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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2003

Interview of the President by Taro Kimura, Fuji TV
The Library
October 14, 2003

3:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Glad you're here. Ready to go.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President, for this interview. I'm sure Prime Minister Koizumi is looking forward to have you over there. Actually, he is preparing a package for Iraqi reconstruction which includes $5 billion aid for the next four years, and sending a couple of hundred Japanese self-defense forces over there for the humanitarian operation. Do you think Japan fulfilled her responsibility with this package?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I'm very pleased. Prime Minister Koizumi and I are good friends. I admire him a lot. And I spoke to him about Japan helping in Iraq, just like Japan helped in Afghanistan. And he assured me he would work hard to develop a good package. It sounds like he has done so, and I'm grateful and thankful.

We've got great relations between America and Japan. We will keep them that way. And part of good relations is we see problems and we work together, and see opportunities. And a free Iraq is a -- a peaceful Iraq is a wonderful opportunity for Japan and the United States to work together to achieve because a free and peaceful Iraq will change the world in a positive way.

Q Another subject, Mr. President, that the Prime Minister will bring up is the North Korean problem.


Q And he is working very hard to resolve the issue of abductees, Japanese.


Q What could your administration do to help him realizing the reunification of the abductees' status?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's a very interesting question. The primary objective of the five countries who are now engaged with North Korea is to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. That's our primary objective and that ought to be our focus.

A major issue with the Prime Minister, of course, is the abductees. I've always said that the fact that North Korea kidnapped or abducted these people talks to the nature of the administration in North Korea. And, of course, we will send strong signals that we object to that kind of behavior, that that is not a civil behavior.

But the first objective is for all of us to work together for the sake of peace and security, particularly in your part of the world, to get rid of any nuclear weapons and/or ambitions for nuclear weapons.

Q For example, do you think it's possible that your administration demand North Korea to include this abduction program in whatever the comprehensive package --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's very important. I'll talk to the Prime Minister about this, of course. I know this is a very sensitive subject. And I've spoken out about this terrible practice, a terrible part of history that the North Koreans abducted. But the first thing we got to do is focus on our overall objective, and that is to make sure that the peninsula is nuclear weapons-free. And that's in Japan's interest, of course. And right now that's where our focus is.

Q I understand -- or I read Bob Woodward's book. And you've said you loathe Kim Jong-il. Do you still feel that same way?

THE PRESIDENT: When I know a leader starves his people, allows his people to starve and know there's detention camps, and it's not a free society, it's a very, closed totalitarian society, he and I don't agree, obviously, on freedom and peace. And I hope that Kim Jong-il realizes that when five nations speak, we're very serious, and that it's in his country's interest to get rid of nuclear weapons, and/or programs to develop nuclear weapons. Because the five countries that are now speaking in one voice are saying as clearly as possible to Mr. Kim Jong-il, you need to change for your good and for the good of the country.

Q There is speculation in Tokyo that you will speak to Mr. Koizumi to let dollar-yen rate float, and not let the Japanese financial institute to intervene in the market. Is this the case?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I will talk to him about, one, our government's strong dollar policy. And I will remind him that our position when it comes to currency exchanges is that the market ought to decide the relative values of currencies based upon the fiscal policy of each government, the monetary policy of each government, the future economic picture of each country. And that's what I will remind him. This will not be the first time that we have discussed dollar policy and/or trade matters.

Q Lastly, I remember you've enjoyed yakitori when you were in Tokyo, the barbecued chicken.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I did. (Laughter.)

Q And I wonder whether you will bear tasting sushi this time. I know you're not really particularly in favor of the raw fish.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm a beef man. You know I like good beef. Japan's got some of the greatest beef in the world. And -- but I'm also, hopefully, a good enough guest not to demand a particular menu from my host. The Prime Minister and I have eaten a lot of meals together. And I'm confident that he will put together a good meal for both the First Lady, Laura and me. And I really am looking forward to seeing him. He is -- he is a great friend. He is an interesting man. I really enjoyed being around him. You know, one of the -- he came to my ranch. And he and I sat down apart from the house in a beautiful part of the ranch and had a very long discussion just on a personal basis. And it meant a lot to me. He's a leader of a great country and a great friend of the United States. And I'm grateful for our relationship.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir, you're welcome.

END 3:16 P.M. EDT

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