Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to Europe
January 13, 2007
I. Opening Statement
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: On my visits to the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and France, important partners for Japan in the international community, I had very useful meetings with their leaders. In Belgium I also visited the European Commission and the Headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Together with like-minded countries, Japan shall support the free and prosperous world built on such basic values as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law because it is in Japan's national interest to do so and it is Japan's responsibility to do so. With this in mind, I was able to build a relationship of trust with each of the European leaders, and we agreed that beyond the framework of bilateral relations, Japan and Europe need to address together the challenges facing the international community. I regard this as a significant achievement of this trip. We recognized the importance of countries that share values to work together in the international arena, and in this regard we recognize together that Japan and Europe are important partners in that respect.
Now, I visited the headquarters of NATO as the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to do so, and delivered a policy speech appealing the need for Japan and NATO to strengthen our cooperative relations in the interest of world peace and stability. It is very significant that it was received with approval by the representatives of the alliance, and I believe that I was able to receive their understanding and support for the way forward Japan shall be pursuing. On individual issues, I was able to share the views with the European leaders that missile launches and the nuclear test by North Korea are a grave threat to the peace and security of not only Japan and East Asia but the entire community of nations, and that to resolve these problems all countries need to act in concert and implement measures in accordance with United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1718 and continue to apply international pressures on North Korea.
I also explained to the leaders Japan's position that the abductions by North Korea are a grave violation of human rights and a problem that is international in scope, and as such the international community needs to work together for its early resolution. In response, I received their encouraging support.
On UN Security Council reform, I explained my determination to pursue the matter actively, to which the leaders expressed their understanding and support. We also saw eye-to-eye that Japan and Europe need to further step up our cooperation and coordination in addressing important issues that affect world peace and stability, such as the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. We further agreed to promote cooperation on global challenges that are bearing on the future of mankind: the issues of energy and global warming, and the Doha Round negotiations, amongst others.
As you can see, I was able to further cement partnership with European countries, who are strategic partners that share the same objectives and responsibilities in the interest of resolving wide-ranging issues, and was able to build a relationship of trust with the leaders of the countries concerned. This visit to Europe has been very fruitful indeed.
Last but not least, I wish to thank our European friends and also international organizations concerned that welcomed me for their warm welcome and hospitality over the past five days. My gratitude goes to the governments, authorities, as well as the people of the countries and organizations concerned. Thank you very much.
QUESTION 1: Through the series of meetings, Prime Minister more strongly raised Japan's position on issues that directly concern Japan's security. They include the North Korean nuclear and missile issues as well as the abduction issues and the lifting of the ban on arms exports to China. I was wondering whether the position of Japan has been clearly understood by the leaders of the European countries, and what is your impression and evaluation of these meetings.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: For Japan and Europe, which share basic values, to cooperate with each other in addressing various international challenges, I believe, will contribute to the prosperity and stability of the various regions and the world, and with this in mind, I believe we were able to gain the understanding of the leaders that I met this time. With regard to the North Korean nuclear and missile issues and abduction issue, these are not important just between Japan and North Korea or unique problems in East Asia, but these are threats to the non-proliferation regime for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and the abduction issue also has global scope. As such the entire world needs to address these issues in concert. Only when the world acts together in concert will we be able to make progress toward their resolution. In this regard, we see eye-to-eye to that we need to apply the pressures that need to be applied to North Korea, and that to do so it is important for the European Union (EU) member countries to implement measures based on UN Security Council Resolution 1718. I think I was able to gain the understanding of the Europeans on this, and I think that will translate into added pressures on North Korea.
As for China, China's development will provide an opportunity not just for Japan but for the world. At the same time, I visited China in October of last year, and agreed with the leadership of that country that we should raise the bilateral relations between our two countries into a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship. That said, China has continued to increase substantially their defense spending, and there is also lack of transparency in modernization of the military. Therefore I explained our concerns to the European leaders that the lifting of the arms embargo vis-a-vis China would have an impact on the East Asian security environment. Therefore Japan is opposed to the lifting of that embargo, which is something that I explained to my European colleagues. To assert our position in this regard I believe is not just in the interest of Japan, but also in the interest of the peace and stability of the region and the entire world. We need to speak out what we need to speak out on, and in that respect I believe we were able to conduct an assertive diplomacy and I was able to gain the understanding and approval of many countries.
QUESTION 2: I think you have noticed that vis-a-vis Europe this is an honor, because you have visited Europe before going to Washington, D.C. Maybe it had to do with scheduling, but I believe that this indicates that you have a feeling of trust toward Europe, so we are very happy with that.
Second point: Although it is slow, we feel that a certain process is going forward for a community in Asia modeled after Europe. On this point, what kind of views do you have, and also what is your priority in this respect?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As the first overseas trip in the New Year, I selected Europe because I regard very importantly relations between Japan and Europe. Japan and Europe share long history, culture and beautiful nature, and we share basic values as well. I therefore recognize the importance of growing relations with such countries, and so with that in mind I visited the countries in Europe, as well as the two international organizations. Following this stay in Paris, I shall be flying to the Philippines to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Island of Cebu, and at the same time ASEAN+3 meeting will be held as well. Now Australia, India and New Zealand are added to the ASEAN+3, and that composes this East Asia Summit. Australia, New Zealand and India are also countries that share with us basic values, and I believe that the circle of free societies needs to be expanded and grown in the Asian region as well, and at the same time we need to build up solidarity in Asia, and in that respect Japan needs to make its contributions, and I would like to strive to do so.
Today in Asia we see growing numbers of economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and free trade arrangements (FTAs), strengthening economic partnerships in the region, and I believe in that process the experiences of Europe will be very fruitful and useful, so we have ASEM meetings and so on. Partnering with each other, Japan and EU should aim at growing the community-type of partnership to develop the Asian region.
QUESTION 3: From the perception of strengthening Japan's security and foreign policy structure, you mentioned in your speech at NATO to send the Self-Defense Forces overseas as well as to establish of a Japanese version of the National Security Council. What are your policies on this issue, and what is the schedule for the necessary legal measures to make this happen?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: To do all the best in terms of foreign and security policy as someone in charge, and to discharge my responsibility, I believe that it is important that strong political leadership should be exercised for expeditious decision-making regarding national strategy, and that we build up a mechanism that will enable us to address various circumstances. At the same time, we need to respond flexibly and in a proper manner to the various circumstances that arise in the international community, and therefore Japan needs to make the necessary contributions in an appropriate manner at an appropriate time for this sort of cooperation that will be sought by the international community. We need to get down to studying how best to build that sort of mechanism. At the Council on the Strengthening of the Functions of the Prime Minister's Office Regarding National Security, which I preside over, we are engaged in various considerations and studies to restructure and strengthen the command-post functions of the Prime Minister's office in the areas of diplomacy and security. Their report is scheduled to be put together before the end of February, and building on their recommendations, I would like to put into place necessary measures so that we shall be able to have the proper functions for proper decision making regarding foreign and security policy.
With regard to the general statute for international peace cooperation, from the perspective that Japan needs to become a country that plays a responsible role in the world, we would like to address that question of general legislation, fully bearing in mind the public opinion or discussions amongst the public. However, I am not in a position today to discuss a specific timetable for that.
QUESTION 4: I would like to ask about Russian energy policy. This time in your meetings with the leaders, this issue was discussed, I believe, Russia is a member of the G8, and in the area of energy security, what kind of responsibility would you like Russia to fulfill? I would like to ask your views on this.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Last November I had a meeting with President Putin of Russia, and I told him that Japan attaches importance to our bilateral relations with Russia. We saw eye-to-eye to build a partnership on the basis of common strategic interests, and I believe it is important for the international community that Russia grows into a genuine partner that shares basic values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and plays constructive roles in addressing various international challenges.
Now with regard to energy, energy security is indeed of extreme importance; in the following East Asia Summit in a few days' time we shall be discussing this matter as well. On the matter of energy security, each country, I believe, needs to play a responsible role in the international community. Especially, energy suppliers I believe need to fulfill their responsibility. At the St. Petersburg G8 Summit last year, the G8 agreed that our countries will not use energy for political ends. As I mentioned earlier, I hope Russia will fully recognize and fulfill its responsibility as a major energy supplier and behave in a way that pays due consideration to the positions of the consuming countries.