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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Following the Sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 6)

September 11, 2006


I. Opening Statement

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: This time, I have come here for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). This was my last attendance as Prime Minister at this meeting. I was able to visit Finland and meet with Prime Minister Vanhanen. I would like to thank the people and the Government of Finland for their very warm welcome.

At the meeting, we discussed various challenges that Asia and Europe are faced with, especially counterterrorism, prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), issues of infectious diseases and, furthermore, North Korea-related issues, the Middle East issues and, also, issues related to the environment and economic development-how to achieve both at the same time, and numerous other issues, we were able to exchange our views on these matters in a very candid manner. At the conference this time, I would like to express my respect for Prime Minister Vanhanen's outstanding chairmanship, which brought the conference to a successful conclusion. Also in the margin of the conference, I had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Finland, President of the Philippines, Prime Minister of Vietnam, and the Prime Minister of Spain. I got a renewed sense that in the days ahead, Asia and Europe, which have been facing common challenges, need to further expand their cooperative relations and should together make an effort toward the greater stability of the international community.

This is my last overseas visit as Prime Minister. I am a great fan of Sibelius's music and perhaps because Prime Minister Vanhanen knew about this, he accompanied me to Sibelius's house where he composed his music and even arranged a performance of Sibelius's pieces. I was quite impressed with the forest in front of his house and the lake. This was the background to the sound of Sibelius's music. So I would say this was one of the great joys that I gained out of my visit this time. Once again, I should like to express my deep gratitude for the very warm welcome extended to me by the people of Finland.

II. Question on the North Korean Issues

QUESTION: I would like to congratulate you on your effort over the five days. At the ASEM Summit, you expressed your belief that the international community should unite toward the resolution of North Korean issues. On the other hand, you did not meet with the leaders of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China, which play a very important role in this issue. Do you think you were able to do your best for the resolution of these issues?

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: I believe I was able to do my best. We have good relations with China and the ROK. On North Korean issues, we have always cooperated with each other and we will continue to cooperate with each other. It is not I who have been saying that we shall not have summit meetings just because of a difference of views over one issue-it is the leaders of China and the ROK. Now, between any countries, I am sure there are bound to be difference of views on a single issue or two, still it is possible to grow friendly relations between the two countries. I am an advocate of friendly ties between Japan and China and Japan and the ROK. In fact, since I took office, relations between Japan and China and Japan and the ROK in economy, culture, sports, or whatever have expanded more than ever before. Interdependence has grown much greater than before. China and the ROK have been saying there will not be summit meetings only because of this difference of view, while there are exchanges going on at the ministerial level or between the business communities of our countries and among the peoples. Who is wrong? I advocate friendly ties, and I am encouraging ministers, ministries, and the business community to engage in exchanges with China and the ROK. That has been taking place. We have cooperated with the two countries, and we will continue to cooperate with the two countries, on North Korean issues as well. In fact, because we have cooperated with each other on North Korean issues, the North Korea-related Security Council resolution was adopted unanimously.

III. Question on Japan-US Relations

QUESTION: I would like to hear about your view regarding the development of economic and political relations between Japan and the United States (US).

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: With regard to the relations between Japan and the US, Japan and the US are allies and to date we have maintained good relations with each other. The Japan-US alliance and international cooperation will remain Japan's basic policy. I believe exercising this policy is necessary for the prosperity of Japan as a nation of peace. We have maintained this policy line over the past 60 years since the end of the Second World War and that policy line will remain unchanged.

On the economic front, we have had one or two hitches, we have had difference of views, we may have had heated debates, but both have agreed to nurture our relations with emphasis on democracy and market economy. So even if there are differences at times between the two countries, the basic philosophy that we shall nurture good relations with each other will remain unchanged. So in various areas, Japan and the US will be able to and will need to cooperate with each other. I believe to do so is necessary for us to maintain good relations with various other countries around the world. I believe we should maintain this in the days ahead as well.

IV. Question on the Reform of Prime Minister Koizumi and the Next Japanese Government

QUESTION: I would like to ask you a question about the Japanese political scene. You have announced that you support Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe in the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). With respect to personnel and policy-related matters, how do you want the next prime minister to succeed your policies? Also, for the last five years you have worked on reform and, as a result, there are some people who say the disparity has widened. There are some people who say that this has to be corrected in the next administration, along with your work over the last five years. What is your view on this?

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: First of all, on disparity, amongst the countries around the world, I believe the Japanese society is the one with the least disparity. Japan needs to give a second chance to as many people as possible, even if they fail once. Over the past five years, we have maintained economic reform and at last we are now seeing robust recovery. I believe that people who make efforts need to be rewarded. But there may also be people who even after making efforts will not be able to stand on their feet. We need to have a social security network to support them. This is a very important domestic policy issue. We hope that people who are willing to take up challenges of the new era will work to create a new society, and we need a society that will help people who cannot stand on their feet as well. We, as the state, need to put the right framework for that. That is the sort of society that I believe we need to build. If during my term of office over the past five years we had not acted on reform, we would not have been able to recover the Japanese economy. Now at long last we see a growing willingness amongst the Japanese people. We need to enable these people who are willing to really be active in the economy. We need people who are successful to be rewarded. And instead of envying people who are successful, we need to have a society in which these people who are willing will be successful. We need a society in which these people will be able to help those who are not able to stand on their own feet or people who are not blessed with opportunities. We need to have a society that gives those opportunities or chances, a society in which people help each other. I think this will remain important in the days ahead.

Also on personnel, I have no requests to put to the new LDP President and the new Prime Minister. The new Prime Minister, I believe, will listen to the views of various people and at the end of the day will need to make a decision on his own.

V. Question on Japan-China and Japan-ROK Relations

QUESTION: As my Japanese colleague noted earlier, Japan did not have a bilateral with China or the ROK at this summit. I am wondering if you can tell me how this affects Japan and China's and the ROK's ability to deal with some very important issues in the region, namely North Korea. What can Japan do to make the relations even better in the future? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: At one time summit meetings may not take place between myself and the leaders of China and the ROK, but still Japan, China, and the ROK fully understand the importance of friendly ties. I am not worried. In fact, it just so happens that because of a difference of views on one single issue, the Chinese and ROK leaders are saying that they will not have a summit meeting with me. But in the future, I am sure they will regret in the days ahead that they chose the wrong way. Japan wishes to continue to grow friendly ties with China and the ROK. We have done so to date and, in fact, in various areas we have cooperation proceeding. For the future we believe we shall continue to attach importance to each other and grow our friendly ties. We should not lose sight of the importance of that basic position. We shall strive to develop our own country by deepening our ties of mutual respect and interdependence. And it is important that we further strengthen our ties with each other in the future. It just so happens that temporarily summit meetings are not taking place because of difference of views over a single issue. That certainly is not normal but I am not all that much worried about that.

VI. Question on the End of Prime Minister Koizumi's Term of Office

QUESTION: In 1796, 210 years ago, the very popular first President of the United States George Washington refused to stand for a third four-year term because he did not want to act like a king, a tradition reinforced in 1951 by Amendment 22 to the US Constitution. Washington also may well have appreciated that political office enhanced his inner moral and intellectual authority rather than substituted it. May I congratulate you Mr. Koizumi, despite your own considerable popularity and achievement, on raising the moral tone of international statesmanship by emulating Washington's political self-discipline, and wish you every success in whatever you decide to do, whether writing haiku, or performing Sibelius, or even emulating Jimmy Carter after he left office in 1981 in carrying out other great work on behalf of humanity.


QUESTION: Congratulations.

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: Thank you very much, that is very kind of you. Thank you, thank you.