Japan was in a quandary over whether to invite President Robert Mugabe to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development or not after the United States insisted that Mugabe should not be invited while Southern African countries said they would not attend the conference if Mugabe was not welcome.
Japan’s deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka told United States ambassador to Japan, J. Thomas Schieffer that Japan was in a difficult position because it had highlighted Africa as a theme for its G-8 presidency and hoped to fold the results of TICAD into its G-8 work.
According to the United States embassy, Japan also wanted to have more participating African countries than China did in its last Africa-related summit.
Asked if Mugabe’s presence would be a problem for the United States, Schieffer said it would. He told Yabunaka he hoped Japan could find a way not to involve Mugabe in the conference.
Viewing cable 08TOKYO286, AMBASSADOR AND VFM YABUNAKA DISCUSS USS BLUE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 000286
USTR FOR AMB. SCHWAB AND AUSTR CUTLER
PLEASE PASS TO USDA FOR A/S TERPSTRA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2018
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND VFM YABUNAKA DISCUSS USS BLUE
RIDGE, MUGABE, SECRETARY’S VISIT, BEEF
Classified By: Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer for reasons 1.4 b/d.
¶1. (C) In a February 1 one-on-one lunch, the Ambassador
thanked Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka for his
assistance with the USS Blue Ridge’s upcoming port call and
asked him to reconsider the presence of Zimbabwe’s President
Robert Mugabe at the fourth Tokyo International Conference on
African Development (TICAD IV). The Ambassador and Yabunaka
also discussed Secretary Rice’s February visit and the way
forward on resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan. End
USS Blue Ridge’s Port Call in Otaru
¶2. (C) The Ambassador thanked VFM Yabunaka for the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs’s (MOFA) assistance in getting a berth for
the USS Blue Ridge during its February 7 port call in Otaru
City, Hokkaido. Otaru’s mayor agreed February 7 to allow the
Seventh Fleet flagship to make the port call after MOFA
intervened and despite criticism from a local opposition Diet
TICAD and Robert Mugabe
¶3. (C) The Ambassador told VFM Yabunaka the United States
continues to maintain that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe
should not attend TICAD IV, which takes place May 28-30 in
Yokohama. Japan has already issued invitations to all
African countries except Somalia (with which it does not have
diplomatic relations) and Yabunaka stated several countries,
particularly those from southern Africa, had indicated they
would not attend TICAD IV if Mugabe is not welcome. That
puts Japan in a difficult position, he continued, because
Japan has highlighted Africa as a theme for its G-8
presidency and hopes to fold the results of TICAD IV into
this year’s G-8 work. (Note: Japan also wishes to have more
participating countries than China did in its last
¶4. (C) Asked if Mugabe’s presence would be a problem for the
United States, the Ambassador said it would. He told
Yabunaka he hopes Japan can find a way not to involve Mugabe
in the conference.
Secretary Rice’s Visit
¶5. (C) Yabunaka said Secretary Rice’s February 26-27 visit
would coincide with the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert, who will be in Japan February 24-28. Yabunaka also
noted a Palestinian visit to Japan will follow in March.
U.S. Beef Exports
¶6. (C) Yabunaka raised the issue of U.S. beef exports to
Japan, stating he hopes the United States would cooperate
with Japan on a proposal to admit products derived from
cattle under 30 months of age. The Ambassador replied
Washington is frustrated with the state of discussion on beef
and sees the 30-month proposal as promising little progress.
¶7. (C) The problem from the U.S. viewpoint, continued the
Ambassador, is the 30-month proposal does not resolve the
issue — it just prolongs the pain. If the 30-month proposal
were agreed to, the day after it went into effect the United
States would be asking Japan to allow exports of all cuts and
all ages of beef. Bilateral friction on the beef issue would
not be over.
¶8. (C) The Ambassador asked Yabunaka to focus on resolving
the beef issue in one shot and suggested he think along the
lines of the proposal PM Fukuda put forward in November.
Japan could think, for instance, about asking the Food Safety
Commission to consider simultaneously the questions of
30-months and under beef and the OIE standards for all cuts
and all ages at the same time. A single response that opened
the market to 30-month and under beef and set a date certain
for transition to the OIE standards (on the condition that no
BSE was detected during the specified period) might be more
amenable to Washington. But, the Ambassador stressed even
that was not certain because Washington is so frustrated over
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dealing with Japan on this issue.
¶9. (C) The Ambassador told Yabunaka he will be in Washington
during the week of February 4 and will discuss the beef issue
with USTR Schwab.