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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan Following the ASEAN Summit in Vietnam

30 October 2010
[Provisional Translation]

MODERATOR:We shall now begin the press conference given by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. First, opening remarks will be given by the Prime Minister, followed by questions and answers. Prime Minister, please.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN:Ladies and gentleman of the press, and I am sure there are also people who are viewing this on television, I am here in Vietnam in order to attend the ASEAN-related meetings, among other purposes. ASEAN comprises 10 countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, with a population of approximately 600 million, and over the past ten years the ASEAN GDP has almost tripled, marking a very rapid growth. It is indeed the growth center of Asia. Until today Japan has provided to ASEAN countries assistance to help the economic growth through ODA and others, and I have received many words of gratitude. I have adopted New Growth Strategy which also aims at taking in ASEAN's growth into Japan, and my attendance this time at the meetings turned out to be very useful and productive for that purpose. In addition to the ASEAN 10, China, Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia and also the United States and Russia participated in some of these meetings, and we also had the East Asia Summit in which all of these countries participate. In addition to these we had the trilateral Japan-China-ROK Summit Meeting as well.

A Japan-China bilateral summit unfortunately did not materialize this time, but I did have a chat with Premier Wen Jiabao of China ahead of the East Asia Summit for about 10 minutes. In Brussels I had a conversation with him to revive private sector people-to-people exchanges. In the meantime, the visit by 700 or so Japanese youth to the Shanghai Expo and the visit of a mission to China led by Mr. Satsuki Eda, member of the House of Councillors, were realized, and we confirmed that we have lived up to our commitments in Brussels. We shall continue to promote our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, and there is no change in that policy, and we also agreed mutually in this chat that we should like to find an opportunity in near future for a more extended exchange of views, and participated in the subsequent meetings. Individually there are also other interesting meetings and conferences, but let me conclude my opening remarks at this and entertain questions from you.

MODERATOR:We would now like to entertain questions from the floor. Those who are indicated please move to the nearest microphone and state your name and affiliation before asking your question. First a question by a member of the Japanese press.

QUESTION (Yamaguchi, NHK):Prime Minister, I would like to ask you a question concerning the Japan-China relationship. Yesterday the bilateral summit was cancelled all of a sudden, but then you have had a brief talk today. In the eyes of the Japanese people and the international community it is rather difficult to understand. How are you going to face China now going forward? Can you explain your views?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN:Japan and China are neighbors facing each other across a strip of water, and we have a history of exchanges for several millennia. Since taking office as Prime Minister I have had meetings with President Hu Jintao as well as with Premier Wen Jiabao, so we have had these meetings. Indeed we have seen various incidents, but we have this fundamental relationship called a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, in which each of us will make efforts to make our bilateral relationship beneficial for both of us, so there is no change in that basic policy. If we shall stick to this fundamental policy as we manage our relations with China, given the fact that our bilateral relationship is not just in the interest of the stability of our two countries but also very beneficial for the stability of Asia and the entire world, I believe that by doing this we shall be able to continue to engage in cooperative relations with each other that will be in the interests of peace for the region and the world.

MODERATOR:Next we invite a question from the non-Japanese press. If necessary please wear the receivers to get the interpretation between Japanese and English.

QUESTION (Nguyen, Tien Phong, Vietnam): I have a question about the bilateral relations between Japan and Vietnam. Why is Japan so interested in major infrastructure projects in Vietnam, namely the nuclear power plant, North-South high speed railway, and Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park, etc.? What can Japan do to help Vietnam become an industrialized country by 2020, as its target has been set by the Vietnamese Government? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: First of all, at this stage today we have completed several meetings centering on ASEAN, and starting this afternoon through tomorrow I shall be paying an official visit to Vietnam. This is the first time in four years that a Japanese Prime Minister pays an official visit to Vietnam. You asked a question with regard to infrastructure development, and cooperation between Japan and Vietnam in this area is what I would like to report back to you officially as to what results we have achieved after having my official bilateral meetings with my Vietnamese counterpart. However, having said that, since you have asked me a question, let me say that as I stated in connection with ASEAN in general, Vietnam also is a country that has been growing very conspicuously in ASEAN, and in that respect Vietnam does need electrical power and railway connections, and Japan also needs various resources, and therefore Japan providing cooperation to Vietnam will be positive for Vietnam but also for Japan that will contribute to the growth of the Japanese economy. So we have this complimentary relationship, and we would like to grow this mutually beneficial relationship, so that is one of the objectives of my visit to Vietnam.

MODERATOR:Next, again, a question from the Japanese press. Yes, please.

QUESTION (Goto, Jiji Press): I would like to ask you a question regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Prime Minister, in your policy statement you expressed that you started exploring the possible participation in the TPP, and since then within the government and the ruling parties, the views have been divided. It seems that Prime Minister, your posture has not been clear cut, so prior to the APEC Summit would you be putting forth a clear cut direction and policy of Japan by then, or do you not consider APEC to be the timeline for announcing a clear position? Today you met with the leaders of Singapore and New Zealand, which are already member countries of the TPP, and I am sure that the TPP was taken up during your discussion. Based on that, how will you deal with the TPP from now on?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN:Including this Trans-Pacific Partnership, on economic liberalization, the important question is how to revive Japanese agriculture, and without addressing that we will not be able to go forward with the discussions regarding economic liberalization. The average age of farmers in Japan is above 65, and if we do nothing, even without the question of liberalized trade, it is obvious that Japanese agriculture will not remain viable. So we need younger people who are willing to engage in agriculture, starting to actually participate in it, and produce high quality and safe agricultural produce or foodstuffs. We need to create that sort of Japan. The question of trade liberalization must go hand-in-hand. You asked a question related to TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Singapore and New Zealand are participating in the meetings this time, and the four countries including Singapore and New Zealand were the trail blazers of this negotiation after which the United States and some others decided to participate.

In my policy speech, I stated that we will address actively this trade liberalization issue including FTAs and EPAs. It is rather recent that the TPP has started to attract attention as a trade framework, and we have decided to study whether it is possible for Japan to participate in it, and what sort of issues might arise if we participate in it, and what sort of implications it will have on Japanese agriculture, so we decided to study all these aspects, and within the Democratic Party of Japan as well as within the Japanese Government very active discussions are going on.

This time, in my interlocution with the representatives of New Zealand and Singapore, I am given to understand that these countries with relatively small domestic markets, if they are to engage in trade negotiations with larger countries, it will be difficult for them to have sufficient bargaining power, and therefore they decided that countries with smaller markets should come together and show a clear direction of high standard and then gradually take on other countries who agree with that basic direction. I was told that they adopted that sort of highly strategic idea. Many countries have shown interest in that, and are therefore gradually joining the talks. They explained that situation to me. So I may be repeating myself, but for Japan, resuscitation of Japanese agriculture and opening Japan further to the international community and to take advantage of the growth center of ASEAN and Asia, we need to find ways to make both work, and if we cannot do that then Japanese agriculture will not revive, and at worst we will be left behind in terms of trade liberalization, so we need to engage in our best efforts to make both work side by side. I believe that is my administration's major responsibility.

MODERATOR: The scheduled time is drawing near, so this is going to be the last question. A question from a member of the non-Japanese press, please.

QUESTION (Greg Torode, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong): Thank you Prime Minister. I would like to ask you about relations with China. Specifically, are you worried that recent Chinese assertiveness towards Japan perhaps reflects Chinese domestic political considerations or internal considerations in China, and if so, are you worried that in the longer term the Sino-Japanese relationship will continue to be affected by Chinese domestic issues. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: With regard to China's stance right now, I am aware that there are various different views. There are experts and journalists that comment on this, and I will leave it up to them to have debate over this issue. But in terms of Japan-China relations, as I stated earlier, Japan and China have come through various eras and a long history of mutual exchanges, and this sort of trouble that we are seeing now, compared to various incidents that we have had in the long history of our bilateral relations would not really be regarded as any decisive trouble. I think it behooves both countries to remain calm and try and come up with a solution that will be positive for both countries, and also positive in terms of peace and stability for Asia, the Pacific and the entire world, and so in that direction we need to strive to further deepen the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, and if with that stance both countries make endeavors calmly then I am sure economically as well as culturally and in other areas I believe it will be quite possible for Japan and China to further grow their relationship.

MODERATOR:Thank you very much. This concludes the press conference given by Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan. Thank you very much for your cooperation. Thank you very much members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.