"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] Joint Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea

[Date] October 09, 2009
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

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.


Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea

(1) I warmly welcome the visit by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Mrs Hatoyama to the Republic of Korea (ROK). This visit marks the Prime Minister's first overseas trip on a bilateral basis, a clear sign of the close relations between our two countries.

I met Mr Hatoyama in June this year, before he became Prime Minister. Since then we have built a relationship of trust which I believe this summit meeting has made even firmer. I take this opportunity once again to offer my congratulations on the inauguration of the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). I am convinced that Japan will continue to develop under the excellent leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama.

In today's summit meeting, we agreed that the cooperative relationship between the ROK and Japan is vital for the peace and prosperity not least of our nations but also of the Northeast Asian region as a whole. I commend the Prime Minister for having made his stance clear to make ROK-Japan relations develop in a future-oriented manner with sincerity and an open heart, while facing the past squarely. We agreed to cooperate closely in order develop bilateral relations between countries that are "intimate as well as nearby".

The Prime Minister and I confirmed that our governments shall take a greater interest in mutual cooperation to bolster private-sector economic cooperation, including that among small and medium-sized enterprises. We appreciate the success of the Korea-Japan Exchanges Festival which took place recently in Tokyo and agreed to hold similar events in future. In addition, we decided to further step up bilateral cultural exchanges, such as by swiftly initiating at this stage the third round of the Korea-Japan Cultural Exchange Council. We further agreed to hold discussions on concrete details of the "Korea-Japan Green Partnership" initiative as a new driver of economic growth.

(2) We shared the view that in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, a change North Korea's fundamental stance was essential. We affirmed that the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council would continue to be implemented faithfully while at the same time the door to dialogue would be kept open and diplomatic efforts would continue to bring North Korea back at an early date to the Six-Party Talks.

With regard to the North Korean nuclear issue, we shared the view on the need for a fundamental and comprehensive solution in order to avoid repeating the pattern of negotiations which continued over many years. Towards this end, we agreed to consult closely with the other participants in the Six-Party Talks on the "Grand Bargain" proposal.

(3) The two countries shall cooperate closely in the process of preparing for the summit meetings of the Group of Twenty (G20) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which the Republic of Korea and Japan will host respectively. We will also expand our cooperation in such areas as the response to climate change and East Asian regional cooperation.

I am convinced Prime Minister Hatoyama's visit has proved to be an important opportunity to enhance, one stage further, both bilateral relations including our trust at a personal level as well as the cooperative relationship between the two countries which aims to help resolve the major issues confronting the world.

I close by once again thanking the Prime Minister and Mrs Hatoyama for visiting our country.

Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan

(1) Let me begin with sincere thanks to President Lee Myung-bak and Mrs Lee for inviting me and my wife to Seoul today. We are very fond of Korean society and culture, and I have always wanted to convey the fact that most Japanese people share this sentiment. As President Lee noted in his opening statement, I visited him in June, just before the general election [in Japan]. It was with this same feeling that I chose the ROK as my first overseas destination [for a bilateral visit], having served just three weeks as Prime Minister. I am glad that in our meeting today the President and I reaffirmed the hope of making Japan and the ROK "intimate as well as nearby". Japan and the ROK have an important relationship as neighbouring nations with common values, and this relationship forms the core of Japan's Asia policy. By deepening our cooperation in additional areas, I believe we can take a step towards the realisation of an East Asian Community. I am also happy that the President and I are of one mind on this point as well.

There remain, of course, various outstanding issues between the ROK and Japan, but the new Japanese government is one which has the courage to look at history squarely. We cannot solve every single issue [rapidly], though; we will need time. Developing Japan-ROK relations in a positive direction based on a future-oriented approach will be important not just for Asia but also for the global economy and world peace, another point on which the President expressed his agreement.

(2) In today's meeting we were able to discuss the East Asian Community concept and the North Korean issue. With regard to North Korea, I believe that the President's "Grand Bargain" proposal is an eminently wise approach to take. Issues such as North Korea's nuclear programme and its development of ballistic missiles must be perceived in a comprehensive light. Until North Korea takes concrete actions [conducive to the resolution of these issues] and demonstrates its will [to seek their resolution], we should not extend economic cooperation. Rather, North Korea must show such a will as a precondition for receiving economic cooperation. I believe this stance is quite right. As for the resolution of the abduction issue, I stated that the ROK suffers from a similar human rights issue, to which the President replied that the abduction issue naturally forms a part of the comprehensive package. I was most grateful to hear him say this. We confirmed that we would continue to work together--through cooperation on a bilateral basis and that with the United States and China--to urge North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks.

(3) In the expanded meeting, we talked about the difficulties faced by small and medium-sized enterprises in our two countries. We agreed cooperate on various levels, sharing the concerns and interests of one country with the other, [taking the example of] the success of the "Japan-ROK Parts and Supplies Procurement and Supply Trade Fair" [in April this year] despite the harsh economic conditions owing to the financial crisis. We also agreed to expand cultural exchanges among younger generations and exchanges between universities. I was touched that the President complimented my wife on her strong interest in Korean entertainment stars, influenced by the "Korea boom" in Japan, and on her participation in the [Korean] festival held recently in Tokyo. The President and I share the belief that outstanding issues between our countries can be overcome as the younger generations build experiences of heart-warming exchanges.

Though the time available for the summit meeting today was limited, we had an extremely worthwhile exchange of views. I am most grateful to the President for having kindly provided this opportunity. I am optimistic that Japan-ROK relations will greatly evolve. Thank you very much. Kamsa hamnida.

[Q & As]

QUESTION: President Lee, last week at your press conference in this very room you said the time has come for the Republic of Korea to take the initiative on South-North Korean issues, particularly on the North Korean nuclear issue. Since then, North Korea has indicated its rejection of the "grand bargain" that was proposed. Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong-il has made a statement attaching more importance to North Korea's relationship with the United States, saying that the country will decide whether to return to the Six-Party Talks after assessing the results of Pyongyang's bilateral discussions with Washington. In your view what sort of leadership role could the ROK play in these circumstances? In addition, how do you view the possibility of North Korea returning to the Six-Party Talks?

PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK: Let me reply briefly. Ever since North Korea began its nuclear development programme, we have experienced much in the long course of talks with it. For this reason, the ROK must have ideas as a party with a direct stake in the North Korean nuclear issue. This is why we have proposed the "grand bargain" comprehensive settlement, which many countries have endorsed. I believe North Korea will give full consideration to our proposal. This is because it opens the way for them to give up their nuclear programme. In the end, North Korea will understand that this is the only remaining option they could possibly choose. The visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to North Korea was recently announced, and I expect him to give us a report at the ROK-Japan-China summit tomorrow on the details related to the Six-Party Talks. There is a growing atmosphere in the international community that views North Korean participation in the Six-Party Talks as inevitable--as a necessity. We commend the role being played by China, and while there is the factor of time, we are convinced that the Six-Party Talks will resume as a result of bilateral discussions between the United States and North Korea.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Hatoyama, I'd also like to ask about the North Korean problem though my question covers some of the same ground as the previous question. In your opening remarks you said you agreed today to seek a comprehensive solution of the issues pertaining to North Korea's nuclear development and abductions. Did you have a detailed exchange of views on specific ways to restart the Six-Party Talks and other related matters?

PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: I am not sure how detailed is "detailed", but I can say first that, it is likely to be true that discussions took place in considerable depth when Chinese Premier Wen held talks with Kim Jong-il, Chairman of the National Defence Commission [of North Korea]. I am told that the possibility of resuming the Six-Party Talks was among topics raised. Talks between North Korea and the United States are also expected. In my summit meeting with US President Barack Obama held when I was in New York recently, I told him that I supported US-North Korean bilateral talks, but the proviso of this support was that the US would make them lead to [the resumption of] the Six-Party Talks. On that occasion I also raised the need to resolve the abduction issue. I believe President Obama indicated that he would approach the bilateral talks with North Korea with these matters firmly in mind.

China and the United States have thus have gone before others in negotiations with North Korea, but this has been with the goal of bringing the country back to the Six-Party Talks. When North Korea returns, as President Lee has indicated North Korea should send a completely clear message--to show willingness to take concrete actions to dismantle its nuclear programme and, in an area of Japanese interest, completely resolve the abduction issue, as part of a comprehensive package. In the process of these talks, it is imperative that the other five parties should proceed in step with one another. If they do, the prospects will be bright.

These are the views we shared in our summit talks today.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Hatoyama, today you expressed a positive stance on the issue of history. You also noted the need for some time. I would like to ask about your detailed ideas in dealing with the issue of history. In particular, President Lee has said that, should the Emperor of Japan visit the ROK next year, the 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula, this would make a major transformation in bilateral relations and the President has thus indicated his intention to extend an invitation. What kind and level of interest is there in Japan in this? What are the chances that the visit will take place? Finally, what are your views on the issue of local suffrage of ROK nationals with special permanent residency in Japan?

PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: I have always said that we must have the courage to consider the issue of history in a future-oriented manner, to look at history squarely. I intend to give this thinking a very important position among the new government's ideas. In other words, the importance of the Japanese government and each Japanese citizen to understand the thinking represented by the so-called Murayama Statement goes without saying. This is a matter which greatly affects Japan-ROK relations; since we must restrain the emotions that tend to run hot, as I've said it will take some time for all the Japanese people to assimilate this thinking; I seek patience in this regard.

Local suffrage of ROK nationals in Japan is an issue which is related to this [the issue of history]. I believe you may already be aware of my personal views on this; in my personal mind I hope to reach a positive conclusion on this matter. But as I just noted, this is another issue on which the emotions and ideas on the Japanese people have not necessarily converged. I therefore intend to conduct discussions within my cabinet as appropriate and reach a conclusion on the part of the government. Here, too, I ask for consideration of the time factor.

On the subject of a Korean visit by His Majesty the Emperor, I understand that His Majesty himself strongly desires that this should take place. However he is of advanced age, and there are various factors concerning the schedule. Furthermore, there are limits to how much I as Prime Minister can influence this matter. I cannot say much more than this, but I am grateful to President Lee for expressing his wish to extend an invitation. I hope you understand that circumstances do not permit me to announce right this moment that the offer is accepted.

QUESTION: President Lee, what views did you express on the East Asia Community initiative proposed by Prime Minister Hatoyama in the summit meeting today? Next, have your personal relations with Prime Minister Hatoyama been reinforced as a result of this summit?

PRESIDENT LEE MYUNG-BAK: Prime Minister Hatoyama explained his initiative on an East Asia Community. The world today is forming communities in various regions. We have the European Union, groupings in South and North America, of course, and a number of Asian nations have come together in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In this sense, I agree that a large East Asian Community is an initiative which is quite right to pursue. In order to achieve this goal, though, we must first resolve a number of issues. This may take time, but if we open our hearts even more and work in the spirit of fraternity [which Prime Minister Hatoyama mentioned], I see no reason why a community would not emerge in East Asia while this is happening in other parts of the world. I take a positive view on this.

As for my personal relationship with Prime Minister Hatoyama, as I said in my opening statement, we had already exchanged views on many matters when I met with him before the [Japanese] election. Our thoughts are in agreement on a number of points and we have much in common. The ROK is today pursuing many changes and is seeking to perceive all issues from a global perspective. Japan, too, as one of the world's major economic powers, has undergone many changes. Since we have a considerable amount in common in terms of our attitude of moving forward together with the rest of the world, our individual views and the direction of our policies, I place great trust in the Prime Minister--although I cannot tell whether the feeling is mutual! [laughter].

Based on this, my hope is to work skilfully together to address the many issues that face our two countries, East Asia and the entire world, based on a relationship of trust which is stronger than that between any of the previous governments.