Joint Press Conference
Note: The opening statement and answers by President Lee as well as the questions from Korean journalists have been translated into English from the Japanese transcript. As such, they may vary slightly from the phrasing used in the original Korean.
1. Opening Statements
(1) Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan
I sincerely welcome the visit of President [of the Republic of Korea (ROK), Mr] Lee Myung-bak to Japan. Today we held the eighth summit meeting between ourselves, which means we have been meeting each other roughly once a month.
I just had very substantive discussions with the President. I truly felt that veritable "shuttle summit diplomacy", in which the leaders of the two countries visit each other regularly to exchange views, even on day trips, is taking root.
We devoted a substantial amount of time on the issue of North Korea, the biggest issue we currently face, and had very useful discussions. Nuclear and missile development by North Korea constitutes a grave threat to our security and cannot in any way be condoned. President Lee and I reaffirmed that we would continue to address this situation through close collaboration between Japan and the ROK as well as among Japan, the ROK and the United States.
It is essential that the international community should firmly implement United Nations Security Council resolution 1874. I agreed with the President to enhance collaboration in information exchanges and other areas for the purpose of implementing the resolution. Moreover, the President reiterated that cooperation to the fullest extent possible would be available from his country in order to resolve the abduction issue.
With regard to assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan, piracy off the coast of Somalia and other issues facing the international community, President Lee and I confirmed that Japan-ROK bilateral cooperation was taking concrete form and agreed to further to enhance cooperation between our countries.
As for the economy, President Lee and I valued the recent endeavours to reinforce our countries' relationship in this area, such as the "Japan-ROK Parts and Supplies Procurement & Supply Trade Fair" which President Lee visited. Against this backdrop, we agreed to hold working-level consultations on a Japan-ROK economic partnership agreement (EPA) on 1 July to accelerate consideration of the resumption of negotiations.
President Lee and I also agreed to enhance our countries' cooperation in the fields of environment, space and nuclear power.
I look forward to continue working with the President so as further to strengthen the "future-oriented and mature partnership" between our two countries.
(2) Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea
First, I should like to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Aso for welcoming me and my delegation so warmly today. Today I am on a one-day trip to Japan, and despite the short stay, I am pleased and grateful to Prime Minister Taro Aso to have had very useful discussions with him in both the t?te- ?-t?te and the larger meetings. I hope that the leaders of our two countries will be able to meet frequently in this way and enhance bilateral relations still further.
In the summit meeting with the Prime Minister, I exchanged views with him in great depth on issues of interest and concern for the two sides, such as the issue of North Korea, our countries' bilateral economic cooperation, and cooperation on the international stage.
In particular, Prime Minister Aso and I regard the faithful implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1874 as essential and we must make North Korea understand that nothing can be gained through nuclear weapons or missiles. While this Security Council resolution was adopted unanimously, the resolution itself is not the goal; the goal is to make North Korea abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In cooperation with the international community, we must make North Korea realise that there are more important things than nuclear weapons, and that abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons will also be of benefit to North Korean society. Japan and the ROK have agreed to continue to make clear their position that the possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea is totally unacceptable. We also agreed that it is necessary for the five parties to hold discussions within the framework of Six-Party Talks on how we can successfully make North Korea abandon its nuclear pursuits and that Japan and the ROK would work in cooperation and partnership in this regard.
I took part directly in the "ROK-Japan Parts and Supplies Procurement & Supply Trade Fair" held in Seoul in April. I was able to see the foundation of substantive cooperation between our countries, and many good results were achieved. We will continue to strengthen ROK-Japan industrial cooperation, among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, through such as occasions as the "Japan-ROK Small and Medium-sized Enterprises CEO Forum" to be held on 1 July. We pledged to engage in efforts that would strengthen substantive cooperation more than at any time in the past.
I have established a number of industrial parks in several locations in the ROK specialising in parts and materials manufacturing, and have made it possible for Japanese companies to invest in the park or parks of their choosing. I appreciate the active assistance we are now receiving from the Japanese government in this regard.
I consider it as extremely meaningful that a meeting between the business leaders of Japan and the ROK will take place after this press conference with both Prime Minister Aso and myself attending. I hope this would serve to underpin substantive bilateral cooperation.
Prime Minister Aso and I have decided to enhance our countries' cooperation in the fields of nuclear power, science and technology and space. We agreed that both governments would make efforts so that discussions on the Japan-ROK free trade agreement (FTA) move forward in a direction which benefits both sides.
Prime Minister Aso and I share the belief that exchanges among the younger generation would serve as a cornerstone of expanded friendly bilateral relations. We decided to maintain and expand youth exchanges, such as through the dispatch programmes of university students studying natural sciences or engineering, which was proposed by Prime Minister Aso in our previous meeting.
I expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for the cooperation from the Japanese government and Japanese companies for the success of "International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012".
In view of the historical circumstances of the community of ROK nationals with special permanent residency in Japan, I requested active cooperation towards the granting of suffrage at local government elections to the members of this community.
Prime Minister Aso and I also exchanged views on the third G20 Summit to be held in September, responses to climate change, joint assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and counter-terrorism measures.
Although time was brief today, I believe we discussed important topics, were able to share common views and achieved significant results from our "shuttle summit diplomacy". Finally I should like to express my sincere appreciation once more to Prime Minister Aso and to the Japanese people for their many efforts to prepare for our visit.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, President Lee also referred to this, but despite there being no foreseeable return of North Korea to the Six-Party Talks, there has been a proposal to hold consultations on response measures among the other five parties besides North Korea. Did you exchange views in the concrete today on the level at which such talks would be held, roughly when they would take place, or what topics would be under discussion? Also, the role of China is presumably important in boosting the effect of the United Nations [Security Council] resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. What sort of approach will Japan and the ROK take towards China regarding this matter?
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: The Six-Party Talks are the most realistic framework for resolving the various issues concerning North Korea, not just the nuclear issue. President Lee and I are in complete agreement on this point.
On that basis, today we exchanged views on how we could advance the Six-Party Talks. Until now, within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, we have had various formats for exchanging views, such as bilateral and trilateral formats. Within this context we agreed that the relevant countries would continue to consider whether talks among the five parties could be held in a manner that would contribute to the advancement of the Six-Party Talks.
In order to enhance the effectiveness of the United Nations Security Council resolution, it is important that it should be fully implemented by all United Nations Member States including China. China too has announced that its position is one of sincerely implementing this resolution. At today's meeting, President Lee and I agreed that it was necessary to strengthen cooperation among Japan, ROK and the United States while also deepening our collaboration with China.
QUESTION: President Lee, what measures will be taken for ROK-Japan and ROK-US-Japan cooperation towards the resolution of North Korean issues as realised at today's summit meeting? In particular, what was Japan's reaction to five-party consultations, and was there any discussion of concrete topics or scheduling? Also, what is the ROK's stance on Banco Delta Asia (BDA)-style financial sanctions by the United States, and what was the outcome of the discussions with Japan regarding this point?
PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK: Currently, within the framework of the Six-Party Talks various countries are consulting among themselves and are trying to work out an effective response to these issues. We are not presently at the stage where we can make the content of those discussions public. Instead, we are at the stage where we should concentrate our efforts on the implementation of UNSC resolution 1874, which was adopted unanimously by the Council. The goal is not to arrive at a Security Council resolution, but rather to make North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. The Six-Party Talks are a process through which to make North Korea understand that abandoning its nuclear weapons is in its long-term interests. It is necessary to hold consultations on how to make North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons, based on the Security Council resolution. It is too early to go into details, but Japan and the ROK share the same views regarding future directions and there are no discrepancies in our positions. Also, a large number of countries including China share the view that North Korea should be made to abandon its nuclear pursuits. We are also discussing the idea that we should consider not only methods we have used until now but new methods as well. As for BDA-style sanctions, given that financial sanctions are included in the Security Council resolution, each UN member state should faithfully implement relevant measures within those parameters, based on its own interpretation of the resolution's contents.
QUESTION: President Lee, working level consultations towards negotiations on a Japan-ROK EPA will be raised from the director level to the Deputy Director-General level when they are held next month. It seems that there are some disagreements in individual areas such as Japan's agricultural and marine products and the ROK's industrial goods, but will this rise of the talking level promote negotiations?
PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK: To start with the conclusion, we should determine the final contents of the bilateral FTA in consultation with each other. In principle, the ROK takes the position that it should promote free trade with all countries and reject protectionism. Negotiations on FTAs are underway with the ten countries of ASEAN and with the EU, and in the near future I expect we will reach agreement on an FTA with India. We are also making arrangements for an agreement with the United States. It is natural and indeed part of the global tide for us to strengthen our economic cooperative relations with Japan and agree on an FTA. Japan is the second-largest economic power in the world and in ROK-Japan consultations as well I believe that we will reach a conclusion with unexpected speed if we each deepen our understanding of the other's position.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, the Lee administration has declared a new national vision of "Low Carbon, Green Growth" and the realisation of low-carbon economies has globally become a topic as well. You yourself also announced on 10 June Japan's mid-term target of reducing by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions by 15% compared to its 2005 level. While Japan's industrial circles have objected, stating concerns that an excessively ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction target will be detrimental to the Japanese economy, the international community has indicated its concerns that the target is too conservative. What are your thoughts on such objections? Furthermore, do you consider the target to be attainable?
Also, I would like to hear your views on the possibility that ROK and Japan introduce summer time together, as that would likely be more beneficial to the economies of both countries which are in the same time zone.
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Japan's energy efficiency is already at the highest level in the world at twice that of Europe and the United States. I recently announced a mid-term target for 2020 of a 15% emissions reduction compared to the 2005 level, which is a higher level than the 13% reductions target of Europe and the 14% reductions target of the US.
Moreover, this is something we are working to realise even knowing that the [marginal abatement] cost of reductions would be twice that of Europe and the United States.
Furthermore, Japan's target is an extremely ambitious one in that unlike the targets of Europe and the US, it will be achieved through emissions reduction efforts of our industries and households, without factoring in emissions credit purchases from other countries.
I am aware that Japan's industrial circles are objecting to this mid-term target as being too high. From the point of view of industry, the cost of simply reducing emissions by 1% has been calculated to be ten trillion yen, making it outrageous. However, when the 1973 oil crisis occurred, the price of oil jumped sharply from two dollars a barrel to six, and Japan's industries made use of their technological capabilities to turn that adversity into an opportunity, enabling them to overcome those difficult circumstances through breakthroughs. I am confident that in the area of emissions reductions as well, industry will bring about breakthroughs, making use of solar, small-scale hydropower and nuclear power.
During today's summit talks, President Lee and I exchanged views on a nuclear energy agreement and on environmental issues and we agreed that we would continue to cooperate in these areas.
As for summer time, Japan introduced this system from the late 1940's and early 1950's, and I recall that dinner time used to come while it is still quite bright outside. There are few developed countries without a summer time system in place. The benefit of the system is high as developed countries are generally found at high degrees of latitude. That said, summer time still needs to be considered in a comprehensive manner, giving thought to various aspects such as the effects it will have on people's lifestyles and its impact on working environments. I am aware that discussions have been advancing in the ROK, so I should like to consider Japan's response going forward. In Japan, sports organisations are extremely enthusiastic about this system. I do believe that the benefits would be great if the two countries were to introduce the system together, as they are in the same time zone.