Press Conference 14 January 2003

  1. Visit by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan to the Republic of India and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
  2. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the Republic of France and the Republic of Korea
  3. Visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Russian Federation
  4. Questions concerning North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
  5. Questions concerning Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine
  6. Question concerning past repatriation of people from Japan to North Korea
  7. Question concerning visa-wide area networks

  1. Visit by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan to the Republic of India and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

    Assistant Press Secretary Jiro Okuyama: Good afternoon.

    First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the press release issued on 10 January about the visit of Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan, to the Republic of India and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka from 13 to 19 January.

    Mr. Akashi will exchange views on the peace process in Sri Lanka with Indian government officials and others in India. In Sri Lanka, he will exchange views with key Sri Lankan governmental figures, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, attend the third meeting of the Subcommittee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East, to be held in the northern region, and visit the southern region to have talks with leaders of the Sinhalese political parties and with Buddhists.

    Japan's assistance to the peace process in Sri Lanka is an important part of Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi's initiative for consolidation of peace. Earlier, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi announced that Japan would host a peace negotiation session this March. Later in the year, sometime around June after the Group of Eight (G8) Summit meeting, Japan will host a reconstruction conference on Sri Lanka in Tokyo.

    Related Information (Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan, to Visit India and Sri Lanka)
  2. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the Republic of France and the Republic of Korea

    Mr. Okuyama: Turning to Minister for Foreign Affairs Kawaguchi's visits, she is now in the Republic of France, and yesterday she had talks with President Jacques Chirac, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin and Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry Francis Mer.

    Related Information (Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's Visit to France)

    Today, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi will leave Paris to fly back to Japan, and then she will change planes in Narita to visit the Republic of Korea.

    Tomorrow, on 15 January, she will have talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Choi Sung Hong of the Republic of Korea, and pay a courtesy call on President Kim Dae Jung. On Thursday, she is expected to pay a courtesy call on President-elect Roh Moo Hyun.

    Related Information (Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's Visit to the Republic of Korea)
  3. Visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Russian Federation

    Mr. Okuyama: On Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Russian Federation, I would like to give you a general evaluation of what transpired.

    First, we think that we were successful in achieving the reinforcement of the strategic Japan-Russia bilateral relationship. The two leaders, Prime Minister Koizumi and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, held an extensive exchange of views over a broad range of issues relating to bilateral relations and the international situation. They affirmed their common recognition of the strategic and economic importance of the Japan-Russia relations.

    They adopted the Japan-Russia Action Plan, which is to provide common guidelines for the development of bilateral relations in a broad range of fields. The Action Plan deals with six fields. These are (1) deepening of political dialogue, (2) peace treaty negotiations, (3) cooperation in the international arena, (4) cooperation in the trade and economic fields, (5) furtherance of the relations in the defense and security fields, and lastly, (6) reinforcement of cultural interchanges and interchanges between the two peoples.

    This Action Plan is premised on the notion that the reinforcement of cooperative relations between Japan and Russia would have a strategic significance to the international situation, including the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. We hope that the items and the guidelines that are set out in the Action Plan will facilitate positive interactions in the cooperation between the two countries. We expect this to provide a navigational map in order to fully realize the potential that the current Japan-Russia relationship holds.

    This kind of endeavor, that is to say that both Japan and Russia share common policy guidelines and face their future relationship and act together, is an attempt that has never been taken before between the two countries. This fact has a very significant meaning in the history of Japan-Russia relations. We believe that it is important for us to put into steady implementation the items in this Action Plan so that bilateral relations will be substantially developed in the future.

    One more thing that I would like to add about Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Russia is that the two leaders actually spent just about six hours together in all, including a small meeting for two hours and a plenary meeting for one hour. In addition, President Putin held a dinner in honor of the Prime Minister, and after the dinner was over, there was a tête-à-tête with the exception of the interpreter between the two, which lasted an hour and a half. These long discussions and personal contacts have reinforced the personal relationship of trust between the two leaders.

    We believe that the politically important questions, including the final resolution of the territorial issue, between the two countries will need to be decided at the Summit level. The relationship of trust which was built as a result of Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Russia is expected to exert a positive influence on the development of the important bilateral issues between the two countries, including the territorial issue.

    Related Information (Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Visit to Russia)
  4. Questions concerning North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

    Q: I have a couple of questions concerning North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

    First, the official stance of the Government of Japan has always been that it expects a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Can you provide any specific means by which Japan is acting to deal with North Korea?

    Second, concerning US-Japan relations and North Korea, has the US specified exactly what it expects Japan to do concerning the North Korean issue?

    Mr. Okuyama: With North Korea, the most important avenue for us that we have is the process of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea.

    Normalization talks are to address two important items, among other things. It has been our initial approach, and it is still our approach, that we bring up all the items from our side and all the items from the North Korean side that they would like to discuss with us and discuss these issues together. That is something that we called the comprehensive approach, which we made quite clear and declared in the process leading up to Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Pyongyang. However, we are to take up two important issues. One is the issue of abductions and the other is the security issue, including nuclear development and weapons of mass destruction held by North Korea.

    United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan are of the view that these normalization talks would provide an important avenue to the resolution of the issues relating to North Korea. We would like to make progress in this process of normalization talks.

    When you say specific means, I think that this progress in the normalization talks is something that we need to come up with first. At this moment, however, the North Korean view is that the time is not quite ripe for the two sides to have further negotiation talks. We held the first round of talks in Kuala Lumpur at the end of October, but currently we do not see further prospects of having a second round.

    We are also trying to demonstrate and build up the relationship of solidarity and cooperation in the international arena centering on the efforts and consultations between Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea. We are also asking for the cooperation of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. So we are trying to forge an international coalition with which we could effectively apply positive pressure on North Korea to revert back to the nuclear freeze and relinquish their programs relating to the development of nuclear weapons.

    On your second question about the Japan-US talks and what the US wants Japan to do, I think that it is a corollary to what I have just stated in response to your first question. As much as possible, the US wants us to make headway in the normalization talks.

    I draw your attention to the most recent Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) statement issued on 7 January, in which the three countries once again recognized that the normalization talks were an important avenue for Japan to make progress in this issue of international concern.

    For your information, may I add that after returning from Russia, I checked what happened in the last week after the announcement by North Korea of their intention to withdraw from the NPT. There have been so many things, so I will just limit myself to what Japan did with other countries. On 9 January, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi had a telephone conversation with Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Sergeevich Ivanov. Prime Minister Koizumi issued a statement in Moscow on 10 January about North Korea's declaration of their intention to withdraw from the NPT. Minister for Foreign Affairs Kawaguchi, likewise, issued a statement on the same day, and she spoke with Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States on that day.

    On 13 January, while Foreign Minister Kawaguchi was in Paris, she held a talk with her counterpart there, and also this issue was raised with President Chirac. There was a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Kawaguchi and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and she also held a talk with Director General Mohamed El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    In that sense, not only Japan but also all the other countries concerned, especially the United States and the Republic of Korea, are making efforts, sometimes discussing matters with each other. We have tried to make some headway in the process vis-à-vis North Korea.

    Q: North Korea has indicated that it will restart some tests. If North Korea, as in 1998, launched a missile that flew over Japanese airspace, would Japan's reaction be to try to shoot the missile down?

    Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly yesterday indicated that oil shipments to North Korea could start again if they abandon their nuclear weapons. Do you see that as a softening of the US stance, and does Japan agree that shipments should be restarted?

    Mr. Okuyama: The short answer to your first question is that we very strongly hope that North Korea will maintain its specific commitments that it made in relation to the freeze on launching their missiles. As far as we understand, the remark, which was made by Ambassador Choe Jin Su of North Korea in Beijing, is not a direct, official communication from the North Korean authorities to the outside world.

    So we understand that the remark was made, but it was not, according to our view, an official announcement by the North Korean authorities that it will lift its own freeze on the moratorium of missile launches.

    North Korea made two commitments as we know. First, it is mentioned in the joint communiqué between the United States and North Korea of October 2000 that North Korea would, as far as the consultations were underway on missiles, not fire any long-range missiles. This was an official declaration of its intention to the United States side. More recently, it said in the Japan-Democratic People's Republic of Korea Pyongyang Declaration, which the two countries' leaders signed in September 2002, that it would continue the moratorium on the firing of missiles beyond the year 2003. In the light of these two specific commitments, as I have said, we very much hope that North Korea will stick to its commitment of not firing missiles.

    As to what Japan would do and what kind of defense capabilities we have if the firing of a missile actually took place is something that I cannot really comment on.

    On the oil shipment suggestion by the United States, I think essentially there has not been a very big change in the US stance. The US has been saying, along with the declaration, that they have no intention of invading North Korea, that the avenue of dialogue is always open with North Korea. This has been the stated position and the consistent position ever since Assistant Secretary of State Kelly's visit to North Korea.

    Perhaps it is important for the United States to reiterate its position, that it is ready to provide oil once this nuclear concern has been dealt with. We hope that North Korea will heed the suggestion by the United States to wipe away the nuclear concerns, that is, the plutonium process as well as the alleged uranium enrichment process, in a verifiable manner and start discussing how to do this with the United States.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  5. Questions concerning Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine

    Q: A few minutes ago, Prime Minister Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine. How will that affect Japan's relationship with the neighboring countries in regard to North Korea?

    Mr. Okuyama: I was watching the live broadcast on television as I was coming here. I understand that he made a remark to the effect - I do not have the exact quote - that he was going with his determination and wish that war should never be repeated. I cannot speculate what the reactions of neighboring countries will be in response to his action, but we hope that his motive will be fully understood by the neighboring countries and that there will be no negative impact on the current cooperative relations that we have with the neighboring countries vis-à-vis North Korea.

    Q: Will this be an issue between Foreign Minister Kawaguchi and President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea?

    Mr. Okuyama: We expect the biggest issues to be, in the international arena, North Korea and as far as bilateral relations are concerned, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi will express her wish to further promote good and friendly ties with the Republic of Korea as the new president is inaugurated there.

    Q: In terms of the timing, do you know why he chose to act today, particular in view of the situation on the Korean Peninsula?

    Mr. Okuyama: I am afraid I cannot comment on that. Please ask the Prime Minister's Office.

    Q: When were you notified of this visit? Were you aware of the visit going on prior to today?

    Mr. Okuyama: We were notified today.

  6. Question concerning past repatriation of people from Japan to North Korea

    Q: Is there a comment on the Japanese woman who was sent to North Korea as part of the repatriation program in the late 1950s? It is said that she sent a petition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking for help from the Government of Japan to come back to Japan. They said that she has not actually received a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Do you have any comments?

    Mr. Okuyama: We understand the difficult situation surrounding some of the people who were repatriated from Japan to live in North Korea.

    On individual cases, including this case, because of the privacy issues involved and the security concerns related to these individuals, we would rather refrain from commenting.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
  7. Question concerning visa-wide area networks

    Q: In December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the use of visa-wide area networks. First, it covered Asia, North America and Latin America, and it was said that it would then be expanded to other regions. So when will this network expand to Europe, the Middle East and Africa? Also, is there any English information on this?

    Mr. Okuyama: I do not have the answers to your questions with me so I will check on that and come back to you.

    Related Information (Visa)

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