Press Conference, 25 March 2008

  1. Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura on "Building Peacebuilders for the Future"
  2. Announcement of visits to Japan by foreign dignitaries
  3. Japan and Saudi Arabia co-hosting "the 6th Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World"
  4. Announcement of development assistance extended by Japan
  5. Questions concerning the scheduling of the speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura on "Building Peacebuilders for the Future"
  6. Questions concerning entry to Japan of the president elect of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou
  7. Questions concerning "the 6th Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World" co-hosted by Japan and Saudi Arabia
  8. Questions concerning Japan's diplomacy with China with regard to the current situation in Tibet
  9. Questions concerning possible protest demonstrations in Nagano City during the passing of the Olympic Torch Relay
  10. Questions concerning reports of missing Japanese nationals abroad

I. Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura on "Building Peacebuilders for the Future"

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon. Let me introduce some of the developments of late before answering your questions.

First, let me remind you that yesterday, Monday, 24 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura delivered a speech about Japan's peacebuilding diplomacy. Entitled "Building Peacebuilders for the Future", it set out Japan's aspirations as to fostering peacebuilders. That was a quasi commencement speech for the graduating class of 2008 from the HPC, or Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center. For the translated text of the speech, please visit the ministry's web site.

Related Information (Speech by Foreign Minister)

II. Announcement of visits to Japan by foreign dignitaries

Mr. Taniguchi: The second announcement concerns some of the incoming visits of foreign dignitaries. First from (the Socialist Republic of) Viet Nam, Deputy Prime Minister and Education and Training Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan is now visiting Japan. Foreign Minister Koumura is meeting him this evening. One big topic to be discussed between the two will be on the so-called "doctorates training program of Viet Nam," that the country is now working hard on.

It is a Vietnamese initiative to send by the year 2020 as many as 10,000 able students abroad for them to get doctorate degrees. Their hope is that Japan will accept about 1,000 of them and give them PhDs. The Government of Japan will certainly do its utmost to help make it possible.

Now, from (the Kingdom of) Tonga, Prime Minister Feleti Vaka'uta Sevele is visiting Japan from today, Tuesday, 25 March until Friday, 28 March. His Majesty the Emperor of Japan will receive Prime Minister Sevele.

Also from (the Sultanate of) Oman, His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tarik Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture will be visiting Japan from next Monday, 31 March to Saturday, 5 April. His Majesty the Emperor of Japan will also receive him.

Related Information (Press Release: Visit by Deputy Prime Minister and Education and Training Minister of Viet Nam)
Related Information (Press Release: Visit by Prime Minister of Tonga)
Related Information (Press Release: Visit by Minister of Heritage and Culture of Oman)

III. Japan and Saudi Arabia co-hosting "the 6th Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World"

Mr. Taniguchi: What I wanted to tell you about next was a seminar Japan and (the Kingdom of) Saudi Arabia are co-hosting. Called "the 6th Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World", the seminar has been taking place in Riyadh since Sunday, 23 March, and it is the last day today. Mr. Osamu Uno, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs was in Riyadh to make opening remarks, and got granted a meeting by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Related Information (Press Release)

IV. Announcement of development assistance extended by Japan

Mr. Taniguchi: Finally let me remind you of some of the developmental assistance Japan is extending lately. One, through the Trust Fund for Human Security to a project in (the Republic of) South Africa to create what is called "One-Stop Centres to counteract Violence against Women"; two, technical assistance to the Gabonese Republic, which by the way Foreign Minister visited last weekend, in order for Japan and Gabon to further enhance expert exchanges; and three, humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, focusing on the refugees that you see in the country's border areas. For more details of these and others, let me ask you also to visit the ministry's web site.

Related Information (Press Release: Assistance to South Africa)
Related Information (ODA Grant Aid: Exchange of Notes)

V. Questions concerning the scheduling of the speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura on "Building Peacebuilders for the Future"

Q: Minister Koumura should have a speech today, but we did not receive a short notice that...

Mr. Taniguchi: He gave the speech yesterday.

Q: Yes, yesterday, and it was received that he would have his speech today, not yesterday, from the United Nations, not from you.

Mr. Taniguchi: Yes, he did it yesterday.

Q: Usually they do not send a short notice about changes?

Mr. Taniguchi: No, it was planned. The seminar itself is a two-day seminar that is still going on today, but Foreign Minister Koumura was scheduled to attend the first day of the session, which was yesterday.

Q: I think the UN information that they sent out was that it would be today in the morning.

Mr. Taniguchi: Really? So the United Nations Information Center sent out that it would be today?

Q: Yes, that it was to be today, this morning.

Mr. Taniguchi: I think there was a misunderstanding. He went there yesterday and already delivered a speech.

Q: Yesterday, he was there yesterday.

Mr. Taniguchi: Did you want to go and hear his speech?

Q: I went today, but they gave me this.

Mr. Taniguchi: It is something called outreach event that is going on today. Yesterday he was at the United Nations University at about 5:30 as I recall.

VI. Questions concerning entry to Japan of the president elect of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou

Q: I have a question. The Taiwanese president elect, Mr. Ma, has expressed interest in coming to Japan for his inauguration. Given the relations between Japan and Taiwan, how is Japanese Government going to handle such a request?

Mr. Taniguchi: The short answer is I don't know yet. We have heard nothing about that directly from Mr. Ma, and if Mr. Ma expresses that kind of interest we will make an appropriate decision. You may ask what kind of appropriate decision that would be. To that I cannot answer, because it will depend on lots of different elements to be concerned.

Q: So is the common practice that the top four leaders in Taiwan cannot come to Japan, or can you explain a little bit of what the usual practice is?

Mr. Taniguchi: There is no such written principle of that kind. Basically, it is within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice who is going to give a decision of that kind. That will apply to countries with which Japan has an agreement in terms of visa waiver, and Mr. Ma, if he is going to request that he be granted an entry to Japan, the Minister of Justice in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is going to make a decision. Let me just repeat, what kind of decision that would be would depend on many points to be concerned so I cannot answer at this point.

Related Information (Press Release)

VII. Questions concerning "the 6th Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World" co-hosted by Japan and Saudi Arabia

Q: Do you have some details about the seminar co-hosted by Japan and Saudi Arabia?

Mr. Taniguchi: Yes, just bear with me a little bit.

It started in the year 2001, under the guidance of then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono who is now Chairman of the House of Representatives. When Foreign Minister Kono made a visit to the Gulf States, he launched an initiative to strengthen the relationships between Japan and some of the Gulf States. That initiative included the launching of this specific seminar, called "the Seminar of the Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World."

The first seminar took place in Bahrain in March 2002, and then it was held twice in Tokyo, once in Tehran, and once in Tunis, Tunisia, so this one which is going on now is the sixth. In this year's seminar the following nations have taken part: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, the Arab Emirates, Yemen, Indonesia, and Malaysia -- not as states, I mean that members, participants, came from the countries I have just cited.

From Japan, academics and other intellectual leaders are joining the symposium. That is basically to enrich understandings between some of the Islamic countries and Japan, to enhance people to people exchanges and to strike a common understanding for these nations to tackle some of the global issues.

Q: Two seminars were held in Tokyo?

Mr. Taniguchi: Yes, Tokyo held the seminar twice.

VIII. Questions concerning Japan's diplomacy with China with regard to the current situation in Tibet

Q: On Tibet, there are more reports today that the unrest continues, and the military police opened fire and there have been more casualties in Tibet. I remember that Foreign Minister Koumura said at the beginning of this whole incident that he was urging China to also exercise self restraint and ensure that there are no further casualties. Is Japan going to step up its pressure on China? Or if not, what kind of actions or response is Japan taking?

Mr. Taniguchi: To step up pressure I do not think is going to be an appropriate phrase to use. But we do have grave concerns about the situation, and it is the hope of the international community including Japan that the situation would be stabilized, not deteriorate. Also, when it comes to exercising policing authority towards the civilians, the general principle stands that you need to have the maximum degree of restraint.

Q: Will this affect the scheduling of the upcoming visits by the Chinese Foreign Minister and the President?

Mr. Taniguchi: Well, the answer is, not a single member of the Foreign Ministry of Japan hopes that Hu Jintao's scheduled visit to Japan would be hindered by anything.

Q: But will this issue be taken up during his meetings with Prime Minister Fukuda when he actually visits?

Mr. Taniguchi: I cannot make a speculation on that, except that I should say it will all depend on the situation when President Hu is actually coming to Japan.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

IX. Questions concerning possible protest demonstrations in Nagano City during the passing of the Olympic Torch Relay

Q: In relation to that, there are reports that the Chinese Government has asked Nagano City that when the Olympic Torch passes by they remove any protestors or any banners against the Olympic Games. Is it possible for Japan to respond to that? Or how is Japan going to work on that?

Mr. Taniguchi: I am afraid I don't have an appropriate amount of knowledge on that. I should nonetheless say that given the grave importance that holding the Olympic Games in Beijing will have upon the national psyche of the Chinese people, as a neighbor Japan should do its utmost to make the Olympic Games as successful as possible.

Q: But would that not violate the freedom of speech and freedom of thought in Japan if protesters were not actually interrupting the torch relay, or if they are just peacefully protesting, as the people outside are.

Mr. Taniguchi: In terms of (how they make the) protest, that is free for protesters. What is important is that that is going to be orderly. There is a set of regulations that apply universally to all kinds of protestors, so you should not be worried that any action that you might find from the police authority would violate freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly or freedom of expression.

X. Questions concerning reports of missing Japanese nationals abroad

Q: Just two last questions. There were reports this morning that there is one Japanese man missing in the sunken Alaska fishing ship, and then another Japanese student is missing is missing at a ski resort in Canada. Do you have any updates on that?

Mr. Taniguchi: No.


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