Press Conference, 20 April 2007

  1. Visit by Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuhito Asano to Mongolia
  2. Terrorist attacks in the Republic of Iraq
  3. The launch of a peace building course
  4. Follow-up questions concerning the launch of a peace building course
  5. Questions concerning the discussion of a Japan-US free trade agreement (FTA) during the visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US
  6. Questions concerning Japan-Russian Federation relations

I. Visit by Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuhito Asano to Mongolia

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon. For today's opening statement I have a couple of points to make.

Number one: Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuhito Asano will go to Mongolia between Saturday, 28 April and Wednesday, 2 May. The purpose is to make sure that the action agendas both governments agreed on be set in train and implemented.

When President Nambaryn Enkhbayar of Mongolia came to Japan last February, Japan and Mongolia adopted what is called the Basic Action Plan for Japan and Mongolia over the Next Ten Years. It is a broad-ranging plan with emphases on such areas as enhanced economic cooperation and increased government-to-government exchanges, and the Senior Vice-Minister's planned visit is in line with the Action Plan.

Mr. Asano is going to go and see Erdenet copper and molybdenum mine, which is Mongolia's largest mine, located 220 kilometers northwest of the capital city Ulaanbaatar, for instance. He will also go to Chingis-Sosei School of International Relations, which is a college funded half by a Fukushima based company called Sosei Group and half by Ikh Zasag University of Mongolia. The school, established six years ago, is a unique college in that the 1,100 enrolled students are all required to learn Japanese.

In Mongolia, incidentally, a total of 12,000 pupils and students are now learning Japanese, and approximately 25 percent of college and upper-level educational institutions now offer Japanese language courses. This is no surprise really, given that both Mongolian and Japanese languages are part of the same linguistic family. Such is about Mr. Asano's Mongolian trip.

Related Information (Japan-Mongolia Relations)

II. Terrorist attacks in the Republic of Iraq

Mr. Taniguchi: The second concerns the terrible terrorist attacks that hit Baghdad yet again on Wednesday, 18 April. Upon learning of the incident the Japanese Government expressed wholehearted condolences, and once again reaffirmed our pledge that Japan will continue to do its utmost to help stabilize the situation in the Republic of Iraq. Our Press Secretary and Director-General for Press and Public Relations issued a statement on that, strongly condemning the terrorist attacks.

Related to that, on Wednesday 18 April, Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari of Iraq had a brief telephone conversation, in which Foreign Minister Zebari requested the attendance of Foreign Minister Aso at the ministerial meeting on 3 May concerning the Iraq Compact, and the expanded foreign ministerial meeting of the neighboring countries on 4 May.

Related Information (Press Release)

III. The launch of a peace building course

Mr. Taniguchi: Lastly let me say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going to launch, this autumn, a pilot academic course to train professionals in the area of peace building. The course is something that the Foreign Minister pledged to create when he made a speech about peace building back in August last year, and will draw 15 Japanese as well as the same number of non-Japanese civilians to let them undergo a seven-month long intensive study. I will be able to update you on that from time to time.

Related Information (Speech by Foreign Minister)

IV. Follow-up questions concerning the launch of a peace building course

Q: About the academic course, is this the one regarding the terakoya?

Mr. Taniguchi: Exactly.

Q: Is this course going to be established in a university here?

Mr. Taniguchi: In terms of the venue, it is not decided yet. Probably the course is going to use some facilities of a university or college or something like that.

Q: Are there any specifics? Is it basically lectures or some kind of exposure trips?

Mr. Taniguchi: A little bit more detail is already uploaded (in Japanese) on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so you can go and have a look at it. The course is going to be divided into two parts, basically: one domestic, the other overseas. In Japan, mostly classroom studies. Classes are going to be offered by professionals and experts -- Japanese as well as non Japanese experts -- to the students. By the way, the number of students, as I said, is going to be approximately 30. After finishing the domestic part they are supposed to go abroad to get engaged in the realities, so to speak, by involving them in peace building efforts or non-governmental organization (NGO) activities and so on.

V. Questions concerning the discussion of a Japan-US free trade agreement (FTA) during the visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US

Q: Concerning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to the US: he is having talks with President George Bush of the United States of America. I understand at least the prospect of a Japan-US FTA could probably be discussed. I was wondering what Japan's stance is right now, because Prime Minister Abe himself is very keen on spreading or expanding FTAs, and US Ambassador to Japan John Thomas Schieffer has also expressed willingness before to consider a Japan-US FTA. How does Japan see this and what kind of benefit does this kind of FTA have for Japan?

Mr. Taniguchi: I understand and I am aware that both Ambassador Schieffer and leading members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan have continued to express their keen interest in Japan and the US having an FTA agreement. I would rather not use the term "FTA" in this particular case, because lots of items that are normally covered by an ordinary FTA have already been addressed and pretty much covered by a huge number of trade deals between the US and Japan. Can I use then Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as a more proper term than FTA? Then I should say that an ordinary EPA -- the kind of EPA the Japanese Government has pursued with countries like the Republic of Singapore and Malaysia -- does cover a broad range of items but, yet again, those points and items have also already been covered by the existing number of trade pacts and deals between the two nations.

The point is that the US and Japan -- both economies have been intertwined to such a degree that it would not necessarily necessitate the kind of FTA or EPA that Japan has created from scratch with a number of countries. That is point number one.

Point number two is that Japan's economy is as large as 10.2 percent of the world total output. If you add the US economy, which is 28-point-something percent of the world total GDP, to Japan's GDP then the result is approximately 40 percent of the world total. So, both governments have to give serious consideration to what sort of repercussions that the forging of the EPA between the two nations would cause, given the enormous size of the combined economies. That is number two.

Number three: still the Japanese Government, as well as the US Government, are at least interested in trying to give serious consideration to the prospect that both nations will have an FTA or EPA with one another. So, what I am saying, basically, is that we have never wiped out the possibility that the two nations will have an FTA or EPA in the future, but we are still spending time to give serious thought to the possibility because, as I said, the consequence of a possible FTA or EPA between the two nations, the US and Japan, would be huge in effect and mean a lot in terms of preserving and enhancing the free trade regime in the world.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)
Related Information (FTA and EPA)

VI. Questions concerning Japan-Russian Federation relations

Q: The plans being made for a Japan-Russian Federation second strategic dialogue probably some time later next month: do you have any word or update on that?

Mr. Taniguchi: In terms of the timing and schedule, I cannot say anything at the moment except that both governments have agreed already upon making the second strategic dialogue on the vice-ministerial level some time soon; this time in Tokyo, not in Moscow. I know the rumor is running on that it could be sometime in May, but at this point I cannot give you a confirmation.

Q: With the strategic dialogue and then with Foreign Minister Aso's upcoming visit to Russia, a lot of things are going on at the moment, so to speak, between Japan and Russia, so I would like to ask again the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' view: what kind of relationship exactly does Japan want to forge with Russia? Could you define or characterize it as a mutual strategic relationship, as with other countries like China?

Mr. Taniguchi: What is conspicuous about the Japan-Russia relationship is the utter lack of intense economic relationships. This is very much strange if you look at the geographic proximity between the two nations: that is number one. The size of both economies: that is number two. And number three: that Russia could be a full fledged member of this burgeoning trade and investment network that spreads all across East Asia. If you can successfully bring the eastern part of Russia into this equation, the prosperity of East Asia could be even brighter than it has already been. That is the basic backdrop against which both vice-ministers, from Japan and Russia, have set off this important strategic dialogue.

The guiding principle, if I may say so, is that the history of Russia and Japan can be much brighter in this century, the 21st century, than it long was in the last century, the 20th century. That is the sort of motto with which both governments have set off this series of dialogues. That is as much as I can say at the moment.

Certainly there is huge, ample room for Japan to cooperate with Russia in terms of economy. There was a dialogue when the Russian leader came to Japan of late about possible enhanced cooperation in the area of nuclear power plant technology and so on. It is expected that with the enhanced dialogue between the two nations on a variety of levels, Russia and Japan can benefit from strengthened economic ties.

Related Information (Japan-Russia Relations)

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