Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet  
Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister TOP

Press Conference by Prime Minister Taro Aso
Following the 16th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting

November 23, 2008

Photograph of the Prime Minister Holding a Press Conference

Note: The opening statement and answers by Prime Minister Aso are simultaneous interpretation, and as such, may vary slightly from the phrasing used in the original language.

MODERATOR: During the press conference, at the outset, there will be a statement made by Prime Minister Aso. And after that, we will have a question and answer session. Those of you who wish to ask questions, please raise your hand vis-?-vis the moderator. You are only allowed to ask one question per person: make sure that you are clear and succinct, and brief. The first question will be taken from the Japanese press, the second question from the Peruvian press, the third question from the Japanese press, and the fourth question will be from non-Japanese press. In total we are scheduled to accept four questions. Those of you who are designated by the moderator, please proceed to the microphone and please state your name and affiliation before posing your question. After the press conference is over, until Prime Minister Aso departs from this room please make sure that you remain seated. Last but not least, when you are exiting from this room, please make sure that the receiver sets for the simultaneous interpretation are left on the chairs. We would like to begin the press conference by Prime Minister Aso. At the outset, there will be a statement made by the Prime Minister, and then we will have a question and answer session. So, Prime Minister, the floor is yours.

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I am Taro Aso. Following the Financial Summit meeting held in Washington last weekend, this week, here in Lima, in Peru, I have attended the APEC meeting. It was a bit tough schedule to go through but I believe the results we attained were worthy of it. First of all, at the APEC, in regards to the responses to the financial crisis, the results which were achieved at the Summit meeting in Washington were able to be shared by Asia and Pacific economies. And secondly, I have had bilateral meetings with many of the leaders individually at this time, inclusive of the United States, Russia and China, and have had useful exchanges of views. Thirdly, I have made an Official Visit to Peru, and with President Garcia we were able to agree on the strengthening of our bilateral relationship.

I would just like to highlight the results of the APEC Leaders' Meeting. I have stated that after the financial crisis we could expect the emergence of recession, but afterwards economic recovery has to follow, of course, and each of the countries has to take necessary macroeconomic policies. And also I stated that there is a need to strengthen the financial cooperation within the Asia and Pacific region. Almost all of my assertions have been reflected in the Leaders' Statement this time.

As for concrete measures, I have made the following points. In regards to Japan's up to US$100 billion loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), I have called upon other countries, particularly those that have ample holding of foreign reserves, to come on board. And secondly, to directly recapitalize the local banks in developing countries. In Asia and in the Latin American region, there is a need for it, of course, so Japan agreed to establish jointly with the World Bank a fund which is about, in total, US$3 billion. And those are the points that we agreed upon. And thirdly, as a part of the regional cooperation, I asserted that, of course, each country engaged in trading activities and trade comes with trade insurance. And trade insurance has to be provided, and trade finance, of course, should be provided otherwise trade will not work. So I have stated that a reinsurance network needs to be built for the trading insurance of countries.

Also on the trading front, preventing the spread of protectionism all around the world and to promote trade liberalization globally will be important because we could remind ourselves of the 1929 Great Depression era. And there are certain lessons that we learned and we need to really learn from that lesson. So for that matter we need to send a strong message calling for a reaching of the framework agreement within this year at the Doha Round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and was able to gain the support of economies. Well, Japan is more than willing to fully implement the expressed initiative and to have the Japanese economy back on the growth track, and will fulfill its responsibility to the international community.

Now, let me talk about the bilaterals that I had. The results of the bilaterals will be presented to you in a highlighted fashion. At the Japan-US-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, we were able to confirm that we will jointly respond to the North Korean issue. At the Japan-US Summit Meeting we were able to confirm that the Japan-US Alliance had deepened during the period of the eight-year administration of President Bush, and we concurred on the importance of furtherance of the strengthened relationship between the US and Japan. With President Medvedev of Russia, in the context of building a Japan-Russia relationship where we could together grow in the Asia and Pacific region, inclusive of the territorial issue we were able to have an extremely candid discussion. With President Hu Jintao of China, we exchanged views regarding the responses to the economic and financial crisis and concurred that we will work together and make efforts.

Now let me touch upon my Official Visit to Peru. With President Garcia of Peru, we signed the Japan-Peru Investment Agreement. Also, next year will be the 110th anniversary of Japanese people's immigration to Peru, which will be a great occasion to further our bilateral relationship. Both of us agreed on that note. I am highly impressed that people of Japanese descent are now making great contributions to Peruvian society, and I would like to show my deep respect for their hard work and endeavors.

Well, this time I would like to thank wholeheartedly all the warm hospitality and welcome that the Peruvian Government and people have given us. I thank them very much.

And lastly, let me just talk about domestic matters within Japan. Just one point. The man who went after the former Vice-Minister of Health and Welfare has been caught. Trying to solve the difference of views through murder is conduct that could never be condoned. I would ask that the truth will be found quickly for this case, and express once again strongly to you that we will never yield to violence. Thank you so much.

MODERATOR: We will now like to entertain questions. Wait until you are designated by myself, the moderator. Those who are designated, please proceed to the microphone. State your name and affiliation before closing your question. So, I would like to invite a question from the Japanese press, first.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, for the sake of global economic recovery, Prime Minister, you have always stressed that it is important to expand domestic demand, and this recognition has been widely shared amongst the leaders of the member economies of APEC. If that is the case, Japan must also rush domestic demand expansion, and therefore the bill for the Second Supplementary Budget should be dealt with in the ordinary session at this time, but you are saying you cannot trust Mr. Ozawa's statements on the Supplementary Budget. Mr. Ozawa has rebutted with very harsh words of you being a hooligan, etcetera. And because of the tough economic situation, for the leaders of the two major political parties to be engaged in mutual criticism, this is not very favorable. So, is there an option for you to have serious discussion with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with regard to the Second Supplementary Budget?

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Well, with regard to the expansion of domestic demand, of course in Washington, when the leaders met, the declaration was issued and the need for domestic demand expansion was mentioned and understanding has been deepened. There are some countries that have been solely dependent on external demand for growth, but those countries have to work harder to expand their domestic demand on their own, otherwise economic growth will not be brought about. So those are the things that we talked about individually and what not.

As for the timeline for the submission of the Second Supplementary Budget, upon my return to Japan I would talk with the people of the government and ruling parties, and make a decision.

Also, about your third point, I do not know about the exact developments: who said what and so forth, and I do not know about the veracity of your question. So I do not know whether I should honestly trust what you had mentioned, literally, so maybe you asked me a wrong question and I might respond in a wrong way. That would make great news maybe for you, but it is not good for me at all. You talked about the leaders' discussion at the Diet. I have proposed over and over again to the opposition leader to have a leaders' debate, but my counterpart has never responded positively. We are more than willing to have an open debate at the Diet.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Next question will be accepted from the Peruvian press, so could you please take the receiver, Prime Minister. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Mr. Prime Minister, at the APEC Summit many issues have been talked about in addition to the common objective of facing the economic crisis. But I would like to talk about two issues related to bilateral relations which also form part of the APEC concern: the treatment of Peruvian immigrants in Japan or the policy in Japan towards South American immigrants, and also Japanese cooperation on defense of the environment, the development of the environment. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Currently in Japan from Peru there are about 60,000 Peruvians who are working in Japan. These people are contributing greatly to the Japanese economy. The Peruvian people are visiting Japan to work, which amounts to about 60,000, and these people are contributing greatly to the Japanese economy and serving a great role of being a bridge between Japan and Peru. We would very much hope and welcome a large number of Peruvian people to come to Japan and work, with high skills. For the would-be hirers on the corporate side as well as on the government side, we would like to welcome those Peruvian people who are willing to work in Japan who have a high level of skill. For that we are working to promote actively the reception of those Peruvian people into Japan. Well, from Japan to Peru, there are many people coming.

Well, President Garcia is promoting his campaign called "Water for Everyone," trying to work on the water supply and the sewage system. President Garcia is being very enthusiastic about it, and Japan signed the agreement to provide a yen loan amounting to about 17.2 billion yen. When it comes to water, of course high-quality water is indispensable for one's own country's development. It is very important, extremely important. So those people who are coming over to Japan can learn about water-related technology: technology to preserve high-quality water. And if that know-how and expertise can be gained in Japan it would be very good for the future of Peru, I would say. At the same time, in the eastern part of Peru the tropical rainforest and other natural environment is trying to be preserved and protected, so that forest preservation, conservation, and those mines which are being closed or being idle, there are certain measures that can be taken to prevent them from contamination and pollution. Many efforts are underway. But anyway, it all boils down to the high-quality water. So I hope that between Japan and Peru good communication can be established, and concur that water is a very important resource. We hope that, from Peru, people can come over and learn about how important water is in Japan, maybe. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. The next question will be taken from the Japanese press. So, with the spectacles. Gentleman who has the spectacles, please.

QUESTION: I would like to raise a question concerning the WTO Doha Round negotiations. You have made a commitment to aim for reaching agreement on the modalities for the WTO Doha Round by the end of the year, and this was embraced in the APEC Leaders' Statement. But since this concerns the agricultural issue, there are difficulties for other countries, but also for Japan in terms of domestic coordination. Just yesterday, to the members of the press, Prime Minister, you gave a comment, "We never know until we try," and you will make much effort to try to reach an agreement. So aiming for the agreement on the modalities for the WTO Doha Round by the end of the year, Japan has to exercise leadership. But we want more confirmation of your firm determination on the agreement on modalities by the end of the year, and, Prime Minister, for you to exercise leadership. Please share with us your firm determination.

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I think you are asking me a well-informed question, right? It is not only Japan who will make the agreement. Of course, regardless of Japan's determination, this has been worked on for the last seven years, you know that, the Doha Round. Many types of efforts have been made but we have failed, and that has brought us to where we are today. But anyway, this time around, as viewed from Japan, we are faced with a financial crisis, and as a result of that the world might turn protectionistic. There is a possibility that, on the other hand, rather than spending money on the conservation of the global environment, it might be better to use the money for economic measures. So there are two things that can be thought of, though things can work negatively if it is not handled right. So those are the situations that we are faced with, which have emerged from the financial crisis: the possibility of protectionism and the impact on environmental conservation and protection. That being the case this time around, first of all economic measures and financial issues need to be responded to properly, and I think it is not good that there is feeling that the Doha Round might not be agreed upon in December. But we should not give up on the hope. We all concur that we need to give it another try once again.

Of course, emergency measures are important. Many of the countries might go protectionist, and most of the countries have been devaluing their own currency against dollar but Japan responded to revalue our yen against dollar and we have been doing what we can. So it is different from the 1920s era when people tried to devalue their own currency. We are not doing that this time around. So without any doubt the Doha Round and other things need to be concluded, and for that we should work very hard. The US concurs with us. But as was mentioned, of course, the agricultural issue and other domestic issues are still sticking for the domestic situation of each country. Having understood that, we are again asked to adjust. Where we should be offensive, we will on the offensive, but there are certain areas that we need to defend and protect, and we will do that. But anyway, the overall direction is to go toward the reaching of the agreement.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Prime Minister, please use your receiver set. Time is passing quickly, so this will be the final question. We will take this from the non-Japanese press. So from the second row, in the beige jacket, please.

QUESTION: One of the most important issues is the North Korea nuclear issue. It is an issue that you have also discussed with President Bush and the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK). We would like to know what Japan will do to promote the denuclearization of North Korea.

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Well, the topic is the denuclearization of North Korea. Well, depending on the region, I think the awareness of the issue is different. In Europe, there is a nuclear issue of Iran, and in Asia there is a nuclear issue of North Korea: so there is a difference from one region to another.

In those circumstances, if there is a nuclear presence on the Korean Peninsula, then definitely in the Northeast Asian part it would have a grave impact on the security. That being the case, this issue should be looked at from China, Russia and Japan, and Asian side inclusive of the US. All these countries have their own view on the issue and that is why the Six-Party Talks have been held. Many times over, negotiations have been held and continued. Yesterday, on "Sunday Project," which is a TV program in Japan, President Bush responded to the interview and spoke about it. So it shows the degree of the awareness that the US has. And this time around, with President Bush and President Lee Myung-Bak of the ROK I was able to have a talk and the three of us have fully agreed that our three countries would continue to work together because this issue is the biggest regional issue. So we were able to reconfirm that.

But immediately, what is most important for the time being is that, in cooperation with the chairing country, China, we establish the verification protocol which enables us to implement very precise verification. We need to make this verification protocol. Well, the other side is saying that they will do it, but the delisting of North Korea from the List of States Sponsoring Terrorism has been realized, but in reality the probe needs to be done, and also the on-site probe and investigation has to be done. In exchange for that, the delisting has been implemented. But it is not likely that North Korea would allow on-site, inside investigation, and then a probe, and so forth. So we have to really confirm it in writing, in a document, so within this year we hope work can be launched for the documentation. So, inclusive of China, four countries together have agreed and we are about to launch that work and move toward that direction.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Since it is the scheduled closing time, with this we would like to close our press conference. Thank you very much for your cooperation. Members of the press, please remain seated for a while until the Prime Minister and his delegation are able to depart.