Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to the Republic of Korea
October 9, 2006
I. Opening Statement
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: The Republic of Korea (ROK) is the most important neighbor for Japan. The ROK and Japan are the closest and most important neighbors to each other, sharing the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, the rule of law, and market economy. I have come to the ROK out of a desire to establish and strengthen a future-oriented partnership built on mutual understanding and trust.
As the meeting followed the North Korean announcement that they have conducted a nuclear test despite repeated warnings by Japan and the international community, we allotted much of our time to the discussions on the North Korean nuclear test issue. President Roh Moo Hyun and I agreed on the recognition that if the North Korean nuclear test is a fact, this will constitute a grave threat to the security of Japan, the ROK, and the neighboring countries, and also a threat to the peace and stability of the international community. In addition, we also agreed that we cannot in any way tolerate the development and manufacturing of nuclear weapons by North Korea and that we need to firmly address the issue. Needless to say, possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea will in a major way transform the security environment in the Northeast Asian region and we shall be entering a more dangerous "new nuclear age". The announcement of a nuclear test by North Korea runs counter to the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration of 2002, the six-party agreement of September 2005, as well as the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1695 that was adopted this past July, and thus seriously betrays the efforts of the international community. When we consider the nuclear weapons development of North Korea together with the ballistic missiles which North Korea is extending their range, it constitutes a grave threat to the international community as a whole, beyond the Northeast Asian region. The proliferation of nuclear weapons and manufacturing technology will impose an additional threat not just to Northeast Asian countries but also to the safety of the international community as a whole. The North Korean nuclear test is a grave challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, an issue the international community as a whole needs to address seriously. The Government of Japan shall immediately embark on consideration of harsh measures and shall also consult with our ally, the United States, and also the countries I am visiting this time, the ROK and China, on the measures to address the situation. I have also instructed the Government of Japan to request the UN Security Council to immediately launch consultations with a view to taking firm action on North Korea's nuclear test issue. Also, from the viewpoint of security, in order to do our best to ensure the safety of our country and people, Japan shall maintain close coordination with the US to further improve the credibility of the deterrence based on the Japan-US alliance and also shall further promote the Japan-US defense cooperation including the missile defense program. Last but not least, I shall also see to it that we conduct best possible surveillance so that the Japanese people will not suffer radioactivity-related damage caused by North Korea's nuclear test this time.
In addition to the nuclear test issue related to North Korea, I also explained Japan's approach to the abduction issue. The abductions violated Japan's sovereignty and it is a grave problem that deprived Japanese abductees of their lives. The reunion of Mr. Kim Young Nam with his family was a product of Japan-ROK cooperation, and continued cooperation is extremely important for the resolution of the abduction issue. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki Moon also sat in on the meeting. I congratulated him now that it is certain he will be assuming the post of UN Secretary-General. We also agreed to actively promote citizens exchanges, notably youth exchanges.
I am convinced that my visit this time has proved to be the first step toward building a personal relationship of trust with President Roh Moo Hyun and guiding the Japan-ROK relationship to a new dimension. I am looking forward to exchanging views as frequently as possible including at international meetings. I would like to close my opening remarks by expressing my gratitude to the warm welcome of the Government of the ROK and all others concerned.
II. Question on the Nuclear Test by North Korea
QUESTION 1: I have a question about the nuclear test of North Korea. Mr. Prime Minister, you talked about the firm action to be taken to deal with the North Korean nuclear test. What specifically are you planning to do? Other than the collaboration with the international community, does the Japanese Government plan to take separate action?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Following the announcement of the nuclear test, Japan and the international community need to take a very firm response. The responsibility of this situation lies entirely with North Korea. We have immediately started our consideration of measures that Japan alone can take and also what the international community can take.
Also, with regard to these harsh measures, we shall implement them immediately once these are decided. In the international community, we shall maintain coordination with the international community and the countries concerned. At the UN, we shall work toward the immediate adoption of a tough resolution.
With regard to the content of such measures, we have already conducted various studies but I shall refrain from commenting on the specifics at this moment.
III. Question on the Recognition of History
QUESTION 2: The Yasukuni issue can be regarded as an issue of how we recognize history and this is an issue that gathers the attention of all the people of Korea. I assume the reason you remain vague about the possibility of your visit to Yasukuni Shrine is because there are political reasons. But Mr. Prime Minister, I believe that you should clarify your real intentions. In order to overcome the issue of how we recognize history and promote bilateral relations in a future-oriented manner, I think it is important to make it clear that Japan can make contributions to the process of the integration of the Korean Peninsula. Of course to seek solutions for the nuclear issue is very important but how Japan can contribute to the integration of the Korean Peninsula is something that I would like to inquire about.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In the summit meeting today, I also talked about the recognition of history. In the past Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of Asian nations, and left deep scars. Through serious remorse, we have built the 60 years of postwar Japan. This feeling is shared by all the people who have lived these 60 postwar years as well as myself. This feeling shall remain unchanged.
On the question of whether I shall visit or not visit Yasukuni Shrine, I shared my thoughts with President Roh Moo Hyun. Both sides need to strive to overcome political difficulties related to this issue and I shall address this question from the viewpoint of promoting the sound development of our bilateral relationship. I take the sentiment of the Korean people seriously and by doing so I shall address the question of the future of the relations between our two countries and shall strive to build a future-oriented relationship between our two countries. It is out of that desire that I wished to visit the ROK as part of my first overseas trip as Prime Minister.
With regard to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula, this is an aspiration for the people of the ROK and for the people of the Peninsula, and Japan shall support the developments in the Peninsula toward reunification. I should like to also engage in continued dialogue on this question of reunification.
IV. Question on the Nuclear Test by North Korea
QUESTION 3: I have a question also about the nuclear test. Earlier you said that together with President Roh Moo Hyun you have discussed that you are going to deal with this issue harshly, and that North Korea having the capability to produce nuclear weapons must be condoned. It seems that up to now there has been some discrepancy with regard to the attitude of the two countries when it comes to how the countries should deal with this nuclear issue in North Korea. Now that this nuclear test seems to have been conducted by North Korea, do you think the two countries can keep step with each other?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In my meeting with President Roh Moo Hyun, we spent a significant amount of time discussing this North Korean nuclear test issue. We saw eye to eye on the following points. Between ourselves, President Roh Moo Hyun and I, I do not think there is a difference of views. We have fallen in step together.
If we do confirm that North Koreans did conduct a nuclear test, that is a grave threat and will not be tolerated at all. North Korea shall be held entirely responsible for the situation it has created. The international community should not tolerate this behavior of North Korea and must address the situation with harsher measures. Japan and the ROK shall immediately take a firm response and our countries shall cooperate and coordinate closely for an immediate adoption of harsh measures at the UN Security Council including a resolution. We agreed on these points and we are proceeding to this end. We shall strengthen our coordination and cooperation and shall strive to induce North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons.
V. Question on the Nuclear Test by North Korea
QUESTION 4: Mr. Prime Minister, I am wondering if you can address the timing of North Korea's move today. They conducted the test apparently when you were in the air and made the announcement after you arrived in the ROK. I am wondering if you can comment as to what you think North Korea was doing by this timing and what sort of message you think North Korea was trying to send with its announcement that it had conducted a nuclear test.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: On the question of timing, well you have to ask the North Koreans or otherwise you will not really find out their true intent. I feel rather doubtful if they were really conscious of the timing of my visit to China and the ROK. Our countries are strengthening our coordination and through cooperation shall exercise our respective influence to induce North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. We also agreed that we cannot tolerate nuclear threats by North Korea. This nuclear test by North Korea will in no way impede the development of Japan-ROK and Japan-China relations and I believe we have been able to show that. Having come to the ROK today, having met with President Roh Moo Hyun, and having gone through these programs, Japan and the ROK have been able to discuss matters and exchange views very frankly with each other with a very open mind, and agreed that we shall act on things that need to be done steadily. I think this was very significant. I believe this North Korean behavior is part of their brinkmanship. If North Korea moves in a direction for the worse which runs counter to the international community's expectations, then we believe we need to take harsher measures against North Korea.