Press Conference, 11 July 2006

  1. Announcements
  2. Questions concerning response to North Korea's missile launches
  3. Question concerning visit to Japan of Mr. James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank

I. Announcements

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon, let me begin.

Regarding North Korea's missile launches, telephone conversations took place between the Japanese foreign minister and the foreign ministers of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Italy, twice with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the United States of America (US), and also the foreign minister of the Russian Federation.

Secondly, Mr. James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, came to Japan yesterday, 10 July, and he is scheduled to leave on Friday, 14 July.

The third item is about grant aid to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the Project for Improving the Control of Infectious Diseases and the Nutritional Status of Palestinian Children and Preventing the Inner-hospital Infection of Newborn Babies of the Palestinian Administered Areas. I will skip the details because sooner rather than later all of this is going to be uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There are a couple of other items about grant aid to, for instance, the People's Republic of Bangladesh, the Republic of Guinea, and the Republic of the Gambia, but I will also skip the details for these.

II. Questions concerning response to North Korea's missile launches

Q: As we are all aware, the United Nations (UN) Security Council vote on Japan's sanctions resolution has not yet happened. Is Japan still standing firm on that or will it be willing to accept this alternative proposal of the weaker presidential statement?

Mr. Taniguchi: Let me say two things. First, Japan's stance remains very much firm that it has to be a resolution, not a presidential statement. Secondly, the resolution must carry in it a clause about sanctions. Those are two of the most important points for Japan and the Japanese Government's position has not changed regarding this matter.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about Japan considering preemptive strike on North Korea for self-defense. Has that been set in motion within the Government? What are some of the hurdles to the Japan-US security alliance or the Constitution?

Mr. Taniguchi: I think it is a very farfetched question to answer. It is a hypothetical question. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe talked about that point, and I understand the chief of the Japan Defense Agency Mr. Fukushiro Nukaga talked about it. Let me say a couple of things.

First, it dates as far back as February 1956 when the government at the time gave its consensus view to the Diet, that it is inconceivable for Japan to sit back and do nothing even when the nation is hit by such weapons as guided missiles as part of enemy means to launch an imminent and unjust attack against Japan. The Japanese Constitution stipulates nothing like that.

So if you ask me if we have the right to protect ourselves from possible enemy attacks, yes we do. If you ask whether launching a preemptive strike against an enemy clearly intent on attacking Japan is constitutional or not, it is part of our natural right as a sovereign nation. Let's just suppose you have a neighbor crying out loud saying "I will kill you, I will put your house on fire" and so on and pointing his machine gun at you. The question you have raised is not dissimilar to the situation I have just described.

However, and this is an important point, in practice you can do nothing as it has been well known for many years that Japan rid itself of any attack capability. So in practice Japan is not going to do anything as regards preemptive attack of any sort. The former head of defense repeatedly answered these questions at the Diet, described these things to the Diet and always ended his remarks by emphasizing yet again the importance of the Japan-US alliance because the US military is the one that is equipped with offensive capacity, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are not.

Q: To follow-up on that, the new missile defense system that has been set up in Aomori Prefecture and another one in Okinawa are just for self-defense?

Mr. Taniguchi: They are strictly part of the missile defense program, none of which has any offensive threat to the North Korean side.

Q: Mr. Christopher Hill has said that he wanted to make it quite clear that everybody is speaking with one voice on the issue of North Korea. Would you characterize that everybody is speaking with one voice?

Mr. Taniguchi: It is always very much important to speak with one voice, and the Japanese Government has been engaged in many conversations as I introduced in the beginning with the relevant foreign ministers to make a unified front to speak with one voice. But clearly the People's Republic of China is opposed to making it a resolution, which the Japanese Government does not buy as an idea. However, we have just decided to put on hold for 24 hours or a maximum of 48 hours until the Chinese side comes back with more concrete ideas about what North Korea has had to say to China.

Q: Related to the statements that have been made by the Defense Agency chief and others in the Government, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has responded somewhat in an unusual fashion by directly criticizing Japan, accusing it of making hawkish statements in response to North Korea's missile tests. What sort of communication is going on between Japan and the ROK about this? It does not appear that everyone is talking with one voice as Mr. Hill says.

Mr. Taniguchi: The website of the ROK's Blue House, the presidential palace, carried a statement saying--I am just paraphrasing--that Japan is making a fuss out of this.

The ROK Ambassador stationed in Tokyo came to the Foreign Ministry yesterday to talk to Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi, and the Ambassador made it clear that the statement I just cited is not part of the Government's view about this, so it is not a legitimate representation of the ROK Government. That point was well taken by the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

As far as the comment you just cited, I am not making any further comment about it because I do not think exchanges of this sort would do any good to either party. I should refrain myself from making any further comment.

Q: Did the ROK Ambassador say what the President of the ROK said?

Mr. Taniguchi: It is not the President's view as such, it is rather the Spokesperson of the Blue House.

Let me just make it clear. There is a press office associated with the presidential residence in the ROK which is the Blue House, and their webpage carried something like there is no need for Japan to make such a fuss out of this. Ambassador Ra Jong Yil of the ROK stationed in Tokyo came to the Foreign Ministry to talk to Mr. Yachi yesterday, on 10 July, and clearly said that the statement that you see on the website of the Blue House does not represent the view of the ROK Government. That was the view that was conveyed to us by the ROK Ambassador stationed in Japan, and therefore, I do not think it would be wise for me to make further comment about this.

Q: To clarify, in diplomatic language did he apologize for the statement? Did he say that they regretted the statement?

Mr. Taniguchi: It was not an apology, it was a description, it was an explanation, it was a clarification rather. The fact is that a statement such as that is on the website of the Blue House, and Ambassador Ra Jong Yil said it does not represent the ROK Government's official position.

Q: About the support of Japan in the UN for eventual action for sanctions, could you please tell us something about what Japan is planning to do? Which countries are clearly on board?

Mr. Taniguchi: There are eight countries initially that have agreed to make the resolution a joint resolution. Those countries were the US, the United Kingdom (UK), the French Republic, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Hellenic Republic, the Republic of Peru, and the Slovak Republic. Those were the eight countries that were willing to make it a joint resolution. You need to have nine votes to pass it given that there is going to be no veto either from China or Russia. The process is still going on so it is changing all the time but those were the nations that have agreed to make it a joint resolution.

Related Information (North Korea's Missile Launch)

III. Question concerning visit to Japan of Mr. James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank

Q: The visit of Mr. James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, coincides with a meeting of the Bank of Japan. Has he come to participate in this meeting? Or is he going to give some advice on the changing of the Japanese monetary policy?

Mr. Taniguchi: The answer is I do not know and I would be very much surprised if Mr. Wolfensohn openly argues about it because monetary policy is in the sole domain of the Bank of Japan. So first I do not know, second I think it will be unlikely but I am just guessing.

He is on an invitation program run by the Foreign Ministry. During his stay, Mr. Wolfensohn is going to discuss issues such as the Middle East Peace Process and developmental issues, and he is going to give a speech at the Japan Institute of International Affairs entitled, "Japanese Role in the 21st Century." His prime purpose is to engage in debates about developmental issues with a special emphasis on the Middle East area.

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