Japan-Republic of Korea Foreign Ministers' Meeting

May 6, 2005

On May 6, Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura, who was in Kyoto in order to participate in the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting, held a bilateral meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK). The following is a summary of the meeting.

1. Overall Japan-ROK relations

(1) At the beginning, Minister Machimura expressed his gratitude for the words of sympathy offered by Minister Ban on the recent train accident in Hyogo Prefecture. Minister Machimura stated that he would like this meeting to be an opportunity for candid exchange of opinions that will contribute to the success of the summit meeting. Minister Ban responded that the meeting held last month in Islamabad, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was fruitful for easing the tensions in Japan-ROK relations. Minister Ban reiterated his words of sympathy for the train accident and stated that President Roh Moo Hyun of the ROK hoped that an exchange of opinions with open minds would be held at the upcoming Japan-ROK summit meeting with a view to realizing future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. Minister Ban also stated that President Roh Moo Hyun appreciated the words of apology and remorse concerning the past reiterated by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the recent Asian-African Summit.

(2) In response, Minister Machimura stated that Prime Minister Koizumi's statement at Bandung was in line with past statements made by the government, including the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration signed in 1998. Minister Machimura stated that Japan takes seriously the ROK's sentiment concerning the past, as demonstrated since March 1, and hoped that the ROK would consider Prime Minister Koizumi's statement at an international arena as a reiteration of Japan's stance. Minister Machimura stated his view that Japan-ROK relations overall, which had been tense for a time, were heading toward a period of calm.

(3) The two ministers agreed to coordinate the next Japan-ROK summit meeting planned for Seoul in late June and closely consult with each other for the success of the meeting.

2. Specific responses to various issues attributable to the past

(1) Japan-ROK joint research on history
The two ministers agreed to accelerate administrative considerations to establish a framework including new members and themes, and strive to set up this framework at the earliest possible date. Minister Ban expressed his hope that the findings from future joint research on history would be reflected in textbooks.

(2) Minister Machimura stated that in general Japan would continue to take a positive approach and consult with the ROK side in line with the explanation given at the last meeting. The following exchange was held on individual matters.
(a) Minister Ban expressed his wish to obtain concrete results from the investigation on the remains of those conscripted during the war and their handover. Minister Machimura stated that Japan aimed to complete by the summer the ongoing inquiry survey of the 100 or more corporations that conscripted Korean civilians. The two foreign ministers agreed to coordinate schedules with a view to holding intergovernmental consultations by the end of May.
(b) Minister Ban stated that the return of Hokkantaishouhi (the Buggwan Grand Battle Monument) would contribute to improving Japan-ROK relations as well as ROK-North Korea relations, and expressed his hope that the Japan side would take a proactive approach. Minister Machimura stated that he would continue to consult with Yasukuni Shrine and that he would like to mediate in good faith.
(c) Minister Machimura stated that further assistance would be provided for the permanent return to the ROK of the Korean people in Sakhalin. Minister Ban expressed his gratitude in this regard.
(d) Minister Machimura stated that consultations were under way with the relevant ministries on the possibility of having overseas establishments process health care allowance applications for atomic bomb survivors living in the ROK. Minister Ban stated that he appreciated this effort and asked that consideration be given to allow overseas establishments to process applications and issue atomic bomb survivors' certificates as well.

3. Issue of Takeshima

The two ministers acknowledged that it is clear Japan and the ROK held different opinions on this issue. The two ministers agreed on the basic understanding of the issue, that both sides need to make an effort to resolve the issue in a calm manner, while being aware of the stances of both countries.

4. Other individual bilateral matters

(1) Fisheries (intergovernmental consultation over fishery resources)
The two ministers agreed to hold intergovernmental consultations over fishery resources at an early date.

(2) Japan-ROK free trade agreement (FTA)
Minister Machimura expressed his regret that no progress had been made since the summit meeting held in Ibusuki last year. Minister Machimura stated that Japan was prepared to make flexible, bold proposals if negotiations were to begin. Minister Machimura pointed out that not being able to hold any negotiations by the next summit meeting runs counter to the two leaders' intentions, and expressed his wish for the entire ROK government to work toward holding the negotiations at an early date. In response, Minister Ban stated that the Japan-ROK FTA would have a significant impact on FTAs that the ROK would conclude with other countries, and pointed out the need for the Japan-ROK FTA to include a high level of content.

(3) Permanent visa waiver
Minister Ban requested a permanent visa waiver for Korean citizens. Minister Machimura responded that comprehensive consideration was being given, based on the status of implementation of the current fixed-period visa waiver and the safety situation concerning crime committed by foreigners.

(4) Increasing direct flights between Haneda and Kimpo Airports
Minister Ban requested that the number of daily direct flights between Haneda and Kimpo Airports be increased from four to eight. In response, Minister Machimura stated that this was under serious discussion at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT), and consultations were being continued with the aim of coming up with a response around the summer.

5. North Korea

(1) Minister Ban stated that the situation in North Korea had reached a critical phase, that Japan and the ROK were two parties directly faced with this threat, that the Six-Party Talks must be reconvened and substantial progress be made before the situation becomes any worse, and that further effort was required by the People's Republic of China (PRC) to this end. Minister Ban also stated that none of the parties wished to postpone the Six-Party Talks any longer and that more energy should be devoted to diplomatic efforts.

(2) In response, Minister Machimura stated that we must deal with the issue with a sense of urgency. Noting that at the end of June, a year will have passed since the last round of the Six-Party Talks was held, Minister Machimura stated that it would be a regrettable situation if North Korea had advanced nuclear development in the interim. Minister Machimura stated that the Six-Party Talks are the most effective framework for resolving the issue of North Korea, and he shared the same view as Minister Ban that it was important for Japan, the ROK and the United States (US) to cooperate further and for China to play a greater role.

(3) Minister Machimura stated that if this situation was to continue, it might become necessary to consider other options such as the United Nations (UN) Security Council as the next step in handling the issue. Minister Ban responded that he wished to consult carefully with Japan on what approaches could be taken in the next step, after implementing all possible diplomatic means.

(4) Minister Machimura explained the domestic situation concerning the abduction issue and asked for the ROK's understanding and support for Japan's position.

6. Cooperation at the UN

Minister Machimura stated that for the past 60 years since the end of World War II, Japan has continuously made an effort as a peace-loving country. Minister Machimura stated that he was confident about Japan's current role and function, and expressed his hope that the ROK would understand Japan's wish to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council from a broader perspective as a way of promoting overall UN reform. In response, Minister Ban stated that the ROK understood Japan's position and that he believed Japan also understood the ROK's position.

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