Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Official Visit to the Philippines
December 9, 2006
I. Opening Statement
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I am pleased to visit the Philippines, a country that is surrounded by beautiful seas, and a country that has very warm feelings toward Japan and the Japanese people, in this landmark year of the 50th anniversary since the normalization of diplomatic relations. I had a summit meeting with Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today, and we exchanged views on wide ranging issues-bilateral relations as well as challenges that the region and the international community need to address together. We signed the Japan-Philippines Joint Statement, entitled "Partnership between Close Neighbors for Comprehensive Cooperation." This Joint Statement speaks to, among others, promotion of mutual understanding by stepping up policy dialogs in such areas as politics and security, engaging in cooperation in the energy area, and by carrying out people to people exchanges and cultural projects. In the meeting, I stated that the peace process in Mindanao is important for the stability and development not just of the Philippines, but of this region, and that Japan will continue to provide support as much as possible.
We also confirmed the cooperation between our two countries in the area of East Asia regional cooperation and counter-terrorism, among others. We also reaffirmed our determination to continue to cooperate actively on the UN reforms.
On North Korea, we share grave concerns regarding the recent situation on the Korean peninsula. We have been taking a harsh stance against the North Korean missile launches and nuclear test, yet we further call for expeditious implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution. We also agreed to call on North Korea to respond to security and humanitarian concerns of the international community, including the abduction issue.
In the meeting, I also explained to President Arroyo, who presides over the ASEAN Summit meetings, the effort that Japan will be making for East Asia cooperation, which I planned to share with other leaders in Cebu. More specifically, firstly, with the aim for an Asia which is open and is brimming with vitality as well as full of innovativeness, we shall strive for an open Japan as well as an open Asia through the Asian Gateway Vision initiative. Second, the implementation of an exchange plan in which approximately 6,000 youths, mainly from countries participating in the East Asia Summit, will be invited every year over the coming five years, with a view to expanding youth exchanges in Asia. Third, to support efforts to promote Japan-ASEAN economic partnership, to contribute US$52 million afresh, with a view to assisting the development of the foundation for intellectual property rights protection, and to support Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. In addition, I explained our planned support for avian flu countermeasures disaster reduction, and further explained that we shall develop the human resources who will be working at the frontlines of peacebuilding around the world by inviting people from Asian countries for the purpose of realizing a more peaceful and stable region and world.
In East Asia, economic growth and democratization are progressing vigorously in a mutually complementary manner. My hope is to achieve both long-term stability and prosperity on the basis of sharing universal values with friends in the region. President Arroyo expressed support and high regard for this view of mine.
My stay has been very short, but I am deeply satisfied with the results of the visit this time. Last, but not least, I am most grateful to the government and people of the Philippines for their warm welcome and hospitality. May I take this opportunity to express my condolences to the victims of the mudslide disaster in Southern Luzon, and I also pray wholeheartedly that those who have been hit by the disaster will be able to return to their normal life as soon as possible. This concludes my opening remarks.
QUESTION 1: Prime Minister, you have just referred to seven points of the support measures to the East Asia region. Japan is proposing a 16 country EPA idea, and I believe that the support measures will promote this idea. However, China is indicating a cautious attitude. So, how will you cooperate with China, and how are you going to materialize this concept, if you could indicate the future process and procedures? Also, the series of meetings have been postponed this time, and I hear that they will be held in January. If the meetings are held in January, Prime Minister, are you going to be attending? These are my two questions.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As frameworks for regional economic partnership in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, we have for example ASEAN+3, that encompasses Japan, China and Korea plus the ASEAN countries. We also have the East Asia Summit (EAS) framework, which on top of the first framework also involves Australia, New Zealand and India. Then we have the idea of the Asia-Pacific as a whole, which was discussed at the APEC economic leaders meeting held recently. I believe that East Asia is the growth center of the world economy. In that respect, for Japan and for China, and for the East Asia region as a whole, we believe that the economic partnership of the region as a whole will be beneficial to the region's development and its future economy. There is a common interest in that respect. Economic prosperity is something that all countries in East Asia desire, including China. With regard to the study by private experts regarding the economic partnership involving 16 countries participating in the EAS which Japan proposed, I hope it could well be understood by China.
The countries that comprise East Asia, by engaging in economic partnership, I believe will be able to enjoy benefits mutually, and I think this is a point on which all countries in East Asia see eye to eye. So we should take advantage of various opportunities in the days ahead, and we should further pursue research amongst the countries concerned and region as a whole regarding economic partnership and promote these developments.
With regard to my attendance in the East Asia Summit to be rescheduled for January, nothing has been decided at this time. I would believe that the countries concerned will be working on coordinating the schedule.
QUESTION 2: Sir, a lot is being mentioned about the fact that you are the youngest Prime Minister and the first Prime Minister to be born after the war, and also the fact that you are coming at a very auspicious time, the 50th anniversary of the normalization of the Philippine-Japan relations after the war. Prime Minister, how would you characterize-I think we can safely say that the first 50 years of that normalization were devoted to principally to rehabilitation, as a former colonizer, rehabilitating the country that was colonized from the ravages of war. But how would you characterize the second half century of Japan-Philippine relations as you can see it? Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Over the past 50 years, Japan and the Philippines have developed very good relations. We share values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law. We share these basic values. As such Japan over the years has provided support to build the foundation for the development of the Philippines. We shall further continue to cooperate with, as well as to provide assistance to the Philippines in the areas of economics, politics, culture, as well as security. I also believe it is important to strengthen the relationship and to build up a relationship of mutual trust as two countries which support each other in the international arena. We have such challenges as the North Korean issue, the fight against terrorism, etc., challenges that are common to the entire region and world, and our two countries are working together in addressing these challenges. We believe this is truly great and also believe that this symbolizes the relationship that our two countries have enjoyed.
QUESTION 3: Tonight, at the state banquet for you, President Arroyo mentioned that Japanese aid sort of cuts across all sectors. She cited giant projects as well as some grass roots projects in Mindanao. Some observers who have been studying the nature of Japanese assistance to the Philippines think that this going down to the grassroots level, especially in Mindanao, signifies a new start, a new direction for Japanese government policy of assistance toward the Philippines. What can you say to that, Mr. Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: The achievement of peace in Mindanao will be extremely important for the development of the Philippines and the region as a whole, and we therefore would like to continue to provide assistance and support. With regard to peace in Mindanao there was an explanation of grassroots assistance, and including such grassroots assistance we would like to continue with our cooperation. Last October Japan sent our development expert to Mindanao, and early next year we also plan to dispatch a mission to identify the needs on the ground.
Also, today I had the opportunity to observe and ride the new lightweight transit, LRT, that has been provided with Japanese assistance. It was explained to me that through such a reasonably-priced transit system many people would be able to commute to work. In these areas also I could really see for myself that Japanese assistance is being proven useful.
Japan, just as the Philippines, is a country that is hit frequently by typhoons and other natural disasters, and as such we have provided assistance as much as possible to the Philippines at times of natural disasters. Japan has already provided about 20 million yen worth of emergency relief goods in relation to the recent typhoon disasters in Southern Luzon, and in the Summit Meeting today I also announced that we will be providing US$1 million-scale grant aid urgently. Also to the Philippines meteorological agency, or PAGASA, we have implemented assistance to step up their capability regarding flood warnings. As is the case with the achievement of peace in Mindanao which I referred to earlier, we have provided and we shall continue to provide wide-ranging support for the self-reliant efforts of the Philippines aimed at its own stability and development.
QUESTION 4: I would like to ask you about North Korea. The Six-Party Talks regarding the nuclear issue of North Korea is expected to be held in the latter part of this month, however with regard to the abandonment of nuclear weapons and of the nuclear program there still seems to be a big difference in the views of Japan, the United States, and North Korea. Therefore what are your expectations for the Six-Party Talks that will be resumed? Also, Japan prioritizes the abduction issue towards a breakthrough. Are you going to make further requests and proposals to North Korea?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: If the Six-Party Talks are resumed, we shall, while maintaining close coordination with the United States and the other countries concerned, seek early and concrete results. As to what sort of concrete results we will be seeking, this is a matter that involves the content of the consultations that will come up, and therefore I will refrain from discussing that, but we believe it is necessary for North Korea to show concrete actions toward the abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in accordance with the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks in September of last year, as well as the UN Security Council Resolution 1718.
The abduction issue is the top priority issue for my administration. We shall continue to seek for the North Koreans to secure the safety of the victims of abduction and their immediate return to Japan, the elucidation of facts, and the handover of the perpetrators of their abduction, and we also would like to continue to appeal to the other participants of the Six-Party Talks of the importance of the early resolution of the abduction issue.
QUESTION 5: There was the foreign ministers meeting between Japan and China today, and the Chinese side stated that next year will be a sensitive year in terms of the history issue, and that there should not be an effect on the bilateral relationship. With regard to the visits to the Yasukuni Shrine visit, you have taken a strategy to be rather vague as to whether you will go or not. Are you going to continue this while you are Prime Minister, or at some time are you going to indicate your wishes? Also, setting that aside, with regard to next year's visit, have you in your own mind already made a decision as of yet?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As for Japan-China relations, at the time of my recent visit to China, I suggested and we agreed that we shall raise our bilateral relations to a mutually beneficial cooperative relationship, and we agreed to conduct joint studies on history issues. By so doing, we would like to further deepen mutual understanding between Japan and China.
As to your question regarding visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, my position is the same as I have already stated on a number of occasions.