Press Conference by the Press Secretary 28 March 2000

  1. The visit of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to Okinawa
  2. The telephone conversation between Prime Minister Obuchi and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation
  3. The visit of Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono to the Republic of Korea
  4. The visit of Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shozo Azuma to the Middle East
  5. Questions on the visit to the Middle East by Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shozo Azuma and other related issues
  6. Question on the normalization talks with North Korea
  7. Comments on the participation of African leaders in the July G8 Summit
  8. Question on an Italian national accused of terrorism
  9. The accommodation situation in Okinawa for the July G8 Summit
  10. Other issues

  1. The visit of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to Okinawa

    Press Secretary Ryuichiro Yamazaki: Good afternoon. I have three items at the start of my press conference today.

    Firstly, over the weekend Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi visited Okinawa, which is going to be the site of the G8 Summit Meeting in late July. I myself accompanied him, among other officials. I would just like to give a very brief overview of the visit.

    This was the first time that Prime Minister Obuchi went in his capacity as Prime Minister, but as you may know, Prime Minister Obuchi has a very deep personal involvement with Okinawa dating back to his days at Waseda University in the early 60s, way before the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. He visited Okinawa several times in his youth at that time, as well as on subsequent occasions. This time, with a kind of "soft spot" for Okinawa, he went there as part of the preparation for the G8 Summit.

    I can, in a nutshell, say that there were three main highlights of the visit. The first was to have a broad dialogue with the people of Okinawa, which can be exemplified by the fact that he was the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit the offices of all the major mass media companies in Naha, including the Okinawa Times and the Ryukyu Shinpo. He also had several occasions to exchange views with Governor Inamine of Okinawa Prefecture and Mayor Kishimoto of Nago City, and other local leaders. During his whole full two days stay, Saturday and Sunday, he also had occasions to shake hands with many people of Okinawa and tourists from all over Japan and abroad. As he said in his own press conference, the Prime Minister was very much impressed by the fact that those he encountered were encouraging him to make the G8 Summit a success.

    The second purpose was to see the facilities, including the actual conference site, which has just been completed and has yet to be officially opened, called the Bankoku Shinryokan, and also the site of Prime Minister Obuchi's press conference, which he will give immediately after the G8 Meeting finishes, in his capacity as President of the G8 Meeting.

    Thirdly, he announced the fact that on 22 July the Summit leaders and their wives will be invited to participate in an official banquet at the Shuri-jo, Shuri Castle, in the center of Naha City, as well as welcoming the fact that the Okinawa Prefecture Preparatory Committee will be hosting a welcome reception for the Summit leaders and their wives earlier in the same evening of 22 July. He also attended a seminar called the Asia-Pacific Agenda Project, where he had the opportunity to listen to the voices of some of the participants coming from other parts of Asia, as to how Asia's views could be reflected in the G8 Summit discussions. He also gave an extensive television interview on Channel 10, which was broadcasted on Sunday morning, and also gave a press conference at the end of his stay on Sunday, early afternoon.

    Related Information (G7/G8)
  2. The telephone conversation between Prime Minister Obuchi and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation

    Mr. Yamazaki: The second announcement is in relation to the new President of the Russian Federation having just been elected. It was late yesterday afternoon when Prime Minister Obuchi issued a statement, the official translation of which will be distributed to you very soon, of which there are three major points: Firstly, Prime Minister Obuchi welcomed the fact that the new President had been chosen based on the general will of the people of Russia; secondly, he expressed hope that new President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation would endeavor in nation building; and thirdly, he looked forward to cooperating with the new administration in order to shape Japan-Russian relations in a dynamic and fruitful manner, which would be befitting for the 21st century. Prime Minister Obuchi said he intended to exert his best efforts to further advance the bilateral relations between our two countries in all areas, including the negotiations for the peace treaty.

    Subsequently, yesterday evening around 7:20 pm, for about ten minutes, Prime Minister Obuchi had a telephone conversation with President-elect Putin of Russia. Two points were raised: Firstly, Prime Minister Obuchi congratulated President Putin of Russia on his election in the first ballot, and said this was splendid news for Japan, and wished him all the best for an even brighter future for Russia under his leadership: The second point was that the fact that Mr. Putin was elected as President turns a new page in our bilateral relations, and Prime Minister Obuchi hoped that the two leaders would be able to have good in-depth discussions befitting the new era in Japan-Russian relations, also given the fact that the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit is going to be held very soon in July. Prime Minister Obuchi also mentioned that it was important for the two leaders to meet before the Summit.

    In reply to this, President Putin said that he had been congratulated by various people, but that the words from Prime Minister Obuchi were especially of great honor for him, and that he himself would like to exert his efforts for the improvement of relations with Japan, and that the final objective is to reach a complete normalization of relations between our two countries. He also mentioned the fact that he was also considering how the two leaders could meet, and that with respect to the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, Russia themselves were also making preparations and they would like to cooperate in this regard to make the Summit a success.

    Related Information (Japan-Russia Relations)
  3. The visit of Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono to the Republic of Korea

    Mr. Yamazaki: The third announcement is concerning the very recent visit to the Republic of Korea by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono. Foreign Minister Kono went on Sunday and returned yesterday, in the late afternoon. He had meetings with his counterpart, the Foreign Minister, and met yesterday with President Kim Dae Jung and Prime Minister Park TaeJoon of the Republic of Korea. The main purpose of his visit was to discuss the North Korean situation with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lee Joung Bin, given the fact that Japan will resume normalization talks with North Korea from 4 April.

    On the North Korean situation, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Lee said that it seemed to them that under the leadership of President Kim Jong Il of North Korea the establishment was in a stable shape, but on the economic side, in energy and food, the domestic situation seemed to be very harsh. On the other hand, on the external side, North Korea has embarked upon a dialogue with Japan, the United States of America, Western European countries, Australia, and others, and it seemed that they were becoming more active in improving relations with the outside world. Regarding the interchange between the North and South, the North Koreans are willing to move forward in the nongovernmental private-sector exchanges, but as for dialogue at the official or government level, they seem to be very cautious and not obliging at this time. Regarding the so-called Berlin Declaration, which was made in early March by President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea in Berlin, on how to proceed with North-South relations, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Lee was very appreciative of Foreign Minister Kono's total support for it. The Republic of Korea side said that right now economic exchanges between North and South are being conducted between the private sectors, but in order to really put these economic exchanges on a bigger scale, the involvement of the government was necessary.

    As far as how to proceed with and exchange views concerning the North-South dialogue and relations between the United States and North Korea, both Foreign Ministers looked forward to the tripartite coordination group meeting scheduled for 30 March. From our side, Foreign Minister Kono explained the background on normalization talks from 4-8 April to be held in Pyongyang and emphasized that these talks were very important for both Japan and North Korea, and that our basic position vis-a-vis the Korean Peninsula continues to be the same - that is to say, that we intend to keep very close contact with both the Republic of Korea and the United States on this matter, and by normalizing relations with North Korea we could contribute to the peace and stability of the Northeast Asia region. There are many issues yet to be solved between North Korea and Japan and negotiations are not easy, but while on the one hand maintaining this cooperation and liaison between our three countries, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States, we would like to tenaciously continue our negotiations with North Korea.

    Finally, in response, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Lee said that in line with the so-called Perry Process it was very important that our two countries, as well as the United States, continue our efforts in a manner which would induce North Korea to be more forward-looking in its dialogue with Japan and also in their intention to advance the North-South dialogue.

    On the purely bilateral side, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Lee expressed his intent to visit Japan at the earliest possible opportunity, and Foreign Minister Kono reiterated the invitation for President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea to come to Japan at a mutually convenient time, for which Japan will carry out the necessary coordination through the diplomatic channels.

    Related Information (Japan-Republic of Korea Relations)
  4. The visit of Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shozo Azuma to the Middle East

    Mr. Yamazaki: I have one more announcement regarding the visit of Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shozo Azuma to the Middle East. His visit starts today on 28 March, and he will return on 9 April. He will visit the State of Israel to conduct talks with cabinet-level officials. He will meet with President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. He will also be visiting the Republic of Tunisia and finally the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. At these various stops, for instance, in Israel he will be meeting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs David Levy of the State of Israel, and in the Republic of Tunisia he will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi of the Republic of Tunisia, and then in Libya he will meet with the Foreign Minister and other officials.

    During his stay in Israel he will have the opportunity to go to the Golan Heights to visit the Japanese Self-Defense Forces participating in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). It is the first time that a cabinet-level official visits Libya. The United Nations sanctions have been suspended, and in our efforts toward the normalization of relations with Libya, we thought it was timely to send Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Azuma. It just happens that when he is in Tripoli there is going to be an international trade fair and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and some other Japanese trading and energy-related companies will also be participating at that time. Of course, Libya places a lot of emphasis on their backyard, the African continent, and Japan, with initiatives such as holding the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD), also has a great interest in the peace, prosperity, and future development of Africa. In addition to the bilateral dimension, this may also provide some good common base for the future relations between our two countries.

    Related Information (Japan-Middle East Relations)
  5. Questions on the visit to the Middle East by Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Shozo Azuma and other related issues

    Q: Will Mr. Azuma be taking any letters with him?

    Mr. Yamazaki: I cannot disclose this a priori, if you do not mind. I think if and when he is able to meet the proper person he may. However, I cannot say that he is taking a letter to all countries.

    Q: What is Mr. Azuma's main purpose with regard to the peace process?

    Mr. Yamazaki: As you know, Japan has been greatly involved in the Middle East peace process. For instance, last January, a little over a year ago, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura went to the region. Last October, Foreign Minister Kono was the joint chairman of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC). Japan has also been participating in many other regional and bilateral dialogues. Certainly, he is going to these countries in the immediate region, especially with his meeting with President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, to see what the present state of the Middle East peace process is. We will then be able to see what other measures we can take as a sort of follow-up to the findings of his visit.

    Q: Is he visiting only Palestine, Israel, Libya, and Tunisia?

    Mr. Yamazaki: Yes, that is right.

    Q: Will he ask Israel to withdraw forces from South Lebanon during his visit?

    Mr. Yamazaki: I think it was announced that it was the intention of the Government of Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon. I think this announcement was made a few weeks ago, and we are closely following that situation.

    Q: On the same issue, I heard reports that the Summit yesterday between the Syrian President and President Clinton failed. Do you have any comments on this?

    Mr. Yamazaki: First of all, since these talks only took place very recently, we have not had any debriefings from either the American or Syrian side on the matter. We have only seen the press reports.

    As you know, when it was first announced that the two leaders would be meeting in Geneva, we hoped very much that the Syrian Track could move forward, and in that sense it seems, according to reports, that the meeting was not successful in that sense. However, we would like to get more information directly from those governments to get more background as to whether these press reports are true in their assessment of the meetings. We would like to obtain first-hand information before we make any comment.

    Q: Do you want to contact them directly?

    Mr. Yamazaki: We are very much interested in the Syrian Track developments. We are in constant touch with the United States and Syria as well as Israel, on their views concerning this issue. Therefore, as a part of our normal diplomatic activities we will continue dialogue with the relevant officials to get a better analysis of the situation.

    Related Information (Japan-Middle East Relations)
  6. Question on the normalization talks with North Korea

    Q: Talks are going to begin in several weeks on the first stage toward normalizing diplomatic relations with North Korea. Yesterday, North Korea came out with a statement which, among other things, said that for the talks to succeed Japan must atone for the past. They seem to want to make this issue a cornerstone of the talks. I was wondering what Japan's reaction is to this kind of attitude?

    Mr. Yamazaki: We are always interested in various statements that may reflect the thinking or policy of North Korea. However, I am not quite sure whether we can truly grasp its true meaning or not. I think the report you are mentioning was issued by their party newspaper, and although I have seen reports I cannot offer you any comment at this present time. As I said earlier, the resumption of the negotiations will be from 4-8 April, and we will be looking very closely as to what their negotiator says at the table.

    Q: In South Korea, did Foreign Minister Kono discuss the issue of the visit of the Emperor?

    Mr. Yamazaki: No, not at all.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  7. Comments on the participation of African leaders in the July G8 Summit

    Q: There is a report that the Foreign Minister of South Africa suggested that the Algerian and South African Presidents visit Japan during the G8 Summit. Do you have any comment on this?

    Mr. Yamazaki: I think there was discussion about the debt problem and so forth, but I am not quite sure about the actual tone of your report. I think that nothing was determined on that, but maybe there was some reference to the wish that the G8 leaders were aware of the debt question in Africa per se. I am not quite sure about what the actual involvement of the leaders of the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria in the press report means.

    Q: The South African Minister suggested to Prime Minister Obuchi that African leaders visit Japan during the July G8 Summit.

    Mr. Yamazaki: If there was such a suggestion, it is not just up to the Chair of the G8 to decide. If such a wish was raised, it would have to be passed on to the others. However, I am not quite sure of the background of that at this present time.

    Related Information (Japan-Africa Relations)
  8. Question on an Italian national accused of terrorism

    Q: What is your position regarding news reports about the Italian Government's request to Japan to hand over a person called Zorzi because he is accused by the Italian Government of being a terrorist?

    Mr. Yamazaki: First of all, we are aware that there are reports of that nature, but at this present time we have not received anything from the Government of Italy on this issue.

    Q: In the report they say that the Italian Government officially extended a request.

    Mr. Yamazaki: That is not a fact.

    Related Information (Japan-Italy Relations)
  9. The accommodation situation in Okinawa for the July G8 Summit

    Q: In relation to the visit of Prime Minister Obuchi, I heard some people are concerned about accommodation for the journalists there. I heard that the American delegation would consist of about a thousand people. Is Japan well prepared to accommodate all the press there?

    Mr. Yamazaki: Yes, I myself went and looked at all the facilities. The press center was still under construction. It will be completed in late May. The present facilities that Nago City has provided include the gymnasium in which all the booths for the newspapers and wires agencies will be placed. There will be about one hundred booths available, like a beehive inside the gymnasium, and right next door is an indoor practice ground which will be made into an international media center where television and radio networks will be accommodated. In addition, there is the huge press center which is being built right now and will accommodate the working press. Now for the accommodation, I am afraid there are not many hotels nearby, so some hotels will be more distant than others, and journalists from outside Okinawa will have to be accommodated in one way or another.

    Q: On their own?

    Mr. Yamazaki: I think our press office can facilitate, but I think there will basically be various hotels available for the journalists, meaning that there will be some designated. As for numbers, my staff told me that about a thousand non-Japanese press related people are expected to come. We hope that it will be done in a very civilized way, and that you will not have to fight over hotel accommodation.

    Related Information (G7/G8)
  10. Other issues

    Q: Recently, the Japanese police accused a former Iranian Ambassador of illegally exporting arms parts to Iran. What is the Japanese Government's position on this?

    Mr. Yamazaki: Right now it is under investigation, so I would like to defer from making comments on this issue if you do not mind.

    Q: So, there is no change in Japan-Iran relations?

    Mr. Yamazaki: We have been making positive comments about the result of the recent elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we hope that President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran will visit Japan during the course of this year. We are certainly quite positive about trying to advance our bilateral relations, and there is no change in that at all.

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