Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Following the ASEAN+3 Summit
November 30, 2004
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: This is my first visit to the Lao People's Democratic Republic and to Vientiane, a city nestled on the beautiful Mekong River. I am delighted that I was able to hold talks with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, and of India, Australia, and New Zealand. We held significant discussions and lively exchanges of views on the future development of our respective regions.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to President Khamthay Siphandone and Prime Minister Bounnhang Vorachith of the Lao Democratic People's Republic, the government of the Lao PDR, and the Lao people for their very kind hospitality as the hosts of this summit.
Through the various exchanges of opinion that I held with other leaders in the ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting, the Japan-China-ROK Summit Meeting, the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting, the Japan-CLV (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) Summit Meeting, and other meetings, I expressed Japan's commitment to strengthening the multilayered cooperative relations that we enjoy with the countries of East Asia. We shared a common understanding that we will cooperate together for the development of East Asia, and I believe all these meetings were very fruitful and substantive.
Next year the East Asia Summit will be held in Malaysia, featuring participation by the countries of ASEAN, as well as by Japan, the People's Republic of China, and the Republic of Korea. It was decided that we should call this an East Asia Summit. This means that the members participating in the East Asia Summit will be the same as those participating in the ASEAN+3 Summit, so one topic that we discussed was how to reconcile these two forums. We need to clarify such matters as the relationship between the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN+3 Summit, the purposes and objectives of the respective meetings, and the identities of the participating countries. If these matters can be clarified, Japan would like to make an active contribution to the East Asia Summit. There will be a meeting of foreign ministers next year, and we would like to use that meeting as an opportunity to discuss these matters.
Here in Vientiane I also held bilateral summit meetings with the leaders of the Republic of India, the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the People's Republic of China, Australia, and the Lao PDR, at which we discussed furthering our friendly ties and cooperative relations.
In my meeting with Prime Minister Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Republic of the Philippines we were able to arrive at a general agreement on the major elements of our bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement. I warmly welcome this agreement.
These meetings confirmed to me that the formation of an East-Asian community is a long-term objective for the future of this region and is something that would contribute to the development of East Asia.
To date, Japan has made a major contribution to the development of this region through aid, trade, and investment, and many countries expressed their appreciation for our contribution. We are grateful for these sentiments. Japan would like to continue to provide support and assistance in those areas where they are most needed by the recipient countries in a manner that is effective and efficient, and I hope that our assistance will be utilized effectively and efficiently by the recipient countries.
Japan is determined to continue furthering fruitful relations in East Asia through cooperation in such areas as the promotion of Economic Partnership Agreements, the provision of effective assistance to correct the disparities within ASEAN, counter-terrorism, and anti-piracy efforts. Regarding this last point, piracy has become a major problem in the Malacca Strait, for example, and no single country can deal with this problem on its own.
Once again I would like to express my gratitude to the government of Lao PDR, as well as to the people of this country, for their very warm welcome and hospitality. Now I would like to move on to your questions.
[Questions and Answers]
Question on Japan-China relations
Q: I would like to ask a question about your meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China. I believe that you invited him to visit Japan. Is there any specific date for his visit for example on the occasion of the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi to be held from March next year, and how are you going to improve the environment to make it conducive to his visit? My second question is about Official Development Assistance. I understand that the Chinese side said that it would like to deal with this issue appropriately. What specific steps are you going to take to deal with this issue?
Prime Minister Koizumi: With regard to my meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China and his upcoming visit to Japan, I said that he would be welcome to visit at any time that would be convenient for him, provided the necessary arrangements can be worked out. His visit will be most welcome. Some members of the media have suggested that as the 2005 World Exposition will be held in Aichi, Japan, he might visit to coincide with that occasion, but we have not had any discussions of that sort. We are not preoccupied with having the visit take place during the Expo. As I said, the Government of Japan will welcome Premier Wen Jiabao at any time that is convenient for him, if the right arrangements can be worked out.
Now, with regard to ODA, in my discussions with Premier Wen Jiabao we discussed the fact that the Chinese side has been properly repaying its yen loans over the years, and in fact recently the repayments have exceeded the amount of yen loans provided. We have enjoyed a very smooth relationship in this regard. We certainly hope that sometime in the future China will be able to become a donor, rather than a recipient, of assistance. Having said that, as far as the Chinese side is concerned, they still regard continued assistance from Japan as desirable, and I believe they feel that this assistance has been effective. We certainly welcome the fact that Japanese assistance is working effectively for China's development. We hope that China's economy will grow smoothly so that China will be able to turn into a donor instead of a recipient of assistance. We intend to consider Japan's ODA to China from such a broad perspective in the days ahead.
Q: What are the specific proposals that you have for solving the issue of China's exploration in waters near to your territories, and by when do you expect this problem to be solved?
Prime Minister Koizumi: With regard to the resources development that China is undertaking in the East China Sea, the two countries are in agreement that we should make the East China Sea a sea of cooperation between our countries, not a sea of confrontation. We did not engage in discussions of specifics, such as which oil fields or which resources are to be developed, but we agreed that we should cooperate with each other in developing energy resources. Instead of confrontation, we should emphasize cooperation in developing energy resources. However, we did not discuss which specific oil fields or which specific reserves should be developed.
Q: Premier Wen Jiabao referred to your visit to Yasukuni Shrine, saying that it hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Was this a strong or overly severe statement? Also, you extended an invitation to Premier Wen, but the New Year is coming up, so what is your view regarding your potential visit to Yasukuni Shrine at the New Year? Are you going to rethink the form of your visits to take into account China's concerns?
Prime Minister Koizumi: In my meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao, the fact to the matter is that there was no direct request (for me) on (not visiting to) Yasukini Shrine, although we did discuss the issue of historical awareness. I believe we should learn from history and look toward the future of our relations. From that vantage point, there was a mention that the Chinese side was hurt seriously in the past and that we should never forget that history. It was not just the Chinese people who were hurt because of that war but the Japanese people, too. Many Japanese were also victims of the war.
Because I understood that Premier Wen was implicitly requesting me not to visit to Yasukuni Shrine, I explained why I visit Yasukuni Shrine. It is necessary to learn the lesson from past wars that we must never wage a war again, and it is in that spirit that I visit Yasukuni Shrine. Many Japanese were also victims of the war, especially many soldiers who had to go the battleground against their own will and ended up losing their lives, and I go there to pay respect to the souls of those war dead. The prosperity of today is not simply built on the efforts of those who are alive today. In fact, the sacrifice of those who had to go to war against their own will and die also forms part of the foundation for Japan's prosperity today, and the young today should not forget that. We should never repeat the war, and we should always learn the lessons of past wars and remind ourselves that Japan's prosperity today is built on the sacrifices of these people. I explained that as the purpose of my visit to Yasukuni Shrine. How this statement was construed, I don't know.
Japan and China did experience various problems in our history, but it is the future of our bilateral relationship that is important, not only for our two countries but also for the international community as a whole. Based on this recognition, the importance of our bilateral relationship will only increase in the future. I believe we see eye to eye on the importance that should be attached to Japan-China relations.
As for the timing and form of my visit to Yasukuni Shrine - I believe that was your question - I must say that Japan-China relations do not revolve around the single issue of Yasukuni Shrine. Even if one or two problems occur between our countries, there are many other areas in which we have cooperated with each other and need to cooperate with each other in the future. We have to cooperate in a wide range of future-oriented fields from a broader perspective, and this is the positive, forward-looking attitude that I have. I really question the propriety of focusing on only one issue, that of visits to Yasukuni Shrine. I believe there are more important aspects of Japan-China relations. Rather than focusing on the Yasukuni issue or on confrontation and friction, I'm sure there are many other areas in which Japan and China can cooperate with each other in a future-oriented manner, and it is our responsibility to do our best to foster this sort of relationship.
Question on Japan-Lao PDR relations
Q: Japan and Laos have a long-standing relationship, and next year the two countries will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. In the past Japan has accorded very important assistance to Laos. My question is: How is Japan now going to help Laos further to eliminate the gap that exists between itself and other more developed ASEAN countries?
Prime Minister Koizumi: In my meeting with the so-called CLV countries of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, I mentioned that the problem of poverty is more important for these three countries than for other ASEAN countries and that economic development is of great importance. I also stated that Japan was a poor country in the past and that after the end of World War II Japan grew successfully thanks to assistance from overseas, and thanks to this assistance and to the efforts of the Japanese people themselves we have been able to turn ourselves from a recipient of assistance to a country that is able to provide assistance to other countries. I asserted that the CLV countries should work very hard to develop themselves so that they, too, will be able to turn themselves into providers of assistance.
Laos, in particular, expects that Japan will provide assistance for the Greater Mekong Power Network Development Project, and I recall that the leader of the Lao PDR stressed the importance of assistance for this project. I stated that Japan would provide a yen loan as a way for us to assist this Greater Mekong Power Network Development Project for Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We hope that these countries will work hard to close the development gap, and to that end I hope they will work toward various domestic reforms and grow together with a sense of unity as partners that act together and advance together.
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