Press Conference, 13 May 2008

  1. Message of condolence to the relatives of the victims of the recent earthquake in Western China
  2. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand
  3. African Festa 2008
  4. Questions concerning Taiwan
  5. Questions concerning the recent earthquake in Western China
  6. Questions concerning the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV)

I. Message of condolence to the relatives of the victims of the recent earthquake in Western China

Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Hello and good afternoon. I have three brief announcements to start with.

First, I'd like to express Japan's condolences to those Chinese people who lost their loved ones due to the massive earthquake that hit Sichuan, China, yesterday, Monday, the 12th. As Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda conveyed in the message addressed to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, Japan is prepared to offer whatever assistance.

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II. Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand

Mr. Taniguchi: Second, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark starts her Japan tour today, Tuesday, the 13th. In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Fukuda, Prime Minister Clark is expected to deliver a keynote address at a Japan-New Zealand Partnership Forum, the first of its kind, on Thursday, the 15th, in Tokyo. This is her third trip to Japan as prime minister, and she is scheduled to stay in Japan until Thursday, the 15th.

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III. African Festa 2008

Mr. Taniguchi: Third and last, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will host "African Festa 2008" this weekend from Saturday, the 17th, to Sunday, the 18th, at a Yokohama tourist spot of red brick warehouses. The event is an annual one, with lots of things African to eat and see, but for this year, it is to increase the public's awareness on the upcoming TICAD meetings.

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IV. Questions concerning Taiwan

Q: I want to ask something about the World Health Assembly (WHA). Japan, as you know, has given support to Taiwan's participation in the WHA as an observer for many years, especially after the prevalence of AIDS and SARS. As you know, the friendly nation of Taiwan has presented a proposal at inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer. I want to know whether Japan will continue to renew such support to Taiwan.

Mr. Taniguchi: Well I must spend some time to examine the proposal. I am sorry, I have not taken a look at that. Yes, as you have pointed out, Japan has been supportive of Taiwanese interest in participating in the assembly as an observer, and that position has not changed, I believe. But when it comes to that specific proposal, I must apologize: I have not taken a look at it.

Q: One more thing. Taiwan also hopes to become a full member of the WHO. What is Japan's stance on this?

Mr. Taniguchi: At the moment, Japan's position is to support Taiwan's bid to remain an observer for the WHA. That would be my answer.

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V. Questions concerning the recent earthquake in Western China

Q: I have a question on the earthquake in China. Has Japan received any request from Beijing for aid or assistance, and what kinds of assistance is Japan prepared to give?

Mr. Taniguchi: In terms of whether or not the Japanese Government has officially heard any request from its counterpart in Beijing the answer, at the moment, is no. That does not mean that nothing is going to come from Beijing. I believe on the Beijing side they are taking a look at what sort of assistance would be needed. And what kind of assistance Japan is willing to give to the Chinese, the answer is whatever it takes.

Q: So would there be any possibility of sending the Self Defense Forces (SDF) to China?

Mr. Taniguchi: I think it is beyond anyone's imagination at the moment.

Q: Does the Japanese Government have any information on how much damage the earthquake has done to Japanese companies in the area?

Mr. Taniguchi: I think it is still difficult to collect all the relevant information. I believe the members of the Foreign Ministry dispatched in the region are busy gathering those kinds of information but at the moment I cannot give you a complete picture.

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VI. Questions concerning the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV)

Q: On another topic, with TICAD IV (the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development) coming up in another two weeks, I believe, how are the preparations, and how many African leaders will be coming?

Mr. Taniguchi: Are you interested in the number of participants?

Q: African leaders, like heads of state and governments.

Mr. Taniguchi: I think it is in the neighborhood of 40-something, but I cannot specify the number yet. In terms of to what extent the preparation is going on: the clock is ticking. I can only say they are working in full throttle. The interest among the general public in Japan is catching up with the event's enormity. I believe Prime Minister Fukuda is going to deliver a very good speech.

Q: The Japanese Government has specified three main pillars for the TICAD IV meeting, but recently I think there is an additional topic on food prices, and the food crisis as a whole has become one of the spotlights. Is that going to be a main issue at TICAD IV?

Mr. Taniguchi: That certainly is going to be one of the main issues to be discussed among the participants. Given the urgency of the issue I think they are going to be tackling head on the issue of the food crisis. The Japanese Government is going to give some sort of response to ameliorating the situation.

Q: On that, can you give more specifics?

Mr. Taniguchi: No, not at the moment.

Q: Can we be expecting any separate statements or anything on this issue, apart from the overall summit?

Mr. Taniguchi: At the moment they are still working on that. Nothing yet has been made complete.

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