Press Conference, 20 February 2007
- Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov of the Russian Federation
- Visit to Japan by Minister for Industry and Energy Viktor Borisovich Khristenko of Russia
- Visit to Japan by President Nambaryn Enkhbayar of Mongolia
- Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov of Russia
- Questions concerning the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the Republic of Singapore
- Questions concerning remarks by Foreign Minister Aso on the comfort women issue
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: I have two points to make. First from Tuesday, 27 February until the next day, Wednesday, 28 February on the invitation of the Japanese Government, Prime Minister Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov of the Russian Federation will be visiting Japan. During his stay he is going to get granted an Imperial audience by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and he is going to see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well. He is coming to Japan with his wife, Mrs. Fradkov. So that is number one.
Mr. Taniguchi: Almost at the same time, from 26 February, also from Russia, Minister for Industry and Energy Viktor Borisovich Khristenko is also coming to Japan. He is going to meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso. Both gentlemen, Mr. Khristenko and Foreign Minister Aso, will be co-chairs for a meeting called Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs. That is number two.
Mr. Taniguchi: Number three, from Mongolia, President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Mrs. Onongiin Tsolmon will be visiting Japan from 26 February to 2 March. During their stay in Japan the President and Mrs. Onongiin Tsolmon will make a state call on Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress will host a court luncheon in honor of the President and Mrs. Onongiin Tsolmon. The President will also hold a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
IV. Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Mikhail Efimovich Fradkov of Russia
Q: Concerning the Russian Prime Minister's visit, could you give just an overview of what could possibly be discussed? Probably the long-standing Four Northern Islands issue also will be discussed? Or is it energy cooperation assistance?
Mr. Taniguchi: Okay. Prime Minister Fradkov is especially in charge of economic policies of the Russian Federation, so the gist of the bilateral talks is going to be focused on how to enhance bilateral trade and economic relations between the two nations.
Q: So far this meeting is scheduled only for meetings with Prime Minister Abe. Is he planning on meeting Foreign Minister Aso as well?
Mr. Taniguchi: Let me see. It is scheduled that Prime Minister Fradkov is going to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. I cannot tell you exactly when that would be, but it is on the itinerary.
Q: In addition to economic topics, I suppose political issues would also be naturally discussed?
Mr. Taniguchi: I would say certainly that bilateral issues such as the territorial issues will be touched upon, but, as I said, it is not going to be a focal point as such. Rather more practical matters, such as trade and economic relations, will be the main issue.
V. Questions concerning the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the Republic of Singapore
Q: On a different visit, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. It seems like since Japan and Singapore already concluded a free trade agreement (FTA), there just seems to be no obvious outstanding issue. I was wondering what could possibly be the main topic between Singaporean and Japanese officials. Maybe the Japan-ASEAN FTA? Would there be some kind of progress towards that?
Mr. Taniguchi: It is always good to have as frequent exchanges as possible involving the state leaders between Japan and its like-minded peers among the ASEAN nations, like Singapore. Singapore played an instrumental role, if you can recall, in widening the scope so that the East Asia Summit meeting would include other countries like the Republic of India and the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Japanese Government has been appreciative of Singapore's diplomatic effort for that matter. Also, I can remind you that issues such as anti-pirate activities are high on the agenda for both nations. Singapore, being faced with the Straits of Malacca, is obviously very much concerned about maritime security, and the Japanese Government is keen on cooperating more fully with the regional governments. That certainly includes Singapore.
Q: Does Japan have anything in mind in terms of cooperating more? Any kind of concrete steps or plans?
Mr. Taniguchi: I do not know at the moment.
Q: On the issue of the comfort women the media seems to be taking up yesterday's remarks by Foreign Minister Aso. He has also tried to qualify his remarks, and Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi also yesterday tried to qualify what the Foreign Minister probably meant to say. Just on the record I just wanted to reconfirm the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' position on the comfort women. Does it continue to honor the 1993 statement of then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono, and if so, do you see that in any way the remarks of Foreign Minister Aso contradict the Japanese Government's position on this?
Mr. Taniguchi: There has been no change made yet toward Mr. Kono's statement for that matter, and there is no contradiction between that and the fact that Foreign Minister Aso made a point that the discussions on Capital Hill included some factual errors. So that is just about it.
Q: So basically what the Foreign Minister of the Japanese Government is taking issue at is the phrasing or the wording in the resolution?
Mr. Taniguchi: I have to say that I have not really examined closely the wording and how the words are being put in the statement in the subcommittee of the US Congress, but I understand that Foreign Minister Aso wanted to clarify that the Japanese Government took the issue extremely seriously and tried to do its utmost over the course of many years.
Q: Do you see in any way these remarks affecting the currently great relationship between the US and Japan?
Mr. Taniguchi: My assessment is not that much. The US Government, I understand, is very much aware of what the Japanese Government has done on issues such as that and there is no need further for us on the Japanese side to further brief, if any, the US Government on that matter.
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