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

Press Conference by Prime Minister Taro Aso
during his Visit to the People's Republic of China

30 April 2009

[Note: The translations of the second and fourth questions in the question-and-answer section which were posed in Chinese and English respectively have been translated into English in this translation from the Japanese transcript. As such they may vary slightly from the phrasing used in the original Chinese and English.]

1. Opening statement

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Japan and China have an agreement that every year the leader of one country will visit the other country. This visit took place upon the invitation of the Chinese government based on this agreement. @I met Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday, and I just finished a meeting with President Hu Jintao a short while ago. Over a period of little more than six months [since becoming Prime Minister], I have had four meetings each with President Hu and Premier Wen. I am most gratified that Japan and China have a relationship which involves close communication.

In my meetings with the two Chinese leaders, we first agreed that in response to the pandemic flu issue which is becoming increasingly serious Japan and China will exchange information closely and cooperate as necessary to prevent infection. We also agreed to promote the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests between the two countries in a concrete manner.

I will list the following three as concrete achievements. The first is in the economic and business area. We agreed with regard to the global financial and economic crisis that Japan and China would implement the agreements reached at the London Summit held at the beginning of this month in an expeditious and consistent manner. We reaffirmed in addition that Japan and China would work together inter alia on promoting macroeconomic policies centrering on domestic demand expansion, on stemming protectionism and on assistance to other Asian countries.

Second, we agreed to further our dialogue and cooperation on issues concerning the environment, energy and climate change. We agreed to advance cooperation in addressing energy saving at coal-fired power plants as well as region-wide air pollution issues such as those of dust and sand storms (DSS) and acid rain. On climate change, I encouraged China to participate in a responsible manner in the creation of the post-Kyoto, post-2012 international framework.

Third, I believe a major result was achieved in the further promotion of exchanges between the private sectors of the two countries. This year, we shall again conduct exchanges involving 4,000 youths from Japan and China. In particular, some 100 junior high and high school students from areas struck by the Sichuan great earthquake shall be invited to Japan. We also agreed to commence regular chartered flights this October between Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport) and Beijing Capital International Airport.

We also discussed the outstanding issues of concern related to North Korea, which indeed are serious and current issues. We welcomed that the United Nations Security Council was able expeditiously to send out a unified message of the international community in response to North Korea's missile launch. At the same time, we reaffirmed that Japan and China would cooperate closely for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Before concluding, may I express my sincere gratitude to the Chinese government, the citizens of Beijing and the Chinese people for their warm welcome and hospitality.

I now take this opportunity to make an appeal to the Japanese people on countermeasures against the pandemic flu. The government shall take all necessary measures, including the provision of appropriate and accurate information as well as the thorough implementation of measures at the water's edge. I call on the Japanese people to maintain their composure in dealing with this situation. Thank you.

2. Questions and Answers

QUESTION: I should like to ask about measures against the pandemic flu. The World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the level of alert from Phase 4 to 5. In the summit meetings, Japan and China agreed to take countermeasures against pandemic flu in a coordinated manner. Please explain the concrete measures that the Japanese government for its part will take.

Another point I wish to ask is on the agreement you reached at the summit talks that Japan and China would persuade North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. Meanwhile, North Korea is showing a defiant attitude, saying it would conduct a nuclear test if the United Nations Security Council does not give an apology. What is the Japanese government's response to this?

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: First, on the pandemic flu question, we agreed in the summit meetings this time that in view of the seriousness of the current situation, our two countries will cooperate with each other as well as with others in addressing it. The two countries will cooperate with each other on a timely exchange of information and on preventive measures in accordance with the manner in which the situation evolves.

As the WHO has raised the alert level from Phase Four to Phase Five, the Japanese government will first make the measures at the water's edge even more watertight. And should a case of infection be found in Japan, necessary measures shall be implemented swiftly. An action plan has already been prepared, and I have given instructions to implement the countermeasures contained there in a flexible manner, starting from those that become necessary should such a situation arise.

As for North Korea, any act which raises tensions in the international community is not constructive. Japan and China share the recognition that an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks is important. This also is the view, I believe, of the entire international community.

I wish to renew my call that North Korea should take the recent United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement with all seriousness, that it should refrain from acts which undermine the peace and stability of the international community and that it should comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions. I believe the Six-Party Talks are the most realistic framework for resolving the issues related to North Korea. The Japanese government shall strive for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks by maintaining close coordination with the countries concerned, including China, the chair.

QUESTION: Both Japan and China currently face a financial crisis. I think the two countries will actively expand cooperation in areas including energy conservation, environmental protection, information and communications technology (ICT), eco-economics, and high-tech based on the premise of our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. What kind of concrete measures will this involve?

I have another question, which is about a personal matter. You participated in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games as a competitor in [clay pigeon] shooting. Are you still engaged in shooting?

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I have been asked all kinds of questions on trips around the world, but yours jumped topics more than any question I have ever received, making them something I'll be sure to remember.

On the basis of our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, Japan and China reached agreement on cooperation regarding 70 items during the visit of President Hu Jintao to Japan in May 2008. I believe cooperation has already begun on about 80% of these. Also, we are engaged in many forms of cooperation across a broad range of fields, including 505 projects, both public and private, in environmental and energy conservation-related areas.

In the summit meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao during this visit, we agreed in the area of energy conservation and environmental conservation to launch the "Japan-China Plan for Comprehensive Cooperation in Environment and Energy Conservation", which covers inter alia the improvement of water quality of severely polluted lakes and other bodies of water, energy conservation at coal-fired power plants, and environmental measures.

In the rapidly advancing area of information and communications [technology], we agreed to promote new forms of cooperation concerning inter alia legislation related to this field as well as research and development on next-generation communications technology, sometimes referred to as "3G technology". On 4-5 May I shall send Mr [Kunio] Hatoyama, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications to China and he will be able to provide details.

How are my shooting skills since the Montreal Olympics? Well, that is a very apt question or perhaps not quite. In any event, I was occupied with various things after the Montreal Olympics, becoming President of the Junior Chamber International Japan the following year, and a member of the Diet the year after that. Thus competing at the world championship level in [clay pigeon] shooting became something more and more difficult for me. Also, I used to have dynamic visual acuity good enough to toss a 100-yen coin, hone in on it and make out whether it was heads or tails while still in the air, but now my eyesight has worsened so much that I can't even see my golf ball off the tee. As a result, I am sorry to say that while I do shoot on the odd occasion, I am effectively retired as a shooter.

QUESTION: I have a question about the dissolution of the Lower House. You said the other day that since the supplementary budget and its related bills, as well as bills on anti-piracy measures and other matters have been submitted, you were not in a position simply to have the supplementary budget passed and be through with things, and you believed that most people must also regarded the situation in the same way. As you mentioned again earlier in the day today, in order to implement the new economic measures, such as providing subsidies to buyers of eco-friendly cars, funding sources have to be in place. In the ruling party there are growing calls for a dissolution [of the Lower House] after the enactment of the supplementary budget and the related laws. Will you, as someone who has been focusing on policies rather than politics, give the passage of the supplementary budget, its related bills as well as other important bills, priority over dissolution?

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: There are various important bills, such as the supplementary budget proposal and the related bills, as well as bills concerning pensions and anti-piracy measures. These are all important and urgently require passage in the interests of the people's everyday lives, as is also the case with the bill to establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs. I think the public feels the same. My basic stance is that at a minimum, the members of the opposition should cooperate with us in considering the supplementary budget proposal and its related bills as well as other important bills. I hope that the Diet reaches a conclusion at an early date after sufficient deliberations. And it is I who will ultimately decide whether or not to dissolve the Lower House.

QUESTION: Japan and China are the second- and third-largest economies in the world, and both are in East Asia. How will these two countries cooperate to overcome the financial crisis, and how will they ensure economic recovery in Asia?

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I think that is an extremely good question. During this visit to China, President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and I concurred that Japan and China would cooperate with each other in addressing the global economic and financial crisis. Specifically, as one of several points, we confirmed that in order for the Asian and the world economies to recover it would be important for both Japan and China, which-Was your name is Ms. Liu?-you referred to as the second- and third-largest economies, to do their utmost in terms of domestic economic policy, centering on the expansion of domestic demand-not exports, but rather both countries expanding their own domestic demand-based squarely on the points discussed at the London Summit in April.

In addition, since our two countries are among the few which have [abundant] foreign exchange reserves-that is, liquidity in financial resources, we reaffirmed the importance of proactive responses by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the multilateral development banks to ensure financial flows to developing countries. We also reaffirmed the importance of curbing protectionism and of an early conclusion to the Doha Round negotiations.

As the economic growth centre of the world, I believe Asia to be the most important region as we pursue economic recovery. In pursuing Asia's economy recovery, it has become rather difficult to conduct trade without support for such things as trade insurance and trade financing. We also confirmed the importance inter alia of "multilateralising" what is known as the Chiang Mai Initiative, whose arrangements are currently all bilateral, and the implementation at an early date of a general capital increase of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). There has been a lot of debate over these questions but we confirmed this today.

At the same time, we cannot be satisfied with financial stability alone. The real economy also needs to develop and we affirmed that for this it would be important to strengthen Asia's growth potential and to expand domestic demand in the continent. During this visit I was able to conduct detailed talks on this matter based on preceding discussions. Since we were able to agree on this point, Japan for its part will fulfil its various obligations in line with this understanding, in areas such as domestic economic countermeasures and contributing on international financial issues. I believe the most important achievement of this visit has been the reaffirmation that Japan and China would work hand in hand for economic recovery and in order to overcome the financial crisis.