|Top > Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister|
Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
[Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Opening Statement]
On this trip, I visited the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and today, the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I am grateful to each country for their very warm hospitality.
In India, I met with President Avul Pakiri Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. India is a big country with a population of more than a billion. We would like to strengthen our relations in the future, and to this end, held consultations and discussed our expanding bilateral economic relations. In contrast to India's great possibilities, the relations between Japan and India are still inadequate. Therefore, we intend to make active efforts with the aim of enhancing our cooperative relations.
In particular, Japan and India share a common belief with regard to the need for United Nations (UN) reform. We, together with the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federative Republic of Brazil, belong to the so-called Group of Four (G4). We share the view that the G4 countries shall support each others' candidacies for permanent membership. That being the case, I believe our relations with India will become very important. We announced the Japan-India Joint Statement, which recognizes that Japan will cooperate with President Kalam.
In Pakistan, I met with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. In light of its neighboring situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan has maintained a very firm stance in the fight against terrorism. For this, I hold Pakistan with high regard. As part of our cooperation with Pakistan, we have decided to resume yen loans to Pakistan, and I believe this has led our bilateral relations to enter a new phase. The Japan-Pakistan Joint Declaration was announced, and this gives prospects for closer cooperation across the board, not just in economy. While India and Pakistan have different positions with regard to the question of permanent membership in the Security Council, I got a strong impression that they both have very warm feelings towards Japan. In this respect, I believe Japan must make further efforts in order to develop relations that are commensurate with the very favorable feelings the two countries have towards Japan.
I visited Luxembourg to attend the 14th EU-Japan Summit, and I met with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg who currently serves as the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. We exchanged our views very candidly on holding active dialogue in the future. This year is the EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges, and active exchanges are taking place in various regions. Through such exchanges, I would like to further our relations with the EU. With the Netherlands, Japan currently enjoys relatively good relations although there was an unfortunate period at one time in the past. At the Siebold House which symbolizes the history of the long-term exchanges between our two countries, I had a meeting with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands. At the meeting, I expressed my appreciation for the cooperation extended to the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Iraq by the Dutch Forces and exchanged views on bilateral relations and international challenges. I also paid a courtesy call on Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Although I spent only a short amount of time in all of these countries, the visit was very fruitful. I would truly like to thank all of the countries for extending such a warm welcome.
[ Q & A ]
Question1: The reform of the United Nations (UN) was one of the themes in your visit to the four countries, and I think each country had a different stance with regard to this issue. There is growing belief among UN member countries that further efforts are needed in order to reach a consensus among all countries. In order to reach a decision by September, are you willing to accept majority vote?
Prime Minister Koizumi: I believe that the momentum behind the need for UN reform has never been as high as it is right now. What is desirable of course is that the reform is based upon agreement or consensus amongst all countries. Yet when you hold talks with other countries, it becomes evident that countries have contrasting views and positions. I therefore think it would be difficult to reach a unanimous approval. Because unanimous approval is difficult, some argue that there is no need to stick to the September deadline in order to thoroughly discuss this issue. The matter has been thoroughly discussed thus far, and it is doubtful that the deadline can be extended due to the differences in opinions with respect to UN reform. As Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan has suggested, I think it is desirable that a decision is made by the meeting in September. To that end, we would like to cooperate with the various countries concerned.
Question2: Today, the Japanese Embassy in the Netherlands received Dutch victims of Japanese war crimes because you could not make the time to meet them personally. Should you not have made the time to visit and see them? Secondly, what is the meaning of apology if the Japanese Government does not compensate the victims financially?
Prime Minister Koizumi: Japan and the Netherlands have maintained very friendly relations over the course of the past 400 years. There was an unfortunate period 60 years ago, but the two countries overcame that and currently enjoy extremely good relations. As for the question that you asked about Japan's past regarding what sort of reparation or apology is needed, that is a matter which has already been resolved by the San Francisco Peace Treaty and other relevant bilateral agreements. This issue is one that involves the sentiment of the Dutch people and one that must be resolved through in-depth discussions and by considering the measures that are needed to enhance the friendly ties between the two countries in the future.
Question3: My question is about a domestic issue. Prime Minister, you have demonstrated tremendous confidence with regard to the passage of the bills related to the privatization of the postal services in the Diet. Please tell us what specifically underlies your confidence and about your assumptions about the situation. In addition, what sort of issues are you considering giving priority to after the bills are passed?
Prime Minister Koizumi: Although the postal privatization issue is a domestic issue, this topic arose during my discussions with Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende. Since privatization has already been achieved and realized in the Netherlands, I said that we would like to learn from the Dutch experience as we address this issue. You asked why I am confident about the passage of the bills. Before I was appointed Prime Minister, all political parties in Japan were against this idea of postal privatization. It is true that in the eyes of those in the political circles, the realization of postal privatization amounts to a miracle. However, the majority of the public agree that what the private sector can do should be left up to the private sector, so there is a general agreement. Why are the people then opposed to postal privatization? Why must the three postal services be run by 270,000 civil servants? This is a puzzle to me. After all, savings, insurance, mail delivery, package delivery, they are all services provided by the private sector. In that respect, can the 270,000 civil servants, who say that they prefer their current status as civil servants and do not wish to become workers in the private sector, attain public understanding? During elections, these civil servants support candidates in the ruling and opposition parties who oppose privatization. Many politicians in both parties argue that they are opposed to privatization after listening to the voices of their supporters. It is important to listen to what some of your supporters have to say, but as the Prime Minister of a country and head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), I believe that it is important for the good of all people to be promoted. Although there is still persistent opposition to privatization by both ruling and opposition parties, I believe through further discussions, the public at large will give their consent and approval to the privatization I am talking about upon my return to Japan and the start of the Diet session. I wonder if ruling party members, as responsible politicians, will be able to disregard the voice of the public and continue to oppose privatization. In the end, I hope that even the politicians who currently oppose postal privatization will, in response to the needs of the times, shift their positions and recognize the need to privatize. My stance is firm regarding the issue of postal privatization.
You asked which political issues I would pursue after postal privatization. First, I am aware that postal privatization will not be an easy task given the firm opposition to it. If privatization is achieved, however, I think Japanese politics will begin to see some changes. There is also a mountain of issues that need to be addressed. Amongst critics and people in Japanese political circles, some argue that there are many important issues besides postal privatization, or that there are foreign and domestic policy issues that are of greater importance than postal privatization and that other issues should be given priority. However, I think this view is wrong. Can the major foreign and domestic policy matters be resolved without postal privatization? No they cannot. People say that they do not want to privatize the postal services. I am embarking on postal privatization while addressing the important foreign and domestic policy issues. Aside from me, I do not think any Prime Minister would have spoken out for postal privatization. The bills related to the privatization of the postal services were submitted to the Diet. At the same time, other important foreign and domestic policy issues have been addressed. I proposed to privatize our postal services to opposition parties which to this day have not given their approvals to even the proposal. Upon the passage of the bills related to the privatization of the postal services, Japan must address foreign policy issues, the UN reform issue, and the North Korean issue, and appropriately fulfill its responsibility to the international community in the efforts toward the establishment of a stable and democratic regime in Iraq. Efforts toward this end are being made in Afghanistan where there has been a transition from an oppressive regime under the Taliban to the Karzai regime. There is also a plethora of domestic policy issues? the social security issue including the pension issue, the medical insurance issue, the nursing care insurance issue, among others. Whether it is the issue of government decentralization, which brings forth issues of the roles of the central and regional government, they are all issues for which there is strong opposition. Amidst both support and opposition, the Koizumi Cabinet has been making advancements in all matters. There is no time to rest after the passage of the bills. Until the end of my term in September next year, I intend to make utmost efforts in order to fulfill my role as Prime Minister.
Question4: I have a question about the European Union (EU) and East Asian security. You have discussed very frankly - among the issues you discussed with your European counterparts, I imagine that the arms embargo issue was one. My question is not related to the arms embargo but to the EU's larger and broader role in your region. The EU has ambitions there, but it is also quite a new player and perhaps inexperienced. What do you think should be or can be the EU countries' contribution to the stability and security in East Asia?
Prime Minister Koizumi: With regard to the relations between the EU and East Asia, there is currently a gathering called the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). That is a meeting between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Three (Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China) and the EU member countries. In this context, the EU has expressed strong interest in not simply the EU region but in entire East Asia and has been turning their eyes to this region. Given its large role with respect to the entire world, the fact that the EU is interested in East Asia or is taking a cooperative stance, I believe, would be advantageous for East Asia as a whole.
The relations between Japan and the EU are important. At the same time, I believe that it is very important to ask how Japan can cooperate with entire East Asia while capitalizing on its diversity. Forty years ago when I was a college student, the issue of the European Community (EC) which preceded the EU was a topic of discussion even among students. The debate forty years ago was centered on how this EC was desirable as part of a dream or an ideal. Back in those days, we never dreamt that it would become a reality in the form of the EU. It has been realized in actual terms. East Asia overall has greater diversity than the EU. There are also many differences in terms of political and economic systems. Looking ahead to the future, I believe that there is a need for a common understanding and cooperation by entire East Asia. Therefore, I believe that the cooperation between the EU and East Asia is very important for the international community. Furthermore, I think the cooperation will serve as a big stimulus and encouragement to both the EU and East Asian countries. With that in mind, I hope the EU will continue to engage actively with not only Japan but with entire East Asia. It is my belief that that in turn will lead to world stability, East Asian stability, and prosperity.