Press Conference, 10 April 2007

  1. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Republic of Iraq
  2. Visit to Japan by Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China
  3. Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China
  4. Question concerning the Six-Party Talks

I. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Republic of Iraq

Assistant Press Secretary Noriyuki Shikata: Good afternoon. Let us start today's press conference.

I have two brief announcements. One is regarding the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Republic of Iraq. He arrived late Sunday and is scheduled to leave Wednesday afternoon. Yesterday he met with Prime Minister Abe in the context of the Japan-Iraq Summit Meeting. Prime Minister al-Maliki met with other ministers including Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso, Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari. He also paid a courtesy call to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.

In yesterday's summit meeting there was agreement to strive for constructing a long-term strategic partnership between Iraq and Japan and also the Japanese Government notified the Iraqi side of two additional yen loan projects in the fields of stabilizing electricity supply and also improvement in the waterworks and sewage system of Iraq. So far we have pledged, as far as yen loans are concerned, US$2.1 billion in 10 projects. Other projects include improvement of agricultural productivity, improvement of oil export facilities, supporting additional production of oil-related petrochemical products and so forth. Of course, Iraq is a very important country for Japan. We import about 90 percent of our oil from the Gulf region and we have been working very hard to assist Iraq's reconstruction process. The Japanese Government, in addition, has decided to extend the terms of the Special Measures Law for Iraq for two years. This is something that Japan has been contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq through the dispatch of the Self Defense Forces (SDF). The current assistance is done by the Air Self Defense Force.

Related Information (Press Release)

II. Visit to Japan by Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China

Mr. Shikata: The second point is the visit to Japan by Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China. This is the first visit to Japan of a Chinese Premier in seven years. Prime Minister Abe and Premier Wen Jiabao will be having a meeting to discuss ways to substantiate the mutually beneficial relations sharing strategic objectives. Some of the major points or highlights of the summit meeting would include the starting of a Japan-China High-level Economic Dialogue, which will involve the ministers in charge of economic issues, and the creation of a minister-level policy dialogue on energy, which will be an important venue for discussing conservation of energy and environmental cooperation.

Of course this year is the 35th anniversary of normalization of relations between Japan and China. Since this year is designated as the Japan-China Year of Culture and Sports Exchange, there will be ceremonies for kicking off the events in Japan. The initial ceremony was already held in Beijing to kickoff the various events in China.

The last point I should mention is that it is expected that rice produced in Japan would be exported to China. Through this visit of Premier Wen, we expect that Japan-China relations will be further strengthened and various cooperation will be promoted.

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III. Follow-up questions concerning the visit to Japan by Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China

Q: I have just a few questions. First of all, are there going to be two agreements signed or only one? I mean are there two separate ones, one for environment and one for energy, or is it all on one?

Mr. Shikata: Actually, as far as the format of the agreement or document is concerned, we have not decided how it will be formulated. However, there has been agreement in principle to issue a document on the environment and, as I understand it, most likely on energy.

Q: So that would be two? More likely?

Mr. Shikata: As far as the formality is concerned I refrain from making judgment or comment.

Q: Also we understand that there are going to be advance copies of this document or documents available. However, since we in the foreign media are not allowed to go to the kantei, what arrangements have been made for the foreign media to receive this document or documents?

Mr. Shikata: As soon as we are in a position to distribute those documents, our office will be able to provide you with the documents.

Q: When would that be likely to be? Since we are not allowed to go to the kantei, we in the foreign media are at a real disadvantage compared to the Japanese media in this situation, so we were just wondering when we could expect to get a copy of this?

Mr. Shikata: Of course it is necessary for the two governments to agree on the document itself. What I am saying is that the documents are under consideration between the two governments and we are not ready to hand out those documents at this point in time. Whenever we are ready to distribute the copies to the international press, we will be doing it as soon as possible, possibly on an embargo basis, but I cannot tell you exactly when at this point in time.

Q: It would really help if we could have an embargo basis because that levels the playing field for the Japanese and foreign media. Obviously this is a meeting that is of very great interest to the entire world, so we would like that very much. An embargo would be very helpful.

There was talk that there was going to be some kind of agreement perhaps on the East China Sea gas fields. The possibility of that appears to have rather faded over the last week or so. Is there anything you can say about the gas talks? I know this is not exactly the Foreign Ministry's field.

Mr. Shikata: Of course, this East China Sea negotiation is conducted at the director-general level. From the Japanese side Mr. Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and I believe Mr. Harufumi Mochizuki from the Agency for National Resources and Energy are represented. They held a director-general-level meeting, which was followed up by an expert-level meeting late last week. We have not resolved this issue at this point in time. We hope that we would be able to reach an equitable solution. However, at this point in time, I do not expect that all the issues will be resolved through Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan. From the Japanese side we hope that this visit would contribute to facilitating the progress of this negotiation.

Q: There have been some news reports about the environmental cooperation that Japan and China are going to agree upon. Some of the reports have said that China is going to agree to take part in the negotiations on a post-Kyoto framework. Can you comment on that?

Mr. Shikata: Between Japan and China we have been discussing environment-related issues, including climate change issues. We expect that during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan these environment or climate change-related issues will be discussed. As for post-Kyoto, the Japanese Government's position is that the future framework after 2013, which is post-Kyoto, should involve major emitters, which include the US, China and the Republic of India, and that a future framework should encourage those major emitters to make maximum efforts on those issues. This is something that we will be taking up with the Chinese side not only at the summit level but at other working levels as well.

Q: But you do not have any particular comment to make on the news reports that are saying that China will agree to join post-Kyoto talks in the statement?

Mr. Shikata: As for possible outcomes of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan, that is still under coordination. But, as I understand the Chinese position up until now, the Chinese Government emphasizes "common but differentiated responsibilities," but they have not shown willingness to bear the obligations of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, we hope that China, as a major emitter of greenhouse gas, will make additional efforts in this field.

Q: It is not just a major, it is going to be the major emitter within the year. I just found that out myself.

You have mentioned that you hope that this visit by Premier Wen Jiabao will lead to a better relationship which is mutually beneficial. Specifically -- more concretely -- what do you hope to get out of this particular visit?

Mr. Shikata: I mentioned that there will be a kickoff meeting of the Japan-China High-level Economic Dialogue. Of course, China is the largest trading partner of Japan, exceeding the US in the order of US$200 billion. As far as economic relations are concerned it is a mutually interdependent situation and it makes much sense for both of us to endeavor to have a credible regime for economic interactions. We have already announced our intention to work on the field of information technology and finance in addition to issues like intellectual property rights. There are many issues that we need to tackle. When we make progress in these fields: that will be beneficial for both countries. Not only for both countries, but Japan-China relations have regional, or sometimes global, implications. We are ready to engage with the Chinese side to have a future-oriented, constructive relationship.

Q: What about history? How likely is that to come up?

Mr. Shikata: When Prime Minister Abe visited Beijing in October of last year we agreed to establish Japan-China Joint History Research Committee and there have already been two meetings held, so this work is making progress. There will be a report in the future that will be made public, so there is concrete work that is going on.

Related Information (Press Release)

IV. Question concerning the Six-Party Talks

Q: This is on a slightly different topic. Certainly one of the big questions on everybody's mind right now is: What is happening with the Six-Party Talks? The US Treasury was saying that there might be an announcement out earlier today, but nothing seems to have happened. US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill this morning was saying that they certainly hope that progress will be made. What is going to happen? It is starting to look like the deadline is going to be pretty hard to meet.

Mr. Shikata: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met Mr. Sasae yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they discussed issues related to the Six-Party Talks, including Banco Delta Asia (BDA) issues. Of course, Japan is not a direct party in the BDA issue, so we are not in a position to make substantial comments, but we are hoping that Six-Party Talks will be resumed at an early stage. We should try to make maximum efforts to implement the agreement we reached on 13 February, so we should encourage the parties concerned, particularly North Korea, to come forward in order to make progress in the Six-Party Talks.

Related Information (Six-Party Talks on North Korean Issues)

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