"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Following the APEC Leaders' Meeting

[Date] November 19, 2005
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

I. Opening Statement

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: I am most gratified that I have been able to visit Busan once again and to have been able to meet with many leaders and have useful discussions with them in this vibrant setting. I am most grateful for all the detailed preparations and for the very warm hospitality extended to us by President Roh Moo Hyun as well as the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the people of the ROK.

It has been agreed in the meeting that Japan shall be hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in five year's time, in 2010. I would like to learn much from the meetings this time which were organized in a most outstanding way by the ROK, the meetings in which we enjoyed the warm welcome from all of you, as we host the APEC meetings in Japan.

Numerous items on the agenda were discussed. In the interest of continued development of our member economies, we agreed that the Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would be very important and we all agreed that we shall work together for the success of that round. We also expressed our determination to together work on counter-terrorism measures, measures against infectious diseases such as avian influenza, energy issues, as well as the protection of intellectual property rights. Especially with regard to avian influenza, Japan certainly has been strongly concerned about this matter, and recently, Japan drew up an action plan to deal with this disease. Japan will cooperate with all the countries concerned as this avian influenza is a global issue and threat.

Also in the wings of the meetings, I was able to exchange views with some of the leaders. With President Roh Moo Hyun, I was able to exchange views very candidly on matters such as the bilateral relationship and matters of common interest notably North Korea issues. With President Lagos of Chile, we agreed to launch the Japan-Chile Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations. Between myself and Prime Minister Martin of Canada, we signed the Japan-Canada Economic Framework Document, and we confirmed our understanding that we will make progress towards creative economic relations between our two countries as spelled out in the joint statement of this past January.

We were blessed with very fine weather, and I would like to deeply thank the very warm hospitality extended by the Government of the ROK and its people in this hometown of President Roh Moo Hyun.

II. Question on Japan's diplomacy on Asia

Journalist: Ito, Mainichi Shimbun. Prime Minister, from the summit meeting with the US recently, and with the ROK, and your remarks made in the APEC plenary meetings, I understand that you are of the view that the relationships with ROK and China, despite visits to Yasukuni Shrine or different recognition of history, the friendly relationships with the two countries can be deepened through economic and cultural exchanges as well as by maintaining the Japan-US alliance amicably.

You have your tenure until next September, less than a year from now. With this kind of approach, how do you envision the possibility of a breakthrough in the relationships with both countries during the remaining days of your tenure?

Prime Minister Koizumi: I am for friendly ties between Japan and China, and between Japan and the ROK. There has been no change in this stance of mine. In the APEC meetings, President Roh Moo Hyun chaired the meetings in an efficient fashion, but also present was President Hu Jintao of China, and in that setting I stated that I am not that worried about the future of the Japan-China relations and Japan-ROK relations. I said that the Government, Japanese people and I are fully aware of the importance of friendly ties with China and the ROK. Even if there is a difference or confrontation on one single issue, we should not allow this to hinder the development of our overall friendly relations. That is my belief and I am sure you will agree with me, I said.

Sixty years ago Japan and the US were enemies, but today we are best friends and allies. President Luong of Vietnam was also present and seated next to President Bush. Thirty years ago they were enemies but they are now enhancing their friendly relations.

President Putin of Russia was also amongst us. Between myself and Russian President Putin we have difference of views over the Northern Territories issue but we are hoping to resolve this issue and conclude a peace treaty. We do not hold the view that we will not enhance the friendly relationship between Japan and Russia just because we have issues of contention or difference of views. Despite the difference of views or confrontations over a single issue between the parties, the principle of concluding a peace treaty by enhancing the Japan-Russia relations by resolving the issue peacefully remains unchanged.

President Toledo of Peru was also present. There is an issue between Japan and Peru over former President Fujimori, but again we agreed that we will not allow this issue to harm the enhancement of the friendly ties between Japan and Peru.

Thus, I believe it is important not to allow overall relations to be hindered by one issue or by the difference of views over one issue. In fact, between Japan and China, in terms of trade, economy and people-to-people exchanges, culture, art and sports-the same can be said with the Japan-ROK relations-, we have wide ranging and vibrant exchanges more than ever before. With respect to people-to-people exchanges as well as economic and trade exchanges, the Japan-China as well as Japan-ROK exchanges are expanding more than ever before. So the interdependence is deepening greatly. For our mutual interest and from the standpoint of reciprocal benefit, the Japan-ROK and Japan-China relationships are of great importance. With this in mind, I think both countries should enhance friendly ties between each other in various fields. In the short-term there may be difference of views over an issue, but we must make efforts to ensure that this issue does not deteriorate the relationships in the mid- to long-term. I believe that over time we can understand each other.

III. Question on Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine

Journalist: Arirang International Broadcasting. You say you visit Yasukuni Shrine on a personal, individual capacity. However, the image of your visit to the Shrine is broadcast globally and you brought many people along with you. Can you say that this can be perceived as a private visit? I think it is a very public image. Please tell us your view.

Prime Minister Koizumi: I visit Yasukuni Shrine, and that is Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visiting Yasukuni Shrine as one Japanese national. We owe Japan's peace and prosperity today not only to the people who are alive today. We should not forget that the peace we enjoy today is founded on the sacrifices of those who went to the battlefield against their will and had to lose their precious lives there. My intention of the visit to Yasukuni Shrine is to mourn the war dead. Also, I visit Yasukuni Shrine to pledge that we shall never again wage a war. We have reflected on our past. Because of that, over the past 60 years Japan has not fought a war against any country. The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are dispatched overseas in the interest of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance of the recipient country. Since the Second World War, Japan has not waged any war, and the SDF members who have gone overseas for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance have not shot a single bullet. They have not killed anyone. They are strictly engaged in peacekeeping operations from the viewpoint of how best they would be able to cooperate for the development of the recipient country. In other words, over the past 60 years since the end of the war, Japan has stuck to the principle of never again waging a war. Japan truly appreciates the worth of today's peace and I mourn those who sacrificed their lives in the past. It is with these feelings that I visit the shrine.

You say a large entourage, but I have never visited Yasukuni Shrine with other members of the Diet. Whenever I go I am the only member of the Diet. I have never called on others to come along. I have always gone by myself. But because of my job as Prime Minister, my security service people will come along with me. You say you see me on TV, but TV cameras follow me wherever I go, not just to Yasukuni Shrine. Wherever I go, whether it is a restaurant, a movie theater or an opera theater, TV cameras and the press always follow me, not just to Yasukuni Shrine. Please understand that.

IV. Question on Structural Reforms

Journalist: Ito, NHK. I have a question about structural reforms. You have requested APEC member economies to proceed with highly transparent structural reforms, much like Japan. Do you believe they have understood this and will proceed with the structural reforms in this manner? Japan, as a model of structural reforms, it seems that there is a competition for reform. Will there not be any confrontations among ruling parties and the government over the reform path? Do you think you can obtain the understanding of the Japanese people for the painful reforms?

Prime Minister Koizumi: On September 11, we had general elections in Japan. I believe that the Japanese people expressed their support for the further advancement of reforms. Whatever the private sector can do should be left to the private sector. The majority of the Japanese people expressed their support to privatize the postal services which were run by the government. In all aspects, I believe reforms have been in progress in various areas. You asked a question about whether I can have the people's understanding regarding painful reforms associated with changing the status quo. There are people who believe that the status quo is best. But in a rapidly changing international community can we really respond to changes in the new era with the status quo? We must fashion out a system corresponding to the changing environment. That is why I say we need to work on regulatory reform, reduce government expenditures and leave to the local governments what they can do. We should try to cut government expenditures and reduce tax burdens in the future as much as possible, a reform to set a tone for financial rehabilitation. Whenever you try to change the status quo, there will be opposition. Whether you take that as pain or not depends on how you look at it. With regard to postal reforms, for example, some people say they do not want to switch from civil servants to private workers, these people had an organization. Those who belonged to organizations preferred the status quo, whereas those who support the reform do not have an organization. So it could have been painful for those who are subject to changes. Yet we went through a general election, I felt that the majority of the general public sensed the necessity of reform instead of pain. On whatever issue, in this world of democracy, there are always pros and cons. There are very few issues in which everyone is supportive. Oppositions are always multi-faceted: there will be oppositions from different angles. So we have to be fully cognizant of that and try to gain the understanding and cooperation of the public. I believe that is what we need to do in a democracy. So from that viewpoint, over the past four years or so, I have advocated that there can be no growth without reform, in the two rounds of House of Councillors elections, two rounds of House of Representatives elections, and in the two rounds of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential elections, all in which I gained confidence. I believe that I can have the support of the people on this, and it is my responsibility to further advance such reforms.

V. Question on Yasukuni Shrine

Journalist: Charles Scanlon, BBC News. Prime Minister, you have said many times that you go to Yasukuni Shrine to pray for peace but anyone who visits the Shrine cannot help noticing that there is a very big museum there. It is a museum that was quite recently refurbished, and it is a museum that presents a very clear picture of the war in Asia. It presents a picture that this was a defensive war by Japan, that Japan did nothing wrong in China, that the Chinese were the aggressors, that the Nanking massacre never happened. Is this an interpretation of the war that you are endorsing with your visits to Yasukuni Shrine? If you are not endorsing that view, do you understand at the very least why your visits send out a very ambiguous message to the rest of Asia?

Prime Minister Koizumi: I do not support that view. As I have been saying all along, I visit the shrine to offer sincerely the heartfelt mourning to the war dead, and, with the reflection on the war, to pledge not to wage a war again.