Chapter I.
General Overview

B. Major events in 1999

1. Indonesia and East Timor

a) Indonesia

On 7 June general elections were held under a new election system in Indonesia. Of the 500 seats in the Legislative Assembly (DPR), 38 of which were reserved for the military, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), led by Chair Megawati Sukarnoputri, gained 153 seats, the Golkar Party 120 seats, the United Development Party (PPP) 58 seats, the National Awakening Party (PKB) 51 seats, and the National Mandate Party (PAN) 34 seats. The general elections were assessed by the international community, including Japan, as a success, having been conducted in a fair and facilitated manner. As part of its support for the elections, Japan dispatched 20 experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), including election experts, and a team of election observers. Japan also extended grant aid amounting to approximately US$34.45 million-far more than other countries-for election observation and voter education activities by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Following the general elections, the MPR, the highest organ of state power, was convened on 1 October and made a range of decisions, including decisions on the revision of the Indonesian Constitution, and on approving the separation of East Timor from Indonesia. The selection of the new President and Vice President of Indonesia constituted the most important issue of all. With serving President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie withdrawing his candidacy at the final phase, Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, one of the largest Islamic social groups in Indonesia, was elected the country's fourth President, defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri, Chair of the PDIP, by 60 votes. As for the selection of Vice President that followed, Megawati Sukarnoputri was elected after defeating her rival Hamzah Haz, Chair of the PPP, by more than 100 votes. On behalf of the people of Japan, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi expressed his congratulations to the President and Vice President upon the selections of the new leaders in a democratic manner.

Following the selections of the President and Vice President, on 26 October the new Cabinet was announced. The new Cabinet reflected an overall balance among the political powers comprising the MPR, and in this way a new system was inaugurated in full.

The new Indonesian administration has expressed its intention to place importance on bilateral relations with Japan. President Abdurrahman Wahid visited Japan from 15-16 November, meeting with Prime Minister Obuchi and Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono. Following this visit, Prime Minister Obuchi visited Indonesia from 26-27 November. These mutual visits served to build individual relations of trust among leading figures of both countries, including the two leaders, and provided an opportunity for Japan to explain to the new administration its basic policies vis-à-vis Indonesia, such as its policy to continue spare no effort to provide assistance toward Indonesia's reform efforts. Based on this assistance policy, specific proposals were made during Prime Minister Obuchi's visit to Indonesia with regard to (1) economic cooperation, (2) promotion of private sector activities, and (3) promotion of personnel exchange.

In addition to Japan, President Abdurrahman Wahid also paid visits to countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United States, China and other countries, where he emphasized the stability of Indonesia and widely called upon the international community to provide investment and international assistance to Indonesia.

The Indonesian economy showed a recovery trend to a certain extent after hitting the bottom by registering huge minus growth in 1998, and stable exchange rates and price increase ratios were witnessed.

As for security situations in Indonesia during 1999, separatist and independence movements intensified in the westernmost province of Aceh, which had been continuing since July 1998. Many residents became embroiled in the collisions between armed groups and security authorities, which produced casualties and internally displaced persons. The new administration has taken a stance of placing importance on the Aceh problem, paying attention to calls for implementation of a local referendum made by a part of Aceh residents. Furthermore, since January 1999 conflicts have arisen in the Maluku province between Islamic and Christian residents, causing many deaths. The Maluku problem has become another challenge, alongside the Aceh problem, for the new Indonesian administration.

b) East Timor

After Portugal changed its colonial policy and afterwards Indonesia decided to annex East Timor during the 1970s, fighting continued between pro-independence and pro-integration groups in East Timor. In response to a new proposal by the Government of Indonesia in January 1999, however, agreements were reached in May among Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations for the East Timorese people to vote in a direct ballot in August on the acceptance of an autonomy proposal. The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was established to implement the direct ballot. Japan dispatched civilian police officers to the mission. The direct ballot was conducted on 30 August in generally peaceful circumstances, and it was announced on 4 September that close to 80% of the East Timorese favored separation and independence from Indonesia.

Just after the announcement of the result, however, violence by groups dissatisfied with the result intensified, and the security situation in East Timor severely deteriorated. Measures taken by the Government of Indonesia did not prove effective enough, and Indonesia finally announced that it would accept international peacekeeping forces into East Timor. A multinational force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1264 was then deployed to East Timor to restore order on the ground. Japan was highly appraised internationally for contributing US$100 million to assist developing countries to participate in the multinational force.

The deterioration in the security situation also resulted in a large number of displaced persons. In response, international organizations and other bodies took steps toward improving the living environment for these people and accelerating their repatriation. By the end of 1999, of approximately 250 thousand people displaced to neighboring regions, including West Timor, around half had returned to East Timor. Japan, for its part, dispatched a Self-Defense Forces unit to transport assistance materials for the East Timorese displaced persons in West Timor.

In response to the demonstration of the East Timorese will for independence in the direct ballot, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), a body responsible for the administration in East Timor until its independence, was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1272 in October. While East Timor's nation-building toward independence should proceed under the UN's administration, reconciliation and self-help efforts among the East Timorese, as well as assistance from the international community, are essential for East Timor's rehabilitation from the devastation caused by the turmoil. In December, the Donors' Meeting for East Timor was held in Tokyo under the co-chairmanship of the World Bank and UNTAET to discuss the shape of international assistance toward the restoration and development of East Timor. More than US$520 million of assistance over the next three years was pledged at the Meeting.

Under its policy of extending as much assistance as possible to East Timor to resolve the East Timor issue, Japan has provided financial, material and human resources assistance. As of the end of December 1999, a number of the Japanese have been employed by UNTAET, including Mr. Akira Takahashi, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Assistance and Emergency Rehabilitation, although Japan had not dispatched any officials to UNTAET in accordance with the International Peace Cooperation Law.

2. Kosovo

In February 1998 the Kosovo conflict escalated into fighting between Kosovo Albanians and the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Although a cease-fire to the conflict was achieved in part, fighting was rekindled at the end of 1998.

In February, a Contact Group-comprising the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Russia-submitted a peace proposal and urged the two parties to the conflict to accept it, bringing them together for negotiations in Rambouillet and Paris. At the negotiations, although the Kosovo Albanians signed the proposed peace agreement, the Yugoslav authorities refused outright to sign it.

The fighting in Kosovo intensified under these circumstances, and with the Yugoslav military and police forces bringing in reinforcements, it became evident that a further increase in refugees and internally displaced persons would occur. In response to the situation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched air strikes against the FRY. Following this, the Yugoslav military and police forces launched a large-scale and systematic offensive against Kosovo, causing an outflow of over 800 thousand refugees to the neighboring countries of the Federal Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Albania. Japan expressed its position that it understood that the NATO air strikes were an unavoidable step taken in order to prevent the humanitarian tragedy of further increases in victims. The development of the Kosovo situation also served to heighten concern in the international community-for example the debate that took place within the United Nations-toward "humanitarian intervention."

The air strikes continued for three months as the international community, centered mainly around the Group of Eight (G8), sought a political resolution. Although difficulties were experienced in resolving the conflict, the G8 Foreign Ministers, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura, agreed upon a set of principles for political resolution at the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in Germany on 6 May, thereby fortifying the basic stance of the international community toward the resolution of the Kosovo issue. Based on these principles, the United States, Russia and the European Union (EU) created a peace proposal, to which FRY President Slobodan Milosevic announced his acceptance on 3 June. On 10 June, the Yugoslav forces began their withdrawal, and responding to this on the same day the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 and NATO announced a temporary halt to its air strikes, which officially ended on 20 June.

On 27 May, while the air strikes were taking place, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia indicted FRY President Slobodan Milosevic and four other government and military officials on the suspicion of "crimes against humanity (murder, deportation, persecution) committed in Kosovo from the beginning of 1999 and violations of the laws and customs of war."

UN Security Council 1244 provided for the establishment of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) to conduct peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to conduct civil administration, and both bodies launched operations in June. Former French Minister of Health Bernard Kouchner was appointed head of UNMIK.

The withdrawal of the Yugoslav military and police forces and the deployment of KFOR led to the end of fighting in Kosovo. The state of public order improved, as seen in the agreement reached on reorganizing the Kosovo Liberation Army (the Kosovo Albanian military organization) into a civil organization on 20 September, and rapid progress was made in the repatriation of the refugees that had entered neighboring countries. At the same time, in regional areas killings, abductions and arson of homes were committed by Kosovo Albanians against Serbs and other residents, resulting in an outflow of approximately 240 thousand Serb and other residents from Kosovo.

Results have been evident in regard to UNMIK implementing peace in the area of civil administration, such as the conclusion of an agreement among Kosovo Albanians on 15 December on the Kosovo-UNMIK Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS). Many challenges do, however, remain to be overcome, such as the issue of the participation of Serbs in JIAS.

The objective of the international community in ensuring peace in Kosovo is to build a democratic society in which all ethnic groups can live in peace. In order to achieve this objective, Japan, as a member of the international community, has cooperated toward ensuring peace by implementing humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance totaling approximately US$237 million, including assistance to neighboring countries, and through providing human resources, such as the dispatch of government officials to UNMIK.

3. North Korea

a) Japan's policies toward North Korea/Japan-North Korea relations

Japan has clarified on various occasions that Japan's chosen course toward North Korea is to make efforts to redress abnormal post-war relations with North Korea in close coordination with the United States and the ROK, in a manner that can contribute to the peace and stability of the Northeast Asian region; and to strike a balance between dialogue and deterrence in the execution of these policies.

Japan-North Korea relations rapidly cooled down since, especially, the launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea in August 1998. In January 1999, however, the Government of Japan declared that it would be prepared to work toward improving relations with North Korea through dialogue and exchange provided that North Korea shows a constructive response towards resolution of international concerns over its ballistic missiles and suspected hidden nuclear facilities, as well as to the resolution of outstanding problems between Japan and North Korea, including the suspected cases of abduction of Japanese citizens. The trespass of a North Korean spy ship into Japanese territorial waters off the Noto Peninsula in March 1999 caused new tension in bilateral relations.

After that, North Korea released a "Government statement" on its relations with Japan. In it, North Korea demonstrated a stance that could be interpreted as a call on Japan to improve relations, expressing the position that, "If Japan moves forward to a foundation of good neighborly relations through liquidation of the past, we would willingly go along with this."

Furthermore, at this time, the possibility of a relaunching of a ballistic missile by North Korea was widely reported, and various discussions were held domestically in Japan on what measures should be taken toward North Korea in the event of its relaunching. Since North Korea announced that it would suspend missile launches while the high-level talks with the United States were underway in response to the results of the U.S.-DPRK talks held in September 1999, discussions over the measures against North Korea calmed down.

Under such circumstances, a mission of Japanese parliamentarians headed by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama visited North Korea at the beginning of December for the purpose of "creating an environment for smoothly facilitating inter-governmental negotiations for the normalization of Japan-North Korea relations through consultation among political parties." The mission produced significant results and created a positive environment for bilateral dialogue. Considering this as a good opportunity for proceeding with Japan-North Korea dialogue, the Government of Japan lifted its measures to withhold for the time being the resumption of normalization talks as well as food and other assistance which had been imposed on North Korea following the missile launch in August 1998. Furthermore, in light of the achievements of the mission, Japan-North Korea Red Cross talks and preliminary talks for the resumption of normalization negotiations were held in late December in Beijing. At the Red Cross talks, the joint press statement was released. It affirmed that, regarding the issue of abducted Japanese citizens, the North Korean side would request the relevant institutions to undertake a thorough investigation, and that the Government of Japan would examine the issue of food assistance. In the preliminary talks for the resumption of normalization negotiations, both sides discussed practical issues on the resumption of negotiations, and the Japanese side candidly expressed its position on the issue of Japanese abductees, as well as missile and nuclear issues.

b) North-South relations

The Government of the Republic of Korea continued to carry out its "engagement policy" of active promotion of North-South reconciliation and exchange, based on a strong security structure.

At the beginning of June, agreements were reached between the North and South to convene vice-ministerial-level talks, and for the ROK to provide 200 thousand tons of fertilizer to North Korea. In the middle of June, however, North Korean naval patrol vessels crossed the Northern Limit Line (a line established by United Nations military forces to prevent ROK fishing boats and other vessels excessively approaching North Korean territorial waters), leading to exchange of fire with the ROK Navy. Given this situation, no progress was evidenced in the Vice-ministerial talks between the North and South authorities that began at the end of June.

A considerable amount of active exchange took place between ROK private-sector companies and North Korea. Although an incident occurred in which ROK nationals were kept in custody in the North, the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Program launched in the latter half of 1998 made steady progress.

c) U.S.-North Korea relations

In the summer of 1998 suspicions were raised that North Korea was secretly developing nuclear weapons at a facility in Kumchang-ri. However as a result of U.S.-North Korea talks, U.S. experts visited the facility and in June 1999, the United States released a report stating that North Korea was not infringing upon the Agreed Framework. Furthermore, positive developments have been evidenced in U.S.-North Korea relations. For example, as a result of U.S.-North Korea talks in September, the United States announced a partial easing of sanctions imposed on North Korea, following that North Korea stated that it would suspend missile launches while high-level U.S.-North Korea talks were underway.

In October 1999, North Korea Policy Coordinator of the United States William Perry published the Review of U.S. Policy Toward North Korea. In essence, the report was drawn up jointly in close consultations with Japan, the United States and the ROK. The report advocates a policy that Japan, the United States and ROK, and North Korea, must firstly proceed along a course of mutually reducing threats perceived by the two parties, and that if North Korea were to take provocative action, Japan, the United States and the ROK would contain the threat and pursue a course of deterring North Korea by force. The Perry Report also appropriately raised the issue of Japanese concerns on the abduction of Japanese nationals and other matters. The Government of Japan expressed its full support for the report.

d) Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)

Recognizing that the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) is the most realistic and effective framework to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and is closely related to the security of Japan, in May, Japan signed an agreement with KEDO on the provision of financial assistance for the light-water reactor project. At the end of June, the conclusion of this agreement was approved by the Diet. In December, KEDO and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) signed the Turnkey Contract for the construction of the light-water reactor.

4. The Asian and world economies

a) Asian economic situation

The currency and financial crisis in East Asia triggered by the fall of the Thai baht in July 1997 hit the real economy entering into 1998, causing economic recession, stagnation of trade, an increase in unemployment and other problems. The crisis spread to other countries and regions in Asia, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, where the impact had been minimal in the beginning, and eventually affected the world economy.

In 1999, although the situation varied from country to country, the Asian economy finally began to show signs of recovery, as evidenced by the stability of currency, recovery in production, recovery in imports and exports, an increase in foreign currency reserves and recovery of share prices. Asian countries marked positive year-on-year real GDP growth rates, and former outlooks for economic growth were revised upwards.

Of the countries which were significantly affected by the currency and financial crisis, the ROK, under the management structure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), promoted economic structural reform by streamlining its government organizations and advancing labor market reforms, financial system reforms, and fiscal reforms. The recovery of domestic demand, such as private consumption, as well as inventory adjustments and export increases led to a recovery in the manufacturing and service sectors, boosting GDP growth. The ROK exceeded the original expectations, marking a 10.2% real GDP growth rate and a 13.6% growth rate for the fourth quarter. It also considerably improved the unemployment rate, which had seen a rise following the outbreak of the crisis, reaching the peak of 8.6% as of February, to 4.8% as of December 1999. Indonesia marked a positive real GDP growth rate from the second quarter onwards, as exchange rates and price rises began to stabilize. Although international attention temporarily focused on problems in Indonesia, such as the situation in East Timor and suspicions over illegal loans by banks, the new administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid inaugurated in October has prioritized financial restructuring and political and public stability, and is making efforts to add greater impetus to the inflow of capital into Indonesia. Thailand has received some signs of confidence from the markets as a result of the steady implementation of the conditions agreed with the IMF. Furthermore, Thailand has shifted its emphasis from the tightening policies implemented at the outset to an economic stimulus package, and is making efforts to restructure its financial system and to recover the real economy. There are also views that the Thai economy has hit the bottom and is back on course for recovery, with such signs as the stability of exchange rates, the end of inflation, the decline in interest rates and positive year-on-year indices of producers in mining and manufacturing industries.

The turn of the Asian economy from crisis to recovery highlights the important role played by the reform efforts of each country and assistance from the international community to East Asia. Japan, for its part, actively provided assistance to Asian countries from directly after the outbreak of the crisis. In specific terms, Japan was highly commended by Asian countries for announcing and steadily implementing the largest amount of assistance in the world, totaling approximately US$80 billion, in the form of the New Miyazawa Initiative and special yen loans, as well as through other measures.

As the trend of recovery spreads through the Asian economy, Japan, under the instruction of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, dispatched the Mission for Revitalization of Asian Economy, headed by Chairman of the Japan Federation of Employers' Associations (Nikkeiren) Hiroshi Okuda and other eminent persons from the private sector, in order to assess the aid program of Japan and to identify, in the light of the currency and financial crisis, issues that Asia must address in order for it to achieve prosperity in the 21st century and the role that Japan has to play, etc. From the end of August to the beginning of September, the Mission visited six countries heavily affected by the Asian currency and financial crisis, namely the ROK, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and exchanged views with government leaders, ministers, business leaders and members of Japanese companies based in the respective countries.

The Mission submitted a report entitled "Living in Harmony with Asia in the Twenty-first Century" to Prime Minister Obuchi in November. The report includes 30 recommendations in the areas of people, goods, money and information, bearing in mind the role that Japan should play for the prosperity of Asia in the 21st century, and singles out in particular the area of people, focusing largely on enhancing human resources development and people-to-people exchanges. The report also stresses that Japan must become more open to Asia and the world in order to build true partnerships with Asian countries.

Based on this report, and in the light of the need to ensure mid- to long-term stable economic development, Japan announced, at the ASEAN+3 Summit held at the end of November, the Plan for Enhancing Human Resources Development and Human Resources Exchanges in East Asia (Obuchi Plan), and stated that it would undertake people-focused cooperation centered around the pillars of enhancing and expanding the development of highly specialized human resources, human resources development at the civil level, and assistance for student exchanges.

Learning lessons from the currency and financial crisis, in order for the Asian economy to achieve mid- to long-term stable development, Asian countries must continue to make efforts for economic structural reform and regional cooperation, making the fullest use of their underlying favorable conditions of a high savings rate and an accumulation of human capital. Furthermore, it is vital that Japan actively demonstrate initiative in Asia in order to meet the strong expectations of Asian countries toward Japan.

b) World economic situation

In 1999, the world economy tended in general toward recovery, if only moderate. The expansion of the U.S. economy continued throughout 1999, serving to underpin the recovery of the world economy as a whole. Improved productivity, in particular the rise in productivity of high-tech industries, formed the backdrop to the stable long-term expansion of the U.S. economy, and attracted attention from around the world. However, with the future of the economy uncertain-for example, concerns over the share price level being comparatively higher than expected-the soft landing of the U.S. economy has become an important issue for the world economy.

The economy of the Euro area, which heralded the introduction of a single currency, the euro, on 1 January 1999, has experienced continuous improvement in economic conditions with the effect of such factors as the depreciation of the euro. The positive trend toward economic recovery has particularly been strengthened since the European Central Bank (ECB) implemented main refinancing rate cuts for the first time in April 2000. Future attention will be focused on such issues as the progress of the international circulation of the euro, the movement of the full-scale industrial restructuring within the European Union (EU) following the introduction of the euro, the coordination of taxation systems, and the development of the structural reform, especially of the labor market where its rigidity has been highlighted.

Regarding the emerging market economies, following the severe recession in the wake of the Asian currency and financial crisis in 1997, the momentum of economic recovery in East Asia increased in 1999. The Russian Federation, the economy of which was affected by the financial crisis in the summer of 1998, also showed signs entering into 1999 that its economy had hit its bottom, pointing to a recovery trend on the whole. The flow of private-sector capital into emerging markets, while showing recovery, stands at only half the level prior to the Asian currency and financial crisis. Therefore, a continued focus is required on the state of progress of structural reforms, especially in the financial sector, which is viewed as a key to recovery in confidence in emerging markets.

In Brazil, where an upheaval of exchange markets occurred due, among others, to the Russian financial crisis in the summer of 1998, a moratorium was declared on federal loans by the Government of the State of Minas Gerais in January 1999. As a result, the Brazilian real was greatly devalued and, with an interest rate hike policy implemented at the same time, Brazil posted minus growth. Despite these conditions, however, the economic recession was far lighter than estimated at the start of the year, with no especially large impact on any of Brazil's neighboring countries.

Although international financial markets, which had remained unsettled since the Asian currency and financial crisis of 1997, stabilized in 1999, the fragility of international currency and financial systems exposed by the series of crises is an issue which should continue to be examined and overcome. The G7 Statement issued at the Cologne Summit in June outlined a framework for strengthening the international financial architecture and Japan actively contributed to such efforts. Furthermore, there is a need to engage in wide-ranging discussion taking fully into account mutual relevance of not only the financial sector, but other related areas such as trade, investment and development.

5. Abduction of Japanese nationals in the Republic of Kyrgyz

At early dawn local time on 23 August, four Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) experts (dispatched from the Metal Mining Agency of Japan) engaged in a resource development survey in Osh province in the southwest of the Kyrgyz Republic, together with one Kyrgyz interpreter and two personnel from the Kyrgyz Army, were abducted by an armed group which had crossed the border from Tajikistan. The criminal group were thought to be Islamic extremists performing anti-government activities in Uzkbekistan. Through the efforts of the Kyrgyz Government and other parties concerned, the four experts and the interpreter were released in safety in Karamyk, the Kyrgyz Republic, at the border with Tajikistan on 25 October, 64 days after the abduction.

a) Response of the Government of Japan

Following the abduction, the Government of Japan acted accordingly with the following basic policies: (1) to make efforts to safely free the hostages as early as possible while maintaining close liaison with the Kyrgyz Government, the country in which the incident took place, and to which the primary responsibility for resolving the incident lies; (2) without yielding to terrorism, to act in line with the principle of "no concessions" to the illegal demands of the criminal group; and (3) to request cooperation from the countries concerned, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries.

Immediately after the abduction, an emergency headquarters was established as a mechanism for responding to the abduction in an operations room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yutaka Kawashima as Director.

On the day the incident took place, 23 August, Japan promptly dispatched Ambassador to Kazakhstan Hidekata Mitsuhashi, also concurrently Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, established a local headquarters with Ambassador Mitsuhashi as Director, and also set up a base in Dushanbe, the capital of neighboring Tajikistan, to handle the incident. Following the incident, the Foreign Ministry, the local headquarters and others engaged in monitoring of the local situation, and information gathering and analysis on a round-the-clock basis, working to ensure an early resolution to the incident in close coordination with relevant parties.

In terms of contact with the Kyrgyz Government, Prime Minister Obuchi held telephone conversations with President Askar Akaevich Akaev soon after the incident took place on 24 August, and again on 24 September. Moreover, with Prime Minister Obuchi sending a further message on 13 October, Japan actively called for the early safe release of all hostages at the leader's level.

As to contact with other countries concerned, Prime Minister Obuchi sent a message to President Emomali Rakhmonov of Tajikistan and to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan requesting cooperation toward the early safe release of the hostages. Prime Minister Obuchi also requested Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia for cooperation in provision of information and other areas on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting. State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Keizo Takemi, who had been visiting Kazakhstan just prior to the incident taking place, and who was scheduled to visit Tajikistan, also requested cooperation from the President of Kazakhstan on 23 August, the President of Tajikistan on 24 August, and in talks with Chairman of the Commission on National Reconciliation of Tajikistan Abdullo Nuri.

b) Background to the release of the hostages

In responding to the abduction incident, the Kyrgyz Government took charge of negotiations as the party with primary responsibility. In the process of implementing an anti-guerilla strategy, the Kyrgyz Government worked to weaken the criminal group with military pressure, and also contacted the criminal group repeatedly through various channels, including private sector individuals and relevant persons on the Tajikistan side. The hostages were finally released as a result of strengthened military and other pressure with the background of the arrival of winter which would hamper the actions of the criminal group.

c) Lessons learned and challenges

Following the release of the hostages, in order to study the issues related to this incident and summarize the lessons, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted an internal study and released a study report on the incident from the following perspectives: (1) the background to the occurrence of the abduction incident; (2) conditions just prior to the incident; (3) the response leading up to the release; and (4) future efforts.

With respect to future efforts, the report stresses the urgent need to further strengthen security measures for implementing economic cooperation, and moreover security measures for protecting overseas Japanese nationals. From this viewpoint, the report emphasizes the need for reexamining security measures for those involved in the area of aid by setting up a task force on security measures with aid implementing organizations, and the need to develop the systems for information gathering, analysis and provision, including in countries where Japan does not maintain a diplomatic mission, given the necessity to undertake information gathering, analysis and other work for regions as a whole, irrespective of national boundaries.

6. Other developments

Other developments during 1999 which garnered the attention of the international community were the situation in Chechnya, the Middle East peace process, and the situation in India and Pakistan.

a) Chechnya

The invasion by Chechen armed forces into the Republic of Dagestan in August served to spark conflict between the Russian Federal Military and the Chechen armed forces. The Government of Russia took the position that the actions of its military were a "fight against terrorism." The intensification of fighting in Chechnya brought about a vast number of refugees, with Western countries in particular criticizing Russia for excessive use of military force and calling on Russia to implement an immediate cease-fire and appealing for the necessity of a political resolution.

b) Middle East peace process

Immediately after the Barak administration was formed in Israel in July, it embarked upon the Middle East peace process. In September, the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed on the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, which provided for the implementation of the Wye River Memorandum (October 1998) and the schedule for the final permanent status negotiations. Further, in December, under the auspices of the United States, Israel and Syria resumed their negotiations after an interval of four years, and the first direct negotiations between the two countries were held by Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Minister of Foreign Affairs Farouk al-Shara'a of Syria.

c) India and Pakistan

The tension between India and Pakistan that heightened following the nuclear tests by both countries in May 1998 began to move toward relaxation as a result of such events as the official visit to Pakistan in February by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India. Tensions were, however, rekindled due to the missile launch tests by both countries in April, and the fighting in May in Kashmir between the Indian Army and militants that had infiltrated from the Pakistan side across the Line of Control. The military coup in Pakistan in October made the situation in Pakistan more unclear. Tensions heightened as both countries blamed each other over the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft in December.

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