Secretary-General's Press Conference at the National Press Club
Tokyo, Japan, 18 May 2006SG: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Since we don't have too much time I would be very brief in my preliminary remarks. First of all, let me say that I am very happy to be back here in Japan. I have had a full and productive visit and I look forward to discussing a full range of issues with you. As you have heard, I just came from the University of Tokyo where I had lively discussions with a group of bright students, apart from making a statement mainly on the nuclear proliferation issue. And earlier today, my wife Nane and I had the opportunity of meeting with the Emperor and her Majesty and I have also had the serious discussions with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and Mr. Shinzo Abe and parliamentarians. We have had the opportunity to discuss quite a lot of issues in addition to U.N. reform. Obviously, the nuclear proliferation issue has been very much on everyone's mind, not just the Northern Korean one, but also the Iranian issue. We have also discussed relationships in the region and the progress that we have made or not made on Security Council reform, which is of keen interest to the government and the people of Japan. From here obviously I will visit your other neighbour, I will go to China and I think it is very interesting for me to be in the region at this time and to be able to visit the three countries at once. Let me pause here and take your questions because I am sure you have lots of questions for me.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Kofi Annan. I would like to ask you a question, the first question. Japan's obtaining a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council is still facing difficulty. In your opinion, Mr. Secretary-General, what is the biggest obstacle? How seriously do you think the negative reactions from Japan's neighbouring countries, in particular, China and South Korea to Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine are affecting this issue? Do you think, how serious the visit to Yasukuni is affecting?
SG: The reform of the Security Council is an important issue for all the Member States and let me say that generally speaking, most of them accept that the Security Council ought to be reformed. The differences they have is how to proceed, how to reform and what should be the composition, the structure and the size of the Council. The reform of the Council is an issue for the Member States, for the General Assembly, 191 of them. It is not an issue that is determined in the Security Council . It is determined by the entire membership and nobody in the Security Council has a veto. Of course, they can hold things up when it comes to the time for ratification because any decision to amend the composition of the Council will require a Charter amendment and Charter amendments have to be ratified by all governments. And so a permanent member can sit on ratification as a way of holding it up because all the permanent members will have to ratify the agreement, so the issue is not a question of one or two countries. I think what the member states have to agree on is the approach. They have before them two options: To create additional permanent seats, six additional permanent seats or six additional semi-permanent seats. The permanent seats will be without veto, so in effect if you were to do that, you will have three categories of members: Permanent members with veto, permanent members without a veto, and of course, the normal rotational members of two years per term. The semi-permanent could be a four-year term, this is what I said in the recommendation I put before them, but it could be for longer period if the members decided to do so and one could be re-elected. So we should look at this in terms of a broader context. Obviously, your neighbours have their own views and their own position and the incident you refer to the visits to the shrine has not helped. But I don't think it's only limited to the Council issue, it has raised some tensions in the region which I think we need to make some gestures to put behind us.
Q: So you met President Roh Moo-hyun in Korea and you met Prime Minister Koizumi here in Japan and the promotion of the dialogue between Japan and Korea was much encouraged by yourself. And President Roh Moo-hyun or else Prime Minister Koizumi upon talking with the two leaders you were convinced more by the explanation [of] which of the two leaders.
SG: Let me say that both leaders realize that the relationship between the two countries is extremely important. They realize that you have various sets and levels of relationship, not just commercial but cultural, scientific exchanges, people to people exchanges, and this has grown over the five years and it is extremely important. But of course good things could become better and even good relations can be improved. But because you have these tensions I believe that the dialogue should continue and the leaders and the political leaders should reach out to each other, and, of course, quite a bit of the problem is historical and one has to find a way of putting that behind you. This may require some gestures to ensure that the relationship moves on to a very smooth path. You have a wonderful potential in this region that I think you would all want to exploit it without unnecessary tensions between neighbours.
Q: In you speech earlier today at the university, you seemed to express some frustration with the lack of progress on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues. Just where are we in the process, are we headed towards crisis? And what would you like to see the steps be?
SG: We have an urgent situation and I hope you are using the [word] “crisis” advisedly and not in sense of eminent, explosive conflict or anything, but it is serious. It is a crisis in the sense that we need to work very actively and be creative in finding a solution at the table. I believe that only a negotiated settlement is a right one. Both parties maintain they are open to dialogue. Let's find a way of getting them to the table and put on the table a package that could lead to mutually satisfactory solution and I think, since you seem to have heard my statement at the university, in the direction I am encouraging the parties to go in. I do not think the [Security] Council is going to pass a resolution this week or next. Their discussions are going on amongst the countries and everyone is conscious that this is urgent, is important and it has to be handled carefully, and I'm hopeful that we will find a diplomatic solution.
Q: You met with the Emperor this afternoon. I understand you explained to him that one of the biggest issues is to stop Iran's nuclear development. Could you tell us the details of what you actually told him? And how was his reaction?
SG: I usually don't go into details of my discussions with Emperors and heads of state. And I often say that if I were to go into details, a blow-by-blow account of what I discussed with them, the next time I meet them, they would tell me and talk to me only about the weather and their grandchildren. But let me say that we had a very constructive discussion of world issues and reviewed some of the trouble spots and the measures that will be needed to try and calm this turbulent world.
Q: Regarding the selection of the next Secretary-General, generally speaking it is said that it is Asia's turn to send the SG, but the US, for example, is saying that it shouldn't be bound by such practice. So Mr. Kofi Annan, do you think that we should decide by past practice? And another point, if such practice is not supposed to be kept, then, for example, the major countries may not send any SGs. That is one practice. But Japan, a major contributor to the United Nations, if Japan says that we want to send an SG, what will be your reaction?
SG: Let me start with the last part of your question. If Japan wants to put up a candidate for the Secretary-Generalship, I'm sure it is free to do that. But it would be for the other 190 member states to decide. The Secretary-General will have no say. He will be scrupulously neutral in this race. There is tradition. But as you indicate, it's not a law. There's no juridical impediment to Japan putting forward a candidate. But of course one has to consider the reactions of the other countries in the sense that in the UN, countries that are very powerful should not seek to get additional power by seeking positions of that kind. And traditionally the Secretary-General has come from countries not as powerful as Japan. On the issue of whether this is Asia's turn, I can say that most of the Member States believe that it is the turn for the Asians. There's no juridical requirement, but it is a practice that we have rotated over the years from one region to the other. And the last time, an Asian served was U Thant, who was replaced by [Kurt] Waldheim in ྄. And so through that rotation mechanism, everyone believes that it is the turn for Asia. Yes, there have been comments that this is not Asia's turn. There's no such law. But nobody has insisted that it is a law. It's a practice. And of course non-Asian candidates can put themselves forward. And again, the Member States will have to make their determination and judgment. But what I can say is that most of them are looking at Asia and believe that the Secretary-General should come from Asia this time. But that also will require that they have to put up candidates that the Member States will find acceptable and qualified for the position. The decision will be theirs.
Q: Today, here in Tokyo, Mr. Doudou Diène of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights said that Japan should take more steps in order to fight the discrimination against foreigners, and also regretted the fact that yesterday the Diet passed a new law to fingerprint every foreigner coming to Japan. Do you have a comment on that? We would discuss the report of Mr. Diène [Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance] generally. Thank you.
SG: No, I haven't met [Doudou] Diène. I understand he's here in Tokyo, and I have not discussed his report with him. And I'm not familiar with the new law that you referred to. But let me say this. On the issue of discrimination and xenophobia, I must say I'm getting worried. It's increasing around the world in many societies and in many communities where politicians often use the presence of foreigners in their midst for political advantages. And when you look at the way migration is becoming a major issue around the world, and the way foreigners are being profiled, it is a very worrying situation. In fact, at the next General Assembly, one of the topics we will be talking about at a high-level dialogue will be migration so that all the leaders of the world will have a chance to discuss migration. I will be submitting a report to them. And so we need to not focus narrowly on this issue. Ever since terrorism reared its head since 9/11, and governments' determination to protect themselves and to fight terrorism, I have noticed erosion of human rights and civil liberties. And I have had the chance to speak out on this and indicate that there should be no trade-off between effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and civil rights of individuals. And if we allow our civil liberties and our basic belief in rule of law to be eroded, because we are fighting the terrorists, then we are giving the terrorists a victory they could never have won on their own.
Q: As we all know that China and Japan are not enjoying a very warm relationship now. Mr. Secretary-General, how do you see the future of the two neighbours and what do you expect with it in China? Thank you.
SG: Periodic misunderstandings do occur amongst the best of friends and best of neighbours. But what is important is that one takes measures to deal with it, put it behind one, and move forward. And I hope this is what the two countries will do. They have lots going for them. They have lots of relationships, and they have both gained from this relationship whether it's commercial or otherwise. And I think it would even be more advantageous if they could work even more closely together. And I'm sure the leaders will find the wisdom and the means to put whatever difficulties exist today behind them. But it will not go away by itself. As I said, there have to be gestures, bold generous gestures to settle issues and move forward.
Q:. My question is regarding the UN itself. Some express disappointment, if not mild contempt, towards the inefficiency of the United Nations. It is power after all that determines the rule of the game and that the US will take the initiative to come to sort things out either militarily or diplomatically, at the time and manner of his own liking. The other claim is that even when the US does look to international community for multilateral framework, that very framework can often be defined as coalition, simply as a coalition of the willing. How then could the UN demonstrate its leadership and its moral authority at the time when that very norm for international cooperation is being challenged?
SG: Let me say that when we talk about the UN, we need to be clear which UN we are talking about. There are two United Nations to put it perhaps a bit simply. There are two UNs. There is a UN, a UN made up of Member States, of governments, your government and mine and others. They sit in the Security Council and the General Assembly, and give us our mandates, the marching orders to the Secretariat. And there is a UN that is a Secretariat that implements decisions of the Member States. And the UN can be as strong as its member states want it to be. The UN can take action when there is political will. And when that will is lacking, there is very little that can be done. And that way emanates from Member States, your government, mine and other, not from the Secretariat or the staff. So when we talk that the UN has failed, the UN has not done the deal, we should be asking our leaders and our governments why haven't you done this. We sometimes talk as if the UN is some satellite out there. When it's being criticized, we don't hear anything from the governments as if they have nothing to do with it. But they are the UN. And I think we have to make this clear. And the UN is sometimes criticized for not taking certain actions. Take the case of Iraq. The UN was condemned. We had a difficult situation during that period. We were condemned by those who were for the war for not supporting the war. And those who were against the war were upset that we did not stop the war. How does the UN stop the war, the kind of war we saw in Iraq? The Security Council acted and performed its duty. The Security Council did not endorse the war. The United States could not get the support of the Council to go to the war. That was the way the Security Council was supposed to work, and it did its work through democratic decision. The US did put together a coalition of the willing and went to war. The group of countries that joined the coalition and went to war were also members of the United Nations, where the Council has taken a decision. But I think when you look around and you look back historically, it is always best for governments to act with the legitimacy of the Security Council. When an action is supported by the Council and the United Nations, the peoples and countries of the world are much more likely to accept it as legitimate. When governments move outside the Council or act without Council approval or outside the Charter, or do things that are not in conformity with the Charter, there is perceived lack of legitimacy and things become quite difficult. And so, the UN is not as impotent as it may appear. It is only the UN that can confer the kind of legitimacy that governments would need for the sort of collective action that one wants to take. It is a country's right to take action to defend itself. It is a right of a country to take preemptive action if it thinks there's imminent threat against its country and its people. But when it comes to collective security, that must be taken by the Security Council.
Q: Secretary General, I have a question on the UN reform. It's a simple question, what would you like to address as the highest priority for your remaining term amongst all the UN reforms? Thank you.
SG: Oh gosh, I'm sure you would want me to say the Security Council reform. Let me say that as we have achieved a lot since September. Since September we have established a peace building commission to help countries coming out of conflict. We have established the Human Rights Council and I'm happy that Japan has been elected to the council. We've got the Member States to accept the principle of the responsibility to protect, protect populations that are at risk of genocide, ethnic cleansing or gross and systematic violation of human rights, particularly if their governments are unable or unwilling to protect them. We've established a revolving fund to help us respond more quickly to humanitarian disasters and we have also established a democracy fund to support governments in transition to strengthen their institutions and democracy, but we are also looking at a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy which I've proposed to the Member States which they are reviewing now, in addition to management and mandate reviews that we are handling. And of course we have Economic and Social Council reform as well as the development agenda. If you are to ask me to decide which, UN Security Council reform of course. I put together a set of well thought out proposals before the Member States which I believe is essential for our attempts to adapt the United Nations to the challenges that we face today. Each one of them in my judgment is important and is essential. But I also accept that reform is not an event. It's a process. It's an on-going process and it will probably continue with my successor. And so I would urge the Member States to implement and approve as much of the package that I have put before them without making the choices for them. It is for them to do that. I have done my duty by giving them the proposals and it is now time for them to do theirs.
Q: You've used the expressions “bold gestures” or “generous gestures” several times now yesterday and again today. And I wonder if you could clarify. Are you suggesting that Japan needs to makes gestures or that parties concerned need to make gestures and what sort of gestures, do you have in mind?
SG: I'm not sure I want to go into that kind of detail. I think my message is clear, the countries in the region know each other well. They've been observing each other, they share a certain history and they're all aware of what irritates or worries or provokes the other side and they will have to assess the situation for themselves and determine what changes one has to make to smooth relationships and to facilitate promotion of a potentially really dynamic region that has a lot to offer to each other and to the world. I think you shook your head, you've got me.
Q: Nuclear development in Iran is something that I would like to ask a question. In short, I'm sure the five P5 members all have nuclear weapons. Five major powers and then India and Pakistan, they have nuclear capability, so as far as Iran is concerned, as a right they might perceive and down deep they may feel that they're entitled to have nuclear weapons. They might. So if you follow that line of logic in the whole world, the nuclear weapons will proliferate. I think that is the clear danger we are faced with. What kind of accommodation, what kind of adjustment can you do in order to suppress nuclear development in Iran? For example, it may be outrageous but Israel, they are reportedly having about 100 nuclear warheads, so Pakistan, Israel, India, to these countries to dismantle nuclear weapons or something very bold, something daring, that kind of a proposal could come and perhaps it is not realistic, maybe difficult, but as the finishing touch of your 10 year term as the Secretary General, on the question of nuclear proliferation, what is the kind of message that you would like to give to the world?
SG: I've said a lot about this topic earlier this afternoon at the University of Tokyo. Let me say that on the issue of the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology, nobody is quite disputing them. Iran has the right to peaceful use. The question that is posed is whether its intention is peaceful or nuclear. And the request is that it should work with the [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency to lift the cloud of uncertainty surrounding its intention. And I think it is in the interest of Iran and the world that this be done. And I think the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) did impose requirements on nuclear states as well as non-nuclear states. The non-nuclear states were encouraged not to develop nuclear weapons, that they will be given access to peaceful use of nuclear energy. And they should also allow for inspections and Iran has signed the NPT, and therefore should honour its obligations on that. India didn't sign and therefore one cannot argue that it had broken a treaty that it has entered into. But you are right that India also does have a nuclear weapon. And this is why I believe if one comes to the table with good faith, they should be able to find a way out. But apart from this individual situation we need to have a much broader approach. We need to ensure that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty enters into force and is accepted by countries. We need to ensure that countries accept the optional protocol of the Atomic Agency as a norm for verification of their programmes. And in other words, let's strengthen this mechanism. But we also have to be careful that the countries that are holding nuclear weapons also have a responsibility,. You know, I don't want to get into the debate of which comes first, disarmament or non-proliferation. We need to do something about both, because as long as those governments that are holding onto the nuclear weapons insist that they need these nuclear weapons for their security. And in fact some are even thinking of developing even more potent weapons for their security, the more others are going to insist that they need for their security too. So we really need to tackle this issue on broad fronts and take measures to strengthen the NPT regime. Last year twice, heads of states and government, the governments had the opportunity to strengthen the regime and they failed on both occasions. The first time was the NPT review in May. It was a failure, and at the World Summit in September, there were proposals on the table they could not agree to strengthen the regime and in fact there wasn't even a paragraph in the long outcome document. And the time has come for leaders to take this issue very seriously and find ways of containing the spread of nuclear proliferation.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General. From what we saw in Iraq, it was use of Self Defense Forces. What is your assessment of their work? How do you regard what they've done in Iraq and do you think Japan is ready to go a little bit beyond that? Do you think that Japan today, using the new position of offering more in terms of its forces for whatever reasons it could be, what do you expect from that?
SG: I don't think that I can assess the performance of the Self Defense Forces in Iraq because although the UN has a presence, it's a rather limited presence and we have not been involved in the work of the multi-national forces. But Japan has participated in previous peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and Timor Leste. And the troops did very well. And I think there is scope for them to do more. We would love to have more Japanese troops participating in UN peacekeeping operations. We have 85,000 troops around the world and I'm sure it is going to increase now that we are about to approve an operation for Darfur in the Sudan and we need well trained and good troops and I'm sure we'll be happy to welcome Japanese troops with open arms if the government were to decide to let them participate as they did participate in two previous occasions. But that of course is a sovereign decision.
Q:. You said you met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is one of the frontrunners for the premiership. I was wondering in you conversation with him, what you thought of him as a leader, and what about him made the biggest impression?
SG: Let me assure you that I do not get involved in the campaign for the premiership. That would have been interference in internal affairs. And we had a very good discussion on a whole range of issues and I had met him earlier in New York. So it was good to see him again and go over some of the issues that indeed you have asked about, about the relations in the region, about the UN reform and other issues. And it was a very good conversation.
Q: What are your thoughts on the recent meeting between the Bush Administration and the parents of North Korean abductees, Megumi Yokota. Do you think that the Human Rights Council [should] play a role in resolving the issue?
SG: I don't have details about the meeting you referred to. But I think on the human rights aspect, the Human Rights [Commission] has already issued reports that have gone to the General Assembly already, and I know that the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office has seized on the matter and they are following it. I don't have any immediate news for you as to what they are going to do next. But, I have said on record that abduction of any form cannot be defended and is unacceptable, even from a purely human point of view. Can you imagine the anguish of the families and the loved ones and the uncertainty of not knowing what has happened? And this is a practice that must be condemned, of course, we have seen a quite a lot of it around the world and it is growing and it must be condemned without reservation.
Q:. My question is about the relationship between human rights and security. You mentioned that the migrants issue is a big problem. And you have the Security Council and you have the Human Rights Council, so at the moment, what needs to be done? What's the role of the United Nations. Could you give me a bit more specific ideas about that?
SG: I think on the migration issue, which is very much a national issue. there is a question of rights of migrants which has to be respected by governments. There are questions of individual rights, which must be respected. But it is not an issue for the Security Council per se, how they are treated and what happens becomes an issue for the Human Rights and sometimes also for the High Commissioner for Refugees, because sometimes migrants may come in and may have an asylum status and one will have to talk to them to screen them to determine who is an economic migrant and genuine bona fide refugees who must be separated out and accorded their rights. But when I refer to the question of terrorism and human rights, I was talking about measures that governments take sometimes to protect their population to fight terrorism that goes against the established human rights norms and erodes the civil liberties of their population and this is what I was warning against, and not making a direct link with migration, although because migrants are often foreigners and coming from outside, there is a tendency in some societies to think that all the problems come from migrants. And I don't think migrants have a monopoly over criminality or bad behaviour. There can be home-grown terrorists. They don't always have to come from outside. And we need to really be careful that in the zeal to contain terrorism, we do not trample on the rights of population, and we also have to remember that these things often start with one and you may pass a draconian law to deal with a particular group. But often it is not long that it is extended to cover groups outside that particular group who were initially the targets. Thank you very much.
Q: We are almost out of time. This is the question I wanted to really ask you. The United States of America in the past has resorted to the use of force as one means to settle international conflicts. For instance, furthering World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as examples. In March 2003 the war in Iraq began and according to personal opinion, Mr. Secretary General, do you believe that the United States acted correctly? In other words, do you think the war in Iraq is just? Or do you think the war in Iraq is wrong? What is your opinion with regard to this?
SG: I don't want to rehash the debate and the argument that led to the Iraq war, but let me say that the Iraq war has caused lots of problems for the UN as an organization and has brought divisions which are beginning to heal, but they haven't healed yet. And we have seen the divisions also across the world. It was because of the war in Iraq that when I spoke to the General Assembly in September of 2003, I indicated that we were at a fork in the road and that we needed to look at our collective security system to see how effectively it is serving us and what changes may be needed. It is in that spirit that I set up a panel of experts, the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change who made some very good proposals which found its way to the Member States. And one of the issues we discussed at that time was the use of force, that there should be guidelines about the use of force. Is the proposed solution unreasonable? Is it proportionate? Would it be worse than the situation it is supposed to address? A whole series of questions. Of course, at the Summit, this aspect and the guidelines for use of force was not carried forward to the extent that I would have liked by the Member States, but I think we will all have to agree that if one can solve solutions peacefully, it is always the best way to go. We are not a pacifist organization, as an organization we don't dismiss force under any circumstances. There are times when it may be justified to deal with certain situations. But there are certain basic principles which will have to be respected and so, my reaction to war as such is something that we should avoid if we can. And I also believe that in war, all are losers, both the vanquished and the victorious. And the damage that it does and the effort that has to go into rebuilding and in today's world we really need to think very, very, very hard before we embark on wars. Thank you.