Press Conference 25 April 2003

  1. Schedule of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Visit to Europe
  2. Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to visit the Middle East
  3. Developments in respect to the situation in Iraq
  4. Update on severe acute respiratory syndrome-related travel advice
  5. Question concerning tripartite talks in Beijing

  1. Schedule of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Visit to Europe

    Assistant Press Secretary Jiro Okuyama: Good afternoon. First, about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Europe, of which the announcement was made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda yesterday, I will just briefly go through the Prime Minister's schedule in some detail.

    Prime Minister Koizumi leaves Tokyo on Saturday, 26 April. All the events that I will refer to from now on are in local time. The Prime Minister will arrive in London on Saturday afternoon and then he will have a working dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom.

    The Prime Minister will arrive in Madrid on Sunday, 27 April in the evening. On Monday, 28 April, he will be received in audience by H.M. King Juan Carlos I of Spain, followed by summit talks with the Spanish side around noon. That will be followed by a joint press conference and then followed by a luncheon in honor of Prime Minister Koizumi, hosted by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, on the same day.

    Prime Minister Koizumi will move to Paris around noon on Tuesday, where he will have summit talks with President Jacques Chirac of the French Republic in the form of a working dinner in the evening. He will then fly to Berlin on Wednesday, 30 April, and have a working lunch with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the Federal Republic of Germany, followed immediately by a press occasion.

    The Prime Minister will reach Athens on Thursday, 1 May in the afternoon and will have a Japan-European Union working dinner in the evening on the same day. Then on Friday, 2 May there will be a Japan-European Union summit consultation in the morning, followed by a joint press conference between Japan and the European Union. This will then be followed by Japan-Greece bilateral summit talks. The Prime Minister is expected to pay a courtesy call on President Constantinos Stephanopoulos of the Hellenic Republic in the afternoon. Prime Minister Koizumi then leaves Athens on Friday and will return to Tokyo on Saturday.

    Related Information (Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Visit to European Countries)
  2. Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to visit the Middle East

    Mr. Okuyama: I would now like to move onto Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi's visit to the Middle East. As you see in the press release, the Foreign Minister will visit the State of Israel, Palestinian Autonomous Areas, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic from 26 April to 5 May. During the visit, Minister Kawaguchi will have talks with key figures in both Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Areas and encourage both sides to resume negotiations aimed at halting violence and achieving peace. The intention is to bring progress on Middle East peace, the key to peace and stability in the region, at a time when uncertainties over the future are growing after the military operation against Iraq.

    Minister Kawaguchi will also have talks with leading figures in Jordan and Syria to exchange views on cooperative relations for the stability and development of the Middle East to alleviate the anxiety and distress prevailing among the people of the region. This will be Minister Kawaguchi's first visit to Jordan and Syria, and her first to Israel and the Palestinian Autonomous Areas since June 2002.

    As far as her meetings go, a number of appointments are being arranged with respect to authorities at the moment, but we expect Minister Kawaguchi to meet Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom of Israel on Monday around noon, and we expect Minister Kawaguchi to see the high officials of the Palestinian Authority, including prime-minister designate Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, on Tuesday, 29 April. All the other appointments are now being arranged.

    Related Information (Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's Visit to the Middle East) (Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's Visit to the Middle East)
  3. Developments in respect to the situation in Iraq

    Mr. Okuyama: I would like to mention a few things in relation to the situation in the Republic of Iraq.

    First, I would like to start with the telephone conversation Prime Minister Koizumi had with Prime Minister Leszek Miller of Poland on the afternoon of 24 April. Prime Minister Koizumi made the telephone call to the Polish Prime Minister. Prime Minister Koizumi said Japan highly values the role that has been played by Poland and that Japan would like to play an active role in the field of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq, together with the countries concerned and the wider international community, including the United Nations. He said Japan believes it is important that the international community will respond through cooperation in unity on the question of the reconstruction of Iraq. Prime Minister Miller said Poland not only gave political support to the US action, it also extended cooperation in the military field, and reconstruction assistance to Iraq in the future will be important from the viewpoint of reestablishing international cooperation.

    Prime Minister Koizumi said he would like to pay respect for the courageous decision that was made by Poland and that Japan would like to further deepen its cooperation with Poland in the international arena, as well as through bilateral relations.

    As a follow-up to our announcement that we made on 18 April about dispatching Japanese personnel to Iraq, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to send two people from its own staff to Baghdad. They are now about to reach Baghdad and are expected to carry out coordination activities with the various countries cooperating with the operations of the Office Of Reconstruction And Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). We also understand that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will soon send one of its personnel to help with infrastructure development, regional development and energy, of which this person has expertise. But the specific areas of cooperation for this person from METI are now being discussed with ORHA.

    In addition to this, Minister Kawaguchi announced this morning that we believe it is necessary to resume the functions of our Embassy in Baghdad as early as possible, and we have decided to dispatch a five-men team headed by Mr. Koichi Aibo, Director of the Second Middle East Division.

    The team will leave Narita on 27 April and reach Baghdad via Amman on 28 April. They will leave Baghdad on 1 May and return to Tokyo via Amman. The team will survey the damage to our Embassy in Baghdad, the security situation, and activities of the other diplomatic corps and international organizations in Baghdad. They will also exchange views with relevant officials and diplomats about the humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance to Iraq.

    We would also like to draw your attention to the telephone conversation that took place between Minister Kawaguchi and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization on 23 April, and following that conversation Minister Kawaguchi issued on 24 April a statement on the agreement concerning the formation of a new Cabinet of the Palestinian Authority led by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas.

    Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)
    Related Information (Japan's Measures Toward the Middle East Peace Process)
  4. Update on severe acute respiratory syndrome-related travel advice

    Mr. Okuyama: Lastly with respect to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), I would like to briefly go through what has transpired over the last couple of days. On 22 April, we raised the travel advisory on the city of Beijing in the People's Republic of China to the level where we advise possible travelers to defer travel that is not essential or urgent. On 23 April, we issued the same travel advisory on Shanxi Province of China and the same advisory on Toronto on 24 April.

    Related Information (WHO | World Health Organization)other site
  5. Question concerning tripartite talks in Beijing

    Q: With respect to the talks in Beijing with North Korea, the United States of America and China, the upshot of the talks is that North Korea, if you like, has said it is now a nuclear power and also said that they would test nuclear weapons. You said that Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly of the United States will be in Tokyo tomorrow to discuss the situation with Japanese officials. From what has come out of the talks now, what is the Japanese government's stance toward North Korea now? Is this revelation a shock, and were you expecting this type of thing to come out?

    Mr. Okuyama: We were not a direct party to this round of negotiations, although we hope that Japan, along with the Republic of Korea, will be represented in the future at the multilateral consultations. At the moment, we would like to refrain from commenting on the reported remarks that North Korea has made in relation to the possession of nuclear weapons or experiments relating to nuclear weapons. Once again, we are expecting to receive a briefing from the US officials who actually attended the tripartite consultation which took place in Beijing, and we would like to hear directly what transpired.

    Q: Do you plan to issue any statement or have a press briefing following those talks?

    Mr. Okuyama: Any written statement is unlikely. I think it is an informal consultation which the US delegation will make, first with the Republic of Korea and then tomorrow with Tokyo. How we comment on this after the briefing is over is something that we are still considering.

    Q: Following up on this question, can you be a little more specific as to how the government feels about this news? Was it a shock, or was it foreseeable to a certain extent?

    Mr. Okuyama: I think the possible possession of a couple of nuclear weapons by North Korea is something that has been in our knowledge for some time. That is not to say that we have independent and substantiated confirmation that North Korea actually does have these weapons, but generally speaking, we understand that there was this report. So for them to say explicitly that they have weapons-I do not know sure what they said-but as reported by the press, for them to say that they have nuclear weapons comes as no surprise. But, that does not mean that now this is an established fact that they do have nuclear weapons.

    Q: If North Korea, for example, tested a nuclear weapon, how they would test it I would have no idea. Whether it would be an atmospheric test or underground test, obviously the North Koreans have a small country, and there are not many places where they can do it; however, if they did test it, it would be obvious immediately that they have tested it. This must be something that Japan has considered in the past as possibly happening. If there were a nuclear test by North Korea, how would the Japanese Government respond? Would you, for example, automatically raise security levels in the country for Self Defense Forces (SDF)? What would you your immediate response be to that?

    Mr. Okuyama: To answer your question, we would have to accumulate various hypotheses. We only have press reports; we do not as of this moment have independent confirmation, even from the US authorities. That is what we are looking forward to tomorrow. Also, we do not know what kind of form or what kind of effect that kind of nuclear testing will have. We are not a nuclear power, and we do not have experience with nuclear explosives. So, I think because of this highly hypothetical nature of the question you are putting to me and also because we do not know what kind of format or what kind of effect this kind of hypothetical testing by North Korea will take in the future, I cannot really comment on what the Japanese Government response could be or might be in that kind of hypothetical situation.

    Q: In regard to testing, I am sure Japan has many expert seismologists who could detect any explosion. Does Japan have a contingency plan in place in the event of a nuclear test?

    Mr. Okuyama: As far as I know, we do not.

    Q: So then maybe the SDF does?

    Mr. Okuyama: Very, very generally speaking, we have the means to actually collect information about seismic waves which come from nuclear explosions. Whether it is technically possible for our network to actually detect something from North Korea is something we do not know. I am sorry, that is something I do not know.

    Q: After Japan is briefed tomorrow, what is the next step? Will Japan request talks with North Korea? I know there are the bilateral normalizations talks; however, putting that aside, in the multilateral framework with China, the Russian Federation, and the US, will Japan be seeking talks in that framework from maybe next week or the week after?

    Mr. Okuyama: We are not quite sure about the timeframe, but our wish, and also the wish from the Republic of Korea side, to participate in multilateral discussion has met total agreement from the US side, too. So we are unanimous on the need to develop the tripartite consultation to something larger involving Japan and the Republic of Korea and possibly Russia. At this moment we have no clear prediction of what is going to happen in the coming weeks, and that is also something that we need to discuss with the American officials, who have the most recent news, tomorrow.

    Q: At the moment, the situation has not really changed. The multilateral framework is something that Japan and the US-all partners-are continuing to pursue. Do things stand at that?

    Mr. Okuyama: Yes, they remain so, and we need some kind of post-facto consultation among the three countries-that is Japan, the US and the Republic of Korea. This is something that we have not done yet. Tomorrow is going to be a bilateral occasion for us.

    Q: Has a time been designated for renewed discussions?

    Mr. Okuyama: I am checking with relevant departments if they have any plans. I cannot tell you anything more now.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

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