(Provisional Translation)

Press Conference Statement by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on the Occasion of His Visit to Okinawa

14 May 2000

At the outset, allow me to express my heartfelt condolences at the passing of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, for which I have released a statement just now. Speaking with Governor of Okinawa Keiichi Inamine a short time ago made me realize how former Prime Minister Obuchi had poured his heart and soul into the Okinawa Summit.

I have in fact been in contact with Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki every day, and have been hearing about the various circumstances and news of Mr. Obuchifs condition from Mr. Obuchifs family members and the hospital staff through Mr. Aoki.

The evening before last I was very worried and wondered at the time if I would be able to come to Okinawa. Then, hearing that just before dawn yesterday may have been a critical point in Mr. Obuchifs condition, I was very worried, but with no change of any sort since then, I was told I could come here today as scheduled. Yesterday evening, once again, Secretary-General Hiromu Nonaka of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) came up to Tokyo from Kyoto and told me that he wanted me to go to Okinawa as planned. I telephoned Chief Cabinet Secretary Aoki again this morning, and he told me that whatever the present situation may be, because Okinawa was always first and foremost in Mr. Obuchifs mind, as his successor, I should see for myself the state of preparation for the Okinawa Summit alongside Mr. Obuchi. That is why I came here as scheduled this morning.

As I said a moment ago to Governor Inamine, it was just when the celebration party of the Bankoku Shinryokan came to an end that Mr. Obuchi passed away. Indeed, Mr. Obuchi had left all his feelings here with the Okinawa Summit. Being able to see everything here for myself as planned, and Mr. Obuchi having moved on to his final resting place just when I completed my schedule here, I truly felt some kind of fate. My mind is full of so many emotions.

Since taking over the Government I have been resolved to pour my heart and soul into the success of the Summit with former Prime Minister Obuchifs aspirations firmly in mind. I shall spare no effort in continuing to work toward the Summitfs successful conclusion.

Let me first say a few words about my impressions of this visit to Okinawa. This visit is taking place directly after my visit to the G8 countries during the gGolden Weekh holidays, and also while the Diet is in session. That is why I have only been able to fit a day return visit into my schedule. Still, in the end, having a reduced schedule was probably the best option considering the situation. I made the decision to come to Okinawa in order to visit the facilities for the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit-whose location Mr. Obuchi decided upon after a long, soul-searching process-and meet with as many of those involved here as I could.

In regard to this visit, allow me to first express my heartfelt appreciation to the kind consideration extended to me by Governor of Okinawa Keiichi Inamine, Mayor of Nago City Tateo Kishimoto and everyone else involved in the preparations for the Summit.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I attended the Inauguration Ceremony for the Bankoku Shinryokan and visited the Peace Memorial Park, the G8 Presidency Press Conference Hall and other areas. I also had the opportunity to meet with elementary and junior high school students taking part in the Elementary and Junior High School Summit in Okinawa and have a glimpse of what was happening there. I think that it is indeed promising that even the children here have such immense interest toward the Summit.

Myself carrying on the intentions of former Prime Minister Obuchi, I am determined to exert every effort toward the success of the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit-the first time a G8 Summit has been held outside Tokyo. I also firmly hope that the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit will communicate to the world the rich culture, history and other aspects of Okinawa, thereby serving to stimulate further development in Okinawa in the 21st century.

The people of Okinawa Prefecture have so far cooperated in various ways toward the success of the Summit. Allow me to reiterate my appreciation for your efforts, and I would like to ask for your further cooperation in the lead-up to the Summit.

I wish a positive and powerful message to be issued from the Okinawa Summit, so that all people the world over can be filled with hope that the world will be a much brighter place in the 21st century.

Okinawa is currently embracing an important period for building its foundations for the 21st century. Instilling in my heart all the passion channeled into Okinawa by former Prime Ministers Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi, I am determined to boldly address the issues of the bases and the regional promotion of Okinawa.

I will also take a proactive approach toward regional promotion measures with the early drafting of the final report on the Creation of a New Okinawa Forming a 21st Century Frontier Industry and deliberation on a Post-Third Promotion Plan.

I would now like to speak about the Government of Japanfs efforts to address the issues surrounding gAmerAsians,h an issue that was taken on by former Prime Minister Obuchi.

Firstly, we shall continue to work to improve the situation of their reception in public schools, and to give consideration to measures to improve the environment for the AmerAsian School in Okinawa focusing on the possibility of forming an Okinawa Policy Review Council project.

Second, I will address the enhancement of consultation services by establishing a service for the U.S. military stationed in Okinawa and a service to be operated in central Okinawa by the Okinawa Womenfs Comprehensive Center.

Based on the above principles, I shall exert great effort toward creating measures in coordination with Okinawa Prefecture and the relevant local governments.

We are now just 68 days away from the Summit itself. I have seen for myself that preparations toward the Summit are proceeding smoothly, and have felt the enormous desire on the part of each and every Okinawan citizen toward ensuring the success of the Summit. Although I have had very little time here today, I have tried to come into contact with as many people as possible, whether it be from my car, meeting with people at the venues I have visited or during my time in the Peace Memorial Park. I have been deeply moved, feeling the great swell of interest and cooperation from everybody here.

I would like to end by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the citizens of Okinawa Prefecture, and by once again asking for your continued cooperation toward the Summit.