Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting (Summary)

April 7, 2005

On April 7, Mr. Nobutaka Machimura, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was visiting Pakistan to take part in the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea (ROK). The following is a summary of the meeting.

1. Overall Japan-ROK Relations

(1) Foreign Minister Ban remarked that Japan's recent attitude toward the issue of the Takeshima Island and the history issue went against the expectation of President Roh Moo Hyun of the ROK, who remarked on the occasion of the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting last July that issues of the past would not be raised as diplomatic issues. He asked for the Japanese side to understand the intentions of the ROK implied in the messages that had been issued since President Roh's speech on the Independence Movement Day on March 1. Foreign Minister Ban also pointed out that the ordinance adopted by Shimane Prefecture on "Takeshima Day" impairs the territorial sovereignty of the ROK and that the ROK cannot accept Japanese civics textbooks for junior high schools including a line that claims Japan's territorial sovereignty over the Takeshima Island.

(2) In response to these comments, Foreign Minister Machimura stated that he shares the sense of crisis regarding the recent Japan-ROK relations and is concerned about the concrete negative impacts, such as cancellation or postponement of various exchange activities as part of the Japan-Korea Friendship Year 2005 and other events as well as reduction in the flow of people. Foreign Minister Machimura also expressed his concern over the impact that the recent situation would have on the measures for common issues, such as the Japan-ROK free trade agreement (FTA), construction of an East Asia Community (EAC) and issues concerning North Korea. Foreign Minister Machimura commented that, although there is a difference in stance between the two countries on the issue of the Takeshima Island, Japan takes seriously the messages that have been issued by the ROK since President Roh's speech on the Independent Movement Day and the underlying sentiments of its people regarding the past as mentioned in his previous statement. Foreign Minister Machimura emphasized, regarding the issues of the past and history, that there is no change in Japan's determination to develop the Japan-ROK relations based on the spirit of reconciliation, facing the past squarely and regretting what must be regretted, as well as to approach the people of the ROK with deep understanding and sympathy.

(3) With regard to the issue of the Takeshima Island, both sides confirmed the importance of making efforts from a broader perspective to prevent the issue from impairing their friendly, cooperative relations, while being aware of the stances of both countries.

(4) In response to the comment by Foreign Minister Ban on the approval system of school textbooks, Foreign Minister Machimura gave an explanation on the purpose of the textbook approval system. Foreign Minister Machimura remarked that he will take note of the statement dated April 5 issued by the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and explained that the current system does not allow for deletion or revision of individual lines in the textbooks that have been approved.

(5) Foreign Minister Machimura and Foreign Minister Ban confirmed on the following two points and also shared the recognition that their meeting would serve as an opportunity to bring the Japan-ROK relations back to its normal state. The two ministers also agreed to hold another bilateral meeting on the occasion of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Foreign Ministers' Meeting scheduled in May in Kyoto.
(a) To implement exchanges, consultations, negotiations and other events that have already been agreed to, which include the shuttle summit meetings and events related to "the Japan-Korea Friendship Year 2005".
(b) To develop the future-oriented Japan-ROK relations in a broader perspective so that current situation will not affect the common challenges and interests, such as the issues concerning North Korea and an East Asian Community.

2. Specific Responses on Issues Attributable to the Past

(1) Foreign Minister Machimura explained Japan's policy to continue its humanitarian response and confirmed the following points.
(a) As for the Joint Support Committee for the Japan-ROK Joint History Research, the Japanese side agreed to continue the joint research with new members and to establish a specific framework at an early date, based on the achievements thus far.
(b) With regard to the investigation on the remains of those conscripted during the war and their handover, Japan aims to complete by this summer its inquiry surrey on the remains of civilians into numerous corporations. As such, the two governments will hold consultations immediately to discuss specific items, including the return of the remains of former military officials and those affiliated with the military.
(c) Japan will continue its assistance to the Korean people in Sakhalin and consider further assistance, including assistance for their permanent return to the ROK.
(d) Regarding the assistance provided for atomic bomb victims living in the ROK, Japan will consider making use of overseas establishments for them to apply for healthcare allowances.

(2) In response to this, Foreign Minister Ban expressed his expectation to reach an early agreement on the framework to continue the Joint History Research, and expressed that the ROK appreciates Japan's stance regarding the survey and the return of the remains as well as issues concerning atomic bomb victims overseas. Foreign Minister Ban further noted his intent to encourage Japan to take a positive stance with a correct understanding of history, and his expectation for Japan's practical efforts in this regard.

3. North Korea

The two sides confirmed the importance of the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks as well as the maintenance of the cooperation among Japan, the United States and the ROK. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Machimura again requested for the ROK's understanding on Japan's position to resolve the abduction issue.

4. Japan-ROK FTA

The two sides confirmed the importance for the early resumption of the negotiations. Foreign Minister Ban noted that improvements in Japan's offer concerning agricultural, forestry and fisheries products were preconditions, while Foreign Minister Machimura commented that Japan expected to sit down at the negotiation table before discussing making improvements in the proposal.

5. Intergovernmental Consultation over Fisheries Resources

The two ministers shared the view that an intergovernmental consultation over fisheries resources management will be held at the earliest date possible.

6. Japan-China-ROK Cooperation

Foreign Minister Ban presented a proposal to hold a Japan-China-ROK summit meeting, to which Foreign Minister Machimura expressed his intent to discuss the details at a Japan-China-ROK foreign ministers' meeting on the occasion of the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

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