Press Conference, 23 May 2006
- Statement by Mr. Taro Aso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the establishment of the new Government of Iraq
- Death of Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)
- The 12th Intergovernmental Consultation on Japan-China Cultural Exchange
- Third Meeting of the Joint Governmental Study for strengthening economic relations between Japan and Switzerland
- The Fourth Meeting of Japan-Arab Dialogue Forum
- Question concerning East China Sea gas talks
- Question concerning Takeshima issue
- Question concerning Japan-China foreign ministers' meeting
- Questions concerning China Cultural Center
- Questions concerning Fourth Japan-Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Summit Meeting
- Questions concerning FY2007 budget
- Question concerning withdrawal of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) from Iraq
I. Statement by Mr. Taro Aso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the establishment of the new Government of Iraq
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good morning and thank you for coming.
First, let me remind you that upon the formation of the Iraqi Government, Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso issued a statement that said, and I quote, "Japan highly welcomes this, and congratulates the new government and the people of Iraq on this very significant accomplishment. Japan hopes that Iraq will develop further as a democratic and stable state under national reconciliation and prosper as a responsible member of the international community."
The full text of the statement is already up on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Taniguchi: Second, Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), died yesterday, 22 May, in a hospital in Geneva, Swiss Confederation. He had been hospitalized since Saturday afternoon and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain, but very sadly, to no avail.
Foreign Minister Aso immediately sent condolences to his family members who survived and to the acting Director-General of the organization, mourning the death of such a remarkable leader.
Mr. Taniguchi: Third, the Governments of Japan and the People's Republic of China are holding today, 23 May, the 12th Intergovernmental Consultation on Japan-China Cultural Exchange, here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
From the Japanese side, Mr. Masaki Okada, Director-General, Public Diplomacy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from the Chinese side, Mr. Ding Wei, Assistant Minister of Culture, are attending among many others. The semi-regular meeting has been held based on what is called the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Agreement for the promotion of cultural exchange between the two countries, which came into effect in 1979.
As a related matter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture of China formulated a memorandum on the establishment of the China Cultural Center, and the signing ceremony was carried out between Mr. Okada and Mr. Ding earlier this morning. It took place at the beginning of the aforementioned intergovernmental consultation. The Cultural Center, to be constructed later in Tokyo, will definitely play an important role as a base to disseminate Chinese culture to Japan.
IV. Third Meeting of the Joint Governmental Study for strengthening economic relations between Japan and Switzerland
Mr. Taniguchi: Fourth, the Governments of Japan and Switzerland will have a meeting of the Joint Governmental Study for strengthening economic relations between the two countries, on 29 and 30 May, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. This will be the third such meeting, whose launch was agreed when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Swiss President, Mr. Samuel Schmid, met in April 2005. Trade in goods and services, investment, and intellectual property rights are among the issues to be discussed.
Mr. Taniguchi: Fifth, the Fourth Meeting of the Japan-Arab Dialogue Forum is going to be held on 26 and 27 May at Shin-Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo.
When Prime Minister Koizumi went to the Middle East in May 2003, he made an announcement that enhancing dialogue between Japan and Arab countries would continue to make a pillar for Japan's relations with the Middle East. The announcement led the three nations, Japan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to launch the Forum, a wise-men's gathering, if you like.
This time, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will head the Japanese group. From Egypt, Director of the Library of Alexandria, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, and from Saudi Arabia, Member of Shoura Council, His Excellency Eng. Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri will attend, among others.
They will discuss as usual wide-ranging issues from the situations in Iraq, Palestine and other areas, trade and investment, to measures to strengthen cultural exchanges.
Q: Could you bring us up to date on the East China Sea gas talks? I believe they are supposed to be held this week in Tokyo. What is the latest on that and what is Japan expecting out of those talks?
Mr. Taniguchi: The Japan-China gas talks already took place last week. The next round of talks is yet to be scheduled.
Q: There have been some developments with the Takeshima issue. For example, the Republic of Korea (ROK) is planning to host a group of foreign correspondents based in Tokyo to go to Takeshima which they call Dokdo. Does this concern the Foreign Ministry at all? Do you see this more as a move by the ROK to assert its territorial claim over the islets?
Mr. Taniguchi: The position of the Japanese Government has never changed. Takeshima belongs to the sovereign right of the country of Japan. We have never changed a bit the position that has long been held. I am not sure what the ROK Government is doing with respect to the correspondents stationed in Japan. However, a bilateral agreement was reached between Japan and the ROK when the leaders of both nations met in 1996 which said that EEZ issues would have to be dealt separately from the issues surrounding Takeshima. Therefore, both nations have to focus solely on the EEZ issue rather than mixing up the EEZ issue with that of Takeshima.
Q: Can you possibly give us an update on the Japan-China foreign ministers' talks?
Mr. Taniguchi: It has not happened yet. It is supposed to be happening later today in Doha, Qatar. I think it is still early morning in Doha so I am afraid I cannot give you any updates.
Q: You mentioned that an agreement was signed about building a China Cultural Center in Tokyo. Is this the same as the so-called Confucius Institute that China has been setting up around the world?
Mr. Taniguchi: That is different. The Confucius Institute is a language school, and I am sure there is one in Tokyo and one or two others elsewhere in Japan, either already established or under construction.
The Cultural Center is also a government-sponsored body that is focusing on disseminating Chinese culture. That is why it is called the cultural center. The Chinese Government has these types of centers across the world in Paris, Seoul and in many other areas, and so does Japan. Japan has, for instance, a cultural center in Paris and Washington DC. That is part of the public diplomacy of each nation.
Q: Japan does not have a cultural center in China does it?
Mr. Taniguchi: Not yet, but one should hope that reciprocity would be embraced.
Q: This coming Friday, the Fourth Japan-Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Summit Meeting will be held in Okinawa. I understand that Japan is trying to make its presence felt in the region, and there have also been reports that China is trying to expand its influence in the region. How does the Foreign Ministry see this? Does the Foreign Ministry think that there is some kind of rivalry with China over this?
Mr. Taniguchi: Japan is not interested in any sort of power game in this region. Japan has always been interested in enhancing the capacities of the island nations and the residents thereof. That is evidenced by the policies I believe the Japanese Government has been taking in terms of giving aid focused on strengthening the human capacities of the nations, such as in the areas of education and health care. The Pacific island area should not be toyed around by any strong power surrounding the area.
Q: Could you elaborate on that? What specifically is Japan worried about that China or another strong power in the region may do?
Mr. Taniguchi: I did not say Japan was worried about the power game that may or may not exist in the Pacific region. I said Japan was, is and will continue to be interested in helping these small island nations grow. In order for them to grow, given the size of their respective economies, there has got to be support or help coming from countries like Japan. I elaborated that Japan's policy toward these small nations has been and is focused on strengthening the capacities of the people in these small nations to build their economy and a prosperous future.
Q: There was a report that Japan was considering significant cutbacks in the foreign aid and defense budget. I assume you saw that story. Any comment on that?
Mr. Taniguchi: It is high season to debate about the budget for the next fiscal year. There are lots and lots of talks, but the story that you have mentioned is just one piece that came out of one of the Japanese newspapers.
I should also remind you that Japan has made a pledge that as a reliable member of the international community Japan is going to continue to be a donor that extends assistance matching the size of the Japanese economy. That position has not been changed. In terms of the budgeting for FY2007, a lot of factors have to be put into consideration and I cannot tell you exactly what will evolve from those discussions.
Q: At this point has the Foreign Ministry given its proposed budget to the Finance Ministry?
Mr. Taniguchi: No draft has been sent to the Ministry of Finance; it is going to happen sometime later this year.
Q: Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom (UK) made a surprise visit to Iraq and reportedly had talks with Prime Minister Jawad al-Maliki of Iraq and had a press conference. I think Prime Minister al-Maliki said that the transfer of power would possibly take place as early as June. What is the comment of the Foreign Ministry? Do you think this could lead to a possible decision on the withdrawal of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF)?
Mr. Taniguchi: The establishment of the Iraqi Government has long been overdue, and it makes one of the most important pillars for the peaceful development of the Iraqi Government and people. We rejoiced the establishment of the Government of Iraq, but that does not automatically lead to the withdrawal of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) personnel from Iraq. There are a number of other issues to consider including the security situation, whether or not it has changed, the transition of policing power from the military to civilian police, whether or not that is going smoothly, and what decisions will be made by other coalition member countries. Those, as has been mentioned repeatedly by many people here at the Ministry and others, still make up the important elements to be considered before deciding on the withdrawal of the JGSDF personnel. In a nutshell it is still too early to make a judgment.
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