Press Conference, 23 March 2007
- Visit to Japan by Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi of the Republic of Iraq
- Visit to Japan by Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee of the Republic of India
- Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Romano Prodi of the Italian Republic
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: My statement for today goes as follows.
First, we are hosting an important visitor now from the Republic of Iraq.
Vice President of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Al-Hashimi arrived the day before yesterday, Wednesday, 21 March and is due to be leaving Japan tomorrow, Saturday, 24 March.
He is actually meeting a lot of people today, like the head of the Komeito Party, Mr. Akihiro Ohta, Member of the House of Representatives; Mr. Akira Amari, Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry; and Ms. Yuriko Koike, Prime Ministerial Advisor on National Security. Later today he is meeting Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso, followed by a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Mr. Taniguchi: Now, from the Republic of India, also an important visitor is now in Tokyo. Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee of the Republic of India came to Tokyo yesterday, Thursday 22 March. He is leaving for India tomorrow, Saturday, 24 March. What I should introduce here is the gist of the meeting between the two foreign ministers, Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Aso.
Foreign Minister Aso made it known that, subject to last minute approval from the Diet, he is flying to India in early April to participate in the upcoming Summit Meeting for the SAARC, or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Japan is now an observer nation for the regional grouping, and Mr. Aso will be the first Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs to join the Summit meeting. He is also delivering a short speech there. The foreign ministerial meeting was the one dubbed "strategic," hence was supposed to look at global issues, not merely focused narrowly on the bilateral ones. Still, what is cooking on the bilateral front is multifold; deserving, I believe, a few more words.
Number one, there is what both nations call the "Aso Program." That is to send as many as 5,000 young people to and from India and Japan for three years between 2006 and 2008. Mr. Aso, in conjunction with this, noted that already more than 1,600 young people, Indian and Japanese, have been engaged in this exchange program over the last year.
They talked also on the similarity and a possible synergy between what I have been calling here the AFP initiative on the Japanese side, that is to create an Arc of Freedom and Prosperity, and India's own initiative to foster an Arc of Advantage and Prosperity. The AAP initiative, by the way, is actually the core concept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Republic of India introduced when he addressed the joint session of the Japanese Diet last December. That is supposed to help lay the foundation for the creation of an Asian Economic Community. Between the two foreign ministers, they also noted that the dialogue will continue to look at such areas as political cooperation and what the two nations can do jointly on the security front. They welcomed, in conjunction with that, the exchanges going on between Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy, and between the two countries' coast guards.
Also discussed was the Economic Partnership Agreement that is being negotiated between India and Japan. Mr. Aso said also that for this fiscal year of 2006, ending on 31 March, the amount of yen loan, that is of course with a significant portion of grant element, will have become 185 billion Japanese yen, making India the largest recipient of Japan's ODA yen loan for four consecutive years.
As the meeting is basically to continue to give thrust to such policy items as agreed on last December by the two Prime Ministers, Prime Minister Abe and Indian Prime Minister Singh, I should probably ask you to come back to see on our website the Joint Statement issued then, with the title "Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership."
Of special note also is that during the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Mukherjee, Prime Minister Abe made it known that his scheduled visit to India is now penned in his diplomatic calendar for the current year.
Mr. Taniguchi: Next, from the Italian Republic, the Cabinet made an announcement this morning that Prime Minister Romano Prodi and his wife Mrs. Franzoni Prodi will pay an official visit to Japan from 15 to 17 April. The Prime Minister and Mrs. Prodi will be received in audience by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan on 16 April. The summit meeting between the two prime ministers is set the same day.
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