Visit to Japan
THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me first of all to tell you how pleased I am to be among you in Tokyo today and to be reunited here with my colleague, Mr Kōichirō Gemba. This morning we had a long, very substantive and very fruitful working session. As the Minister has recalled, this was the first session of the ministerial-level strategic dialogue wished for by our heads of state and government.
Japan has been and continues to be a top-level partner for France, and we’d like to strengthen our bonds of partnership in all fields: political, economic and cultural. I’d like to start by reaffirming our message of support to the Japanese people, for their courage, tenacity and spirit of solidarity amid the Fukushima tragedy, which left a deep impression on French people. In the face of adversity Japan was able to – and can – count on the unshakeable support of France and her government.
On the bilateral level, our discussions enabled us to identify a few major priorities, particularly strengthening our cooperation in the field of energy and nuclear safety, developing new economic and technological partnerships, and the prospect of a comprehensive economic and political partnership between the European Union and Japan.
We also had in-depth discussions about the situation in Asia: in North Korea of course, but also in Burma. I was very interested to hear Mr Gemba’s impressions of his visit. I shall be going to Burma myself tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
We also discussed at some length the issue of Iran.
On all these subjects – as well as on the situation in Europe, which I reviewed with Mr Gemba – we were able to see once again how close Japan and France are, and how much we share the same values and interests. It’s very important for France that Japan plays her full role on the world stage. That’s why I reiterated my country’s support for Japan acquiring the status of permanent member of the Security Council.
Q. – My question is for both ministers. You mentioned the Iran issue and the North Korea issue. What measures should be taken with regard to those two countries, in order to ensure fully effective deterrence?
THE MINISTER – On North Korea, we agreed to remain in contact and exchange information on how the regime develops. We – Japan and France – think the most likely scenario is that the regime will continue to evolve, and France will pay particular attention to three points on which her dialogue with North Korea depend. First of all, of course, respect for human rights; secondly the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue; and finally, nuclear disarmament. I assured Mr Gemba of France’s support over the painful problem of the abduction of Japanese citizens.
With regard to Iran, France and her European Union partners believe Iran’s pursuit of her military nuclear programme – which is known, as the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency showed – is both a serious violation of Iran’s international obligations and a threat to world peace. So it would be a serious mistake to stand idly by.
The first path is dialogue, and we’ll continue to offer Iran dialogue provided it is serious and transparent. To date, Iran hasn’t responded to our proposals.
So if we want to rule out the military option – whose consequences would be incalculable – we think we must implement tougher sanctions that should make Iran give in: on the one hand a freeze on the central bank’s financial assets, and on the other the embargo on Iran’s oil exports.
The United States has taken some measures to this effect; the EU is working on it and should do the same by the end of January. We very much hope that Japan can be involved in this. We understand the special problems it raises, given the origin of her oil supplies, and we think there are solutions. So we’d like to continue the dialogue on this issue with our partner, Japan.
Q. – The Japanese Prime Minister has expressed his fears about the serious impact of these sanctions, including those targeting any banks continuing to work with the Central Bank of Iran. He fears there might be a serious impact on the Japanese and global economies. Do you share this fear, particularly in relation to the European banks?
THE MINISTER – On the issue of oil, I well understand Japan’s concerns. I think, however, that there are opportunities for certain producer countries to take over from Iran. So I don’t believe the impact on prices will be as major as various people may fear. Let me take the example of what happened when Libya’s production collapsed: there was no impact on the economy.
On the freezing of the central bank’s assets, I don’t think there would be any consequences at all on the global economy. At any rate, the consequences would, in my view, be marginal. And you also have to ask yourself the central question, namely, which is more serious: the possible economic consequences or the fact that Iran is building herself a nuclear weapon?./.