(Provisional Translation)

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Press Conference on the Occasion of His Visit to the Russian Federation

January 12, 2003
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Following on from my visit to Moscow, I visited the Far Eastern Region of the Russian Federation, the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to do so. I met with Governor Viktor Ishaef of the Khabarovsk Region and Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovsky and had frank exchanges of views with them on how we can further develop relations between Japan and this region, neighbors separated across the Sea of Japan.

Furthermore, just now I paid a visit to the Khabarovsk Peace Memorial Park where my thoughts went out to the hardships endured by the Japanese who were detained in Siberia and died there. As I expressed my condolences, I felt strongly how important it is that such a thing never again be allowed to occur.

Looking ahead to the future of the Northeast Asian region, I believe that it is gravely important, and in fact essential for the peace and stability of the entire region, to build even more cooperative relations between Japan and the Russian Federation, both major countries in this region. Visiting here in the Russian Far East this time I felt even stronger that our bilateral relations must be fully normalized through concluding a peace treaty between Japan and Russia, and thus our relations be dynamically developed.

As a result of this visit to the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin and I were able to jointly issue the Japan-Russia Action Plan, which outlines a plan of action for developing Japan-Russia relations across a broad spectrum. The Action Plan mentions the need for wide-ranging cooperation in Japan-Russia relations as well as specific areas of focus. What is really important now is for us to implement this Japan-Russia Action Plan in thinking of the future of our bilateral relations. By concretely implementing this Action Plan, I intend to make the relations of trust between Japan and Russia even firmer and I plan on devoting my efforts towards enhancing our future cooperative relations and toward completing a peace treaty.

Thinking of relations between Japan and Russia, and in particular the Far Eastern Region, I feel it is apparent that our relations are mutually complementary. This is particularly true in the energy sector where currently cooperation is already underway, one example being the participation of Japanese corporations in the Sakhalin Project. I believe that when one considers the future of energy issues, there is tremendous potential for relations between Russia and Japan in this region and I believe that how well we realize that potential will be an important factor for the future friendship and cooperation between Japan and Russia.

In my talks with President Putin the day before yesterday, we found that both Japan and Russia share grave concerns, particularly due to the announcement by North Korea of its intent to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We agreed that Japan and Russia will cooperate to urge North Korea to promptly retract its decision to withdraw and that we will seek a peaceful solution to this issue. Regarding the issue of North Korea, despite the fact that negotiations on normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea are currently stalled, Japan will continue to urge North Korea in co-ordinated efforts with the international community not only with the United States and the Republic of Korea, but also the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, that isolation from the international community is not in the interests of North Korea, nor is it good for the peace and stability of the region, nor for the world as a whole. We agreed that Japan and Russia would continue to cooperate in conveying a message to North Korea that it is in its own best interests for it to become a responsible member of the international community as soon as possible, and that that is also necessary for the peace and stability of this region. Furthermore, In Japan's relations with North Korea, there exists the serious issue of abduction., President Putin stated that Russia intended to cooperate with Japan to the fullest extent possible, in response to Japan's view that it is important that the various concerns between Japan and North Korea, including security issues, be solved and that relations be normalized between Japan and North Korea. Moreover, in my meeting today with Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovsky, we exchanged views in light of those remarks by President Putin.

Furthermore, today I had an exchange of views with people involved with Japanese language exchange activities in the Far Eastern Region, individuals who had a chance to live in Japan through exchange programs between local governments and young people who studied in Japan. I was greatly encouraged to meet with and hear the views of such young people who are imbued with a spirit of hope and want to contribute to further advancing Japan-Russia relations by making use of their valuable experiences of living and studying in Japan and who believe in the future of Japan-Russia relations. Difficult issues remain in the relations between Japan and Russia, including the territorial issue and conclusion of a peace treaty. However, there are many areas in which Japan and Russia can cooperate and many areas in which our countries can work together in the international community. Bearing those points in mind, I expect that as we expand exchanges in all areas, it will foster relations of trust, which will in turn strengthen our ability to negotiate together to overcome the difficult issue of the Northern Territories and conclude the peace treaty. It is in that sprit that I am able to conclude this visit to Russia and I believe that the long talks that I had with President Putin were indeed very fruitful and feel that I have been able to build a personal friendship and relations of trust.

I would like once again to express my deepest gratitude to President Putin, Governor Viktor Ishaef of the Khabarovsk Region, Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovsky and others concerned in the Government of the Russian Federation and the people of Russia for the warm welcome they have extended us. Spasibo!

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