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Monthly News for February, 2004

February 2, 2004

The Annual Convention of the Liberal Democratic Party

On the 16th of January the 70th Annual Convention of the Liberal Democratic Party was held in a Tokyo hotel. Party President Junichiro Koizumi and Secretary General Shinzo Abe were joined by other party officials, and together were cheered along by invited guests Kanzaki Takenori, leader of the New Komei Party; Moriyama Youichi, Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren); Sasamori Kiyoshi, President of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo); and singer Saori.
In his greeting Party President Koizumi sought understanding for his decision to dispatch the Self Defense Forces to Iraq, stating that “merely reiterating the need for peace will not be enough to actually bring it about. We must cooperate with all nations in the international society to build a lasting peace.”
After the speech the LDP’s main policy proposal for 2004, entitled “Fostering Reform” was adopted, alongside further goals concerning international cooperation, economic policy and constitutional reform. The Convention closed with all participants pledging their commitment to victory in the Upper House election, scheduled for this April.


Secretary General Shinzo Abe meets with staff from the American Senate

On the 14th of January Secretary General Shinzo Abe met with Keith Luse and Frank Jannuzi, both staffers for the U.S. Senate on Foreign Relations who were returning from a visit to a North Korean nuclear facility.
After conducting an inspection of the facility at Yongbyon, the two Congressional aides confirmed that the facility was in operation, stating that researchers had witnessed figures working hard on the site. With regard to the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens, both men reported a clear change in the attitude of North Korea. They relayed North Korea intention to allow remaining family members of the kidnappees who had returned to Japan to join them there, providing the kidnappees were able to come and meet them in Pyongyang. To this Abe declared “in line with the basic stance of this government, which is without resolution of the abduction issue there will be no negotiations toward the normalization of diplomatic relations, Japan will continue to pay close attention to movements in North Korea and will not hesitate to issue a tough response.”


Secretary General Abe holds talks with the Ambassadors from Arab countries

On the 22nd of January Secretary General Abe also held talks with the Ambassadors from various Arab countries at the residence of the Ambassador from Qatar, in which he sought understanding and support for the decision by the Japanese Government to dispatch the Self Defense Forces to Iraq. In return, the Ambassadors replied that they expected Japan to take initiative in the Middle Eastern peace process, specifically requesting that Japan pressure both Israel and Palestine for a ceasefire as well as provide financial assistance in the form of ODA (Overseas Development Aid). To this Abe pledged his commitment to continued efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.


LDP Policy Chief Nukaga Fukushiro receives a visit from foreign VIPs

On the 26th of January Mr. Bernhard Zepter, the Ambassador from the European Union in Japan, and Mr. Yim Sung-Joon, former Senior Secretary to the South Korean president on foreign policy and national security (now Ambassador to Canada), visited LDP policy chief Nukaga Fukushiro. While exchanging views with Zepter about economic relations between Japan and the EU, in particular regarding Japan’s aim to become a “Tourist Nation”, Nukaga stated that Japan needed to emulate the successful tourism in Europe in order to move its own program forward. Zepter replied that “while tourism has certainly taken off, it has come at a considerable cost to the environment in many European countries.” He urged Japan to consider this issue with regard to its plans for developing tourism.
The problem of North Korea was discussed during talks with Yim. The Ambassador stated that he perceived that country’s stance as softening considerably, and in this vein, he expressed his hope for an early settlement. However, he also reiterated the need for Japan to be careful in its dealings with what he termed to be a sometimes “difficult” country. Affirming the importance for Japan of the ties between Japan, the United States, and Korea, Nukaga replied that Japan would indeed exercise a high degree of caution in its treatment of North Korea.


LDP opens Workshop on Scandinavia

A workshop on Scandinavia, hosted by the International Bureau of the LDP, began with its first meeting on the 28th of January. The workshops are being held to garner information about the programs of “advanced welfare and government responsibility” boasted by the Scandinavian countries, programs which are now receiving attention from all over the world. Given the significance of the issue in Japan, whereby debate over pensions and medical care are ongoing, the LDP has convened this workshop in an attempt to resolve the problems. The first meeting consisted of inviting Ambassador Mikael Lindstrom, from Sweden, to talk about the social insurance system in his country.
When asked why the Swedish system of “advanced welfare and government responsibility” is able to succeed, the Ambassador gave reasons ranging from “public access to information is protected”; “citizens hold a high level of trust for politicians and bureaucrats”; “policies are made based not on ideology but pragmatism”; “citizens value equality”; and “it is based on sound financial policies.” The politicians present exchanged opinions and ideas on a variety of problems, including under-age crime, the relationship between a gender-equal society and the family, and the system for drafting the budget.


The passing of measures enabling economic sanctions to be taken against North Korea

On January the 29th a joint meeting involving the LDP’s Headquarters on Measures for Resolution of the Abduction Issue; the Cabinet Policy Divison; the Land, Transport, Infrastructure and Industry Policy Division; and the Foreign Affairs Policy Division was held at the LDP headquarters in Nagatacho.
At this meeting a debate was held about legislation currently under examination in the Diet, which concerns a proposal to ban entry by specific foreign ships into Japan, also making the application of economic sanctions against North Korea a possibility. Its aim is to enable the government to be able to exclude all foreign ships (mainly those from North Korea) that may pose a threat to Japan’s peace and security.
On the same day, an amendment to the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law, which enables the government to unilaterally halt cash remittances overseas, was passed by the Lower House, facilitating Japan’s own capacity to establish financial measures against the country.
At the meeting LDP Secretary General Abe showed high regard for the establishment of sanctions, stating that the mere fact Japan will have this “diplomatic card” against North Korea will be significant.


The Deputy Prime Minister of Laos pays a visit to Secretary General Abe

On January the 29th the Deputy Prime Minister of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, Mr. Bouasone Boupphavanh, paid a visit to Secretary General Abe at the Party’s Headquarters. Talks were held concerning the relationship of friendship and economic cooperation held between the two countries.
In his greetings, Abe confirmed that next year the LDP would celebrate is 50th anniversary, and Japan would also celebrate 50 years of friendship with the Republic of Laos. He declared that Japan would endeavor to deepen the relationship of friendship in the years to come. To this, Mr Bouasone replied “the basis for strengthening the friendship between our two countries has already been laid. Laos intends to continue to put effort toward the development of human resources and deepening people-people exchange”.

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