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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during His Visit to the Middle East

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hilton Doha Hotel, Doha, Qatar
[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: This was "a historic visit aimed at building new relations between Japan and the Gulf states."

This was how Prime Minister Khalifa of Bahrain, which holds the presidency of the Supreme Council of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, graciously valued my visit, which was the first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister to Bahrain. My visit has come after Crown Prince Salman's visit to Japan this past March. It was decided through my visit that restrictions on imports of Japanese food would be lifted. Since Bahrain's very first shipment of oil, which was sent to Japan in 1934, our 80 years of friendship are now coming to bear even greater fruit.

"The people of Kuwait will never forget the assistance we received from Japan during the Gulf War. This was to reciprocate that assistance."

In Kuwait, which provided us with crude oil valued at 40 billion yen free of charge after the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, this is how Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber responded when I expressed my gratitude to them. It was a visit in which I was able to feel very tangibly the strong bonds of friendship between Japan and Kuwait, which extend beyond our relationship dependent on energy.

Then, I came here to Qatar. For Japan, Qatar is a major supplier of crude oil and natural gas, and Qatar was one of the foremost countries anywhere in the world that provided the greatest amount of reconstruction assistance to us after the earthquake. Here too, Emir Sheikh Tamim made some very warm remarks, saying, "Japan is a model from which we can learn peace and prosperity. Japanese companies are highly respected in Qatar." Sheikh Tamim said that when he visited Japan previously, he was impressed by Japan's magnificent social order and manners that he observed on the Shinkansen - the bullet train - and at an amusement park. He also has very keen interest in Japanese-style education. Taking the opportunity of this visit, the Emir and I agreed that we would cooperate going forward across a wide range of fields, including education, medical services, and agriculture.

Japan is highly dependent on the Middle East for its energy resources of crude oil and natural gas. Without the Middle East, maintaining the daily lives of the Japanese people would be out of the question. Therefore, we will not limit our relations to only the sphere of energy; instead, we must make contributions so that the countries of the Middle East develop. We will do so by concentrating the power of the public and private sectors across a broad spectrum of fields, including education, infrastructure, medical services, and agriculture, making use of Japan's technologies and know-how. I expect the outcome of our economic mission not only to contribute to Japan's growth but also to lead to the building of increasingly multi-layered relations with the countries of the Middle East. Through this visit, we reached agreement that Japan and the Gulf nations would launch a strategic dialogue at an early time.

In addition, it goes without saying that the peace and stability of the Middle East region is a critical issue for the daily lives of the Japanese people. Japan must expand its security-related dialogue with the countries of this region as we uphold our responsibilities and play an active role in this region. We must be mindful of this point.

Not merely Japanese vessels but rather the entire world counts on the activities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces in the Gulf of Aden, through which approximately 20 percent of the world's shipping containers pass. In Djibouti, members of the Self-Defense Forces and the Coast Guard are engaged in counter-piracy activities. I take great pride in the manner in which they take on their duties with high morale, despite a harsh environment in which dust clouds blow and the temperature may rise as high as 50 degrees.

"Japan's Self-Defense Forces are making magnificent contributions to regional stability."

The Self-Defense Forces received high acclaim from President Guelleh of Djibouti as well as from Commander Miller of the Combined Maritime Forces, whom I met in Bahrain. I was once again able to feel the international community's great expectations towards Japan very tangibly.

Japan must make further contributions to the peace and stability of the region. This trip to the Middle East and Djibouti has also been a trip in which I renewed my determination in that regard.

Finally, I would like to make a brief statement on the current situation in Syria. The Japanese government considers it to be extremely likely that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The use of chemical weapons is not permissible under any circumstances. Responsibility for the deterioration of the situation in Syria clearly lies with the Assad government, which shows no regard for the worsening of the humanitarian situation. The Government of Japan will act in close cooperation with the international community to improve the situation in Syria.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (OSANAI, NHK): Mr. Prime Minister, during this round of visits, you took up the strengthening of cooperative relations with each country as well as the regional situation. In what way do you envision the building of comprehensive partnerships you are advancing and the outcome of your efforts to expand markets through engagement at the highest levels as leading to Japan's economic growth going forward?

Also, you touched upon the situation in Syria just now. How will the Japanese government respond as Western countries begin considering military action?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: In order to foster Japan's economic growth, it will be important for us to incorporate into Japan the dynamic vitality found overseas and link that to our economic growth.

I reached agreement with each country I visited on this trip that we will deepen our bilateral ties further and build a "comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity" that goes beyond only energy, extending instead across a wide range of fields, including politics, security, economics, agriculture, medical services, and education and human resource development, based on the three pillars of collaboration, coexistence and co-prosperity, and tolerance and harmony.

I have visited each of these countries accompanied by members of the private sector representing Japan, and we made efforts as high-ranking figures in the administration and in business to expand our markets overseas. I definitely felt an enthusiastic response, including a sense of expectation towards Japanese companies advancing further into these markets and the high degree of trust placed in Japan's technological capabilities. As many as 600 people attended the JETRO seminar, again indicating to me very avid interest. I believe that we did indeed succeed in leading to interactions with Japanese companies. I have great expectations for these encounters to bear fruit in the years to come.

As for your question concerning Syria, during this visit to the Gulf states, I conveyed my marked concern regarding the current situation in Syria. As I stated in my opening remarks, Japan believes that there is an extremely high likelihood that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The use of chemical weapons is not permissible under any circumstances. Responsibility for the deterioration of the situation in Syria clearly lies with the Assad government, which shows no regard for the worsening of the humanitarian situation. The Government of Japan will act in close cooperation with the international community to improve the situation in Syria.

As for assistance from the Japanese government addressing the situation in Syria, in addition to the 95 million U.S. dollars of humanitarian aid we have already provided until now, Japan has decided to extend 120 million U.S. dollars' worth of yen loans to Jordan. We also have a policy to implement assistance in the area of healthcare services and the like to the region within Syria controlled by the dissidents. As for forthcoming responses, we will work to improve this situation by acting in close cooperation with various countries and by gathering information.

REPORTER (LAKHEL, QATAR NEWS AGENCY): Relations between Qatar and Japan have reached an extremely high level of cooperation. In what ways do you anticipate bilateral cooperation advancing further as a result of this visit?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Qatar is Japan's second-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and our third-largest supplier of crude oil. Moreover, Japan was the very first country to import Qatar's LNG and it is the largest importer of Qatar's LNG worldwide. Both countries have built up a mutually beneficial relationship spanning more than 40 years, grounded in a firm partnership centered on the energy sector.

During this visit, Japan and Qatar agreed to build a "comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity." In particular, I witnessed the signing of three documents, regarding policy dialogues between our foreign ministries, cooperation regarding oil and natural gas development, and the acceptance of Qatari trainees in the field of LNG.

I believe that our successful agreement during this visit to launch negotiations on an investment treaty with Qatar will develop our future bilateral relations still further. I take pride in these as good examples of the seeds that I sowed during my 2007 visit to Qatar bearing fruit.

Through the public and private sectors working together, Japan intends to strengthen its cooperation with the Qatari side, aiming to deepen and expand our cooperation across a broad range of fields rather than only in terms of our nations' economies and the area of energy.

REPORTER (MINE, THE SANKEI SHIMBUN): Mr. Prime Minister, you reached an agreement during this trip with both Kuwait and Qatar regarding cooperation on nuclear safety. At the same time, contaminated water is leaking from storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and there are rising concerns both within Japan and internationally regarding the outflow of this water into the ocean. How do you intend to address this issue?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The accident at Fukushima will not be left up to TEPCO to handle. It is imperative that the national government stay highly vigilant and address the accident thoroughly, including measures to tackle the issue of contaminated water.

I have instructed the METI Minister and the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority to determine the cause and formulate countermeasures to address these issues. The METI Minister is starting in on new countermeasures. As for how to address the leakage from the storage tanks, I intend for the government to make concerted efforts and engage in all-out efforts to tackle this matter. The government will address this matter responsibly and provide information in a thoroughgoing manner both within Japan and internationally.

REPORTER (BAKR, REUTERS): I would like to inquire about the situation in Syria about which you expressed concern just now. Going beyond humanitarian assistance, what would Japan provide, for example with regard to the security aspect? Would assistance for arms be conceivable, for example? In addition, with regard to security, the Middle East is the region supplying the largest amount of oil and natural gas to Japan. Are you concerned about oil prices? To what extent are you alarmed at Western attacks on Syria? (sic)

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan has not conducted any exports of arms to the Gulf states. As you are aware, Japan has its "three principles on arms exports."

The stability of the Gulf region, on which Japan depends for the majority of its energy resources, is directly connected to the security of Japan and the stability of the international community. Japan will cooperate with relevant countries and continue to make active contributions to the stability of the Gulf region. For example, in order to counter terrorism, from 2001 to 2010, Japan conducted replenishment activities in the Indian Ocean for warships and other vessels of various countries that were engaged in missions related to counter-terrorism maritime interdiction activities. From 2004, in order to support the national reconstruction of Iraq, the Self-Defense Forces carried out humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities. Even now, in order to contribute to the peace and prosperity of international society as a whole, including the Middle East region, Japan has dispatched naval escorts and patrol aircraft of our Self-Defense Forces, and we are engaged in activities to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden. In the future, we intend to fulfill a still greater role in contributing to the stability of the region as a whole through cooperation that will include counter-terrorism and security enhancement and assistance to enhance regional stability and democratization.

Moreover, as for the state of affairs in Syria, as I stated a few moments ago, in any case, Japan also intends to go forward working together with the international community toward the cessation of violence and the holding of political dialogues, as well as toward those things that should be done immediately, including humanitarian support towards refugees and displaced persons.

REPORTER (YOSHINO, TV ASAHI): Mr. Prime Minister, when you departed from Tokyo, you stated that you would make an appeal in every location you visit for Tokyo to be selected as the host city for the Olympics. Here at the conclusion of your trip, what was the actual response to your efforts?

Also, [the announcement of the host city in] Buenos Aires is coming up soon. I would like you to share with us your enthusiasm towards the Buenos Aires event once more.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I feel confident that in every country I visited, I conveyed quite thoroughly Japan's intense feelings towards bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Tokyo.

I will go in person to Buenos Aires, where I intend to urge the members of the International Olympic Committee to choose Tokyo right up to the time the votes are cast. I would like to do everything possible right up to the very final moment through a nationwide effort in order to make bringing the Games to Tokyo a reality. I wish to share with a large number of children and Japanese once more the thrill that I experienced in 1964.

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