Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hiroshi Hashimoto: Yesterday, 5 December, the Third Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began in Kyoto. Director-General Hiroshi Oki of the Environment Agency was elected Chairperson. The Kyoto Conference is a significant opportunity to forge an international framework for the prevention of global warming in the 21st century. This conference would greatly affect the future of mankind. We admit that there are still considerable gaps in the positions of parties on major points such as numerical targets and involvement of developing countries in the course of prevention of global warming. However, as the Chair of the Conference, Japan will make every effort toward the adoption of a legally binding instrument which is meaningful, equitable and realistic, based on this proposal. Now, Vice President Albert Gore of the United States is to visit Kyoto and attend the ministerial-level session early next week. We welcome the presence of Vice President Gore at the conference as a sign that the United States attaches much importance to the climate change issue.
Q: I believe Foreign Minister Obuchi is going to Canada to sign the landmine treaty. I wonder whether or not it would require a revision in the budget from next year on, because of the obligation under the treaty to destroy all anti-personnel landmines?
Spokesman Hashimoto: As you correctly pointed out, Minister for Foreign Affairs Keizo Obuchi will be attending the signing ceremony of the Ottawa Treaty. Having said that, the Government has not yet decided in concrete terms when it will submit the treaty to the Diet for ratification. The Government of Japan will judge in due course when to do so. However, we have got several factors to be studied. For example, one is the consultations with the United States on the implementation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Another factor is the possibility of developing alternative weapons to anti-personnel landmines. Also, another factor is that we have got to study required modifications of the relevant domestic laws and regulations. At the same time, we would like to watch the process, seeing how many signatories will actually ratify the treaty. Therefore, for the time being, we are not in a position to say when we will ratify the treaty. This means that we still do not know details of the timing or the amounts of budget allocations. Therefore, I cannot answer your question at this time.
Q: The treaty requires that the signatory destroy all anti-personnel landmines within four years --
Spokesman Hashimoto: After the treaty is put into force, I believe that 45 signatories should ratify the treaty, so that the Ottawa Treaty can be put into force. We do not know how quickly these 45 countries will actually ratify the treaty.
Q: What problems does the Government of Japan face in deciding on the ban? Why did it take so much time -- one day before the signing in Ottawa? What finally tipped the balance and made the Japanese Government go ahead and sign?
Spokesman Hashimoto: The Government of Japan has been of the view that the comprehensive and practical ban of anti-personnel landmines should be realized at the Committee of Disarmament in Geneva. At the same time, Japan participated at first as an observer in the Ottawa process. However, last September, Japan decided to participate formally in the Ottawa process, and we sent our delegation to the Olso Conference. We noted that the Oslo Conference produced a draft treaty. Later on, sometime at the end of October, Prime Minister Hashimoto instructed Foreign Minister Obuchi and Director-General Fumio Kyuma of the Defense Agency to try and reach a consensus on this question among the ministries, so that we could sign the Ottawa Treaty, while not having negative effects on our defense system. After that, the Japan Defense Agency (JDA) started to study the possibility of signing the treaty. The JDA has established its own comprehensive weapons system to protect Japan. Anti-personnel landmines are an integral part of the comprehensive weapons system of Japan. Therefore, if the Government of Japan decides to ban anti-personnel landmines, the JDA naturally will have to decide what to do with the comprehensive weapons system. I believe that the JDA did its best and finally agreed to join in the Ottawa process and sign the treaty. This means that only one-and-a-half or two months after the Prime Minister gave instructions to the two Cabinet ministers, the JDA decided to sign the treaty. So, in fact, it took a rather short time to reach a consensus within the Government of Japan to sign the treaty. Therefore, I do not think it is fair to say that it took a long time to decide. In fact, it took only two months or so. I understand that everywhere, defense experts are very conservative in maintaining the current weapons system. In this sense, I believe that the JDA colleagues have done very well.
Q: Is there any particular element that led Prime Minister Hashimoto to decide to go ahead -- instead of going through the Committee of Disarmament -- and use the Ottawa process instead?
Spokesman Hashimoto: Japan has been endeavoring to extend technical aid or financial contributions to UN demining activities and also to extend assistance to the victims of anti-personnel landmines. That is one factor. The other factor is that after the successful completion of the Oslo Conference -- not only in the outside world, but inside Japan -- a growing number of people started saying that Japan should sign the treaty. It is very important from a humanitarian point of view. Taking these aspects into consideration, Prime Minister Hashimoto instructed the two ministries I mentioned to carefully study the issues related to our security treaty with the United States, etc. If we convince ourselves that we can get rid of the anti-personnel landmines, the Prime Minister had in mind that we should go ahead and sign the treaty. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the JDA very seriously considered the possibility. The JDA eventually decided that they could go ahead. At the same time, they would do their best to develop alternative weapons. Also, at that same time, both the JDA and MOFA had been consulting with the United States on this particular issue, and the United States assured us that they would not object to our decision to sign the treaty. So, on the basis of those efforts, the Government of Japan decided it would sign the treaty.
Q: The Government of Japan plans to lift the ban on exports of landmine-detecting devices. Also, the Government is going to do that under the ODA scheme. Could you explain this?
Spokesman Hashimoto: First of all, I must explain that we have the so-called three principles of arms exports. According to the old principles, the Government has been prohibited from exporting the demining equipment to any third countries. However, when Japan decided to formally sign the treaty, the Government simultaneously announced a modification in the three principles of arms exports to some extent. This means that in a country where a lot of anti-personnel landmines were left and have resulted in many human victims, necessitating demining equipment, the Government of Japan would like to extend assistance and export the demining equipment under several conditions. That is the essence of the modifications of the three principles of the arms export. Apart from that, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told Prime Minister Jean ChrJtien of Canada that the Government of Japan announced a new package on this. Although we have not yet decided how in detail to implement the package, we now have in mind that the Government of Japan will extend a certain amount of funds to UN activities for demining. Secondly, Japan will assist in holding the so-called South-South Cooperation Conference related to demining, which will be held in May of next year in Cambodia. Thirdly, we are contemplating to provide equipment for demining. Also, we intend to extend technical cooperation for rehabilitation of the victims, as well as grant aid for medical treatment, rehabilitation of victims, etc. We do not know which portions of the explanations which I have just given to you will be Official Development Assistance (ODA) activities and which will not. Basically, when we provide cooperation for defense purposes, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will not categorize that as ODA. We will extend a certain amount of money to implement those activities which I explained to you. However, I am not sure whether or not all these categories will be covered by ODA.
Q: When will this assistance be implemented? Does it depend on the ratification of the treaty by the Diet or can it start sooner than that?
Spokesman Hashimoto: As far as this assistance is concerned, irrespective of the timing of the ratification of the treaty, Japan intends to implement this for the next five years to come.
Q: Does Japan intend to take an active role in persuading other countries, such as in Asia, to ban anti-personnel landmines, or is it just going to be assistance to landmine-infected countries?
Spokesman Hashimoto: We have got to categorize this question into two parts. One is for actual ODA assistance, and so on. We basically extend this type of assistance to the developing countries which need that kind of facilitation. At the same time, if we talk about the worldwide ban on anti-personnel landmines, we consider that the Ottawa Treaty is not comprehensive enough. Now, Japan is going to sign the Ottawa Treaty, but at the same time, we should not forget that there are still a number of countries that still produce, possess, use and stockpile anti-personnel landmines which are not ready to sign the Ottawa Treaty. We understand that many of those countries are the members of the Committee of Disarmament in Geneva. Therefore, Japan intends to make a consensus among the members of the Committee of Disarmament in Geneva at the upcoming new session -- which starts toward the end of January of next year -- to start a new negotiation. It is probably a little too idealistic to try and negotiate on the immediate ban of anti-personnel landmines at the Committee of Disarmament. We have in mind to apply a certain approach on good faith -- for example, to start with, restrictions of exports of anti-personnel landmines, and so on. We are now discussing among ourselves what to do at the Committee of Disarmament in Geneva. In any case, we will make efforts to start new negotiations at the Committee of Disarmament. Through these efforts, we hope that more developing countries, as well as developed countries, which are not ready to sign the Ottawa Treaty, will participate in a constructive way in the new negotiations at the Committee of Disarmament in Geneva.
Q: Could you update us on the progress made by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization?
Spokesman Hashimoto: The precise estimates of the implementation of the project of the nuclear energy reactor have been finalized. The estimates amount to a bit less than US$5.2 billion. Very recently, the ambassador-level meeting of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was held in Washington. They already started to exchange views on how to allocate this amount to members of KEDO. However, that discussion was held in a general manner. We have still not entered in detailed discussions on how to share the burden of the costs. We would like to hasten the process of deciding the share of the cost among KEDO members. However, at this moment, we are still not in a position to tell you actually when we will be able to do so.
Q: Do you have a rough idea of when?
Spokesman Hashimoto: Unfortunately, other than saying we would like to hasten the process, we cannot give you a target date for this. In any case, as you recall, the Government of the Republic of Korea has already committed itself to bear a substantial part of the cost. Japan has also committed itself to have the significant responsibility to implement this project. So, once the estimated costs are now in front of us, we should accelerate the process. Unfortunately, we still cannot give you the target date now.
Q: Next week, there is going to be a referendum in Nago City concerning the acceptance of an air station. If the referendum is rejected to accept the new air station, do you have any plan to address the result of that?
Spokesman Hashimoto: The Government of Japan will do its best to obtain the understanding of the people of Nago City. Therefore, we do not want to think that the local referendum will turn down the proposal of the Government of Japan. Therefore, we will do our best until the end of the day, and we will see what the local referendum will say about this.
Q: Is the Government of Japan probing any alternatives?
Spokesman Hashimoto: I understand that there has been speculation on this -- whether the Government of Japan is going to relocate the new heliport to Iejima Island, etc. But, the Government of Japan has no policy of relocating the heliport from the east coast to the west coast. Japan and the United States at the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreed to present our idea to the people of Okinawa to construct the new floating heliport offshore of Nago City. We will stick to this idea and do our best to obtain the support of the local people on this project.
Q: Regarding the Japanese mission that was sent to China regarding the disposal of weapons. What were the results of this?
Spokesman Hashimoto: Japan is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Under the convention and in accordance with the Japan-People's Republic of China CommuniquJ and the Japan-People's Republic of China Peace and Friendship Treaty, we should dispose of the abandoned chemical weapons in China. We have sent a number of missions to China. We did our best to locate how many bombs were left and where they located, etc. Our basic study has been completed. On the basis of this, the Cabinet has set up a special office to deal with this matter. The Government of Japan intends to continue consultations with China on how to dispose of the abandoned chemical weapons in concrete terms. However, the Government of Japan has not yet completed the study on how to do that. Now, the office which I mentioned under the Cabinet is in the process of studying what sort of structure will actually be needed on the side of the Government of Japan to implement this process. At the same time, the office is going to work out approximately how much money will be needed to implement this process of disposal. We have not yet reached any concrete conclusion yet.
Q: What is the schedule for completion of this process?
Spokesman Hashimoto: I am afraid that we cannot tell you the actual schedule for completion of our study. I understand that the Chinese Government has been asking the Government of Japan to start the project at an early stage. On the basis of requests from the Chinese side, I am sure that the office under the Cabinet is doing its best to continue its study. But, I cannot tell you when this study will be completed.