part of ongoing policy talks.

Question:
Given that US-North Korea consultations are underway, it seems natural that the talks will include the discussion of that matter. What is your view?

Minister:
It is likely that it will come up on the agenda. However, it is not clear how much of the overall agenda will be allocated to that.

Question:
Is it correct to understand that once again the Vice-Minister will express Japan's view on the movements of the United States toward removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

Minister:
Well, from the outset it has been agreed that the United States would consult with Japan if it considered removing North Korea from that list. If that conversation touched upon this issue, then naturally I am sure that Vice-Minister Yabunaka would express Japan's views on that matter. At the same time, if we on our side feel that movement is occurring in that direction, I believe that we will bring that matter up from our side. Of course, that will happen as part of the overall agenda.

Question:
I am sure that it depends how you feel about the flow of developments between the United States and North Korea, but do you get the impression that there will be immediate progress and a strong momentum toward removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

Minister:
I do not really know about that. Ultimately this will be decided by the United States. The US has said that in making that decision it will consult and have sufficient talks with Japan.

Question:
Is it correct to understand that Japan's position is that unless Japan-North Korea relations and the abduction issue move, Japan would be opposed to the United States removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

Minister:
We have been telling the United States that we would not want them to remove North Korea from that list unless some progress has been made. I fully understand that ultimately it is the US that will make a decision in this regard. However, we have informed the US that it would be problematic from Japan's side if North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism even though absolutely no progress had been made on resolving the abductions issue.

Related Information (Press Release)

3. Torch Relay of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Question:
Regarding the torch relay for the Beijing Olympic Games, protest activities and disruptive activities have been taking place in Europe. How do you view that situation?

Minister:
Japan has been calling upon both sides in Tibet to take a calm response. In any event, violence is bad and therefore it is difficult for us to support any efforts that would involve using violence with the goal of stopping the torch relay. For example, even though the Government of Australia has stated that it is opposed to whaling, it has condemned the protest activities of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I think that it is natural. It is absolutely wrong to use violence to stop the torch relay. The Dalai Lama has also called for such actions to be stopped.

Question:
The torch relay is also expected to come to Japan. Do you have any concerns in that regard?

Minister:
I believe that it is the police authorities who have sufficient information on that.

Question:
Regarding the situation in Tibet, does Japan as the host of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit intend to include it on the Summit agenda?

Minister:
That will depend on the situation that prevails at that time regarding the situation in Tibet. It would be best if steps could be made so that the situation does not require that it be put on the agenda.

Question:
Besides for these disruption activities, there is an increasing number of countries whose governments have made an official statement or otherwise indicated that they intend to boycott participation at the opening ceremony. What is your view of this?

Minister:
I do not think that the number has increased. Please tell me which countries have stated that they intend to boycott the opening ceremony in this regard. For example, what country are you talking about?

Question:
France has suggested that it might do that.

Minister:
My understanding is that France has not stated that it intends to boycott anything in this regard. As far as I know, I think it is only one country that has made that statement.

4. Nomination of Governor of the Bank of Japan

(See Japanese version.)


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