Japan-Republic of Korea Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi
and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea
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March 2004

In the evening of March 7, 2004, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi met with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK), who was on a visit to Japan and convened a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting. The following is a summary of the meeting.

1. Japan-ROK relations

(1) Foreign Minister Kawaguchi offered her congratulations once again to Foreign Minister Ban on his appointment. She pointed out that in order to develop bilateral relations in a future-oriented manner it would be important to steadily implement each of the points made in the Japan-Republic of Korea Summit Joint Statement, which was concluded on the occasion of the visit to Japan in June 2003 of President Roh Moo Hyun. Foreign Minister Kawaguchi also stated that it would be important to ensure that exchanges and mutual learning among the people of the two countries, particularly the younger generations, should be invigorated in the future. In this regard Foreign Minister Kawaguchi indicated the importance of cooperation to ensure the success of the Japan-Korea Festa 2005 in order to expand mutual understanding and exchange. She also expressed the intention to call on local governments to do likewise.

With regard to the free trade agreement (FTA) between Japan and the ROK, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi stated that such an agreement would be of importance for the development of the regional economy. It was noted that although difficult issues exist between the two countries, Japan was seeking to conclude a high-level agreement in 2005, in accordance with the agreed schedule.

(2) In response, Foreign Minister Ban concurred that it was important to ensure that the Japan-Republic of Korea Summit Joint Statement is steadily implemented. In this regard, follow-up to the Joint Statement is progressing smoothly between both countries, including the launch of shuttle flights between Haneda and Kimpo airports, the opening of Japanese culture to ROK citizens, the signing of an Agreement on Social Security, and the opening of FTA negotiations. With regard to the issue of North Korea, strong cooperation is being implemented, he said. Foreign Minister Ban also noted the importance of the 2005 festa being a success in order to qualitatively and quantitatively enhance bilateral exchange programs, adding that it was important to actualize a future-oriented vision for the two leaders that was supported by diplomatic authorities. In addition, Foreign Minister Ban stated that the recent Grand Sumo performance held in the ROK was a new experience that was most enjoyable.

In addition, with regard to the Japan-ROK FTA, Foreign Minister Ban stated that it was important for both countries to mutually make efforts to ensure market opening, and in order to ensure that a win-win situation is brought about, the FTA should be a comprehensive one that includes the agricultural sector also. Foreign Minister Ban also mentioned that with regard to concessions it was important for efforts to be made that would represent a balance of the two countries' interests, and given his intention for this FTA to be a good agreement that would have an impact on the global economy. He further expressed his resolve to move towards conclusion of negotiations by 2005.

(3) In addition, Foreign Minister Ban requested Japan's cooperation in the swift realization of the visa exemptions, noting that next year would mark the fortieth anniversary of the normalization of Japan-ROK diplomatic relations. He stated that in such a year, if, in addition to the conclusion of an FTA, visa exemptions were also to be achieved, it would be expected to take the development of bilateral relations one stage further.

In response, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi stated that based on the condition that the ROK introduces a new-style passport as a means of enhancing counter-forgery measures, the possibility of implementing a fixed-period visa waiver system next year was being considered. She stated that together with the ROK, Japan would make efforts towards the swift realization of visa exemptions. Foreign Minister Ban stated that the ROK is planning to introduce new-style passports from November 2004, indicating that the ROK is making efforts in the direction requested by Japan.

(4) Both Foreign Ministers acknowledged that while differences remain concerning such issues as text books and that of Takeshima, in an environment in which projects to enhance future-oriented relations are being promoted, it is important to respond with prudence and calmness to avoid any escalation in public sentiment and to not place any obstacle in front of the various projects that are underway.

(5) In addition, Foreign Minister Ban expressed the hope that with regard to granting local election voting rights to Korean residents in Japan, the relevant bill would pass the Diet swiftly.

2. Issue of North Korea

(1) The Six-Party Talks

(a) Foreign Minister Ban stated that the Six-Party Talks had provided a good opportunity for substantive discussions, and that progress was being made towards the institutionalization of the process including a decision on the date of the next talks and the swift launch of a working group. He also stated that the close trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States of America and the ROK from the preparatory stage of the talks had been beneficial and that it would be necessary to continue to call on North Korea to agree to the principles of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear program. Foreign Minister Ban stressed the importance of cooperation being continued towards the early establishment of a working group.

(b) In response, Foreign Minister Kawaguchi stated that there was a step forward, since the six parties reaffirmed the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as their common goal, the progress was made towards the institutionalization of the process, including agreement on the early establishment of a working group, and the six parties agreed on "coordinated steps". She also noted that it would be important for Japan and the ROK to continue to discuss thoroughly the establishment of the working group.

(c) Both Foreign Ministers agreed to closely coordinate and cooperate still further among Japan and the ROK and trilaterally with the US in order to peacefully resolve issues pertaining to North Korea through the Six-Party Talks process and based on the principle of CVID. In this connection they both confirmed that they would make efforts towards the early launch of a working group.

(2) Abduction Issue

(a) Foreign Minister Kawaguchi explained that recently high-level consultations were held between Japan and North Korea in Pyongyang, and that Japan would continue to hold consultations with North Korea towards the early resolution of the abduction issue. She stated that Japan was seeking to hold the next round of consultations at the earliest possible juncture and requested the continued understanding and support of the ROK in regard to the abduction issue.

(b) In response, Foreign Minister Ban expressed the understanding of President Roh with regard to the great concern and anxiety caused to the Government and people of Japan by this issue. He stated his expectation that dialogue with North Korea would lead to a swift resolution of the abduction issue and various other concerns and that the normalization of relations could be achieved based on the Pyongyang Declaration. Foreign Minister Ban highly evaluated the recent reopening of inter-governmental consultations between Japan and North Korea, expressing that the ROK would do its utmost towards a resolution of the issues and offering support for Japan's position.

3. Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Cooperation

Both Foreign Ministers reaffirmed that based on the Joint Declaration on the Promotion of Tripartite Cooperation among Japan, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea last year, following on from a Director-General level meeting to be held in mid-March, a trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting would be held in the near future and that specific cooperation would be implemented to this end.

4. Situation in Iraq

Both Foreign Ministers confirmed that, with regard to Iraq, an important issue for consideration was what kind of administration could be formed in the country after the end of June, and that where necessary Japan and the ROK would exchange information and also engage in reconstruction assistance to Iraq.

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