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Joint Press Conference after the Japan-Australia Summit Meeting

April 20, 2005


[Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Opening Statement]

I have met with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia many times, and I am delighted that he has come to Japan once more and that we were able to hold a summit meeting. Australia is participating in the Exposition of Global Harmony (2005 World Exposition), and I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome.

Japan and Australia currently enjoy extremely good relations. At the summit meeting today, we shared our intention to take these relations another step forward.

Prime Minister Howard decided to dispatch troops to Iraq under difficult conditions. I would like to express my respect in this regard, and the Government of Japan highly appreciates this decision. I believe that Japan and Australia must continue to cooperate closely towards the reconstruction of Iraq as well.

I would also like to thank Prime Minister Howard for clearly expressing his support for reform of the United Nations (UN) and Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

I believe that Japan-Australia relations will contribute to further progress in the two countries, and that Japan and Australia can cooperate in a wide range of fields in the international community including counterterrorism and security. Bearing in mind that next year is the Japan-Australia Year of Exchange, I would like to take Prime Minister Howard's visit as an opportunity to ensure its success by expanding broad-based exchange in various fields.

Mr. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, is planning to visit Japan in the near future. Without giving undue precedence to either Palestine or Israel over each other, Japan intends to make vigorous efforts to realize their peaceful coexistence.

Prime Minister Howard is well aware of the situation that Japan faces regarding free trade agreements (FTAs). Japan and Australia enjoy exceptionally good reciprocal relations on the economic front. Given these circumstances, and aiming to further enhance the present good economic relations, we affirmed that we would have thorough consultations on advantages and disadvantages to be brought about by the conclusion of an FTA between Japan and Australia.

In addition to economic relations, we agreed to officially launch negotiations aimed at the conclusion of a Japan-Australia social security agreement.

Japan and Australia share common values as defined by liberal democracy and the market economy. In particular, a growing number of Japanese nationals are visiting Australia. Not only that, more and more Australian nationals are considering visiting Japan. We are determined, therefore, to further expand exchanges between Japan and Australia. Prime Minister Howard's visit to Japan was perfectly timed. I would like to take this visit as an opportunity to further develop Japan-Australia relations.

Thank you very much.

[Opening statement by Prime Minister Howard]

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a great pleasure to come to Japan again as prime minister and again to see Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who I have now met on quite a number of occasions and whose leadership of this close friend and partner of Australia is something that I admire.

I thank him for the remarks he made about our troop deployment to the Al-Muthanna Province in Iraq. I informed the Prime Minister that on the way to the People's Republic of China and Japan, I went through Darwin and was able to meet almost all of the 450-person contingent that is going to Iraq to send them my good wishes, to hear their views about the adequacy of their training and equipment, which was all I hasten to say very positive, and to express my very strong support for the value of this mission, particularly as it involves a close working partnership with our friends and partners, the Japanese..

Our talks today have been very good indeed. We both attach enormous importance to this longstanding, close economic relationship. It is not only economic, it is also strategic. We have had a trilateral security dialogue involving Australia, Japan and the United States of America, and that is something that we value. Both Australia and Japan have a common interest in a peaceful resolution of matters involving North Korea, which continues to be of concern to both countries.

I am also delighted to remind this gathering that Japan remains Australia's best customer and has been such now for many, many years. And there is no reason why that should not continue into the future. I welcome the fact that both countries through our talks today have agreed to further elevate or enhance the economic relationship including a study of the feasibility of a free trade agreement (FTA).

I understand, as does the Prime Minister of Japan, that the next step after that, concluding it, if the feasibility study turned out to be positive, would be very difficult, but that is running ahead of ourselves. What we are doing today is agreeing to the study of the feasibility, the advantages and the disadvantages, the pros and cons of a free trade agreement between our two countries.

Finally, can I say that the friendship between our two nations is built very heavily on the people-to-people links as well as our economic associations, and I will have an opportunity tomorrow in Aichi at the Australian National Day at the Exposition, which my government has very strongly supported, to say something more about the personal as well as the economic associations between our two countries.

2006 is designated as the Year of Exchange between Australia and Japan. I have invited the Prime Minister to visit Australia again next year as part of that very important exchange, and he will be welcomed as the leader of a country that is very important to Australia, very important indeed, and a country that has contributed so much to the economic strength that our country has enjoyed over the last 30 to 40 years.

[Q & A]

QUESTION 1: Prime Minister Koizumi and Prime Minister Howard, I would like to ask you both about the situation in Iraq. I understand that Australian troops are scheduled to@provide security in the Samawah region. What is your view on the security situation there? Iraq will proceed with important processes, including the establishment of a constitution and holding general elections. What are your thoughts on the prospect on these developments, as well as the possibility of intensifying terrorist activities?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: As for the security situation in Samawah, Iraq, I believe that it is relatively stable compared to other regions of Iraq. Our Self-Defense Force (SDF) units are working there as well. I have heard that they are maintaining extremely good relations with the people in the Samawah region while carrying out humanitarian assistance and reconstruction assistance activities.

This time around, Australian troops have been dispatched to replace those of the Netherlands and they will engage in close coordination with Japan. Japan also maintains good relations with the United Kingdom (UK). The way I see the situation now is that the UK, Australia, Japan, the multinational force and the United States (US) can cooperate and contribute to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in the Samawah region.

This is a critical time for Iraq. Elections have been held and the people of Iraq themselves are striving to build a democratic, stable government.

I believe the international community is responsible for supporting the Iraqi people in their efforts to build their own country. As a member of the international community, Japan intends to play a role in fulfilling this responsibility.

In this context, I would like to take every possible step to ensure that the scheduled political processes are realized and that the Iraqi people can build a democratic government themselves. This is a sentiment that is shared not only by Japan but other countries as well. Japan will fulfill its responsibility in cooperation with the international community and countries around the world including Australia.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: I very broadly agree with everything that the Prime Minister has said. This particular province has not had the security difficulties of other parts of Iraq, but any part of Iraq has a certain degree of danger and we are under no illusions regarding that.

The important point to make is that Iraq has made enormous strides towards securing a democratic future. For many, a turning point in the assessment of Iraq was the success of the election on 30 January when 8.5 million Iraqis defied the most appalling intimidation in order to participate in a free election. That deserves to be supported and consolidated, and together Australia and Japan will be doing that.

I agree very much with the Prime Minister that making friends with the local people, winning their hearts and minds as well as carrying out the allotted military tasks is very important. I know that is a priority of the Japanese forces and it is very definitely a priority of the Australian forces, and I believe that our two groups will work together very closely and of course in cooperation with the British forces with whom the overall security of the province will be shared.

The other task of course that the Australians have is to train the local Iraqi forces, because in the long run a democratic Iraq can only be achieved if Iraq generates her own defense and internal security forces, and we have a vital role to play in bringing that about.

QUESTION 2: My question is for Prime Minister Koizumi. Does Japan's agreement to this feasibility study mean that Japan could consider a free trade agreement with Australia which includes agriculture?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI:Prime Minister Howard and I took some time discussing this topic, and he is well aware of the difficulties regarding agricultural issues. Although this feasibility study does not directly or immediately lead to the conclusion of an FTA, we will investigate, over the course of next two years, the advantages and disadvantages of an FTA and necessary measures to develop even stronger economic cooperative relations. It is my intention to discuss next steps over the course of the two-year consultations with Australia.

QUESTION 3: I would like to ask a question to Prime Minister Howard. We understand that your visit this time is to Japan and China. Currently, Japan-China relations are facing a severe situation, with voices raised in China that Japan has either not expressed or has not adequately expressed remorse for the past. Please share with us your view on such claims made by China as a country that fought against Japan in the Second World War.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: I am not going to give this answer by reference to what China has said, but let me answer you directly on what I think about these matters. All countries must understand their history and their past and be candid about them, and that applies to all of us.

Let me say in relation to Australia and Japan, yes, we were enemies 60 years ago, and particularly among older Australians there remains a lingering resentment, bitterness and feeling that is understandable. However, one of the remarkable things about the relationship between Australia and Japan is that in 1957 we signed a landmark Commerce Agreement which was initiated by a government in Australia that included many men - I think at that time they were virtually all men - who had fought in the Australian Army in the Second World War, including in the Pacific theater, including some who had been prisoners of war. The point is that agreeing to sign that landmark agreement, which actually laid the foundation of the modern strength of the relationship between Australia and Japan, those men were looking to the future. They were not reflecting on the past. They did not forget the past, nobody can forget the past, but they were looking to the future.

That is my view and that is the way that Australia has always approached it. How other countries approach those things is a matter for them to articulate. I am not going to express a view about what China has done. Let me simply say that we value very deeply our relationship with Japan. We do not pretend that there have not been tragedies in the past. I know that is the view of the Prime Minister, but we look to the future and if that generation of Australians who fought in the war could be part of a government that looked to the future, then there is a message in that for current generations of Australians.

QUESTION 4: My question is to Prime Minister Koizumi and perhaps Prime Minister Howard might also comment. It is on the issue of an exit strategy from Iraq. Prime Minister Koizumi, how long do you expect your military engineers to remain in Iraq? And if their term is extended, do you hope and expect that the Australian troops there protecting them should remain while ever the engineers remain in Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: The SDF units are currently scheduled to work in Iraq until December of this year. However, as for the timing of their return, we must pay due consideration to various factors such as the situation in Samawah, requests from the international community, efforts by the Iraqi people to realize a democratic and stable administration in Iraq with their own hands, and the responses of the Iraqi government. In any case, when it is time for the SDF units to return from Iraq, I intend for this to take place in a smooth and satisfactory manner.

With regard to ensuring safety of the SDF units, the SDF units themselves are in principle taking sufficient measures to secure their own safety. However, as Japan faithfully abides to the policy of not engaging in any use of force abroad, such points must be fully considered too. Furthermore, I am strongly encouraged that the Australian troops have been dispatched to Al-Muthanna Province in addition to the British troops, paying full consideration to and providing cooperation for ensuring the safety of the SDF units. Japan intends to further exert efforts in ensuring an environment in which the SDF units can engage in their fundamental mission of providing humanitarian assistance and reconstruction assistance activities, maintaining close coordination with other nations and thoroughly considering safety.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: I would simply add that the Australian deployment is for an initial period of 12 months. I am not going to commit myself to precisely when after that the commitment might terminate. Obviously it is related to the Japanese presence, but obviously also we would take into account other considerations as well. There will be two rotations within that 12-month deployment, so each group goes for six months. We hope that the security situation in the whole of the country continues to consolidate. As I said earlier, I look forward to working, or our troops look forward to working with our Japanese friends.

And can I finally say that the decision by my friend the Prime Minister of Japan to commit his country's forces to Iraq was a very difficult decision for him to take. It was in the face of some intense domestic opposition, and as a result, he has my very great admiration for having done that.