Press Conference, 16 May 2006

  1. Japan-China 21st Century Exchange Program
  2. Meeting of council on Japan's public diplomacy
  3. Handover ceremony of solid waste and sewage treatment vehicles and of equipment for repair and maintenance of roads in Samawah, Iraq
  4. Emergency grant aid to the African Union for supporting its initiatives concerning the Darfur issue
  5. Questions concerning realignment of US forces

I. Japan-China 21st Century Exchange Program

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: This morning I am going to say first that a group of 200 high school students are arriving in Japan from the People's Republic of China, late this afternoon, today on 16 May.

Japan and China have just launched what we call the Japan-China 21st Century Exchange Program. It is to invite 1,100 high school students to let them spend about ten days in Japan, and 150 more students who will be spending as long as a year.

Starting today is the shorter version, and as the first group of the 1,100, about 170 students, together with 30 teachers and other officials are arriving later today.

The short version is run by an incorporated foundation called the Japan-China Friendship Center, using 500 million yen the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed, and the longer version by the Japan Foundation, using annual income gains derived from a newly set-up fund of 10 billion yen, 20% of which is funded by the Foreign Ministry. Obviously given the structure of the program, the short-term version will end when the center has spent all the money but the longer one is supposed to continue as long as the 10 billion yen fund performs to make dividends.

Now arriving today are the boys and girls, all high school students, from the provinces of Heilongjiang, Sichuan, Shandong, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu.

Their itinerary looks as follows.

Tomorrow on Wednesday, 17 May, they will be having a dialogue with Japanese members of the New Japan-China Friendship Committee for the 21st Century, such as Mr. Yotaro Kobayashi, Head of the Committee.

There will be two welcoming receptions tomorrow, one hosted by Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhisa Shiozaki over lunch time at the Foreign Ministry, and the other by the Japan-China Friendship Center at 18:00 in a hotel in Tokyo.

Some of the students are geniuses in a variety of art, and at the dinner reception they will be performing to sing and dance.

Meanwhile, also tomorrow at 15:30, the students will meet Japanese high school students, holding a seminar about how to enhance the bilateral friendship.

From Thursday, 18 May onward until Wednesday, 24 May, when they are leaving Japan from Osaka, each one of them will visit at least two high schools in the east of Japan and the west, and spend two nights with Japanese host families. In the meantime they can have a look around Tokyo as well as Kyoto and Nara, among many other spots and places.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

II. Meeting of council on Japan's public diplomacy

Mr. Taniguchi: Next, let me say that earlier this fiscal year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked a group of business leaders and academics to form a council, looking into how to strengthen Japan's public diplomacy. You may recall that Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso referred to it in one of his latest speeches on public diplomacy. The council is meeting later today at the Foreign Ministry. The head of the council, Vice Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation Mr. Fujio Cho, will brief the press after the meeting.

III. Handover ceremony of solid waste and sewage treatment vehicles and of equipment for repair and maintenance of roads in Samawah, Iraq

Mr. Taniguchi: Next, there was an event in Samawah, Iraq, on Sunday, 14 May. It was a handover ceremony of solid waste and sewage treatment vehicles and of equipment for repair and maintenance of roads.

Using money provided by Japan's emergency grant aid, the Ministry of Public Works of Iraq bought 219 such vehicles. Thirty-three of them were handed over to the Governorate of Al-Muthanna on that day. Also, equipment for road repair and maintenance, purchased using Japan's grassroots human security grant aid was delivered to the Department of Samawah Municipality.

The ceremony was attended on the Iraqi side by the representatives of the Department of the Governorate of Al-Muthanna Municipality and others, and on the Japanese side by representatives of the Liaison Office in Samawah of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF).

Related Information (The Issue of Iraq)

IV. Emergency grant aid to the African Union for supporting its initiatives concerning the Darfur issue

Mr. Taniguchi: Also, on Tuesday, 16 May, which is today, the Government of Japan decided to extend an emergency grant aid of about US$8.7 million to the African Union (AU) to help its activities concerning the Darfur issues. The assistance will be used for PR activities, humanitarian assistance and peace negotiations that are conducted by the AU Mission in the Republic of the Sudan and for assisting the Darfur Integrated Task Force.

You may recall that last year in April Japan pledged assistance of US$100 million for the time being for Sudan's consolidation of peace.

Related Information (Press Release)

V. Questions concerning realignment of US forces

Q: I have a question about the US troop realignment in Okinawa. Last week, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Keiichi Inamine met with the Head of the Japan Defense Agency Fukushiro Nukaga. First of all, how do you describe their agreement? Secondly, will this actually help move toward the implementation of the realignment plan?

Mr. Taniguchi: Thank you very much for the question. I hope very much that the longstanding problem in association with the existence of US bases in Okinawa will be solved to a greater degree by the agreement first between Japan and the United States (US), and secondly, by the agreement between the Governor of Okinawa and the Head of the Japan Defense Agency.

This has long been a problem, and it has taken longer than most people had anticipated to relocate the facilities from Futenma to the Henoko area and to reduce the burdens shared by the people of Okinawa.

At the same time, one should mention and stress that the strategic importance of Okinawa as a base for US deployment is not decreasing but increasing given the overall global posture review that is ongoing on the US side.

You may also recall that the Japan-US security alliance relationship has been strengthened greatly recently. It is now oftentimes called the Japan-US security alliance in the world. The part "in the world" implies that the Japan-US security alliance is playing an ever more important role to stabilize the region and to enhance peace and stability across the world.

Q: It looks like, according to public opinion, that the local people in Okinawa are still not happy that the Futenma relocation is still within the prefecture. Do you think that the local resistance in Okinawa and perhaps in Iwakuni and other parts of Japan could slow down or even block the implementation of the troop realignment?

Mr. Taniguchi: Those are the kinds of things that the Government of Japan is working hard to avoid. It is understandable that given the burden that the Okinawa people have had to shoulder since the end of the war in terms of the presence of US forces that they are still not happy.

However, it is also true that the relocation plans involving the relocation of the facility and the relocation of the Marine Corps officers and soldiers, including their families, have been one of the biggest in size and are expected to help reduce the burden we are talking about to the greatest degree possible since the end of the war. Therefore, one should still hope that these ideas are going to be accepted by the local people. The same goes with other places like Iwakuni.

Q: Can we say that Governor Inamine accepted the government plan? He said he has not changed his position.

Mr. Taniguchi: I should be very much cautious about making a blanket statement about what he said or what he may not have said. I should refrain from making any comment on his remarks. The bottom line is that this is an agreement forged between the two Governments and we are still working hard to convince the local people about the importance and utility of the program. One can hope that Governor Inamine will eventually agree with this program.

Q: Does the agreement between Japan and the US say that unless Futenma is relocated to Henoko or outside of Okinawa the Marine Corps officers will not move to Guam, that the relocation of Futenma is the precondition for the relocation of the Marine Corps?

Mr. Taniguchi: I do not think these two are interconnected with one another. The Marine Corps officers are moving from Okinawa to Guam.

Q: What about the timing?

Mr. Taniguchi: It takes years. I am not sure when exactly this program is supposed to end but it is a multi-year program as you know.

Q: When will it start?

Mr. Taniguchi: As soon as possible. I do not think either Japan or the US has come to a decision about the timing of when the program should start.

Q: So even if the Futenma relocation does not go as quickly as officials had expected, still the Marine Corps will move out of Okinawa?

Mr. Taniguchi: The program has had two purposes needless-to-say, one is to reduce the local burden shared by the people in Okinawa, and the other is to strengthen the bilateral alliance and, thereby, help strengthen the overall defense capacities on the side of the US. It is the decision of the US Government to move the Marine Corps officers and their family members out of Okinawa to Guam. My understanding is that the US decision is supposed to serve these two purposes. If that is the case and I believe that is the case, the Marine Corps officers are moving out of Okinawa regardless of the other parts of the program.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

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