(* 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 22, 2008, 9:22 a.m.
Place: Entrance Hall, 3F Prime Minister's Office

Main topics:

  1. Iran's nuclear issue
  2. An attack on a Japanese vessel off Yemen
  3. Issue of sharing confiscated assets in Zurich
  4. Official overseas visits by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
  5. Olympic torch relay in Nagano
  6. Domestic politics

1. Iran's nuclear issue

Question:
The Government has decided to freeze assets of some people involved in Iran's nuclear development. What kind of people would be targets for the freezing?

Minister:
The United Nations resolution specifies certain people. As a member state of the United Nations, we took this measure against corporations and individuals as part of our obligation.

Question:
What is your thinking on Iran's nuclear development?

Minister:
Given that Iran is not a nuclear state as designated under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it must not engage in the development of nuclear weapons. That should not be questioned. Of course, every nation has the right to make peaceful use of nuclear technology, but it must demonstrate and prove to the international community that it does not intend to develop nuclear weapons. Currently, Iran is suspected by the international community. Japan's position is that Iran also should straighten relations with the United States and with the European Union, and then proceed on development activities in a way that the world can clearly recognize that there is no doubt of its intention for peaceful use.

Related Information (Press Release)

2. An attack on a Japanese vessel off Yemen

Question:
A Japanese tanker was attacked yesterday off the coast of Yemen. There have been frequent pirate activities in that area. In that light, do you have any particular response in mind?

Minister:
Of course we must make efforts to cut down pirate activities as much as possible. For example, the new Replenishment Support Special Measures Law was enacted to allow Japan to provide fuel to vessels which are undertaking Operation Enduring Freedom-Maritime Interdiction Operation (OEF-MIO). Although the law is not meant as a countermeasure against pirates per se, it is in fact true that OEF-MIO has led to a significant reduction in pirate activities. In the past, there was a case where one of these vessels rescued a Japanese vessel. Although I cannot say exactly when and where, there was another case where it has protected a Japanese vessel. So it seems that the new law has played a significant role in making the seas in that area much more peaceful. I believe that the international community must continue joining hands to ensure that there can be no pirate activity.

3. Issue of sharing confiscated assets in Zurich

Question:
Regarding the incident of the "Goryou-kai," is this a matter that is related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Minister:
Ultimately we will be exchanging notes, so in that sense the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is indeed involved. Fifty percent of the asset will be returned to us. From the perspective of the Government of the Swiss Confederation, there is no legal obligation to return it, and in the event that it should be returned, the maximum is set to be 50 percent. That is how it goes under domestic law in Switzerland. The Government of Japan has negotiated to get that 50 percent back. I think that in the end it basically worked out well with Japan retrieving 50 percent, given there is no legal obligation for Switzerland to do so.

Related Information (Press Release)

4. Official overseas visits by the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Question:
Do you have any plans to take official visits overseas during the extended holiday period "Golden Week"?

Minister:
Oh, the upcoming holiday period? We will decide it later on.

Question:
I understand that the Prime Minister has cancelled his trip to Europe. Will you be going anywhere else instead?

Minister:
That is to be decided later on, as I said just now.

Question:
Will you keep that in mind as you consider the plan?

Minister:
We will take all elements into consideration and decide based on a comprehensive judgment.

5. Olympic torch relay in Nagano

Question:
There are media reports that Médecins Sans Frontières will hold a press conference in Tokyo and engage in protest activities during the torch relay in Nagano. Will the Government of Japan take any measures such as refusing to allow them to enter Japan?

Minister:
Whether or not someone is permitted entry into the country or refused entry into the country is a matter to be decided by the Ministry of Justice. There is no particular problem with anybody just protesting. However, if the protest involves violence, then that should not be tolerated. I believe that if such a situation arises the police authorities will take the proper response.

6. Domestic politics

(See Japanese version.)


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