Press Conference 6 May 2003

  1. Questions concerning nuclear situation in North Korea
  2. Question concerning information-gathering satellites
  3. Questions concerning visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the Middle East
  4. Question concerning incident involving Japanese journalist in Amman airport

  1. Questions concerning nuclear situation in North Korea

    Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima: Good afternoon and thank you very much for coming to this briefing. Today I have no announcements to make. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

    Q: I would like to ask you about North Korea. There were a few statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States of America on television yesterday (this morning, Japan time). In the talks with North Korea with the United States and the People's Republic of China, there was a North Korean offer or demand for, as Mr. Powell said, "considerable concessions." Do you have any details of what concessions North Korea is seeking at the moment?

    Mr. Takashima: I do not have any details on what the North Koreans said or proposed, to use their terms, but basically my understanding is that their line remains the same as the one they have been following on previous occasions.

    Q: The US position is that North Korea should not be rewarded for dismantling its nuclear programs. What is Japan's position going ahead on what should happen in the next step?

    Mr. Takashima: Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea are coordinating our policies vis-à-vis North Korea by closely consulting with each other. As far as the American position of not giving any reward to North Korea for dismantling its nuclear development program, we are also urging North Korea to abide by all the international commitments that they have made, to dismantle all existing nuclear development programs, and also to bring the status of the nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant at Yongbyon back to that of when there were inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) there and all the activities of the plant had been frozen.

    Q: Do you think that as in 1994 when there was the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) Agreement to supply fuel oil to North Korea in return, they will close down their nuclear plant?

    Mr. Takashima: KEDO decided to stop supplying fuel to North Korea simply because North Korea did not abide by the terms and conditions set out by the KEDO Agreement when it was set up. We are still hoping that the North Koreans will change their mind and return to the original position in which they can receive a supply of fuel in return for freezing activities at the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.

    Q: Is the position of Japan that the KEDO Agreement is still, if you like, alive and that it could return to that?

    Mr. Takashima: KEDO involves not only Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea, but also the European Union (EU). There are regular meetings every other month or so, so the fate of KEDO will be decided in due course. However, at this particular moment, we have not had any change in policy but are simply waiting for the North Koreans to come back to the point where they abide by all their commitments.

    Q: So, please correct me if I am wrong, but that would mean that if North Korea agreed tomorrow to dismantle its nuclear programs, then Japan would be willing for oil shipments to North Korea to resume?

    Mr. Takashima: Our position is that if they simply dismantle all their nuclear programs and also freeze activity at the facilities at Yongbyon, including allowing the return of IAEA inspectors and replacing the seals, then I think we would be able to think about resuming the supply of fuel.

    Q: As things stand now, the United States, China and North Korea have talked in Beijing. Do you have any information about what the next step is, or when the next talks will be? And also when there will be talks that might include Japan as well?

    Mr. Takashima: I do not have any date for when the next set of talks will be. Moreover, we would like to see Japan involved in the discussions, but there has been no word on that so far.

    Q: The emphasis of the US side has shifted now from rather than preventing North Korea from having a nuclear program to preventing it from exporting weapons-grade plutonium to other countries. Will Japan play any part in these efforts to monitor North Korea for exports in plutonium?

    Mr. Takashima: At this moment, we have no change in policy but will closely monitor the situation. We also have been in close consultation with the United States and the Republic of Korea on this issue. However, no action has been taken.

    Q: How about in Japan itself, has the security alert level of Japan's Self Defense Forces changed, or are they still the same as they were before?

    Mr. Takashima: There has been no change.

    Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)
    Related Information (The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO))
  2. Question concerning information-gathering satellites

    Q: The two observation satellites that were launched recently, are they now fully operational?

    Mr. Takashima: Full operation is scheduled to commence sometime next year.

    Q: Are they partially operating at all?

    Mr. Takashima: I do not have any detailed information on that.

  3. Questions concerning visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the Middle East

    Q: Do you have any comments on the results of the trip by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi to the Middle East?

    Mr. Takashima: Foreign Minister Kawaguchi was very pleased and was very much delighted to have had a very successful visit to Middle Eastern countries, which included the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Palestinian Autonomous Areas. She thought that all the discussions she had with the leaders and officials of the four governments had been extremely constructive and useful.

    In particular, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi was pleased to be in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas when the new government under Mr. Mahmoud Abbas was about to be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Indeed, she had very a useful and productive discussion with Mr. Abbas himself and thought that the birth of the Abbas Cabinet was really the beginning of a new chapter in the Middle East peace process. She hopes that this process will be accelerated by the publication of the roadmap. She expects this roadmap to be implemented fully and swiftly by all parties concerned.

    Furthermore, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi wanted to exhibit Japan's own Middle East policy and Japan's willingness to participate in the Middle East peace process more actively in accordance with its own capability. That was one of the purposes of the trip, and it was successfully achieved.

    Q: The meeting with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was criticized, according to some reports, by the United States and Israel. Do you have any comment on this?

    Mr. Takashima: Foreign Minister Kawaguchi decided to meet with Chairman Arafat simply because she thought that it would be a very good occasion for her to persuade and urge Chairman Arafat to be cooperative in getting approval for the Abbas Cabinet at the PLC meeting. That is precisely what she did. She thought that in addition to her previous telephone conversation with Chairman Arafat prior to her departure from Tokyo, the face-to-face meeting with Chairman Arafat had a very useful effect on his decision to be cooperative, because shortly after the meeting - in fact, within the day - the PLC did give approval to the Abbas Cabinet.

    Q: Would you suggest that her meetings with Chairman Arafat played a role in making that decision?

    Mr. Takashima: At least it contributed to some extent to the decision.

    Q: Were there any protests from the United States or Israel because Foreign Minister Kawaguchi had that meeting?

    Mr. Takashima: It was first made very clear by Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom of Israel during his meeting with Foreign Minister Kawaguchi, when he said that the Israeli Government did not want to see the role of Chairman Arafat being played up by having a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister. However, at the same time, he said that it was Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's own decision whether to meet with him. That was exactly what she did. After that, there was no comment or show of any sort of displeasure. The Japanese side believes that the bilateral relations between Japan and Israel are as good as before and were improved because of Foreign Minister Kawaguchi's visit. As far as the United States is concerned, we have not had any show of displeasure, as far as I know.

    In addition, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi had an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel at a memorial service marking the Holocaust, and they had a very cordial conversation in which no words of displeasure or dissatisfaction was presented by Prime Minister Sharon.

    Q: In Syria, did Japan ask the leaders there to do something regarding organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas in Syria?

    Mr. Takashima: Without going into the details, I can confirm that Foreign Minister Kawaguchi did point out that the closure of the office of so-called Palestinian extremists and radicals would be a very important and significant step toward peace in the Middle East as a whole. She urged both President Bashar Al-Asad and Foreign Minister Farouk Al Shara to do that.

    Related Information (Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's Visit to the Middle East)
    Related Information (Japan's Measures Toward the Middle East Peace Process)
    Related Information (Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, on the Announcement of the "Roadmap")
  4. Question concerning incident involving Japanese journalist in Amman airport

    Q: Do you have any comment on the explosion in Amman's airport in Jordan by an object owned by a Japanese correspondent?

    Mr. Takashima: We are very saddened to learn that one security officer at the airport was killed and four more were injured by the very careless and foolish act of one Japanese journalist who brought in explosive material contained in his luggage. Foreign Minister Kawaguchi sent a message of condolence to the Jordanian Foreign Minister and expressed her deepest condolences to the family of the dead officer, and also extended her sympathy to those injured by the incident.

    Q: When did she send this message?

    Mr. Takashima: The message was conveyed while she was still on her tour.

    Q: Are there any procedures that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is studying pertaining to this issue?

    Mr. Takashima: We are closely monitoring what is happening in Amman. Specifically, we understand that this case is in court there, so we will just have to wait and see what will be decided by the Jordanian court.

    Q: I read a report that there might be proceedings concerning an act of homicide. Do you think that Japan may ask the Jordanian authorities to extradite that correspondent to Japan in the event that he is sentenced there?

    Mr. Takashima: I understand that the journalist himself admitted his carelessness and act of foolishness, and also the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper officially apologized by carrying a statement on its front page. We have nothing to add on that.

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