Press Conference, 25 May 2007

  1. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso to European countries
  2. Follow-up questions concerning the visit by Foreign Minister Aso to the Kingdom of Spain
  3. Questions concerning Japan's stance on cluster bombs
  4. Follow-up questions concerning the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  5. Question concerning Prime Minister Abe's climate change initiative

I. Visit by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso to European countries

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon and thanks very much for coming. Permit me to make a rather longish opening statement for today's press conference before taking your questions.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso is setting off the day after tomorrow, Sunday, 27 May for an intensive tour to attend a number of meetings. They are: the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Hamburg, the Federal Republic of Germany; the Japan-EU Troika Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Berlin, Germany; the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the Schloss Celienhof in Potsdam, Germany; and the meetings in Warsaw, the Republic of Poland, and in Madrid, the Kingdom of Spain. He is scheduled to come back on Sunday, 3 June.

On the first day, 28 May, Foreign Minister Aso is going to have five meetings in Hamburg. Among the bilateral foreign ministerial meetings are the ones with the People's Republic of China, the Union of Myanmar, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the French Republic, the last of which is subject to change. In addition to those, he is going to hold the so-called V4+1 meeting, involving the foreign ministers from the "Visegrad 4" nations, comprising Poland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, and the Republic of Hungary. The "1" obviously represents Japan. Later on the same day, the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting will convene with a welcome reception, followed by the working dinner.

On the next day, 29 May, Foreign Minister Aso will take part in the plenary session of the ASEM meeting before moving to Berlin in the evening to join the Japan-EU Troika Foreign Ministers' Meeting. A stakeout occasion for the members of the press is slated to follow.

On 30 May, the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting will take place at the Schloss Celienhof. The Potsdam palace, for your information, was built and dedicated for Wilhelm II and the members of the Hohenzollerm. It so happens that the palace was the site for the Potsdam Conference. A special note about the meeting is that it has invited foreign ministers from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A joint press conference is scheduled afterwards.

I will turn briefly to the significance of these meetings I have introduced so far. As for the bilateral meeting with China, it will be the first meeting between Foreign Minister Aso and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, the newly appointed Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, the primary objective of which therefore will be for both leaders to get to know each other well. They will, however, certainly touch on such subject matters as how to develop the East China Sea oil and gas field, what to do with North Korea, and the like, and will also reaffirm the win-win spirit that must drive the bilateral relations.

At the one with Foreign Minister U Nyan Win of Myanmar, Foreign Minister Aso will spare no time to convey to him the Japanese perspective on the importance to promote democracy while stressing the need for a continued dialogue between Japan and Myanmar.

As far as the meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri is concerned, it will promise to be an opportune occasion for Foreign Minister Aso to encourage Pakistan to further develop the nation so that it can be a stabilizing force situated right next to Afghanistan, which is undergoing a still formative period of its nation-building process.

If I turn to the V4+1, that is the one that Japan and the V4 nations have agreed to make an annual event. You may recall that in the speech about the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity, Foreign Minister Aso gave special reference to how important it would be for Japan to maintain broadening connections with the V4 countries.

And on the one with the new French Foreign Minister the hope is that it will materialize. If it does, it must be the beginning of a good friendship between Foreign Minister Aso and the new Foreign Minister of France, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who is well known internationally to have pioneered on the NGO (non-governmental organization) front.

The Japan-EU Troika Foreign Ministers' Meeting is actually a longstanding institution whose history dates back to the year 1983, having had 33 gatherings so far. At this year's meeting, participants will include Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier who is this year's EU Chair; Dr. Manuel Lobo Antunes, Secretary of State at the Portuguese Ministry for European Affairs as the next year's EU Chair; Dr. Javier Solana Madariaga, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union High Representative for EU Common Foreign and Security Policy; and Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy.

Objectives of the meeting are nothing new indeed, like strengthening partnership with the EU in the run-up to the Japan-EU Summit Meeting that is scheduled early next month. An emphasis will be given to what jointly the EU and Japan can do vis-à-vis Afghanistan and some of the Central Asian nations. Mr. Aso is also interested in learning their views toward Russia. They will discuss North Korea, and the transparency, or rather the lack thereof, of the Chinese military buildup.

Now at the G8 Ministers' Meeting, those attending include German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic Massimo D'Alema; Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay of Canada; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States of America; Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov; Secretary-General Javier Solana Madariaga of the Council of the European Union High Representative for EU Common Foreign and Security Policy; and Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy. Joining with them are the ministers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta is the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan.

A plethora of issues, as usual, will be reviewed, but as is shown by the presence of Afghani and Pakistani foreign ministers, a special emphasis will be given to the furtherance of the stabilization in Afghanistan. For that purpose, after the G8 countries' working sessions are over, Ministers from Afghanistan and Pakistan will be invited to join the discussion.

That much is about the ASEM, G8, and the sideline meetings.

Now, Mr. Aso has long been looking forward to visiting Poland, whose people seem to be fond of lots of things Japanese, ranging from the Edo-era manga art to sumo wrestling. The objective of the visit is to cement an increasingly important tie that binds the two nations.

As a final leg of his packed tour, Mr. Aso is scheduled to visit Madrid, Spain to meet President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Given the importance that the country holds over European affairs as well as on the Atlantic relationships, the significance of the meeting goes without saying, I believe.

Related Information (Japan-Europe Relations)

II. Follow-up questions concerning the visit by Foreign Minister Aso to the Kingdom of Spain

Q: About the trip to Spain, I would like to know what issues are going to be on the agenda.

Mr. Taniguchi: Nothing is specified so far. For Foreign Minister Aso, this is going to be a trip that has been a long time coming, so obviously the most important objective as such is for both leaders to exchange observations and thoughts about global issues. That certainly includes the concerns over climate change and regional affairs that stretch from Afghanistan and Central Asia to this part of the world and North Korea.

Q: President Zapatero was scheduled to come here on 14 January, I think it was, but finally he did not come because of some troubles at home. Is there any talk about a possible comeback, a possible trip by President Zapatero to Japan?

Mr. Taniguchi: Given that the previously scheduled trip had to be canceled for unexpected reasons, it is obvious that the Japanese side is still looking forward to receiving his visit and hosting his visit, but as far as the actual schedule is concerned, I have not heard anything yet.

Related Information (Japan-Spain Relations)

III. Questions concerning Japan's stance on cluster bombs

Q: Can I ask you something that is I am afraid unrelated to this? I would like to clarify Japan's policy on cluster bombs. I do not know if you have heard, but Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma today said in his press conference that Japan needs cluster bombs, and it had been my impression that Japan has been trying to ban cluster bombs. Now I am confused, and I wonder if you could clarify it.

Mr. Taniguchi: You may have had a mixed impression about Japan's stance. The importance of the international regime such as this, first of all, is that it has to include countries that are actually producing those bombs and some of the major powers, and so the first objective of Japan's policy as far as this is concerned is to develop the international regime so that this could embrace all nations and this could be really effective in banning the bombs of that sort. It is true that the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are planning to continue to have some of the cluster bombs, but it does not exclude Japan's commitment in promoting the international regime such as that.

Q: So the view is that it is all right to use them in your own country, but not to use them somewhere else?

Mr. Taniguchi: It is strange to imagine the situation that Japan is prepared to use bombs of that sort, given the nation's longstanding commitment to peace, and it goes without saying that the Japanese Constitution stipulates that Japan does nothing offensive without getting attacked first, so I should ask members of the press to put that into a broader perspective whereby Japan stands for a peaceful arrangement, absolutely.

Q: But don't you think it looks slightly odd to have your Defense Minister saying that while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs people are in Lima trying to bring and end to cluster bombs?

Mr. Taniguchi: I am not in a position to speculate on what sort of motives Defense Minister Kyuma has had on this, and I have not actually looked into the details of his statement. But as the chief of SDF he probably just has stated that according to the current arrangement the cluster bombs make up one part of their weaponry and armor. I do not think that Defense Minister Kyuma has stated anything more than that.

IV. Follow-up questions concerning the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Q: Going back to the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting, I understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran is going to be one of the major issues, and I was wondering what Japan wants the G8 Foreign Minister to deliver?

Mr. Taniguchi: Needless to say, Iran is among the most important issues for the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the subsequent summit meeting of the G8 nations. Views vary from country to country, but as far as Japan's views are concerned, the Japanese side has repeatedly conveyed a powerful message to the Iranian side that the country has to comply with the UN resolution and give up its ambition on nuclear development. If I may remind you, only lately Foreign Minister Aso had another telephone conversation with his counterpart Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran, and once again stressed how important both internationally and for Iran's own development as well it is for Iran to come back to the negotiation table and to definitely comply with the UN resolution. That message once again is going to be stressed by the Foreign Minister, and certainly by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he attends the German G8 summit meeting.

Related Information (G7/G8)

V. Question concerning Prime Minister Abe's climate change initiative

Q: Can I also ask something about the G8, about the environment question. Prime Minister Abe has a new initiative on climate change. When Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Beckett of the United Kingdom was here earlier this week, she said she did not expect any discussion of targets at the G8. I am wondering, was there a misunderstanding here, or did we except discussion of targets at the G8?

Mr. Taniguchi: Certainly the Japanese Government, and Prime Minister Abe particularly, are interested in setting objective criteria and objective targets. Therefore he introduced his own initiative, the Invitation to Cool Earth 50, in which the "50" stands for two meanings: by the year 2050, and to reduce the emissions by 50 percent, so that is a double entendre so to speak, and he is keen on bringing this idea forward to his colleagues among the G8 nations, so we will see what will come out. I do not know how other member nations will respond to his proposal, but the hope is that his idea is going to be endorsed by his colleagues within the G8 nations.

Related Information (Climate Change)

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