(* 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 Hirofumi Nakasone

Date: Friday, January 23, 2009, 10:55 a.m.
Place: Press Conference Room in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Statement
    • (1) Telephone Talk between Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States
    • (2) Implementation of Assistance in Kind and Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for the Afflicted Palestinians
  2. Closure of the Detention Facilities at Guantanamo Bay by the New U.S. Administration
  3. The Issue of the Disposal of Chemical Weapons in China

1. Opening Statement

(1) Telephone Talk between Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States

Minister:
This morning, for about 15 minutes from 8:00 a.m., I held a telephone talk with Mrs. Hillary Clinton, who had only just then assumed her position as Secretary of State of the United States. I received a telephone call from her at 6:00 p.m. on January 22 in the United States, which was her first working day. In response to my congratulations, Mrs. Clinton stated that the Japan-U.S. alliance was a cornerstone of the U.S. policy toward Asia, and that she expected to work together in addressing the international issues while continuing to strengthen those relations. From my part, I said that we must make the best use of "smart power," which was used by the Secretary of State, in order to address various international issues in fields of global issues such as measures against terrorism, measures to counter global warming, nuclear issues, and the issue of African development, and I mentioned that I intended to work together with the Secretary of State. Furthermore, I called on the Secretary of State for cooperation on issues related to North Korea, including the abduction issue, and issues related to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. As far as North Korean issues are concerned, the Secretary of State said that this was a very serious issue and expressed her sympathy toward the families of the victims and the people of Japan. Furthermore, the Secretary of State said that it is important to steadily implement the reorganization of the United States military forces in Japan, and that while doing so the U.S.-Japan security arrangements would serve as a central axis in order for us to further enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance. Overall, I felt that the Secretary of State had very strong regard for Japan. From my side, I said that I look forward to visiting the United States in the near future, and to having an exchange of views with the Secretary of State on various issues. The Secretary of State responded that she looked forward to meeting me soon. As a result, we agreed to promptly coordinate to determine the date and itinerary. What was particularly impressive for me was the way she opened up on topics to share her thoughts with me: she said that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of the U.S. policy toward Asia, and that, regarding North Korean issues and the abductions issue in particular, she expressed her strong feelings for the families of the victims and the people of Japan.

Question:
Regarding the telephone talk with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there was an announcement that Secretary of State Clinton had stated that she had feelings for the families of the victims and the people of Japan. You have just stated that the Secretary of State told you of her strong feelings of sympathy. Would it be possible for you to tell us in some greater detail what Secretary of State Clinton said in this regard?

Minister:
During our short 15-minute telephone talk, we discussed many topics and amongst those I felt that the Secretary of State spoke particularly strongly about the abductions issue, and therefore I got the impression that the Secretary of State feels especially strongly about that issue. We did not have any more detailed conversations about that matter. I believe that Secretary of State Clinton understands the importance of the abductions issue and that she has extremely strong thoughts regarding the families of the victims and for the people of Japan. Naturally, she also spoke of her intention to cooperate regarding the North Korea nuclear issues.

Question:
Regarding the nuclear issue in North Korea, how did Secretary of State Clinton refer to that? For example, did the Secretary of State say anything in particular regarding the Six-Party Talks or other matter, or the approach to be taken going forward?

Minister:
During our talks today we did not go into any concrete detail on any of the many topics that we spoke about. We did tell each other that we would have such detailed talks in the near future, so today we exchanged opinions along the lines of what I laid out for you just now.

Question:
Regarding "smart power" the Secretary of State used. What exactly did the Secretary of State have in mind when she used "smart power," in the situation that hard power is more effective such as the issues of the economic crisis and Afghanistan?

Minister:
Professor Nye spoke of "smart power," and I think that it amounts to making a response through an integrated approach combining "soft power" and hard power. I believe that Secretary of State Clinton used that term with the same meaning in mind. Until now, the United States has used military force to make responses, especially in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, as it implemented its measures against terrorism. However, I think that in the future it will also make use of "soft power" in order to respond to terrorism. As you know, the term "soft power" refers to making use of culture, values and other soft resources. I do not know exactly what Secretary of State Clinton had in mind, but I do believe that she intends to carry it forward in a comprehensive manner. What I imagine from that is that she will not be thinking only about military options, but that various research will be undertaken and utilized going forward.

Related Information (Press Release)

(2) Implementation of Assistance in Kind and Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for the Afflicted Palestinians

Minister:
I would like to report to you right now that a little while ago the Cabinet made a decision on the implementation of cooperation in kind and emergency humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian refugees. In a response to a request from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), based on the International Peace Cooperation Law, the Government of Japan made a Cabinet decision to provide 29,000 blankets, 8,000 plastic sheets and 20,000 sleeping mats through grant assistance. Together with that, Japan has already pledged emergency humanitarian assistance equivalent to 10 million U.S. dollars. The content of that has been reported to the Cabinet as 3 million U.S. dollars in terms of emergency medical assistance and water supply assistance for UNICEF, as well as 4 million U.S. dollars in emergency food assistance to the World Food Program (WFP).

Related Information (Situation in the Gaza Strip)

2. Closure of the Detention Facilities at Guantanamo Bay by the New U.S. Administration

Question:
President Barack Obama has made a decision to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and it would appear that he intends to change the War on Terrorism, going forward. Please tell us your thoughts on this matter.

Minister:
Regarding this question, this is something that has been talked about for a while, and based on the thoughts of the new President, I understand that this type of decision was made. I do not have any particular comment on this matter, but I can tell you that I will watch very closely the direction in which U.S. counter-terrorism measures and policy on Afghanistan develop.

Question:
Can it then be derived that the Bush Administration approved interrogation methods such as waterboarding that are close to torture, but that you as Foreign Minister think that that was a mistake?

Minister:
As far as torture is concerned, in fact I do not know exactly what took place, and therefore I cannot make any irresponsible comments. Basically, I believe that anything that could be problematic from a humanitarian perspective should not be carried out.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

3. The Issue of the Disposal of Chemical Weapons in China

Question:
Regarding the issue of disposing of abandoned chemical weapons in China, there are some reports saying that the construction of the disposal plant will be halted. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a Japan-China Joint Working Group Meeting and is conducting various discussions through it. Are you looking into the issue of the destruction plan at this Working Group?

Minister:
The disposal of abandoned chemical weapons is an obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention. There is no truth to reports saying that the disposal project in Haerbaling District, Jilin Province, has been halted. The Japanese Government will continue to work towards the completion of this project with maximum effort, under the policy of fulfilling its obligation in good faith under the Chemical Weapons Convention, with the cooperation of the Chinese Government.

Question:
There are some who estimate that the disposal costs will be over 1 trillion yen. Is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs considering lowering the costs?

Minister:
We will establish a safe and effective method for recovery of the chemical weapons and conduct the disposal as swiftly as possible, taking into consideration information such as the results of the exploratory digging.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)


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