Japan's response to military actions taken against Iraq - Press conference

News and Press Release
Originally published
I. Press conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi in response to military actions taken against Iraq
Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima: Good afternoon and thank you very much for coming to this special briefing.

This briefing is in order to inform you about the content that Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi told the press at her press conference in regard to the Iraqi situation in which she said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today established an Emergency Headquarters for the Iraqi situation shortly after the outbreak of war, headed by Foreign Minister Kawaguchi. During the course of the first meeting, which lasted for a few hours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided necessary measures on the basis of action guidelines put together by the Cabinet.

Firstly, with respect to the priority measures, in order to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals in the Republic of Iraq and its surrounding nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Japanese embassies is urging them to evacuate as soon as possible to safer places. In order to accelerate the evacuation, we are encouraging them to use commercial flights, which are, in my understanding, still in operation. If difficulty emerges, then the Government of Japan will consider dispatching Government-chartered planes or the Government Airplane to help the evacuation of Japanese nationals in the region.

Secondly, in order to strengthen the security measures at home, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work closely with the National Police Agency and Defense Agency to enhance the security measures with respect to key facilities such as US facilities, diplomatic establishments and so forth.

Thirdly, in order to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the affected people, the Government of Japan will prepare the implementation of personnel and material cooperation based on International Cooperation Law to refugee assistance activities conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the neighboring countries. Specific measures include dispatching civilian medical teams and to transport humanitarian relief materials by Self-Defense Force aircraft.

The second measure, which has already been done, is to disburse US$3.7 million to Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in humanitarian assistance activities in Northern Iraq and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We will consider additional assistance to those NGOs as necessary.

Thirdly, we will provide US$5.03 million to UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) as funds necessary to conduct humanitarian assistance activities by those international organizations in the immediate future in Iraq and neighboring countries.

Also, under the heading of "items to be considered in light of future developments," we have decided on the following guidelines. Firstly, to provide assistance to countries neighboring Iraq for implementation in the immediate future as follows. Firstly, emergency economic assistance to Jordan, which will be hit by immediate and considerable economic impact. Secondly, emergency humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Autonomous Territories from the perspective of regional stability and humanitarian concerns. Thirdly, to enhance an emergency medical response system in the neighboring countries where the influx of refugees is expected. We have decided to dispatch five doctors to the Syrian Arab Republic to assist the hospitals there in order to cope with the situation tomorrow. With respect to the assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq, we will consider possible measures to actively contribute to the international effort we launched. Furthermore, we will strengthen the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan by keeping the supply of oil to the naval vessels engaged in the war against terrorism which now come from eight countries.

Foreign Minister Kawaguchi also made it clear that the Government of Japan sincerely hopes that this military operation comes to an end as soon as possible and the Iraqi threat to the international community is completely removed. That is the statement made by Foreign Minister Kawaguchi during her press conference which was held from 16:45 to 17:15 on 20 March.

II. Statement by Foreign Minister Kawaguchi on the situation in the Middle East

Mr. Takashima: The next item I would like to inform you of is the statement by Foreign Minister Kawaguchi on the Middle East situation in general in the wake of this military action. Firstly, to address the consequences of military actions, Japan will provide emergency humanitarian and other assistance to the neighboring countries and the region. Japan will make efforts with the international community for the consolidation of peace and reconstruction of Iraq.

In order to promote peace in the Middle East, Japan will continue its serious effort to achieve peace in the Middle East by strengthening our efforts to work on Israelis and Palestinians as well as related countries for resuming peace negotiations between the two sides, providing assistance for the Palestinians' reform efforts and building confidence for mid- and long-term perspectives.

Thirdly, Japan will try to establish stronger relations with the Islamic world by continuing and strengthening dialogue with the Islamic world through such projects as cultural exchanges and visits by leading figures.

III. Question concerning Japan's position in military action

Q: Can we say that Japan is at war with Iraq?

Mr. Takashima: I do not think so because we are not participating in the military action.

Q: But you support it?

Mr. Takashima: Yes, we support.

Q: So support does not mean that you are part of the war itself?

Mr. Takashima: Because we are not part of the coalition forces, technically speaking, we are not at war with Iraq. We hope that military action will come to an end as quickly as possible with minimum civilian casualties.

Q: What do you mean by as quickly as possible - days or weeks?

Mr. Takashima: Since we are not taking part in the military action, we have no idea, but we are hoping.

IV. Questions concerning financial assistance by Japan

Q: Do you have any financial figures of economic assistance to Jordan?

Mr. Takashima: We are studying it. We are talking with the Jordanians, but no decision has been made.

Q: When do you expect the announcement of this assistance?

Mr. Takashima: For the assistance to Jordan, I do not have details at this moment, but there are ongoing discussions between the Governments of Japan and Jordan. Since the war has just started and we still have not seen the flow of refugees from Iraq to Jordan, we will have to wait and see what will happen. But we anticipate that there will be severe economic difficulty in Jordan because Jordan has been receiving very cheap oil from Iraq, which might be terminated because of this situation.

Q: Do you have any global figure of Japan's assistance in various forms like contribution to the war efforts?

Mr. Takashima: Because today is the first day of military activities, the figures I have given you are very preliminary ones.

Q: I have not gotten them.

Mr. Takashima: The exact figures, or the figures that are already decided are 400 million yen for the NGOs operating in Northern Iraq and Jordan and US$5.03 million to UN organizations - UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP. But these figures will be increased when it becomes necessary to do so. Also, we have not established any sort of estimate for the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

V. Questions concerning security situation

Q: How would you rate the risk of attack on US facilities or other facilities in Japan as a result of this coalition?

Mr. Takashima: We have taken a very precautionary measure and we do not see any sort of heightening of threat at this moment. But generally speaking, because of this military action, the United States has been taking additional measures of precaution to prevent any sort of terrorist attack. In conjunction with that, Japan decided to step up protection of those US facilities in Japan and also foreign institutions such as embassies and Consulate-Generals' offices as well as Japanese governmental offices.

Q: Is the Government stepping up efforts on security on railways, airlines, etc., to protect against terrorist attacks?

Mr. Takashima: Those are things done by each individual company and agencies. I understand that various airlines have taken additional measures to ensure no terrorist attack would be possible.

Q: In terms of security, do you have any policy to profile certain nationalities or certain religions?

Mr. Takashima: We do not have any specific names or groups, but we have been giving a kind of precautionary warning to the Japanese nationals to be very careful on the acts and behaviors in various places including Middle Eastern countries and also Asian countries as well as the United States and Europe for possible terrorist activities in those places.

VI. Question concerning dialogue between Japan and Muslim countries

Q: What exactly is meant by "strengthen dialogue with the Islamic world?" Does that mean with individual countries?

Mr. Takashima: Not with particular countries but former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono started this project of dialogue with the Islamic world, which includes cultural and personal exchanges with various countries where the major religion is Islam. We believe that this kind of effort should be strengthened in order to avoid any sort of so-called "clash of civilizations" and rather to reunite the international community.

VII. Question concerning remaining Japanese nationals in Iraq

Q: Are there Japanese nationals currently in those areas subject to Iraqi invasion?

Mr. Takashima: We have designated the following countries as areas or countries from which the Japanese nationals should evacuate immediately. They are Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and Kafdi area of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Kafdi is where the oil fields operated by a Japanese petroleum company are. In those areas, there are 26 Japanese in Iraq, 83 in Kuwait, 555 in Israel and 97 in Kafdi, Saudi Arabia. Other neighboring countries are designated as places to which you should postpone travel.

VIII. Questions concerning the acceptance of possible Iraqi refugees by Japan

Q: Are there any intentions to accept Iraqi refugees if they start a mass exodus out of Iraq?

Mr. Takashima: Currently we have no plan to accept the refugees from Iraq. We will consider it if there are applications for it.

Q: Do you think the applications will be facilitated easier than other applications because of the current situation?

Mr. Takashima: We do not have any special measures or special treatment so far to be considered for possible evacuees from Iraq or the situation.

IX. Question concerning beginning of attack

Q: I read in the news reports that Japan learned about the missile attack around 11:30 a.m. Do you have further information on this?

Mr. Takashima: We have received from Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage around 11:30 this morning, which was received by the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Yukio Takeuchi while he was briefing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Prime Minister's Office. As a matter of fact, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage first tried to inform Foreign Minister Kawaguchi who was at the Diet committee hearing and therefore could not take the phone call. That was the reason why Mr. Takeuchi received the phone call. It was a very convenient situation for him as he could immediately inform Prime Minister Koizumi of the message from Mr. Armitage which was the notification of the start of military action and the war.

Q: Was there no mention of the target of the first attack?

Mr. Takashima: No.

Q: I heard many opinions in the Arabic press saying that this was not really war. It is just an attack launched suddenly because the United States might receive intelligence information on some Iraqi leaders, including Saddam Hussein, being in a certain place. However, it has been indicated that it is a "real war" so how does Japan read it?

Mr. Takashima: We have seen the press report to that effect but we have no individual means to confirm it or deny it. However, we consider it as a start of war as President Bush announced in his television speech that early stage of military action has been commenced.

X. Question concerning Japan's policy toward other countries

Q: Can we expect Japan to support a similar attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran and North Korea to topple their governments?

Mr. Takashima: We do not have any idea about supporting or denying this kind of hypothetical situation because the situation in Iraq is a result of twelve years of denial by Saddam Hussein to comply with all relevant resolutions for disarming. He deceived the international world.

Q: There are many resolutions at the United Nations and the UN Security Council is also claiming the same things about Israel. Does Japan have the same policy for the future toward Israel?

Mr. Takashima: My understanding is that peace efforts are going on to resume the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, and a roadmap for peace will be presented. So we do hope that the peace effort will be materialized on this question.

XI. Question concerning the United Nations and affiliated organizations

Q: Do you see any irony in the fact that United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR, UNICEF, and so on are being asked to collaborate in this effort at a time when the United States and Great Britain have gone around the UN Security Council and launched this attack?

Mr. Takashima: We believe that the United Nations still has its own significance of existence in order to cope with those problems common to all of humanity. We are very much eager to assist them in whatever way we would be able to do so.

XII. Question concerning Third World Water Forum in Kyoto

Q: Do you consider the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto a failure because of the United States policy of launching a war during the conference time?

Mr. Takashima: We do not think so. We believe that there is no connection between the World Water Forum and the military action against Iraq. As a matter of fact, the Third World Water Forum will be a very successful one because there will be an adoption of an Action Plan which includes very concrete actions to be implemented by the international community to assist those countries that suffer from overabundance or scarcity of water. A Ministerial Meeting will be held as scheduled although Foreign Minister Kawaguchi cannot preside over it because of the situation. Yet the Government of Japan will make every effort to make it a successful one.