Press Conference, 15 May 2007
- Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
- The issuance by Japan of visas for Chinese group tourists in the People's Republic of China
- Assistance by the United Nations (UN) Trust Fund for Human Security project "Sustainable Integration and Recovery in North Ossetia-Alania" in the Russian Federation
- Question concerning the possible visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Russian Federation
- Question concerning the upcoming Russia-Japan Strategic Dialogue
- Questions concerning Japan's assistance to the Palestinian Authority
- Question concerning the situation of the President of the World Bank, Mr. Paul Wolfowitz
- Questions concerning the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers' meeting
- Question concerning the possible visit to Japan by Ministers from the Russian Federation
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon. I have three items to tell you about.
The first one is about the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, who came to Japan from Lao PDR yesterday, Monday, 14 May. Prime Minister Bouphavanh is leaving Japan for Lao PDR this coming Thursday, 17 May. Prime Minister Bouphavanh already had a Summit Meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday, May 14, 2007, and the joint press statement issued thereafter on the Japan-Lao PDR Summit Meeting is already uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that you can have a look.
The gist of the press statement is about the enhancement of the economic relationship between the two nations: it touched briefly upon the bridge project that is going on in Lao PDR, funded by Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) money; and that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made sure that Japan would invite in total 1,000 young men and women from Lao PDR within the next five years.
This is largely in line with Japan's diplomatic effort to help support the economic and democratic infrastructure in the region called CLV, which is the abbreviation for the Kingdom of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. So, that is about the visit to Japan by the Lao Prime Minister.
Mr. Taniguchi: The second item is about Japan starting to issue visas for Chinese group tourists in the People's Republic of China. There were only two offices, one Consulate-General office and one Representative Office in China that did not issue visas to Chinese group tourists, but as of 31 May this year they will also start issuing visas to Chinese group tourists.
The places are Shenyang Consulate-General Office and Dalian Representative Office. Those two have been the places that have not issued visas to the Chinese group tourists, but they will start issuing visas from 31 May. One should hope that this will further help increase the tourists coming from China to Japan. That is the second item.
III. Assistance by the United Nations (UN) Trust Fund for Human Security project "Sustainable Integration and Recovery in North Ossetia-Alania" in the Russian Federation
Mr. Taniguchi: The third one is about Japan's ODA. It is called "Sustainable Integration and Recovery in North Ossetia-Alania" in the Russian Federation. That is assistance by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security project. The Government of Japan and the UN decided to extend assistance of approximately 430.5 million yen through the Trust Fund for Human Security to a project entitled "Sustainable Integration and Recovery in North Ossetia-Alania," that will be implemented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania of Russia.
Q: There was information that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Russia in August. Is it so, and if so then what will be the main topics of the negotiations?
Mr. Taniguchi: Thank you very much for your question. I think it is a very good question, but that is the kind of question the press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs always finds hard to answer, because there is very strict regulation imposed by the parliament, Japan's Diet, upon the parliamentary members, including the Cabinet members. Nothing in terms of travel, even inside Japan, should happen without consent from the Diet, so at the moment I cannot say anything about the schedule for Prime Minister Abe's visit to Russia, but I can say that Prime Minister Abe is keen on visiting many countries within this year, like India, and Russia is, of course, one of those countries.
Suppose it materializes, Prime Minister Abe wants to broaden the scope of the bilateral relationship between Russia and Japan. The territorial issue is the most important issue, but that is not the only important issue. There are many other important issues. You may recall that recently Japan decided to further cooperate with Russia on the energy front, on the more efficient use of nuclear technology for civilian uses. There are actually many economic areas to be covered by the bilateral summit meeting. It is to be hoped also that when both leaders, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are going to meet on the sidelines of the G8 Summit Meeting scheduled in Germany -- I think that is going to be also an important opportunity to really discuss what the core subject matter should be to be tackled between the two leaders within this year. That will be probably as much as I can say to you at the moment.
Q: Can you tell us about the preparation for the strategic dialogue that is scheduled for the end of this month on the level of deputy foreign ministers? What subjects will be discussed and can you tell us something new concerning this matter?
Mr. Taniguchi: You are right. What is on the diplomatic calendar looks as follows. On the 17th of this month there is going to be a meeting in Moscow, Russia, between the vice-ministers of both foreign ministries, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Shortly after that, on 29 May, there is going to be the second so-called Strategic Dialogue between Russia and Japan. That is scheduled to take place this time in Tokyo, because the first one took place in Moscow. This is supposed to be taking place in a rotating fashion. And, as I just briefly touched on when answering the previous question, in June there is scheduled a summit meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Abe on the margins of the G8 Summit Meeting in Germany.
Obviously the vice-ministerial-level meeting has a long history that goes back to the Soviet era, between Japan and the Soviet Union. This one also is going to be an opportunity when both representatives from both governments will discuss and really narrow down the focus for the upcoming summit meetings. I said summit meetings, in plural fashion, because one is already scheduled to take place in Germany and we are hoping that another one will materialize some time within this year.
Please tell your readers in Russia that Prime Minister Abe is the proud son of the late Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, whose track record stands out in the sense that he was very much keen on developing Japan's ties with Russia. Since taking office, from day one, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly expressed his strong will to improve Japan's relationship with Russia by broadening the scope of the bilateral relationship by including many aspects like economy, trade, and investment. He and others of the administration have been referring to such facts as Russia-Japan trade ties looking dwarfed if you compare those with what Japan's relationship is like with China, for instance. My hunch is that it is one hundredth as large as what exists between China and Japan, so there is huge, ample room for both nations to develop their bilateral economic relationship.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to enrich the bilateral relationship; put a human face, if you like, on the bilateral relationship. But, beyond that, I cannot speculate on what actually Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going to pick up as important issues to be discussed by the two nations.
In terms of the Strategic Dialogue between Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi, who is Japan's top career diplomat, and his counterpart in Russia, we are not supposed to be able to reveal what the gist is going to be. My counterpart in Russia is not allowed to make any comment on what they are going to talk about, because we have got to preserve the sense of collegiality, if I can say so, between the two negotiators. Well, they are not actually negotiating anything: they are going to review the situation; they are going to smooth the relationship between the two ministries so that they can function better, to get the leaders of the two nations better prepared for important summit meetings that are to happen sometime in the future.
Q: I am wondering what your comment is on the Yomiuri Shinbun report that Japan decided to donate some assistance directly to the Palestinian Government and Hamas?
Mr. Taniguchi: There area many ways to support Palestinian development. What is most important is to really look into the situation and come to decide whether the Palestinian Authority is going to embrace some of the most important principles, such as using no violent means to achieve their cause, and to maintain the democratic principle among themselves, and to try to reach out to the Israeli side; those are the things. For that matter the Japanese Government has been, and will continue to be, very much committed in trying to do its utmost to help support the nation building process of the Palestinian people and Palestinian region. One of the initiatives that Japan as a whole, across the board -- not just the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but across the board -- is very much keen on doing is to implement the so-called Corridor for Peace and Prosperity initiative.
The gist of that initiative is to give a success story to the young men and women in the Palestinian region, on the West Bank and elsewhere, and to let them have an experience of cooperation and collaboration between the Palestinian people and the Jordanian people and, beyond that, the peoples in the region. Trust and confidence are the products that Japan wants to sell to the people in the Palestinian region, and any aid that could go from Japan to the Palestinian region is going to be driven by the same spirit.
Q: I think you mentioned the words "Jordanian people"; I guess you meant Israeli people, I think?
Mr. Taniguchi: Of course, that is why Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres of the State of Israel came to Japan for the meeting that happened last month. That was in line with the initiative that I just talked about. Deputy Prime Minister Peres was also very much forthcoming in supporting this initiative.
Q: Do you have any comment on the reports concerning the World Bank's President's situation? What is Japan's position on this issue?
Mr. Taniguchi: I do not think that I am the right person to make comment about Mr. Wolfowitz. I have been reading many stories, of course, but probably I would suggest that you should go to the Ministry of Finance for a better comment.
Q: It may be a bit too soon to ask this, but the G8 foreign ministers are gathering on 29 May. I was wondering what, right now, are the major concerns that these ministers would probably discuss? Would North Korea and Iran and other issues be discussed among these ministers?
Mr. Taniguchi: Given the nature of the G8 or G7 Summit Meeting, it has always been the case for foreign ministers first to look at the situation and to collect the findings and to come up with the agendas later to be discussed by the leaders of the participating nations. It seems to me that one of the main agenda items that the upcoming meetings are going to discuss lies in the environmental area. The Japanese Government is going to be actively participating in the discussions, so the foreign ministerial meeting, apart from looking through difficult areas certainly including North Korea, Iran, and other issues, will certainly discuss climate change, environmental problems, global warming and so on and so forth. I can tell you those agendas will surely be followed by the subsequent Summit Meeting, which is scheduled in Japan next year.
Q: When you mention environmental problems and climate change; that would be also referring to the post-Kyoto Protocol efforts to create the international global warming effort?
Mr. Taniguchi: I think that is surely going to be discussed by the foreign ministers.
Q: During the visit to Japan by Prime Minister Fradkov of the Russian Federation, the possibility of a visit to Japan in the future by one of his deputies -- First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, or First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and, as far as I remember, Minister of Defense Anatoliy Serdyukov of Russia -- was one of the topics of discussion. Is there any preparation on the Japanese side for these possible visits? Is there any information from Moscow that those persons are to come here?
Mr. Taniguchi: The honest answer is that I have not been briefed, as of yet, about the concrete possibilities of visits such as those. I can assure you that the atmosphere is warming up and we are saying that the more high-level exchanges we can have between Russia and Japan, the better we are going to be served to tackle some of the difficult bilateral problems, one of which, of course, is the territorial issue, but also to look at how better we can manage international problems together as two important, big powers in this part of the world.
Russia and Japan are two nations that have and share the responsibility to manage the world so that the world is going to be a better place to live, not only for the Russian people and Japanese people, but also for all the peoples in the world. There is a sense that "burden sharing" between Russia and Japan is gradually but steadily taking shape, so future visits -- whoever that may be by -- from Russia to Japan are also going to be driven by the same sense of shared responsibility.
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