The Competitiveness Commission, headed by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, held its fourth meeting at the prime minister's official residence. The main topic of discussion was measures to foster new industries. Saying that a national industrial technology strategy was required and that business, academe, and government should formulate such a strategy together, the prime minister emphasized the importance of addressing the cultivation of new industries as a priority issue, including the provision of budget funds across government agency bounds.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met at Akasaka Palace with Thomas Klestil, federal president of the Republic of Austria, who was making a state visit to Japan. In view of the fact that Austria has established diplomatic relations with North Korea, the prime minister requested Austria's cooperation as Japan works toward normalizing relations with North Korea. Touching on the Kosovo conflict, he said he hoped to see the Group of Eight's peace proposal lead to a United Nations Security Council resolution, expressing his determination to do his utmost to bring about a political resolution of the conflict.
In a speech delivered at a banquet on the opening day of the International Conference on the Future of Asia, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi announced that the government would dispatch a mission headed by Toyota Motor Corp. President Hiroshi Okuda to six Asian countries, after which it would submit concrete proposals for promoting Asia's economic recovery. The Mission for Revitalization of the Asian Economy would visit the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines from the end of August to early September.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met at the prime minister's official residence with Mahathir bin Mohamad, prime minister of Malaysia, who was in Japan to attend the International Conference on the Future of Asia. The prime minister requested Malaysia's cooperation with the Mission for Revitalization of the Asian Economy to be dispatched by the Japanese government. Prime Minister Mahathir replied that he would welcome the mission.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met at the prime minister's official residence with Joseph E. Estrada, president of the Republic of the Philippines, who was in Japan to attend the International Conference on the Future of Asia. President Estrada said he would welcome the Mission for Revitalization of the Asian Economy announced by the prime minister on June 3. He also praised the legislation recently passed by the National Diet in connection with the 1997 Japan-U.S. Guidelines for Defense Cooperation as a significant contribution to Asia's peace and security. The prime minister in turn pledged grant aid to assist the Philippines in such areas as education and the boosting of food production.
The United Nations has designated June 5 World Environment Day to raise awareness of the importance of environmental conservation. Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi attended a ceremony to celebrate World Environment Day sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program and the government of Japan, among others. Some 750 guests, including Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, attended the ceremony. Global 500 Awards for Environmental Achievement were awarded to Japan's Junior Eco-Club program and other organizations and individuals. In his address to those assembled, the prime minister declared his active support for a shift to an environment-friendly lifestyle.
The government's headquarters for industrial restructuring and employment measures, headed by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, met and officially decided on a package of emergency measures aimed at assuaging deepening anxiety over unemployment and restoring industrial competitiveness. Noting that gross domestic product had registered 1.9% real growth in the January-March quarter, a significant improvement, the prime minister stressed the importance of reassuring the public about jobs and ensuring a self-sustaining growth path for the economy and instructed relevant ministries and agencies to take prompt action in line with the package.
The Economic Strategy Council, an advisory body to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, recommended to the prime minister that an action program specifying timetables for implementation of the proposals contained in the council's February 1999 final report be drawn up. The prime minister pledged continued serious study even of recommendations that were considered difficult to achieve.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi represented Japan at the Group of Eight (G8) Summit in the German city of Cologne for the first time as prime minister. Both high praise and strong hopes for the steps Japan was taking to promote economic recovery were expressed. While the issue of peace for Kosovo was the major focus of the G8 members' interest, they also identified North Korea's nuclear development and missile tests as a global problem.
Since the G8 countries had been busy with efforts to bring an end to the Kosovo conflict until shortly before the Summit, political discussions revolved around the reconstruction of Kosovo following the peace agreement. The Kosovo crisis had brought home to European countries the extent to which they still relied on the United States for Europe's security. They were also faced with the problem of what role economically lagging Russia could and should play in a purely European security setup. Therefore debate centered on ways and means of creating a united European-U.S. framework for rebuilding Kosovo and securing Russia's cooperation. The prime minister, while acknowledging the G8's contribution to bringing about peace in Kosovo, stressed the pivotal role of the United Nations in efforts to achieve world peace and expressed Japan's determination to actively address improvement of the U.N. Security Council.
The G8 Statement on Regional Issues affirmed a two-pronged approach to assistance addressing both the immediate issue of Kosovo's reconstruction and the longer-term issue of stability in southeastern Europe. The G7 (the G8 minus Russia) also agreed on new aid to Russia for measures to tackle unemployment and improve health care and public hygiene and on measures to deal with the heavy debt burden weighing down the Russian economy.
While the other G8 members tended to concentrate on southeastern Europe, Japan, as the only Asian member, worked hard to direct attention to the security problems in Northeast Asia centered on the Korean Peninsula as well. The prime minister urged the G8 to issue a strong warning to North Korea against continued test firing of missiles. Thanks to his efforts, the G8 Communiqué stated: "We are deeply concerned about recent missile flight tests and developments in missile proliferation, such as actions by North Korea. We undertake to examine further individual and collective means of addressing this problem and reaffirm our commitment to the objectives of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)." This confirmed international recognition that the North Korean missile problem was not confined to the Far East but was a global problem.
The Summit also featured vigorous discussion of the world economy and trade, unemployment, and education. In regard to economic issues, the assembled leaders praised the economic recovery measures undertaken by the Obuchi administration in the light of the announcement, shortly before the Summit, that Japan's gross domestic product had registered real growth of 1.9% in the January-March quarter, the first positive growth in a year and a half. The United States has an especially keen interest in the condition of the Japanese economy, since that has a major impact on American business trends. In his meeting with the prime minister prior to the Summit, U.S. President Bill Clinton expressed his surprise at the shift to positive growth, calling it "big news." He brought up the subject of the Japanese economy at the beginning of the subsequent G7 meeting and lauded the prime minister's leadership. Other leaders also praised the Obuchi administration for doing such a good job. They also expressed strong hopes for a sustained recovery, however, and urged the prime minister to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure this.
The prime minister responded that although conditions remained difficult, there were encouraging signs. To consolidate the upward trend, he said, the government was putting in place measures to shore up employment and industrial competitiveness and was determined to achieve positive growth in fiscal 1999. He explained that the current ordinary session of the National Diet had been considerably extended and that the government had decided to draw up a supplementary budget of more than 500 billion yen and intended to continue implementing an unbroken stream of stimulatory measures. He also presented the government's target of 0.5% growth in fiscal 1999 as a clear-cut international pledge.
It was also agreed to provide "deeper, broader and faster debt relief" for heavily indebted poor countries, one of the major items on the Summit's economic agenda. In this connection, the prime minister said that Japan would study expanding grant aid and reviewing the quality of its official development assistance (ODA). Finally, it was decided that next year's Summit would be held on the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Okinawa from July 21 to July 23.
The G8 leaders line up for a commemorative photo in front of Cologne Cathedral. Prime Minister Obuchi is second from the left.
The G8 leaders attend a working dinner in the Roman-Germanic Museum.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (left foreground) takes part in the G8's third working session, in the Ludwig Museum.
Prime Minister Obuchi addresses the press conference following the Summit.
Prime Minister Obuchi and Russian President Yeltsin hold a hurriedly arranged meeting during the Summit.
After attending the Cologne Summit Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi visited London, where he met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral economic relations, the promotion of bilateral personal exchange, the building of global cooperation, and other topics. Prime Minister Blair expressed his support for Japan's becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The two leaders agreed to cooperate to strengthen United Nations conflict-prevention functions in the light of the Kosovo crisis.
After visiting London on June 21 Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland, where he met with the leaders of five Nordic nations. At a press conference following the meeting they announced a joint document outlining issues that needed to be addressed in the leadup to the twenty-first century. The document articulated the leaders' shared view of the need to make the twenty-first century a century of people-centered society and expressed their intention to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in three key areas: resolution of regional and ethnic conflicts in Kosovo and elsewhere, contribution to the peace and prosperity of the international community, and creation of a people-centered society.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi met with Henri Konan Bedié, president of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, at the prime minister's official residence. President Bedié expressed his support for Japan's becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. During his official working visit, which lasted until July 2, President Bedié also made a state call on Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.
The members of a Japanese team bound for East Timor as part of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) reported to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi at the prime minister's official residence before their departure. UNAMET was formed to organize and oversee a referendum scheduled for late August to determine the will of the East Timorese in regard to special autonomy within Indonesia.
In accordance with the International Peace Cooperation Law, Japan was contributing six members to UNAMET, three civilian police officers and three liaison officers from the Prime Minister's Office, to advise the Indonesian police and carry out other duties. Some team members were to leave on July 1 and the rest on July 4, and the team was scheduled to return to Japan in early September. The prime minister told the team members, "Your work is an important part of international peace efforts centered on the U.N. We will provide the backup you need so that you can concentrate on your duties without worrying."