Joint Japan-ROK Leaders' Press Conference
April 21, 2008
[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda]
Today, I welcomed President Lee Myung-Bak of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to Japan, and we got our summit shuttle diplomacy off to an excellent start. During our talks, we shared an understanding that the task before us is to build up Japan-ROK relations to a mature partnership, through which Japan-ROK relations -- our most important neighboring relations -- will become the closest ever, and through which both countries work together on various issues facing the international community.
We must further enhance our mutual understanding in order to build strong yet flexible Japan-ROK relations. During our talks, we agreed that it is important for us to expand exchanges between our peoples, particularly among the younger generation. As such, we agreed on matters such as the enhancement of the Working Holiday Program.
It is also important for us to make Japan-ROK economic relations even closer. President Lee and I shared the view that a Japan-ROK Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will play an important role to that end, and we decided to hold practical discussions on the EPA. Parallel to our talks today, we launched the Japan-ROK Business Summit Roundtable, a meeting which brings together the leaders of top Japanese and ROK corporations. Just now, President Lee and I received a report from the 1st Meeting of the Roundtable. I greatly look forward to the activities of this Roundtable.
President Lee and I thoroughly exchanged views on issues related to North Korea, which is the most prominent common issue for Japan and the ROK. On the nuclear issue, we confirmed the need for North Korea to make a complete and correct declaration without delay, and we shared the view that Japan and the ROK on a bilateral basis, and Japan, the ROK, and the United States on a trilateral basis, will coordinate more closely than ever before.
I once again explained Japan's position on Japan-North Korea relations: that we must comprehensively resolve the various outstanding issues, such as abduction, nuclear, and missile issues, and settle the unfortunate past, in order to normalize relations with North Korea. President Lee expressed his understanding and support for Japan's position in this regard.
In addition, President Lee and I agreed to strengthen cooperation between Japan and the@ROK on various issues confronting the international community, including environmental issues, beginning with the climate change issue, as well as energy development assistance.
I will visit the ROK sometime during the second half of this year. In addition to that, I intend to engage in frank talks with President Lee around the time of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit and at other venues, so that we can cooperate to open the way toward a new era for Japan and the ROK.
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and all of the people of Japan for the warm welcome extended to me and to my delegation.
Since I assumed the office of the President of the Republic of Korea, I have stated on various occasions that the ROK and Japan, while squarely facing their past, must move forward into the future with a common vision. I believe that our nations must further enhance our cooperation, not only for our own good but also for the sake of the peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia and the world.
During our talks today, Prime Minister Fukuda and I shared the conviction that our two nations must build relations as strong as a tree with deep roots that cannot be shaken, even by a storm.
With that aim in mind, we decided first of all to make active use of shuttle diplomacy at the leaders' level, so that we can meet and discuss outstanding matters that are of concern to us whenever necessary.
We also made a decision to proactively support the efforts made in our countries to enhance exchanges among politicians of our nations and to build their networks. We also agreed on specific measures to expand exchanges between the younger generations of our nations, who will serve as an important foundation for the future of our relations.
As one such measure, we agreed to expand the Working Holiday Program: approximately 7,200 young Koreans will enter Japan for short stays next year and we intend for those exchanges to grow steadily to result in 10,000 by 2012. Furthermore, we agreed to take measures to dispatch 300 graduate students so that they can learn about the parts and materials industries. We agreed on the implementation of various such projects for exchanges of university students.
On February 25 of this year when Prime Minister Fukuda visited the ROK to attend my inauguration ceremony, we discussed the idea of launching a business summit roundtable. Less than two months have passed since then, but representatives of the business communities of our two nations have met and formally decided to hold meetings of the roundtable. We, the leaders of the two nations, received a report on their discussions today in the form of the announcement.
I believe that this start is a very important one. The second Japan-ROK Business Summit Roundtable will be held this August in Seoul, during which even more concrete projects will, I believe, be discussed.
With the aim of expanding our economic cooperation in a well-balanced manner, we paid particular attention to ways of increasing exchanges in the parts and materials industries. We also discussed the promotion of substantial exchanges of people working for small and medium enterprises, in particular through policy dialogue between government agencies in charge of small and medium enterprise policies. We agreed to launch working-level consultations for the resumption of mutually-beneficial Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.
Prime Minister Fukuda and I were of the same opinion that we will make efforts to resolve any issues related to past history and as such we agreed that the governments of both countries will continue to support the smooth implementation of research activities in the second phase of the Japan-ROK Joint History Research.
Together with that, during today's talks I called upon the Japanese side to take a more forward-looking approach regarding the issue of granting local election voting rights to Korean nationals residing in Japan.
We both hold the view that North Korea's nuclear development poses a threat not only to the Korean Peninsula but also to all of Northeast Asia and to world peace, and we expressed the same view on our close cooperation to achieve a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue through the Six-Party Talks.
I explained to Prime Minister Fukuda our "Denuclearization, Open, and 3,000" policy, and he expressed his support for the ROK's North Korea policies. For my part, I agreed to support Japan's position of seeking resolution to nuclear, missile, abduction, and other outstanding issues, based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, and thereby advance negotiations for normalizing Japan-North Korea relations.
As Prime Minister Fukuda also indicated, the Prime Minster and I agreed on mutual cooperation on global issues, such as the environment, energy, and development assistance. I told Prime Minister Fukuda that I look forward to his distinguished leadership at an outreach meeting on climate change at the G8 Summit to be held this July, and I informed him that I intend to proactively cooperate on that occasion as well.
We agreed that, going forward, we would meet whenever necessary, unconstrained by meeting format, so that we can proactively cooperate on all matters and continue to consult each other.
That is all from my side. Thank you very much for your attention.
Question 1: I would like to address my questions to Prime Minister Fukuda. My first question is about the North Korean nuclear issue, which is a matter of common interest to Japan and the ROK. I believe that in order to seek a resolution to this issue, it is important to determine how to concretely rebuild cooperation with the ROK, and also rebuild the trilateral cooperative relations among Japan, the United States, and the ROK. I would like to ask your thoughts on that point.
My next question is on the abduction issue. We now have a new president of the ROK, President Lee Myung-Bak, who aims for mutualism with North Korea. I would like to ask what your expectations are for cooperative relations with the new president on the abduction issue.
I was very encouraged to see that this policy is based on the same fundamental policy that Japan has of resolving the various outstanding issues, including nuclear, abduction, and missile issues, and normalizing relations, in order to extend economic cooperation. I believe that we will be able to make Japan-ROK coordination even closer.
It is vital that North Korea realize that advancing denuclearization is in its own interests. Japan, together with the ROK, and also in close coordination with the United States, intends to call on the North Korean side to understand this point.
The abduction issue is a very important issue for both Japan and the ROK, from both a humanitarian perspective and a human rights issue perspective. In our talks today, President Lee stated that he intends to extend as much cooperation as he possibly can in order to resolve the abduction issue. I intend to advance cooperation between Japan and the ROK in this area as well.
However, there are concerns over the weakening of the effectiveness of future-oriented ROK-Japan relations in the event that Far East issues and past history issues reemerge. In particular, there always remains the possibility of a shift toward a hard-line policy, depending on Japan's intention and posture, or the domestic political situation in the ROK. Please explain how you intend to achieve creative and effective ROK-Japan relations.
I believe that when we think of ROK-Japan relations, we must always remember past history. However, I also believe that we must avoid being so attached to the past that it impairs our ability to forge ahead to the future. The issue of perception of history is a matter that must be taken up by Japan, and we must not allow that issue to hinder progress to the future. This is my firm belief, and I believe that the Japanese side also fully understands this point.
Of course, politicians make unnatural statements from time to time. However, I do not think there is a need for frequent responses to each and every individual action taken by politicians. In every country, politicians can express all individual opinions. We cannot respond to each and every one of the various opinions that are expressed. The ROK and Japan walking together toward the future in the 21st century will clearly contribute to the prosperity of both nations, as well as to the prosperity of Northeast Asia. The cooperation of our two nations is extremely important for maintaining the peace of Northeast Asia and we both acknowledge the value of that future, and therefore intend to advance toward it. As such, I firmly believe that we can advance toward the future without ever repeating the past, without ever repeating history, and without ever backtracking.
Furthermore, I understand that in the stalled Japan-ROK EPA negotiations, there are voices of opposition and voices expressing concern on the Korean side regarding the introduction into the Korean market of industrial products such as automobiles. How will you be able to overcome those negative views?
It is my belief that an FTA is a controversial topic of discussion between any two countries. In discussing FTA issues, we will coordinate those issues in which our interests differ and hold consultations on them, so that we can ultimately build a win-win relationship and reach an agreement. This is true for discussions with all countries.
To be honest, if we look at economic issues, the fact is that there are large disparities between the ROK and Japan. There is concern that if we were to leave those disparities unaddressed and advance our negotiations, it would result in a widening of those disparities. That is why in negotiating this issue, it is first of all essential, I believe, that mutual cooperation be assured on the various issues that were identified today as ones facing corporations from both countries and in the vulnerable sectors, in particular, so that we can build a win-win relationship that is beneficial to both countries. I believe that this issue can be a subject on the agenda for working-level consultations.
The next question is on the issue of transfer of technology in the parts and materials industries. The trade imbalance between the ROK and Japan is seriously expanding. In the ROK, there is great dissatisfaction over the fact that Japan is postponing the transfer of technology. I would like to ask you what Japan's position on this matter is.
As I agreed today with President Lee, Japan intends to coordinate closely with the United States and the ROK on our North Korea policies with a view to achieving progress in Japan-North Korea relations, including the abduction issue, as well as achieving progress in South-North relations together with advancing denuclearization. That is my view on this matter. I hope you will understand my explanation in that way.
Regarding the economic sector, I understand that the Korean side has a keen interest in Japan expanding its investment and extending its industrial cooperation. As Japan-ROK EPA negotiations advance, an environment will be fostered in which we can promote cooperation between businesses in Japan and the ROK.
President Lee and I agreed to hold working-level consultations to consider resuming EPA negotiations. Going forward, the task for both Japan and the ROK will be to vigorously engage in these consultations. It is my expectation that various Japan-ROK economic issues that were pointed out today will eventually be resolved as EPA negotiations advance.