The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Japanese Prime Minister – 20 September 1993

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, given on Monday 20th September 1993.


I and Prime Minister Major had very candid discussions together with other representatives of Great Britain for a couple of hours and it is indeed a great honour that we have been able to welcome Prime Minister Major as the first: prime minister to visit as an official guest after I assumed the post of Prime Minister and I therefore express my warmest welcome to him.

We covered the entire ground of our bilateral relations and discussed important themes for both of us and we reaffirmed the importance of our bilateral relations for each of us, We have seen the growth historically of very good relations between our two countries politically, economically as well as culturally and we both agreed that we must together work to further bring these relations to a mature state.

In the economic sphere, “Opportunity Japan” and then its successor campaign “Priority Japan” are under way and we agreed that we must continue to promote such campaigns in order to bring our trade relations to a better balance of expanded two-way trade.

We also agreed that early next year in January we shall hold a Japan-UK 2000 Conference with an eye towards the opening of a new era between Japan and Great Britain and I should like to have Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Hata attend that symposium if at all possible and deliver a keynote address together with Foreign Secretary Hurd. I also expressed my hope – and in fact I think we agreed that there shall be a regular Foreign Ministers meeting of our two countries at that time.

Furthermore, in order to promote interchanges between our two countries at the intellectual level, we agreed to carry out an exchange of young diplomats between Japan and Great Britain and at the same time we confirmed that we shall together make an effort to achieve a successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the GATT talks before the end of the year.

As far as the former prisoner of war question is concerned, I did confirm that legally, at the government-to-government level, this question has been settled but I took this opportunity to once again express my deep remorse as well as apologies for the fact that Japanese past actions had inflicted deep wounds on many people including former prisoners of war.

Last but not least, we also saw eye-to-eye that we together must make an effort to make our bilateral relations even more mature with an eye set on the future and I believe that our talks today have been very meaningful and useful..


I won’t add a very great deal to what the Prime Minister has had to say except to say they were extremely useful talks and to touch briefly on one or two of the most important points amongst them.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister spoke of a mature relationship between our two countries. I think that is exactly right. A close and friendly relationship has developed over the past fifteen years and it continues to develop both at an economic and at a political level. I think this first official visit is very well-timed; it has enabled Mr. Hosokawa and me to get to know one another. He is of course an old friend of the United Kingdom; he made a number of visits to Britain as a member of the UK-Japan 2000 Group but it is nonetheless valuable to develop a personal relationship.

We spent some time discussing the Uruguay Round and related trade issues. I won’t go into all the technical details of those discussions except to say they were extremely useful and I set out the British approach to today’s Joint Council in Brussels. The Prime Minister set out the bilateral initiatives we have agreed today and I think there is nothing to add to that except in one respect: I think the UK-Japan New Century scholarship is a remarkably innovative idea and I would like to express my gratitude to the private sector British companies who sponsored the initiative; it will enable a number of Japanese post-graduate students to attend Oxford and I think that will be a matter of great help to both our countries.

We discussed at some length the important trading and investment relationship between our two countries and the advantage that we both saw in continuing that: We touched on a range of international issues – China, the United Nations, Russia, the Middle East and political and economic reform in Japan.

As the Prime Minister indicated a few moments ago, during our discussions I did make plain the strong feelings that exist in Britain about the issue of the former British prisoners of war. I said that very great interest had been aroused by Mr. Hosokawa’s formal expression of profound remorse and apology for Japanese actions during World War II. The Prime Minister said he wished to reiterate those sentiments to all those in Britain who suffered as a result of Japanese conduct. We noted that the question of compensation had legally been settled by the San Francisco Peace Treaty. I told Mr. Hosokawa that if in future the Japanese government contemplated taking steps to redress the matter, it would be necessary for the situation of those concerned in Britain to be fully taken into account. I informed Mr. Hosokawa that we were also examining whether non-governmental measures would assist in solving this problem. Both of us thought that this approach was worth examining. While we recognised that immediate solutions were not possible, we agreed to keep closely in touch about this matter and contact will therefore continue.

The final word I wish to add before we take any questions you may have for a few moments is to say how much I welcome the initiative of holding the Japan-United Kingdom Conference in London in January 1994, We commissioned a certain amount of work for that Conference and I think it will prove to be an important landmark in our closer relationship but I think now, with the Prime Minister’s consent, we might be able to take a few questions.


QUESTION (Colin Brown, The Independent):

Mr. Major, Mr. Hosokawa has said that he thinks that being in power for more than ten years breeds corruption. Do you think that after fourteen years in power it would be healthy for the Conservatives to have a spell in opposition?


Neither healthy for the Conservatives nor the country.


In Japan, for the first time in 38 years, we now have a new coalition government with an end to a one-party monopoly by the Liberal Democratic Party and I wonder how, Prime Minister Major, you assess the political change in this country?

Secondly, having met the new Prime Minister here, Mr. Hosokawa, what are your personal impressions?


On the first point, it is not for any foreign politician to comment in too great detail about Japan’s government or Japan’s internal system, I can only say I have had very pleasant and cordial relationships with successive Japanese Prime Ministers and I have absolutely no doubt after today’s meeting that I will have pleasant and cordial relationships with Mr. Hosokawa and his government and I wish them and Japan every success in the political reforms upon which they are embarked.


[Very indistinct but question regarding remarks of one of the businessmen accompanying the Prime Minister saying that the continuing doubt regarding the Prime Minister’s position was undermining the mission and making life difficult for the mission. Could the Prime Minister comment?]


I made my views about that clear yesterday and I don’t see any particular need to reiterate them, I am concerned in making sure that this is a success. You must take your own samples but I suspect very strongly that if you talk to any of the senior businessmen who are here on the trip they are finding it a very worthwhile occasion. I think it is proving itself to be a success and I hope that will be their verdict at the end of our discussions here.


There is much talk about what Japan might seek in the United Nations General Assembly that has just started with regard to a possible indication of its willingness to become a permanent member of the Security Council and that sort of thing. To date, Britain has not shown a forthcoming attitude on this question regarding Japan or the Federal Republic and I wonder what your current stance is on that issue and whether this matter was discussed in your meeting today?


Yes, we did discuss it today and I set out the British position fairly comprehensively at a speech over luncheon. I think the prime concern we have is to make sure that the United Nations works effectively. There is now a debate about reform proceedings and as that proceeds I have no doubt that in one form or another Japan will be a beneficiary of that particular debate but the primary concern that we have had right the way through is to ensure the continuing efficiency of the United Nations, not to hold back reform either in the interest of Germany or Japan or anybody else. We are content with the debate about reform; we think it will come to a conclusion but as that debate proceeds – and I think Japan will benefit from that debate very materially – we must all the time have in mind the efficiency of the United Nations operation itself.


Do you agree with your Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, that your Government is still in a dreadful hole and if you do, how are you going to get out of it?


I think you only have a partial quote from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear we were now backing growth, that we would have the largest growth in the European Community this year and I strongly suspect the Chancellor shares my view that we will have the largest growth in the European Community next year. The point about the hole is that we are on our way out of it!


[Indistinct but regarding whether Primo Minister Hosokawa, when he discussed the Uruguay Round, discussed the threatened French veto regarding the Blair House Agreement]


We did in fact discuss matters related to the Blair House Agreement, In that connection, I might say that every country has its own difficult issues, especially the agricultural issue, and we mutually reaffirmed the need for efforts by all of us to override these difficulties and bring the Uruguay Round talks to a successful conclusion.