Press Conference by the Press Secretary 29 January, 1999

  1. Emergency aid and the dispatch of Japan Disaster Relief Teams to the Republic of Columbia for earthquake disaster relief
  2. Signing of agreement concerning Japan's contribution for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foundation Solidarity Fund
  3. On the East Timor issue
  4. Report in Nature journal concerning endangered species of whales
  5. Results of the meeting between the Government of Japan and the Taliban
  6. Upcoming trade consultations between Japan and India
  7. Reports of cooperation between some Middle Eastern countries and the North Korean military
  8. Possibility that North Korea has deployed missiles

  1. Emergency aid and the dispatch of Japan Disaster Relief Teams to the Republic of Columbia for earthquake disaster relief

    Deputy Press Secretary Masaki Okada: Good afternoon gentlemen. First of all I would like to make three brief statements. The first is concerning the earthquake in Columbia. Director-General for Press and Public Relations / Press Secretary Sadaaki Numata expressed sympathy and condolences to the victims of this earthquake last Tuesday. Immediately thereafter we took several measures. First, this earthquake registering 6.0 on the Richter scale hit western Columbia on 26 January at 3:19 Japan time. The seismic center was located about 180 km. west of Bogota, the capital, at a depth of 100 km. The earthquake has caused immense human and material damage including the collapse of buildings. As of 10:00, 25 January, local reports indicated that almost 400 people were confirmed dead and over 1,000 injured, and telecommunications were partly severed. While conducting relief operations of its own, the Government of Columbia has requested the Government of Japan to dispatch Rescue Teams. In response to this request, on 26 January, the Government of Japan first decided to dispatch a Japan Disaster Relief Team, that is a Rescue Team, to conduct rescue operations in Columbia. The team is composed of 35 members from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Police Agency, the Fire-Defense Agency of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Another Japan Disaster Relief Team, a medical team, was also dispatched to the region. They left Narita on 28 January to conduct medical rescue operations. In addition to these Rescue Teams, the Government of Japan decided on 27 January to extend emergency aid materials, namely tents, blankets, small water tanks, electricity generators, towels and others, worth about 25.650 million yen and an emergency grant aid of US$400,000 to Columbia, which has sustained great damage from the large-scale earthquake. This Rescue Team already arrived in Armenia, that is the disaster area, on 28 January at about 2:00 and started their activities immediately and continued until 16:30 of the same day, namely for more than 14 hours without any interruption. The medical team is also supposed to arrive in the disaster area this morning, local time.

    Related Information (Japan-Colombia Relations)
  2. Signing of agreement concerning Japan's contribution for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foundation Solidarity Fund

    Deputy Press Secretary Masaki Okada: The second statement is concerning Japan's contribution to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foundation. The signing of diplomatic notes concerning Japan's contribution of US$20 million for the ASEAN Foundation Solidarity Fund took place yesterday, 28 January, in Jakarta between Ambassador Takao Kawakami, Ambassador to Indonesia, and Mr. Ridzwan Dzafir, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Foundation. At the same time, a host country agreement, which gives the Foundation the legal status of an international organization, was signed between the ASEAN Foundation and the Government of Indonesia. The establishment of the Solidarity Fund of US$20 million was announced in a policy speech by the then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Keizo Obuchi in May 1998 in Singapore. In his policy speech made in Hanoi on 16 December 1998, now Prime Minister Obuchi stated his hope that the Fund would be put to effective use for education, human resources development, business exchanges and other activities that would contribute to ASEAN's development and the strengthening of Japan-ASEAN cooperation. Specific use of the Fund will be discussed between the Government of Japan and the ASEAN Foundation. The Government of Japan, for its part, considers that the Fund could be usefully applied for such activities as joint studies on the Asian economic crisis, assistance for the strengthening of higher education in ASEAN, assistance for business ties between Japanese companies and local companies, and development of and assistance for regional projects.

    Related Information (Japan-ASEAN Relations)
  3. On the East Timor issue

    Deputy Press Secretary Masaki Okada: My third announcement concerns East Timor. With regard to the Government of Indonesia's decision on the East Timor issue, Japan welcomes the Government of Indonesia's efforts, including this decision, for the solution of the East Timor issue. Japan hopes that the East Timor issue will be solved peacefully through dialogue among those concerned in Indonesia, Portugal and East Timor and continues to closely follow any developments with great interest.

    Related Information (Japan-Indonesia Relations)
  4. Report in Nature journal concerning endangered species of whales

    Q: According to the international scientific journal Nature, an article is about to be published in that journal saying that scientists have used DNA fingerprinting to prove that whale meat sold in Japan comes from endangered species. Does Japan consider that as the case?

    Mr. Okada: We ban the commercial catch of the whales which are prohibited by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). According to the commercial whaling moratorium of the IWC, we prohibit those activities in Japan. Concerning the trade of whale meats, we strictly control it through our regulations for export and import. Also, recently with the support of the research institutions in Japan, we have also undertaken some checking using this DNA fingerprinting but as far as we understand there has not been any case where whale meats were imported to Japan illegally.

    Q: According to the report, they are not claiming that the meat was coming into Japan illegally, but that the whales were killed by Iceland which is not a signatory to the international convention. Is the Japanese Government embarrassed that US researchers have found an endangered species of whale meat for sale in a market in Osaka?

    Mr. Okada: It is possible when Iceland undertook the whaling of fin whales in the years from 1987-1989, we may have imported those whale meats from Iceland during that time. However, we understand that the catch of this fin whale at the time was legal and this import of the whale meat was also legal. Also in light of the signing of the Washington Treaty there was no problem at the time. Therefore we are not very involved in this report.

    Q: Would you say that endangered whale meat is for sale in quite a lot of markets in Japan?

    Mr. Okada: At the time, they were not considered to be endangered. At the time, these whales were caught by certain vessels of Iceland and they were exported to Japan. Maybe they were deeply frozen in some way in Japan and now have come on to the market. That is quite possible. That has nothing to do with the protection of endangered species at this time.

    Q: My question is do you think that endangered species of whale meat can quite often be found in markets in Japan or do you think it is relatively rare?

    Mr. Okada: There are some. I think because of the development of deep freezing technology. People can conserve the meat for perhaps 20 years. We cannot exclude cases that the meat which was taken at that time has come on to the market at present.

    Q: Scientists are using this case as an example of identifying loopholes. They would say this is an endangered species of whale. It was killed only ten years ago and it ends up in a market in Osaka. Things need to be tightened up. What is the attitude of the Government of Japan to that? Do you think there should be stricter rules or do you think the rules should be relaxed?

    Mr. Okada: Concerning the protection, we strictly abide by the rules of the treaty and we are now undertaking whaling only for research. Concerning endangered species, as I told you, those species are not deemed to be endangered. From 1987-1989 we allowed the import of those meats and that is now a situation of private property rights and we really have no reason to prohibit any trade within Japan of those meats.

    Q: How confident are you now that endangered whale meat is not being imported into Japan?

    Mr. Okada: We are 100% sure. We adopt very strict regulations and there is no case where we detected whale meat which violates these regulations in Japan.

    Q: Do you still import whale meat from Iceland?

    Mr. Okada: No. That took place for the whales caught until 1989. Thereafter, Iceland quit the IWC. At that time we stopped the import of whale meat from Iceland.

    Q: I understand you are saying this happened in the past, that it was caught ten years ago. However, the fact that now scientists have found that Japanese people in Osaka are eating an endangered species, you do not find that at all embarrassing?

    Mr. Okada: That is quite legal.

    Related Information (THE MANAGEMENT OF WHALES)
  5. Results of the meeting between the Government of Japan and the Taliban

    Q: What were the results of the Japanese Government meetings with members of the Taliban?

    Mr. Okada: Recently, Mr. Muhammad Abbas (Minister for Public Health) of the Taliban was invited by a Japanese nongovernmental organization (NGO) called the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA). Mr. Abbas was invited together with several colleagues, including Mr. Ibni Amin (Director-General of the Ministry of Public Health). They came to Japan and they also had chances to meet some of the officials of our Ministry as well as members of Parliament concerned. From our side, we appealed to them to undertake a cease-fire as soon as possible according to the United Nations Security Council resolution. We also urged them that the government should include not only one group of the nation, but various people who represent the totality of the Afghanistan nation and we also appealed that Japan in particular has an interest in the Buddhist ruin of Bamiyan and we hope that this very precious cultural heritage would not be damaged by the civil conflict. In short, the answer from Mr. Abbas is a repetition of what Taliban has been saying. That means that Taliban represents already almost 90% of the total country. That means that Taliban has not only conquered militarily but also has expanded its influence with the support of the people of Afghanistan. He also rather criticized the attitude of the United Nations for still recognizing the Government of Mullah Mohammed Rabbani. As for the cease-fire, he did not show any interest in that during the consultations. That is roughly speaking what we discussed.

    Related Information (Japan-Afghanistan Relations)
  6. Upcoming trade consultations between Japan and India

    Q: Can you tell us about future trade and defense-related consultations between Japan and India?

    Mr. Okada: Yes. The 14th Japan-India trade consultation will take place on 5 February. From the Japan side, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Kouichi Haraguchi is supposed to take part. From the Indian side it will be Secretary of Commerce P.P. Prabhu. At the consultation we are going to review the economy of both countries and bilateral trade, investment relations and international trade issues and so on. This is the consultation which was initiated by then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Iichiro Hotoyama when he visited India in 1977. From 1978 onward, we have regularly had these consultations either in Tokyo or in New Delhi. The last time the consultation was held was in New Delhi on 23 January of last year.

    Related Information (Japan-India Relations)
  7. Reports of cooperation between some Middle Eastern countries and the North Korean military

    Q: There was a meeting of Japanese Ambassadors in the Middle East at the Foreign Ministry recently. I read in the newspapers that they may have issued a warning to Middle Eastern countries which cooperate with the North Korean military. Do you have any confirmation of this kind of cooperation and with which countries?

    Mr. Okada: No. We do not have any confirmation. However, we hear from time to time of sorts of rumors or information on the possible cooperation between North Korea and some of the Middle Eastern countries. If such relations exist, we can never accept it. The Ambassadors confirmed the necessity that in case this kind of cooperation between North Korea and some Middle Eastern countries exists, we should strictly condemn that kind of cooperation. That is what the Ambassadors confirmed during the session.

    Q: So only condemn, not a warning?

    Mr. Okada: That is what the Ambassadors said. We have no hard evidence for this. Therefore, we are carefully watching and investigating what is going on.

  8. Possibility that North Korea has deployed missiles

    Q: Some Japanese politicians have said that it is possible that North Korea has already deployed another missile. Do you have any information confirming that North Korea has already done so?

    Mr. Okada: We have some information or some reports concerning the deployment of North Korean missiles. As you know, the North Korean regime is so nontransparent, therefore up to now we have not been able to confirm that deployment has occurred. However, there is also a possibility they have been put in place.

    Related Information (North Korea's Missile Launch)

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