Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
March 20, 2003
(Prime Minister's Remarks)
Press Secretary: I would now like to begin this Press Conference with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: About one hour ago, I received a report that the U.S., U.K. and other members of the coalition commenced military action against Iraq. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the position of the Government of Japan and to call upon the people of Japan for their understanding and cooperation.
The original cause of the current problem of Iraq, I believe, stems from the Gulf War where Iraq invaded Kuwait 13 years ago.
In the case of this Gulf War, Iraq accepted the conduct of ceasefire negotiations. At that time, the United States and other members of the multinational coalition forces liberated Kuwait and imposed on Iraq as a condition for the ceasefire, that it dispose of its weapons of mass destruction. During the 12 years that have ensued, Iraq has not abided by this ceasefire resolution. It has not sufficiently cooperated. It was in that context that in November 2002, the international community united to adopt a United Nations resolution giving Iraq a final opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity to cooperate immediately, unconditionally and without limit, with inspections of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons and biological weapons.
The Government of Japan has consistently stressed to Iraq, as well as to countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, that a peaceful solution was the solution most desirable and that efforts should continue until the last moment. The way things have elapsed since then, however, during this period Iraq has unfortunately ignored, or has not taken seriously, or even ridiculed the United Nations resolutions. I do not believe that Iraq has acted with sufficient sincerity. Now, at this juncture, based on such thoughts, I understand and support the engagement in the military action by the United States.
The Resolution 1441 adopted at the UN last year, as well as the incidents such as the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York on September 11, 2001, lead many people in the world, not only the people of Japan and of the United States, to strongly recognize the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Perception towards war, so to speak, has also come to change. How to eliminate the threat posed by such weapons of mass destruction has been an important objective for the international community. It will continue to be so.
The terrorist incidents that took place in New York and against the Department of Defense at the Pentagon last year did not involve the use of weapons of mass destruction. These were terrorist incidents that made use of civilian aircrafts as weapons, something impossible to have been conceived before. As a result, thousands of innocent citizens who had nothing to do with the terrorists were sacrificed. They were not only citizens of the United States; there were Japanese citizens as well. People around the world in different nationalities should have questioned in indignation why so many had to be sacrificed or why so much damage were inflicted upon by such an immoral act.
What would be the consequences were dangerous weapons of mass destruction to fall into the hands of a dangerous dictator? Any consequences would certainly not be limited to the people of the United States. This is not a matter without implications for Japan. I believe that all people are now aware that we would all be facing grave danger should dangerous weapons fall into the hands of dangerous dictators. How to prevent this is a matter of concern to the entire world.
Against that background, I have continued to believe that peaceful efforts must be maintained until the very end. Unfortunately, however, that aim was not achieved. Iraq has not cooperated without the pressure of military presence. Even with the continuous pressure, it has failed to fully cooperate.
President Bush stated this time that the actions being taken were aimed to disarm Iraq and that this was not an attack against the people of Iraq. Rather, this was a strategy designed to give freedom to the people of Iraq and to build prosperous lives for them in the future. I concur with that view. Japan will support the policy of United States President Bush.
The most important basic policy that has underpinned Japan's postwar development to date has been our adhering to the Japan-US alliance and to the international coordination. Deeply reflecting on the defeat of the Second World War, Japan must never again allow itself to be isolated from the international community. Based on such thoughts, Japan has pursued its development while working on an international coordination system. At the same time, in order to ensure its security, Japan formed an alliance with the United States based on the recognition that it was insufficient for Japan on its own to protect itself. Given that Japan cannot ensure its own security alone, Japan concluded the Japan-US Security Treaty and has firmly maintained the Japan-US alliance as a means of ensuring the security of our nation. There will be no change in our firmly maintaining an international coordination system in order to ensure the security of the people of Japan and to strive for the prosperity and development of our nation.
Unfortunately, the situation has come to a point where force cannot but be used. Japan will continue to deal with the problem of Iraq while making efforts so that the use of force can end as promptly as possible with smallest sacrifice.
The United States and the United Kingdom have commenced military action. Although Japan supports the position of the United States, it will not use force in any way. Nor will it participate in any military campaign. Hoping for an end to war as soon as possible, Japan must fulfill its responsibility as a member of the international community, through coordination with the international community to see what can be done for the people of Iraq, what is necessary for the reconstruction of Iraq and to see how we can promote friendly relations with Iraq's neighbours and Arab nations, and to see how we can deepen understanding of and cooperation with Islamic countries..
We can never be sure when the threat will fall upon Japan. In the event that Japan's own responses are inadequate, we must make full efforts to ensure the security of the Japanese nationals based on the strong relationship of trust under the Japan-US Security Treaty and Japan-US alliance.
The United States has clearly stated that an attack on Japan would be an attack on the United States. The United States is the only country which clearly states that an attack on Japan would be considered as an attack on the United States. The people of Japan should not forget that the fact that the United States deems the attack to Japan as an attack to itself is serving as a great deterrence against any country attempting to attack on Japan.
With the solid trust under the Japan-US alliance, Japan has to date worked to ensure the security of its people and to attain economic development. Even if an international coordination system to deal with the Iraqi problem failed to be formed for now, I am convinced that the time will come when many countries keenly realize the necessity of international collaboration for world peace, stability and prosperity. Japan's policy of holding firm the importance of the Japan-US alliance and of the international coordination to attain this will not change.
From my heart, I would like to ask the people of Japan for their understanding and support for the position of the Government of Japan.
Q: Prime Minister, you earlier stressed the importance of the Japan-US Alliance. Was this in consideration of a response to the issues of North Korea's nuclear development and missiles?
Prime Minister Koizumi: Concerning relations with North Korea, I visited North Korea on September 17 last year, when together with General Secretary Kim Jong Il I announced the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration confirming the intention of the two countries to normalize what have been abnormal relations. This policy remains unchanged, but I admit that negotiations with North Korea is stagnating at the moment. However, we must abide by the spirit of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. Normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea will occur in function of both countries' faithful implementation of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. I believe that the current hostile relations between North Korea and Japan can change to friendly relations.
On this account, the North Korean side has acknowledged that the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration was an achievement for them as well. I wish to continue to advance negotiations with North Korea towards normalization and friendly relations between the two countries in the future. At present, however, North Korea represents a threat, and I imagine many people in Japan certainly perceive threat of North Korea in the issues of abductions and unidentified vessels. Looking at the recent spate of provocative acts concerning nuclear issues, the perception of threat by many Japanese people is understandable, but it is my belief that the Japan-US Alliance is functioning effectively in regard to such issues as this.
Japan must work in close collaboration with the United States and the Republic of Korea to prevent an outburst by North Korea. I think this is Japan's own problem, but it is at the same time a problem that involves the United States, ROK and the peace in the entire region. Therefore, North Korean issue should continue to be dealt by Japan, the United States, ROK, or Russia, China, EU, and the entire international community working on it, and it is in this way that threat should be reduced as much as possible and eventually removed.
Q: Prime Minister, you spoke earlier about Japan providing reconstruction aid. Are you considering a formulation of a new law in this regard?
Prime Minister Koizumi: This is about what form reconstruction aid will take. It also concerns what kind of assistance the international community or the United Nations request. There is not a lot I can say at this moment, but I believe Japan should as a matter of course provide humanitarian, refugee and reconstruction aid. It is also difficult at this moment to assess how the Iraqi situation might change. Nevertheless, I think there are means provided for under existing legislation to provide postwar rehabilitation, reconstruction aid and humanitarian aid in the region. I cannot clearly say at this point whether a situation would arise where we could not provide aid without new legislation, but if it were necessary, we would have to consult the Diet. We would need to gain the understanding of the people of Japan. At this point Japan will not use force, nor will it participate in the military campaign, but will take a responsible approach to reconstruction aid in Iraq and humanitarian aid in the surrounding region.
Q: My question is about basic foreign policy. Prime Minister, you spoke earlier of firmly maintaining both the Japan-US Alliance and the principle of international collaboration, but this attack on Iraq by the United States has failed at least to gain the understanding and support of the international community, centered on the United Nations. Does your clear understanding and support for the attack on the United States at this stage then represent a switch in basic strategy towards the Japan-US Alliance as the axis of foreign policy and away from international collaboration and the United Nations? Could you please explain this?
Prime Minister Koizumi: This is not a switch in basic policy. As I stated at the oustest, the Japan-US Alliance and international collaboration can still stand together. The Japan-US Alliance is vital to ensuring the security of Japan. At the same time, international collaboration is indispensable for Japan's development as well.
Unfortunately, unity proved impossible to achieve in regard to a final resolution of the United Nations Security Council, but I believe there is every possibility of a concerted international collaboration in the future and now too, even among the members of the Security Council who hold differing views. I also believe there are a range of areas where cooperation is possible. Concerning the reconstruction of Iraq too, I think that indeed, international solidarity would be better. Therefore, there has been no change in the importance placed by Japan on the Japan-US Alliance and on international collaboration. This is something that we will continue to pursue. This is, I believe, vital to the peace and advancement of Japan.
Q: I can understand your judgment regarding the evil nature of Iraq and the importance of the Japan-US Alliance from the perspective of securing the national interest. But have you not ever thrown your thoughts to the losses that might result to our national interest due to supporting this attack?
Prime Minister Koizumi: I can understand that the public opinion among the people of Japan is opposed to the use of force and that the overwhelming majority of the people are opposed to the use of force. For my part as well, if it were a matter of choosing between war and peace, I would naturally say peace is better. I abhor war. If possible, I would like to avoid it. I do not think that there is anything as cruel as war. However, in light of the fact that Iraq has continued to ignore the resolutions of the international community, as well as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when we consider how we are to respond to the threat of dangerous weapons of destruction in the hands of dangerous dictators, I can understand the position taken this time by the United States and it is from my view that supporting the United States is in line with the national interests of Japan that I made this decision. I believe that as time goes by, many of the people of Japan will understand the position taken by the Government of Japan. Bearing that in mind, I intend to use various opportunities to call upon the people and gain their understanding and support.
Q : At the deliberations in the Diet and elsewhere, you have expressed your view that it would be desirable to have a new resolution. Furthermore, judging from the attitude taken by the United States, it has become clear in the end that parallel to eliminating weapons of mass destruction, the overthrow of the regime are objectives of the attack. At what point in time and based on what significant factors did you decide to support this decision by the United States?
Prime Minister Koizumi: In this case, a resolution was put forward and then the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain submitted a revised resolution. Whether Iraq would come to accept it became a focus. In addition, the view held by France diverged from that of the United States and the different views could not be reconciled. There was a period when the members of the Security Council whose positions were in between the two divergent views sought to find a proposal on which the United States and France could somehow find a compromise. However, despite that, the views remained disparate and they were not able to compromise. It was at that stage that I felt that the situation was at a point where it would be extremely difficult to reach a peaceful solution.
Even more so, it seemed to me that even if the inspections were drawn out longer and longer, it would not be possible to achieve disarmament unless President Saddam Hussein intended to cooperate. The goal is disarmament. However, now that things have come to the point that they currently are, I believe that as long as President Saddam Hussein is the supreme leader, Iraq will not agree to disarm.
As such, I believe that disarmament, requirement to give freedom to the people of Iraq and effecting the departure of President Saddam Hussein all roughly hold the same significance. It is from that perspective that I support the position of the United States.
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