Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting
November 20, 2006
I. Opening Statement
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Ladies and gentleman of the press, though brief, I am extremely happy to have stayed in Hanoi, the city of greenery and lakes and long history, to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) and for an official visit to Viet Nam. At the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting this time, we discussed economic partnership in the region very broadly and confirmed that we shall work on counterterrorism, infectious disease response, etc., for the security and prosperity of the region. We also sent out a strong political message demonstrating our firm determination to achieve early resumption and conclusion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round. I explained to other leaders Japan's policy to realize a Japan that is open to the world, a Japan that enjoys robust growth on the two pillars of innovation and openness.
Asia-Pacific is the region that is undergoing the most dynamic change in the world. Under rapid economic development, many countries have been democratized one after another. Countries that held different values and social systems during the Cold War have become friends in our common Asia Pacific, and are now advancing boldly with reform and development. Viet Nam is among them. APEC is the largest framework in this region that underpins its historic transformation. As the second largest economic power in the world, and as the country with the longest tradition of democratic governance in Asia, Japan shall continue to strive to exercise leadership for the development of APEC.
During my stay in Hanoi, I met with President George W. Bush of the United States for the first time as leader of Japan. I also had meaningful Summit Meetings with the leaders of Chile, Singapore, China, Australia, the ROK, and Russia. At the trilateral summit meeting of Japan, the ROK, and the United States, the bilateral summit meetings with leaders of the Six-Party Talks participants (US, the ROK, China, and Russia), as well as the APEC plenary meetings, we confirmed that we shall strive for peaceful resolution of North Korea's nuclear issue while maintaining coordination amongst us. I also appealed to them the importance of resolving the abduction issue as quickly as possible. President Bush and the leaders of other countries also expressed their support for this appeal of mine. It is also significant that yesterday the President of the AELM issued a verbal statement expressing strong concerns about North Korean missile launches and nuclear test, and underscoring the need to implement in full United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 and other relevant measures.
North Korea should listen sincerely to these voices of the international community and respond genuinely to these concerns. As part of my official visit to Viet Nam, I had a useful meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. As a new endeavor, I have been accompanied on this trip by a large business mission comprising more than 130 members under the leadership of Mr. Mitarai, President of Keidanren, or Japan Business Federation. We have had a very constructive exchange of views on further development of economic ties between Japan and Viet Nam with the participation of the representatives of the business community. Thanks to this business mission headed by Mr. Mitarai, I believe that concrete results shall be generated.
Last but not least, I should like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the very warm welcome and hospitality by the Government and the people of Viet Nam.
II. Question on Resumption of the Six-Party Talks
QUESTION 1: At the Six-Party Talks to be resumed, maybe you will ask for North Korea to take specific actions for the elimination of nuclear programs and weapons. What kinds of specific actions?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I certainly welcome that the Six-Party Talks will be resumed, but the holding of the Six-Party Talks itself is not the objective. At the resumed Six-Party Talks, we need to produce concrete results towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by implementing the Joint Statement. While maintaining close coordination with the US and other countries concerned, Japan shall try to seek early and concrete results by maintaining the consistent position that North Korea needs to demonstrate concrete action towards abandonment of nuclear weapons and programs. As to what sort of concrete results we shall seek, that I believe was the purport of the question. On the occasion of the APEC meetings this time, we have had meetings at the Foreign Ministers' level. I myself also held bilateral meetings with the leaders of the US, ROK, and China as well, and engaged in in-depth discussions and exchange of views with them. I shall refrain from discussing the details of these discussions, but amongst the three countries of Japan, the United States, and ROK, I believe we have managed to coordinate our views to a significant extent.
III. Question on Japan-Viet Nam Economic Relations
QUESTION 2: I have a question to the Prime Minister on the Japanese delegation to Viet Nam. You have the biggest business mission. Could you tell us about the prospects of Japan's investment to Viet Nam after this visit, as well as the official development assistance (ODA) commitment from Japan to Viet Nam, and whether we could conclude the free trade agreement (FTA) between Viet Nam and Japan in 2007 after we discuss the economic partnership agreement (EPA)?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have been accompanied by a large-scale business mission with 130 or more businessmen led by Mr. Mitarai, President of Keidanren, and we have been able to engage in discussions to strengthen economic ties between our two countries with the joint participation of the Government and the private sector. We would like to proceed with negotiations of the Japan-Viet Nam Economic Partnership Agreement with speediness, and would like to jointly implement the Japan-Viet Nam Joint Initiative and contribute to the betterment of the investment climate in Viet Nam so that we shall be able to promote further the trade and investment relations between our two countries. I very much hope that our trip this time will generate a new wave that will take us to higher levels of trade and investment relations, public-private cooperation in IT/human resources development, energy, nuclear power, and infrastructure development. Also, by utilizing Japanese technology and know-how for the urban railway system for Ho Chi Minh City and others, we should like to continue to provide support to Viet Nam's economic development and poverty reduction. We shall also send a survey mission for the north-south high-speed railways, north-south expressways, and Hoa Lac High-Tech Park, and engage in further follow-up efforts. Before leaving on this trip, I invited to my office seven Vietnamese students who are studying in Japan to hear their dreams and impressions of Japan, and I was impressed. I hope that Japan and Viet Nam shall continue to grow closer ties and strengthen our economic partnership and economic relations, because I believe that that will be to the benefit of both our countries.
IV. Question on the North Korean Abduction Issue
QUESTION 3: I have a question about the abduction issue. During the last four days you met with various leaders, and you appealed to the leaders that the abduction issue resolution has the highest priority on your agenda. I am sure the leaders responded favorably, but maybe they may have responded differently. After discussing this matter with them, by appealing to the leaders about the abduction issue, do you think this will create favorable conductions for the resolution of the abductions? What kind of arrangements do you have for the resolution of the abduction issue?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: At the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting I explained that the abduction issue is a grave issue that bears on the lives of Japanese nationals and that UN Security Council Resolution 1718 underscores the need for North Korea to respond to these humanitarian concerns. Also, I stressed that the abduction issue needs to be resolved as quickly as possible though international cooperation and coordination. By saying these things, I asked for their renewed understanding and support. In my bilateral meetings with the leaders of these countries as well, I also stressed the importance of resolving this abduction issue. In response to these remarks that I made at the AELM, President Bush, during the AELM, spoke of his own experience, and of all his experiences so far, he said that he could never forget his meeting with Mrs. Sakie Yokota, the mother of an abduction victim. President Bush also said that his heart aches when he thinks about the abduction issue. Also, in the summarizing or wrap-up statement by the President of the AELM, there was a statement to the effect that all of us share concerns over the abduction issue. So, in the series of meetings this time, I believe that the understanding of the countries and economies concerned regarding the abduction issue has been deepened, and I believe that the support and understanding of Japan's position has been expanded.
V. Question on Japan's Position on Nuclear Weapons
QUESTION 4: The Japanese Government recently stated that it would not be a violation of the Constitution for Japan to have nuclear weapons. You have said that Japan will not exercise that option, and that position was welcomed by China in your Summit on Saturday. Could you explain a little bit more about your position on why Japan will not have nuclear weapons, and also why the issue is being raised by several senior members of your ruling party?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan is unique among all countries in the world in that it is the only country to have been attacked by nuclear weapons, and because of this tragic experience we believe we have the mission to take the lead in eliminating nuclear weapons from this world. Therefore we have been making such efforts at the United Nations, amongst others. As such, we have abandoned the option of possessing nuclear weapons, and in the Japan-China Summit Meeting here in Hanoi as well, I stated that Japan shall steadfastly maintain its Three Non-Nuclear Principles. At the same time, I referred to the importance of the nuclear weapons states to engage in efforts to proceed with nuclear disarmament. In my administration and in the official organs of the Liberal Democratic Party, there will be no discussions on the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons. Let me make that very clear.
VI. Question on China's Position on the North Korean Nuclear Issue
QUESTION 5: I have a question about linkages with APEC member economies this time around. Concerning the response to North Korea, there seems to be a little difference between Japan and China, and China may have exerted initiative in making it the oral statement, not the Joint Declaration. What would be your outlook on that relationship with China?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: APEC essentially is a forum to discuss economic matters, and therefore this item, the North Korean nuclear test, was probably not amenable for inclusion in the Joint Declaration. In the meeting yesterday however, many other leaders, and not just myself, spoke out regarding the various concerns related to North Korea, and it was because of these statements that President Triet expressed verbally strong concerns regarding missile launches and nuclear tests and also underscored the need for UN Security Council Resolution 1718 to be implemented in full. I believe this was a reflection of the very deep concern of the international community. As I said, AELM is a forum to discuss economic issues, but at that forum strong concerns regarding North Korea were expressed, and I think that is a reflection of the very deep concern that the international community has with regard to the North Korea issues. I believe that North Korea needs to listen sincerely to the voices of the international community, and would like to call on them to demonstrate through deed their response. Also, between Japan and China, through our Summit Meeting, we had a very candid exchange of views and we had in-depth discussions, although as I said earlier I cannot discuss them in detail. But I believe that we have managed to coordinate our views significantly. Having said all that, of course China wishes also to produce results regarding the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and I think we see eye to eye on that score.
VII. Question on the Aims of Japan's Diplomacy
QUESTION 6: After China, you chose Viet Nam for your second visit as Prime Minister, and you have always emphasized the importance of diplomacy that speaks out. Maybe you are going to aim at multi-layered diplomacy instead of US-centric diplomacy? What was the result of your visit this time, and what is your aim for your diplomacy?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have been saying that we shall be engaged in diplomacy that actively speaks out, but not aimlessly. Of course, we have to be persuasive in speaking out for Japan's national interest in a way that is easy for others to understand. But also, in the interest of the region's peace and prosperity, what should be done, and what does Japan want to do in the interest of the world's development, and what Japan intends to do in that respect? I would like to speak out clearly on these in my diplomacy, and to that end I have wanted to strengthen partnership with other countries.
Of course, the Japan-US relationship is an alliance between the two countries. It is the very foundation of Japan's foreign policy and security as well. This Japan-US alliance should become an alliance in the interest of Asia and the world, and to that end of course I believe it is important that Japan build a relationship of mutual trust with the various countries concerned. With that in mind, utilizing this opportunity of the APEC meetings, I had a Japan-US Summit Meeting, and also on the very first day I met with the President of Chile and the Prime Minister of Singapore as well. On the second day, I met with President Hu Jintao. During a brief period, I was able to have my second meeting with President Hu Jintao, and also I had a meeting with Prime Minister Howard of Australia. In terms of our relations with Australia, we have Japan-US-Australia trilateral security dialogue, and I believe we have been able to further deepen our strategic relations as a result of this meeting.
On top of that, I also had a Summit Meeting with President Roh Moo Hyun of the Republic of Korea (ROK) as well, and again that was the second meeting within a very short time period. We also had a trilateral meeting of Japanese, US, and ROK leaders in the run-up to the resumed Six-Party Talks. I believe this was very meaningful for the purpose of coordinating the views amongst our three countries. We also had a Summit Meeting with the President of Russia. Between Japan and Russia we have the Northern Territories issue, as well as the yet-to-be signed peace treaty, and I believe we have been able to establish a good relationship of trust between the leaders with the recognition that a peace treaty is necessary. I believe we agreed that we shall exercise leadership to this end.
Not just between Japan and the United States, but also by engaging in dynamic diplomacy, I believe that Japan shall be able to contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world.