Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visits to the United States and Middle Eastern Countries
May 2, 2007
I. Opening Statement
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: For the first time after taking office I have visited the United States (US), as well as countries in the Middle East. The greatest achievement of the US visit was that I reaffirmed with President Bush the irreplaceable alliance between Japan and the United States and agreed to further deepen and broaden this alliance into an unshakeable one. President Bush and I agreed that we should build on this Japan-US alliance our responses to the North Korean abduction and nuclear issues, as well as various international challenges such as climate change and energy conservation. This visit enabled me to deepen personal friendship and trust with President Bush and the First Lady.
Following the US visit, I visited five countries in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, and Egypt. Peace and stability in the Middle East is indispensable for the peace and stability of the entire world, and has a direct bearing on Japan's national interests. My message is that Japan will engage actively in the Middle East, deepen mutual understanding, and shape a "New Era of Japan and Middle East Relations" that will take us beyond a relationship focused on petroleum by building multi-layered relations. I have been accompanied by Mr. Mitarai, Chairman of the Japan Business Federation, and 180 movers and shakers of Japanese business on this trip to the Middle East. This reflects the strong interest both the Government and private sector of Japan have in this region. I am convinced that this visit will contribute to stronger relations in the energy area and to the further development of the countries in the Middle East, and I am also convinced that this visit will serve to further diversify and deepen Japan's economic ties with the countries in the region.
This trip has brought home to me that countries in the Middle East also harbor strong interest and expectations in Japan; that is to say in conducting cultural and educational exchanges; that is to say, to grow beyond being mere economic partners. Human resources are the key to any nation building, and Japan will cooperate for human resources development as well in its own way.
Now, in connection with the challenges facing the Middle East, I explained to the leaders of the countries I visited Japan's initiative for the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity, and we agreed to work more closely to advance the Middle East peace process. On reconstruction assistance for Iraq, I explained Japan's efforts, namely, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance by Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF), US$5 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA), US$6 billion debt relief, and Iraqi national reconciliation promotion, among others. The leaders expressed their high appreciation for Japan's contribution to the stabilization of the region. Japan will continue to actively work for peace and stability in the Middle East and Iraq's reconstruction.
On this trip, I met the service members of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), and I was happy to confirm that they are highly regarded and trusted by the local people for their high morale and capability. Let me express my respect and gratitude to all of them for their contribution here in the Middle East, far away from Japan. Last but not the least, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to the people in the countries I visited for their warm welcome and hospitality.
II. Question on North Korean issues
QUESTION 1: I would like to ask you about North Korea policy. One of the key points for the visits to the six countries this time is so that you can act in unison with the international community to send a strong message to North Korea. There are some who indicate some disunity, in particular with regard to the United States and whether there could be a coming to an understanding with the United States. You met for almost six hours. Have you been able to attain your objectives? In particular, with regard to North Korea, there are indications of additional sanctions that may be possible. Have you had specific discussions about that, and besides discussions with President Bush, can you state your own views about additional sanction possibilities?
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: With regard to North Korean issues, I spent a lot of time with President Bush and had in-depth discussions with him. Both of us spoke our minds, and I believe that we have been able to understand each other well. I myself and President Bush agree fully that North Korea's current attitude with regard to the abduction of Japanese nationals and the nuclear and missile issues is unacceptable, and to deal with these issues Japan and the United States, we have agreed, need to further coordinate our positions. So I believe Japan and the United States see eye to eye completely. The North Koreans will have to understand that unless they keep their promise, the circumstances they are faced with today -- the food and economic problems that they are faced with -- will never improve, that they will only worsen.
Japan and the United States both have had ample experience, and therefore we full well know North Korea's negotiating methods. We have learned from these experiences the attitude that we need to strike in negotiating with North Korea. When dealing with North Korea, and the President and I fully agree that not just dialogue but pressure will also be important. You asked me a question about possible additional sanctions. North Korea have failed to act on the initial measures that they have promised, so we have to bear this in mind as we consider possible further measures against North Korea. Needless to say, with regard to the abduction issue, if no progress is seen we certainly need to consider various possibilities.
III. Question on Japan's initiatives in Egypt
QUESTION 2: Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to welcome you wholeheartedly here in Egypt. I repeat my appreciation for your coming here to Egypt, Mr. Prime Minister. Usually when we receive a top Japanese official to Egypt, we always have a launching or a declaration of a new initiative tied to his name. On our last visit by Japanese Prime Minister, we declared the Arab-Japanese Dialogue. What is the initiative this time Mr. Prime Minister? What is the initiative you are going to launch here and declare here through your visit to Egypt, and will this initiative be only confined to cooperation in the field of education, particularly with relation to establishing the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) in Egypt? Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: On this visit to Egypt, between myself and President Mubarak, we agreed to further advance cooperation between our countries in the areas of education and technology. Your question referred to the so-called E-JUST proposal. As seen in that idea, we welcome that Egypt has shown great expectations in Japan for the purpose of advancing science and technology education, and this certainly is a great honor for us. To be counted on by Egypt, a country that has produced numerous civilizations since ancient times, and a country that has a deep and broad academic foundation, is indeed a great honor. We need to respond to those expectations, and it certainly will be a great honor for us to respond to those expectations. Should Japan's knowledge and experience contribute to the development of Egypt in the science and technology education area, that will certainly be most gratifying, and Japan intends to provide as much cooperation as possible. This is very much in line with my own ideas of developing a New Era of Relations between Japan and the Middle East by developing multilayered relations between our two areas, cultural, economic, industrial, and otherwise, and I believe that doing so will in fact lead to this New Era of Relations between Japan and the Middle East. I understand with regard to specifically the E-JUST proposal, experts are engaged in various studies, and I hope that there shall be adequate discussions among experts to translate this idea into reality.
IV. Question on the Self-Defense Forces
QUESTION 3: As you mentioned, Prime Minister, you were able to directly give encouragement to the SDF dispatched here, and you established an expert panel on collective self-defense so that you can reinforce the Japan-US alliance and also conduct active international contributions. If the forces of another country are attacked, what would be the response of the SDF, or how about logistic support to the multi-national forces? What is your view on these issues?
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I have been saying for some time that we need to rebuild the legal foundation for security to keep abreast of the times, because my conviction is that the Japan-US alliance needs to function more effectively to preserve Japan's peace, and also Japan's contribution is being sought broadly in the interest of world peace and stability, and it is Japan's obligation to comply with these expectations. In accordance with several types of circumstances that may be perceived related to the Japan-US alliance, and also in accordance with several types of circumstances regarding Japan's international contribution to peace, we need to engage in studies and sort out their relations to the Constitution, including the question of the right to collective self defense, which is why I launched this blue-ribbon panel of experts. In accordance with my perception of the issues that I described to the experts of this panel at their first meeting, I hope that they will study these issues from various angles based on their experiences and knowledge, without any pre-conclusions.
V. Question on revision of the Constitution
QUESTION 4: I hear that you met with people in the US Congress, and Mr. Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, talked about the revision of the Constitution and his expectations for that, so that even liberals, it seems, are supporting the constitutional revision of Japan. Based on the results this time, towards the upper house elections, what are you going to appeal to the people of Japan in terms of the revision of the Constitution, and how about the concrete steps for revision of the Constitution after the national referendum bill is passed? For example, is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) going to come up with a second draft? What is the situation?
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: First of all, with regard to the amendment of the Japanese Constitution, regardless of whether there is support or no support from overseas, it is for Japan to get down to discussions and come to a conclusion about whether to revise it or not. But of course, Japan's stance in addressing this question should not be misunderstood, and in this regard the intent to amend the Constitution, its direction, my intent, and so on, these are being supported by the US Congress. In nurturing an environment to amend the Constitution, I think that this support expressed by the US Congress is welcome, and it is not just the United States, but we certainly have to work on neighboring countries in Asia as well, and appeal to them or explain to them the purpose and the significance of revising the Constitution.
With regard to the revision of the Constitution, the procedural bill, that is the National Referendum Bill, has been debated in the current session of the Diet, and it was passed in the House of Representatives, the Lower House, and now I strongly hope that it will become a law by passing the House of Councillors as well. As for the content of this legislative proposal, as Secretary General of the party as well as acting Secretary General, I was I involved in making the LDP draft proposal. As President of the LDP, it reflects my thoughts, and on the basis of this draft I would like to encourage nationwide debate. That is the first step; whether there will be a second draft or not, I am not thinking about that at all at this stage. The draft that we have on the table is our proposal, and that indicates the direction in which we shall pursue the amendment of the Japanese Constitution. You always ask me what I intend to do with regard to the Constitution, and I would like to say that it is already in that draft; please read it carefully.
VI. Question on environmental issues
QUESTION 5: I would like to ask you about environmental issues. In the series of summits this time there were active exchanges of views, I hear, with regard to the environment, and not only this year, but next year there will be a G8 Summit, next year to be held in Japan, and I believe it will be one of the major themes of the summit. Within the post-Kyoto framework, what do you think will be important: to have more participation of countries, or we have China, the United States, and India, which emit a lot of carbon dioxide -- even without their participation should we aim for a high level? Yesterday with regard to nuclear power generation, I hear that there were some discussions about nuclear power issues yesterday, but is peaceful use of nuclear power in the post-Kyoto era expected to play a big role?
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Environmental issues, including the climate change issue, could threaten the very survival of humankind if we err in our response to these issues. This is a common challenge to all countries on the globe, and we therefore need to address it as such, and Japan wishes to make a significant contribution, and in diplomacy as well Japan needs to exercise leadership and initiative. To stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions, we need to build an effective international framework in which all major emitters around the world participate. In other words, as a challenge for the post-Kyoto Protocol period, we need to come up with an effective international framework in which all major emitters participate. When Premier Wen Jiabao of China visited Japan last month, I agreed with him that China should participate in the process of building such a framework. In the Japan-US summit meeting that I had just the other day, I confirmed with President Bush the importance of the climate change issue and issued a joint statement in which we described our agreement that we shall step up the dialogue between Japan and the United States on this issue. In addressing these challenges, I believe we are making progress step by step.
The G8 Summit will be held in Japan next year, and environmental issues including the climate change issue will become an important theme, an important subject matter for that meeting. I should like to step up cooperation in getting close cooperation with the countries concerned, including the United States. Also, apart from that, I would like to say that we have been able to achieve significant results with major countries such as China and the United States, and that I have come out with a joint statement with the United States.
VII. Question on Japan and Egypt's roles in the Middle East peace process
QUESTION 6: With regard to the Middle East peace process, this is important not only for Japan but for the entire world. I think that is what you said too. In the Middle East peace process, what kind of political and economic role can Japan play in the Middle East peace process, and also, what about Egypt's position in the Middle East peace process? How do you evaluate our position?
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: It is indeed a great pleasure to see an increasing number of Egyptians speaking Japanese as fluently as you do, and I think that this contributes to growing multilayered relations between our two countries, and so I would like to further promote such cooperation in language education, and also to grow our relations generally.
To answer your question, I believe Egypt is a major power in the region that has a major responsibility for peace and stability in the Middle East. Egypt also has diplomatic relations with Israel, and therefore Egypt has, I believe, a major role to play to advance the Middle East peace process. I am given to understand that Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit of Egypt soon will be visiting Israel as a special envoy of the Arab League to promote the Arab Peace Initiative, and we very much count on this sort of role that only Egypt, I believe, can play.
As a responsible member of the international community, Japan also wishes to make as much contribution to the progress of the Middle East peace process as possible. Japan has not got any negative legacy of history with regard to our relations with the Middle East, and we also enjoy trust from both the Arabs and Israelis, and therefore I believe that we have a unique role to play in promoting political dialogue. Especially, to resolve the Middle East peace issues, it is essential that the Palestinians become economically self-sustaining. On the economic front, Japan to date has provided US$900 million or so in assistance, and also we would actively like to promote the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity initiative that aims to establish a distribution network around the agri-industrial park in the Jordanian valley, and thus contribute to the economic development of the Palestinians and also confidence-building among the stakeholders. I spent a lot of time on this idea in my meeting with President Mubarak as well. Both our countries shall cooperate with each other and also exchange information with each other, and work jointly to promote the Middle East peace process.
Back to Prime Minister's Visit to U.S. Index | Back to Prime Minister's Visit to Middle East Index