Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Following the ASEAN+3, Japan-ASEAN and EAS Summit Meetings

December 14, 2005

I. Opening Statement

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: Here, in this beautiful Kuala Lumpur, we had a series of meetings, especially the historic first East Asia Summit meeting, and I would like to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Abdullah and the Government of Malaysia for all their efforts in making these meetings successful.

Between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, we have seen progress in the conclusion of economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and the economic ties are deepening. We are also faced with numerous pending issues, and we would like to further step up the cooperation in addressing such issues as terrorism, piracy, as well as avian influenza.

Against this backdrop, it was most meaningful that we were able to have candid exchange of views on strengthening our cooperative relations with the leaders of ASEAN countries and other East Asian countries.

From now on, at the East Asia Summit meetings, the leaders of the 16 countries, aiming at molding a community in the future, will see eye-to-eye and strengthen our cooperation and will be able to jointly tackle various issues. The fact that such a forum is in place will be very meaningful for Japan as well as for ASEAN and for the other countries that newly participated.

In the wings of the meetings, I also had meetings with leaders of Malaysia, the chair, as well as ASEAN countries, India, New Zealand, and Australia, and engaged in useful exchange of views. Prime Minister Abdullah of Malaysia and I signed a Japan-Malaysia EPA as well as participated in a ceremony to inaugurate the Malaysia-Japan University Centre. With Vietnam, we officially concluded bilateral discussions on accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and agreed to start a joint study group meeting towards negotiations for an EPA. With Brunei, we agreed to launch preparatory consultations towards negotiations for an EPA.

A series of fruitful discussions have been held, and I believe there will be many more ASEAN meetings and the so-called ASEAN+1 meetings between Japan and ASEAN, ASEAN and China, ASEAN and the Republic of Korea (ROK), ASEAN and India, and ASEAN and Russia, as well as the ASEAN+3 process, which involves Japan, China and the ROK. India, Australia, and New Zealand will also be added on to the meetings. I believe this East Asia Summit will prove to be a very meaningful gathering to the ASEAN countries and other countries concerned in fostering international cooperation as well as a sense of community, as well as in building up a network of cooperation on various issues.

I should like to once again express my gratitude to Prime Minister Abdullah for his strenuous efforts in organizing these series of meetings and hosting the first East Asia Summit, which we will have again next year. Thank you very much.

II. Question on Strategic Position of Japan-US Relations and Japan's Asian Diplomacy

Journalist: On November 16, there was a Japan-United States (US) joint press conference, and you mentioned that the better the Japan-US relationship was, a stronger relationship could be established with the world, including Asia. It was my understanding that the policy of Japanese diplomacy is that it is only with good Japan-US ties that there can be close dialogue with Asian nations. So I would like to ask two questions. First of all, your remarks, I think, might be a shift from the previous Japanese policy. Is that the case?

Prime Minister Koizumi: On that point, basically I expressed my view much in line with Japan's basic policy. There may be some misunderstanding or biased view. I have never said that as long as Japan-US relations are good we could not care less about other countries. The better Japan-US relations are, we should strive to build better relations with all the other countries and this is possible. I said that we should not think about bettering our relations with other countries by worsening our relations with the US. Japan-US alliance and international cooperation continue to be Japan's basic foreign policy. This policy remains unchanged.

Journalist: If I may add, well, you are wrapping up your prime ministerial diplomacy (for this year) here in Asia. I wish to ask what your strategic positions are on the Japan-US relationship to which you attach importance, as well as the Asian diplomacy, notably relations with China and the ROK.

Prime Minister Koizumi: Japan-US relations, Japan-China relations, or Japan-ROK relations, we attach importance to all these relations. Japan-China relations and Japan-ROK relations are both much better than ever before. Economic ties are expanding, and interdependency has been growing deeper than before. In addition, art, cultural, sport and people-to-people exchanges are also much deeper and much broader than ever before. In the coming days as well, we shall strive to grow these variable relations of interdependence and mutual benefit. There is no change in that basic policy.

III. Question on Japan-China Relations

Journalist: Good afternoon sir. I am a reporter from Hong Kong. Just now, during the signing ceremony, we noticed that you borrowed a pen from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and you shook hands afterwards. Premier Wen Jiabao has pointed out repeatedly about the differences between China and Japan. Do you think that this incident this morning has happily resolved the differences between the two of you? Are there any other measures that you are thinking about in breaking the ice between China and Japan? Thank you.

Prime Minister Koizumi: I have always been for friendly ties between Japan and China. That is my view. Japan-China relations are extremely important. From that viewpoint I have been saying that we should never allow differences in views or confrontations over one or two issues to impede the further growth of our bilateral relations. There has been no change in that view of mine.

Now, I believe there has been some misunderstanding with regards to the visits I pay to the Yasukuni Shrine. I, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, pay respects at the Yasukuni Shrine as a Japanese national, bearing in mind the remorse over World War II with the conviction that we should never again wage a war. At the same time, I go there to pay sincere respect to the people who had to go to the battlefield and had to give up their lives. I have no intention whatsoever to glorify or justify the war. I cannot understand why there are criticisms over a visit by a Japanese national, or a prime minister, to a facility in his own country to offer prayers for peace to express that war should not be repeated, and to mourn the war dead. Japanese people also criticize me, and I still cannot understand why. As a human you pray for peace and mourn the war dead. That is a matter of your heart and mind, and we are talking about the freedom of mind. To pay respects and pray, why should one criticize such a matter of one's heart? I still cannot find the reason for that. Japan has developed to what it is today by building on the lesson of World War II. We have this conviction that we will be a pacifist country, that we may become an economic power but never a military power, and that by growing our economic strength we should extend our helping hand to countries that are suffering because Japan alone cannot develop by itself. The strength that Japan has should be shared with other countries as much as possible so that we altogether can cooperate and develop. I think that is important. So in the future as well, I should continue to attach importance to our relations with China as well as the ROK. Any country would have difference of views over one or two issues, and I think the only natural way for us to proceed with our cooperative relations is to overcome those differences.

IV. Question on Japan-ROK and Japan-China Relations

Journalist: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK and Japan-China relationship. There were no summit talks with China and the ROK this time, and some ASEAN countries have expressed their concern. During your tenure, how do you intend to resolve this issue? Or during your tenure, do you think not holding summit talks with China and the ROK cannot be helped?

Prime Minister Koizumi: To date, on all occasions I have expanded our exchanges with China and the ROK. I have been saying that I am prepared to hold summit meetings with the leaders of China and the ROK any time. I have no ill feelings. But I do not know what the attitudes are on the Chinese or ROK side. I am all for friendly ties between Japan and China, and Japan and the ROK. I think it is important for both sides. In fact, in all areas cooperative and friendly ties are deepening between Japan and China and Japan and the ROK. I would further like to develop the relations amicably.

V. Question on ASEAN+3 and East Asia Summit Declarations

Journalist: I would like to ask a question about ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit. Looking at the declarations of both of these, in the ASEAN+3 Declaration it talks about ASEAN+3 over the next two years to 2007, building a direction for an East Asian community. This is not mentioned in the East Asia Summit Declaration. Could you give me a reason for this? Thank you.

Prime Minister Koizumi: ASEAN intends to further integrate themselves, and ASEAN has processes of ASEAN+1 with some countries. It also has ASEAN+3 as you pointed out, ASEAN plus Japan, China, and the ROK - a process that has been going on for about ten years. For the first time, in addition to ASEAN+3, we had this East Asia Summit which adds three countries, India, Australia and New Zealand, making the number of countries from 13 to 16.

I think ASEAN's integration will take place first. We shall continue with the ASEAN+3 process, and in the process, we held this East Asia Summit for the first time. As we build up this sort of track record, I believe we shall be able to find out in which areas we can best cooperate with each other. As we repeat and build up the dialogue, I am sure that will give momentum for engaging in cooperation amongst the members.

If we set our sight on future integration, I believe ASEAN's integration will come first, and then after that, a more common understanding on ASEAN plus Japan, China, and the ROK, or on a broader East Asian community, will probably emerge as we hold more of these meetings. We are eyeing on an open community, and nowadays, a problem in one region of the world will immediately affect other regions. So I believe as we hold East Asia Summit meetings a number of times, I believe at the same time, ASEAN, ASEAN+1, and ASEAN+3 meetings will take place as well simultaneously. As we hold these meetings a number of times, I believe a close sense of community will be fostered. That is my hope.

So this was the first ever East Asia Summit which adds three countries - India, Australia, and New Zealand - on top of the ASEAN+3 countries. The fact that this meeting was held, I believe, would play a very important role in the future community building in this region.

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