Press Conference by Prime Minister Taro Aso and
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Over the past two days, we held the Fifth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM5) here in Tomamu, Hokkaido, with the participation of heads of state and government as well as ministers from 16 member countries and areas of the PIF. I, together with Premier Talagi of Niue, who is the Chair of the PIF, served as Co-Chairs of this summit. Under the catchphrase "We are islanders - towards an eco-friendly and rich Pacific," at this summit meeting of Pacific island leaders we discussed major challenges for the island countries, including environmental and climate change issues. And just a short while ago the leaders adopted the Hokkaido Islanders' Declaration and closed the meeting.
I would like to explain the major results of the summit meeting. First, in the area of the environment and climate change, I heard directly from the leaders of the Pacific island countries about the serious situations their countries are faced with. I advocated the Pacific Environment Community initiative which will enable Japan to address the issues in this area as equal partners with the Pacific island countries, and we agreed to nurture this initiative together.
Also, this year is an important one in which negotiations over the framework for [countering] climate change will shift into a higher gear in the run up to the COP15 which will be held in Denmark in December. Japan expressed its intention to engage in even closer cooperation with the Pacific island countries with a view to achieving agreement on a post-2012 framework in which [all] major economies will participate in a responsible manner and which will be fair and effective.
I also conveyed to the PIF leaders that Japan shall conduct cooperation to the tune of 6.8 billion yen in the form of donations of solar panels and so on through the PIF, in order to support the endeavors of the Pacific island countries on the environmental front by using Japan's leading-edge technology. In addition, in this area Japan shall also engage in human resources development over the coming three years including 1,500 environment experts.
Second, from the viewpoint of human security Japan shall support the Pacific island countries in their endeavors to overcome challenges in such areas as education, water, and health. Specifically, I conveyed to the PIF leaders that Japan in the coming three years shall train 2,000 experts in order to help resolve these issues.
Thirdly, I also conveyed to the leaders that Japan shall act on a "Kizuna Plan" with a view to stepping up people-to-people exchanges between Japan and the Pacific island countries. This plan aims to conduct youth exchanges involving more than 1,000 people, and to double the number of research students studying in Japan, among other things.
Combining these all together, Japan shall engage in assistance to the tune of 50 billion yen over the coming three years vis-?-vis Pacific island countries. This is a reflection of the importance Japan attaches to the Pacific island countries and Japan's strong desire to contribute to their nation-building and human resources development. I very much hope that through such cooperation the relations between Japan and the Pacific island countries and territories will be further enhanced. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the people of Hokkaido Prefectural Government, starting with Governor Harumi Takahashi, as well as the primary school students who warmly welcomed us as we arrived. Also I would like to thank all the others concerned for their very kind cooperation.
PREMIER TOKE TUFUKIA TALAGI: Thank you Prime Minister, and thank you everybody. I would just like to echo the summary that has been made by the Prime Minister with respect to the decisions and discussion that we held over the past two days for PALM5. Let me say that the Pacific Island leaders are very pleased indeed that Japan continues to engage, and engage at the very highest level, with the Pacific Island leaders to ensure that we express our concerns with respect to what is happening with regard to climate change for example, and the things that we need to do to ensure that we can mitigate and help support some of the initiatives that the island countries are very interested in ensuring that we can do to help ourselves. We would like to thank the Japanese government and Prime Minister Aso very much for the support that he has provided, and as you have just heard he has just announced a 50-billion-yen contribution to the Pacific Islands to ensure that we can give support to those areas that we have discussed on climate change, on people-to-people exchanges, as well as the economic development of the Pacific Islands.
Let me also thank the government and people of Japan, and the people of Hokkaido, for the very warm welcome that we have received since we have arrived here. I would also like to thank everybody who has been involved in the organizations and arrangements that have been made to ensure that we have an enjoyable time in Japan.
[Q & As]
QUESTION: I would like to ask a question to Prime Minister Aso. As you have said, at this summit Japan indicated that it would provide a total of 50 billion yen of assistance to the Pacific Island countries. On the other hand, China is also strengthening its influence over the Pacific region by propping up its economic assistance. How do you view this move? That is one question. Also, what will be the unique aspects of Japanese assistance?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: China, against the backdrop of its rapid economic growth in recent years, has been expanding its ties with the international community including the Pacific region. Japan has for many years enjoyed very strong ties with the Pacific island countries, and has a track record of cooperation to help these countries overcome the challenges they are faced with. For example, Japan has utilized mainly official development assistance (ODA) in order to assist infrastructural development such as inter-island ferries and bridges, as well as to assist Pacific countries cope with issues related to waste disposal.
The characteristics of cooperation between Japan and Pacific island countries is that, firstly, we seek to build a partnership among equals as fellow island countries, secondly, we endeavor to provide cooperation that will be truly useful to improving the daily living conditions of the peoples of Pacific island countries, and thirdly, cooperation that seeks to achieve both environmental preservation and economic development in order to protect the rich and beautiful ocean that the Pacific indeed is. I think this stance has been appreciated highly by the Pacific island countries.
The Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting which is held every three years should be regarded as the culmination of all kinds of cooperation in which we have been involved. Japan's thinking is reflected in the Leaders' Declaration of this summit meeting, the main theme of which is the idea of a Pacific Environment Community. Japan intends to continue extending cooperation with Japanese characteristics, such as that which utilizes advanced environmental technologies.
QUESTION: My question will be to the PIF Chair, Premier of Niue the Hon. Toke Talagi. There are two pressing issues at the moment: recession and climate change. Which one is more important for the Pacific, and why?
PREMIER TALAGI: They are both equally important, of course. One of the things that you have got to appreciate is the fact that often there are corollaries that occur, and with respect to what happens with climate change as well as what we consider at this moment as being the recession, or the economic and financial crises that are affecting the world economies and impacting on small island countries or Pacific Island countries, the thing that concerns us is the fact that as the economies contract in the developed countries their level of ODA is reduced. We have urged Japan, and we are very pleased indeed to hear the announcement that they have increased their level of support to the PIF through PALM to 50 billion yen, because it is extremely important at these times to ensure that we maintain and increase the level of support that are provided by countries to ensure that we can support ourselves, especially in the areas of education and health services, as well as building up the infrastructure that we need so that when the time comes for us to recover from the current recession we will be in a better position to take advantage of that recovery.
QUESTION: I would like to ask Premier Talagi a question. I understand that the PIF intends to enhance its collaboration with Japan for the success of COP 15 in December, but the Japanese government has yet to announce its reduction targets for greenhouse gases. What efforts do you urge Japan to make towards COP 15? One other question for Prime Minister Aso. Former President Roh Moo-hyun of the Republic of Korea passed away last night, and I wonder what you have to say about this.
PREMIER TALAGI: Let me say how very pleased we are with Japan's advocacy for the Pacific Islands in relation to climate change and the protection of the environment. Prime Minister Aso has indicated the fact that we are joined by the Pacific Ocean, and we are very keen to ensure that we protect the Pacific Ocean. We also add that, as I understand, Japan will be making announcements on the reduction targets that it is going to set before the COP15, so we shall await those announcements, but I have always been confident that Japan is a leader in these announcements and in the greenhouse gas emission reductions that we need to do. It is extremely important that in fact we do that at this particular point in time, because as has been pointed out at the meeting, the countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati at the present moment are sinking, or the sea levels are rising, and therefore it is imperative that we take action now, because the cycles that occur with respect to the impacts of climate change will take a while to go through before we go back to where we were, hopefully, at the beginning. So I hope that the developed countries will take very seriously the fact that climate change is something that is occurring now; that we need to act now so that in the future, in the continuing cycle we will slow it down and ensure that in fact we can assist our earth to survive, because that is what it is at the present moment - it is survival not just of the small island countries but the survival of the very earth that we live in.
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Today when I discussed climate change issues with Pacific island leaders, I heard their concerns that their countries may disappear because of rising sea levels. CO2 emissions reduction targets should not really be a numbers game. To directly hear the concerns of leaders whose countries are directly threatened was very persuasive. Now, that said, Japan needs to contribute to building a [post-2012] global framework. This framework needs to be one that can be implemented and a fair one which includes all the major emitters such as the United States, China, and India. On our [mid-term] reduction target, we are soliciting broadly the views of the public through a public comment procedure. We also have to indicate the levels of cost involved in pursuing particular targets. After taking such steps, we will decide this target [by the end of June].
As for the passing of former President Roh Moo-hyun, I was deeply shocked when I was handed a note during one of the sessions today. I understand there was an announcement by the police, but not so far an official announcement by the Korean government, but I had met Mr. Roh several times while I was Foreign Minister, and I would like to sincerely pray for the peace of his soul.
QUESTION: Good afternoon Prime Minister Aso. On behalf of my fellow Pacific Island journalists, we would like to know, since Japan is increasing its aid by more than 10% over the [coming] three year period, and the declaration puts a lot of emphasis on the sustainability of the work that is being funded, we would like to know what is Japan's assessment of the last three years of funding, and how will you monitor the accountability of the new package?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: The 45 billion yen target that Japan set at the last PALM meeting three years ago has been achieved in the scheduled three year period and the assistance has been used effectively. For example this has been used to develop inter-island transport networks and to dispatch Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to schools and hospitals; that is, used in a way that truly meets the needs of the Pacific Island countries, and would lead to future prosperity of these countries. The Pacific island leaders have kindly expressed their high appreciation and gratitude for such support during this summit. And in response to such appreciation Japan shall continue to endeavor to extend cooperation which is effective.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. With that we would like to close the joint press conference.