Press Conference, 7 July 2006
- Statement by the Press Secretary/Director-General for Press and Public Relations on the marine scientific research by the Government of the Republic of Korea in the waters where claim of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) overlap between Japan and the ROK and the territorial sea around Takeshima Islands
- Announcements related to launch of missiles by North Korea
- Visit to Japan by Mr. Abdelwaheb Abdallah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tunisia
- Official development assistance (ODA)
- Follow-up questions concerning North Korea's missile launches
- Question concerning Man Gyong Bong
- Questions concerning visit to China by Mr. Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry
- Questions concerning G8 Summit in St. Petersburg
- Question concerning visit to Japan by Mr. Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Department of State
- Question concerning free trade talks between Japan and Canada
I. Statement by the Press Secretary/Director-General for Press and Public Relations on the marine scientific research by the Government of the Republic of Korea in the waters where claim of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) overlap between Japan and the ROK and the territorial sea around Takeshima Islands
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon, thank you very much for coming to today's conference. I have a couple of announcements to make before taking your questions.
First, up on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are three statements and announcements. One is about the marine scientific research by the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the waters where claim of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) overlap between Japan and the ROK and the territorial sea around Takeshima Islands. A statement by the Press Secretary/Director-General for Press and Public Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been issued already. That is available on the website.
Mr. Taniguchi: Also, announcements about Japan's protests against the launch of missiles by North Korea, the telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Japan and the ROK, and the telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Japan and the People's Republic of China are already available on the website of the Foreign Ministry.
As far as telephone conversations between the foreign minister of Japan and other foreign ministers concerned, let me introduce that there was one between the foreign ministers of Japan and the Russian Federation on 5 July for about 20 minutes from 19:20.
Also, there was a telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Japan and the United Kingdom (UK) taking place on 5 July for about 10 minutes from 22:45, all Japan time.
Also, there was a telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Japan and the French Republic, that was on 5 July for about 10 minutes from 19:40.
Also, between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush of the United States (US) there was a telephone conversation, and that took place for about 10 minutes from 9:25 on 6 July. The gist goes as follows.
At the beginning, the two leaders agreed that they had shown both at home and abroad that the Japan-US alliance was rock-solid and that they had achieved tremendous results by the official visit of Prime Minister Koizumi to the US at the end of June.
Secondly, concerning the launching of missiles by North Korea, the two leaders affirmed the importance of delivering a united strong message from the international community including the countries principally concerned. As the United Nations (UN) Security Council has met in an emergency session to consider a resolution, the two leaders agreed that it is important for the Security Council to deliver a firm and strong message to North Korea, and that the two countries will continue close cooperation.
Thirdly, at the end of the conversation, the two leaders promised to meet again at the G8 Saint Petersburg Summit.
III. Visit to Japan by Mr. Abdelwaheb Abdallah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tunisia
Mr. Taniguchi: A couple of other things if I may. There is going to be a visit to Japan of Mr. Abdelwaheb Abdallah, who is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tunisia, from 9 to 13 July. Minister Abdallah is going to come to Japan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of a formal diplomatic relationship between Japan and Tunisia.
Mr. Taniguchi: Two items about official development assistance (ODA).
Last year the Government of Japan decided to extend a grassroots human security grant aid to Iraq for the "Samawah Promenade Project" to be implemented in the central part of Samawah city. As the work on the basic infrastructure of Samawah Girls' School Street and Al-Kornish Street has almost been finished and the electricity generators that were procured by the "Project for Provision of Generators in Al-Kornish Street" that was intended to solve power shortages in central Samawah have started to operate, a hand-over ceremony was held on 5 July in Samawah city. The ceremony was attended on the Iraqi side by officials concerned of the Governorate of Al-Muthanna, and on the Japanese side by officials concerned of the Office in Samawah of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). The projects include:
- (1) Project for Improvement of Al-Kornish Street
(about 55.5 million yen)
- (2) Project for Improvement of Samawah Girls' School Street
(about 56.8 million yen)
- (3) Project for Provision of Generators in Al-Kornish Street
(about 94.6 million yen)
Also, in response to a UN flash appeal announced on 12 June, the Government of Japan decided on 7 July to provide the following emergency grant aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Timor-Leste where the security situation has deteriorated rapidly since the end of April: US$1.5 million for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), approximately US$2.0 million for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and others.
Q: North Korean Ambassador Song Il Ho today speaking to reporters called on Japan to halt the sanctions, saying that this will force North Korea to take stronger physical actions. He also denied that the missile launches were a violation of the 2002 bilateral accord with Japan. What is the Japanese Government's reaction to those comments?
Mr. Taniguchi: The Japanese Government has had no reaction and no comment at all because those comments were made to the members of the press. We are not held responsible to make any comments and responses to those comments so long as they are aired literally to the press. If they are willing and ready to say the kind of things that they want to say to the press, why don't they come to us directly through the diplomatic channel?
Q: Sankei Shimbun this morning reported unidentified Japanese and US officials saying that North Korea targeted waters near Hawaii when it fired a long-range missile this week. Can you confirm this?
Mr. Taniguchi: I do not know. Even if I knew, I cannot make any comment because it is related to a very sensitive piece of intelligence. However, you could say the Taepodong missile's shooting range includes those areas like Hawaii, so if there is just 1% possibility that the launched missile could hit areas like Hawaii, the action that the North Korean government took should be viewed as the most dangerous act conducted by the government. Therefore, it makes it all the more convincing that the world community at large has to make a united front to condemn this action.
Q: Mr. Taku Yamasaki was dispatched to Jakarta carrying a message from Prime Minister Koizumi, which the Indonesians are now relaying, I understand, to North Korea. Do you have any information as to what is in that message from Prime Minister Koizumi?
Mr. Taniguchi: The Japanese Government is reaching out to as many countries as possible so that a strong powerful message could be relayed to North Korea to tell them that what they are doing is suicidal, is doing no good to anyone, and is doing harm to themselves as well. I am not aware of the details of the information that may be relayed to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia by Mr. Yamasaki, but those should be part of the message that Mr. Yamasaki is going to bring forward to the Indonesian Government.
Q: Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso this morning at his press conference did not deny the possibility of a second launch of a long-range missile from North Korea. In that situation, what sort of action is Japan going to take?
Mr. Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is going to meet with his Chinese counterpart as well as Mr. Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Department of State. I am aware that Japan is really working hard at the Security Council, but what else do you think Japan can do to prevent the missile's second launch?
Mr. Taniguchi: I frankly do not think that there is a 100% guarantee that if you do this, you can stop North Korea from attempting to launch a dangerous missile again. But as you say Mr. Sasae is in Beijing now. Actually his trip has been planned for some time because tomorrow, both the Governments of Japan and China are going to have another meeting about the East China Sea issue. So this trip and this meeting that Mr. Sasae is going to have with his counterpart of the Chinese Government were not originally planned to talk about North Korean missiles. However, by chance Mr. Christopher Hill is also going to be in Beijing and so today Mr. Sasae is talking to his counterpart of the Chinese Government exactly to find the best possible means with which Japan, China, and the US can prevent North Korea from attempting another dangerous act, which is to launch the Taepodong missile.
As far as the possibility of the launch is concerned, I am aware that there has been a report such as that but I can only say that the Japanese Government is still on high alert and is doing its best to collect intelligence and analyzing it. But that is perhaps all that I can say to you at the moment.
Q: Did you have any kind of support from the ROK Government in terms of sanctions against North Korea or getting ROK to hold back on aid that they have been sending to North Korea?
Mr. Taniguchi: Not specifically but there was a telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of the two countries as you may be aware. It is our understanding that the ROK Government has been taking this issue very much seriously, but as far as the specifics are concerned I am not aware of that.
Q: The Chinese Government reportedly submitted a presidential statement to the Security Council. What is the Japanese Government's reaction to that?
Mr. Taniguchi: So your question is about the Chinese Government being in favor of a presidential statement over a resolution?
The Japanese Government's position is that the message that should be sent to North Korea from the UN should be the one that is the most powerful and strongest so in that sense the Japanese Government is still seeking very much the possibility of making it a resolution, not a presidential statement. Because it is an ongoing process, this is perhaps the most that I can say at the moment.
Q: Regarding the ROK-Japan relationship with respect to the North Korean missile incident, you brought up the fact about the survey ship in waters claimed by Japan. There is a lot of characterization that the ROK actually seems to be viewing Japan in a more hostile manner than North Korea. Is Japan satisfied with the reaction that the ROK has shown so far toward the North Korean missile launch?
Mr. Taniguchi: The ROK Government and its legislative body as far as I know have been talking very much seriously about what should be done and about what they should do, so the Japanese Government is keenly watching what they will come up with. We do hope that, again given that this is a very substantial and dangerous issue by nature, the ROK Government is going to be part of the united front to be created.
Q: Regarding the North Korean ship, Man Gyong Bong, there were reports in the past that it was used for smuggling between Japan and North Korea. What is the Government's understanding of how it was used in the past? Also, I know strict border controls were implemented a couple of years. Do you think that stopped a lot of the smuggling? Also, what is the intention of the ban on the ship's entry?
Mr. Taniguchi: The Japanese Government has been aware of the possibility that the ferry ship can be used for such purposes. Precisely because of that awareness and concern, the customs department of the Japanese Ministry of Finance, to the best of my knowledge, has put enormous effort for the past several years to increase the capacity to check what is in the shipping containment and what is being shipped from Japan to North Korea. I understand that to a large extent the Japanese Government is in a better position to keep track of what is being tried to be sent from Japan to North Korea.
As for your question, Man Gyong Bong is currently being banned from entering Niigata port. It is part of the sanctions that the Japanese Government is trying to impose upon North Korea. Given that Man Gyong Bong is one of the most important links that connect Japan and North Korea in terms of shipping materials and carrying people, I think it is going to affect the trade and movement of individuals between the two countries, Japan and North Korea.
VII. Questions concerning visit to China by Mr. Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry
Q: Regarding Mr. Sasae's trip, first, is he still going to be able to talk about the East China Sea or has the focus of his meeting shifted to North Korean issues?
Mr. Taniguchi: Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, as has been scheduled, Mr. Sasae is going to be engaged in that talk.
Q: Is he going to be able to meet with Mr. Christopher Hill, and if so is he going to be meeting with him in the Japan-US context or is he going to be meeting with him within the Japan-China-US trilateral context?
Mr. Taniguchi: The situation is in a very much fluid status at the moment so I cannot predict anything at the moment. However, it may or may not be likely, but by chance these three gentlemen are now in Beijing so there might be a possibility such as that.
Q: You were saying about the possibility of Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush meeting during the G8 Summit in Saint Petersburg. Will they be talking about the North Korean crisis, this item of missile launch?
Mr. Taniguchi: Frankly I do not know at the moment; it is still being discussed between the two Governments. Given the enormity of the problem, we should not be surprised to see that these two leaders are going to discuss exactly that in addition to other items.
Q: Is Japan going to put the item of missile launch in the agenda of the G8 Summit?
Mr. Taniguchi: We are working hard on that, we are working hard to bring that issue to the G8 Summit discussion table.
IX. Question concerning visit to Japan by Mr. Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Department of State
Q: I heard that Mr. Hill is coming to Japan on Sunday or possibly Saturday. Is there a confirmed date as to when he is coming to Japan? And if so, with whom is he going to meet?
Mr. Taniguchi: I know there is a possibility of Mr. Hill coming to Japan, but I cannot say at the moment because the details of the schedule are still being discussed between the two Governments.
Q: On another matter, Prime Minister Koizumi recently came back from visiting Canada and the US. Could you comment about how the free trade talks are coming along between Japan and Canada?
Mr. Taniguchi: It is not clear yet. Let me just remind you that free trade talks take a long time from the time the idea is aired by the two governments concerned to the point of completion. So I cannot tell you exactly how far the negotiations have gotten.
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