2009年 07月 07日
Interview with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso
The interview with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is the first in a series of exclusive interviews granted to ANSA for the G8 site.
Taro Aso, 68, has headed the Japanese Government since last September and is chair of the Liberal Democratic Party.
How do you evaluate Italy’s decision to hold the G8 Summit in earthquake stricken area, L’Aquila. What kind of assistance is Japan considering to offer?
I expect that by taking advantage of the G8 Summit the Italian Government will succeed in drawing even greater interest from the international community towards reconstruction assistance that it has been undertaking together with the people of the local area. In addition I believe it will lead to heightened disaster reduction awareness in each country.
Japan is an earthquake-prone country and we have relevant know-how. We intend to utilize our know-how as a nation often struck by earthquakes to cooperate with reconstruction and help bring it about in the affected area as early as possible.
Japanese citizens and private companies have also been providing monetary donations and donations in kind. In this way, both the public and private sectors will be supporting the reconstruction of L’Aquila through a variety of means.
How is Japan contributing to the international debate through the framework of the Major Economies Forum meeting at the G8 in L’Aquila, as well as the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009?
In order to solve the global warming issue, global emissions reductions are necessary and the international community must tackle the issue in a concerted manner.
For that reason, we must create a fair and effective framework in which all major economies participate in a responsible way.
Japan’s energy efficiency is double that of Europe and America and is the world leader in this field. Furthermore, last month, I decided on a mid-term emissions reduction target for Japan of 15% from the 2005 emissions level by 2020. This target goes beyond that set by Europe, namely reductions of 13% compared to 2005, and that of the US at 14% reductions. Moreover, this target is of “clear water” efforts, so to speak, which includes net efforts only, calculated by totaling energy-saving and other domestic efforts and incorporating no emission credit purchases from other countries or carbon sinks such as reforestation whatsoever.
Japan as the world leader in energy efficiency, with this ambitious mid-term emissions reduction target, Japan will offer its utmost support towards the provision of technical assistance to developing countries that share the responsibilities for the new framework.
Setting forth this mid-term target, Japan intends to play a leadership role in the international discussions at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) and at COP15, seeking agreement on a framework in which all countries participate.
What roles can the G8 play to reach a post-Kyoto agreement? How do you see the relationship between the G8 process and the Major Economies Meeting (MEM)?
To achieve large-scale global emission reductions, it is necessary for the G8 to lead global efforts and to call upon all major economies to take action in line with their respective responsibilities and capabilities. At last year’s G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, which Japan chaired, the G8 agreed on a long-term goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050. At this year’s summit, the G8 needs to link these outcomes to COP15.
I want to formulate a strong message at the summit level, as well as through the MEF process, that moves beyond the statement at Toyako last year, so that at COP15 this December the major economies reach a comprehensive agreement toward the establishment of a fair and effective framework beyond 2012 in which all major economies participate in a responsible way. Specifically, I hope that the G8 will exert leadership in such areas as innovative technological development and assistance for developing countries.
The issue of climate change is one that requires a global response and is not something that can be addressed by the G8 alone. The actions of major developing countries and their participation in the framework beyond 2012 in a responsible way are absolutely essential in reducing global emissions. I consider the MEF to be extremely meaningful in that it is able to generate powerful political momentum to propel forward the negotiations process in the lead-up to COP15 and also as a forum for close-knit discussions among the leaders of major economies.
It is expected that through such dialogues, the major economies will strongly indicate that they have the political will and the capability to carry out their responsibilities towards the global emission reductions. I hope that with the G8 at the core, strengthening our dialogue with major developing countries and others through the MEF process, we will move towards even more broad international cooperation.
What is your forecast for the development of the Japanese economy, the second biggest in the world, for the coming months, considering that the biggest stimulus plan ever is being implemented to boost economy?
Severe economic circumstances have been continuing in Japan for some time, centered on the employment situation. Our exports and production have increased for three consecutive months from March through May as a result of improvements in external economic conditions, showing a shift towards recovery in some areas. Downside risk in the economy still remains, but the economy is supported by a noticeable reduction in pressure on inventory adjustment and a number of economic countermeasures with the scope of their projects totaling roughly JPY 130 trillion (approximately €1 trillion), so we expect the economy to head towards recovery.
How do you evaluate the actions that international financial institutions such as the I.M.F have taken to now to respond to the global financial crisis?）What are your views on the steps that such institutions will take from here, such as the exit strategy from the emergency financial measures?
The IMF and other international financial institutions play an important role in overcoming the economic crisis. Especially, the IMF has been implementing rapid and flexible assistance to member countries that have fallen into difficulties in their international balance of payments as a result of the crisis, including the Ukraine, Hungary, Iceland, and Pakistan, among others, and I commend the Fund very highly.
It will be necessary to faithfully advance the strengthening of the financial foundations of international financial institutions as agreed at the G20 London Summit. Japan announced $ 100 billion loan to IMF at the G20 Washington DC Summit last November. After that, as various countries have been acting in concert, it is necessary to move forward steadily with reforms including the enhancement of the IMF’s early warning function, which will help to prevent future crises.
How do you view the U.N. Security Council’s recently adopted resolution 1874, and what are its meanings?
North Korea’s nuclear test cannot in any way be condoned as it seriously undermines the peace and security of Northeast Asia and the international community and represents a grave challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1874, which was adopted unanimously on June 12, contains strong measures in the area of prevention of arms transfer, cargo inspections, financial measures, and other areas. I consider it a strong resolution that firmly indicates to North Korea that provocative actions will only be to its own detriment.
In order to bring about the full effect of this resolution, it is essential that each UN Member State steadily implement measures based on it. Japan also intends to take appropriate responses as rapidly as possible, including the formulation of the relevant domestic legal framework.
In addition, Japan intends to work in cooperation with the international community so that North Korea earnestly acknowledges the strong will of the international community and takes concrete actions towards the resolution of various issues.
The negotiations to solve the abductions issue seems to be at a stall. How do you intend to move this forward?
The abduction issue is extremely inhumane incident that 17 Japanese citizens including a 13-year-old girl have been kidnapped coercively without knowing what’s become of these people. The abduction issue is an important issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan and lives and safety of Japanese citizens. Moreover, this is a serious violation of human rights and thus not an issue for Japan alone but for other countries whose citizens have been abducted as well. It is absolutely imperative that we resolve this at the earliest possible time.
At the Japan-North Korea Working-level Consultations held in August last year, North Korea pledged to begin a full investigation regarding the abductees. The Japanese side also announced that it is prepared to lift restrictions governing the movement of people and charter flights concurrently with North Korea launching an investigative committee and commencing an investigation.
However, North Korea contacted Japan last September to say that it would postpone the commencement of the investigation. For Japan, there has been no change at all in our policy of implementing the agreement reached at the Japan-North Korea Working-level Consultations. I would like once again to strongly urge North Korea to uphold its pledge and commence an effective investigation at an early time.
In addition, the human rights situation in North Korea overall besides the abduction issue is quite grave. North Korea completely disregards the voices of the international community urging reform and it continues to reject cooperation with the United Nations. I would like to send out a clear message calling for improvements in the North Korean human rights situation, including the abduction issue, at this year’s G8 summit as well.
What is the best to do about Iranian nuclear ambitions?
Japan recognizes that it is necessary for the international community to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue concertedly and decisively in view of the need to maintain the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and the implications for North Korea’s nuclear issue, as well as the need to ensure stability in the Middle East, which has a significant bearing on global energy supplies.
Japan strongly hopes that Iran will comply with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and thus suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities and heavy-water related projects, so that negotiations can be resumed for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the issue. Thus, it is important while implementing the requirements of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, continues to urge and encourage Iran to meet these requirements. Japan urges and encourages Iran to meet these requirements at high level, including myself.
Japan and Italy have been growing cooperation at all levels, including trade, tourism and culture. How can the two countries further strengthen bilateral ties? I know that you are very interested in pop culture like anime. Lately there is growing interest toward Japan including Japanese cuisine in Italy. Do you think it is a good idea to introduce more Japanese culture to Italy?
Japanese people are extremely fond of Italy. I’ve heard that in Japan the best-selling flag of any foreign country is the Italian flag. And, a considerable number of Japanese tourists visit Italy every year. Now as the number of Italians interested in Japan is rising, I would very much like to see an even greater number of Italians visit Japan so that they can understand the “true” Japan. People to people exchanges are the foundation for the strengthening of bilateral relations.
For that reason as well, it is first necessary to have people come into contact with Japan. Taking advantage of my visit to Italy for the summit, on the night of July 7 I will be attending an event in Rome that introduces Japan’s pop culture and food in order to do some direct public relations for Japan among the people of Rome. I consider Japan’s anime culture a type of modern culture that is absolutely world-class.
What’s more, the European leader that I have met the most is Prime Minister Berlusconi. Making use of the close relationship between us as Prime Ministers, Japan and Italy will lead the L’Aquila Summit to success as last year’s and this year’s G8 chair countries. At the same time, I believe that Japan and Italy joining hands as we engage in various international issues will lead to a strengthening of our bilateral relations.
A general election must take place over the next few months. With signs that the Japanese economy is starting to recover what are some factors you will consider in order to decide when to call an election?
We need to hold a general election no later than September, when the members of the House of Representatives reach the end of their elected terms.
I became Prime Minister last September and I have been devoting my utmost efforts to measures to defend the daily lives of the Japanese people from this deep economic slump that has struck simultaneously around the world.
At long last, we have come to see bright signs in the economy. We also succeeded in enacting a large number of important bills deliberated in the Diet. So, I would like to dissolve the House of Representatives when the time comes.
How do you think the voters will assess your efforts to revive the economy after the worst recession since the end of the World War II?
The Government has made economic recovery its highest priority issue for the present, and four sets of economic countermeasures have been formulated since last August in order to combat our current severe economic and financial circumstances. We have been devoting our all to the prompt implementation of these packages of countermeasures. These countermeasures total about JPY 26 trillion(approximately €200 billion) in national spending and have a total project scale of roughly JPY 130 trillion (approximately €1 trillion), making them entirely unprecedented.
Within these countermeasures, there are a number of policies to prevent the economic activities from breaking the bottom and promote the growth driven by private-sector demand, such as assistance towards cash flow for medium, small, and micro-sized enterprises, the implementation of fixed-sum stipends, the expansion of employment assistance, the dramatic lowering of expressway tolls, subsidies towards the purchase of “eco-cars,” and promotion of the use of “eco point” which means you get some points exchangeable for some goods in return for purchase of environmentally friendly and energy saving goods.”
By implementing such economic countermeasures, I would like to prevent the economic activity from breaking the bottom, ensure the peace of mind of the Japanese people, and strengthen growth capacity in the future and promote a self-sustained economic recovery in the private economy. How the voters should evaluate all these is a decision I would like to leave to the voters themselves.
As the first Catholic Japanese Prime Minister, do you have any plans to visit Vatican City during your stay in Italy in July?
This time, I will visit the Vatican in order to strengthen Japan-Vatican relations. Of course I am looking forward to this visit as a Catholic as well. My visit to the Vatican will be the first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister in ten years, since then-Prime Minister Obuchi visit.
(*) interview conducted by ANSA’s Tokyo correspondent, Antonio Fatiguso
G8 Summit 2009 official website/
Interview with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso