(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada

Date: Thursday, September 17, 2009, 00:50 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Statements
    • (1) Orders for an Investigation into the Issue of the so-called Secret Agreements
  2. The Issue of the so-called Secret Agreements
  3. The Realignment of US Forces
  4. The Continuation of the Replenishment Activities in the Indian Ocean
  5. The North Korean Issues
  6. Appointment of State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice Ministers for Foreign Affairs
  7. The Relationship between the National Strategy Division and Foreign Policy
  8. Japan-US Foreign Ministers Meeting
  9. Disarmament and Non-proliferation
  10. The Right to Collective Self-Defense
  11. East Asian Community
  12. The Japan-China Relationship
  13. Objections to the Preemptive Use of Nuclear Weapons
  14. WTO Negotiations

1. Opening Statements

(1) Orders for an Investigation into the Issue of the so-called Secret Agreements

Minister:
Good evening, everyone. I am sorry for the delay. I am Katsuya Okada and I have assumed the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I just had a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office so I will try not to repeat things that I said there. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. Today we have handed out some material on the issue of the so-called secret agreements which I briefly touched upon earlier. I believe that diplomacy is based on the understanding and trust of the people, and in this sense, the issue of the so-called secret agreements raises the distrust of the people of Japan, and as a result, weakens Japan's diplomacy. I believe that the so-called secret agreements issue should be addressed through the initiatives of a politician, such as the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister. As long as the Prime Minister or Minister for Foreign Affairs state that "there are no secret agreements," officials have no choice but to say the same. Therefore, as I have been saying from before, this is an issue by which the leadership of politicians will be tested.

Taking this occasion of being appointed the Minister for Foreign Affairs - an opportunity for great change with the transfer of power - I believe there is need to thoroughly uncover the past truth regarding secret agreements and realize diplomacy based on the understanding and trust of the people of Japan.

Therefore I issued an order based on Article 10 and Article 14, Paragraph 2 of the National Government Organization Law, to conduct thorough investigation of original documents that are in the possession of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs related to the four secret agreements below and to compile a report of the investigation results by the end of November this year. I have also given instructions to give reports on the progress of this investigation as needed and to ask for instructions if necessary.

  1. The secret agreement on the introduction of nuclear weapons, made at the time of the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty in January 1960.
  2. The secret agreement regarding combat operations in the case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, made at same time in 1960.
  3. The secret agreement on the introduction of nuclear weapons in the case of an emergency, made at the time of the return of Okinawa in 1972.
  4. The secret agreement on taking over the cost of compensation for the return of the situation in Okinawa to its original state, made at the same time in 1972.

Just now a Ministry meeting was held and I issued orders to Vice-Minister Mitoji Yabunaka - of course "issued orders" is an exaggerated way of saying things - to exhibit our self-cleansing capabilities and conduct a thorough investigation of existing documents. Mr. Yabunaka replied that he would do so.

I believe it will be a difficult investigation. From what I hear, there are approximately 2,700 files related to the Japan-US security issue and 570 files related to the return of Okinawa. We must go through these one by one. If there are not enough people to work on this, I am considering calling back staff temporarily from diplomatic missions overseas and having people who are experienced or have the capacity to understand remain in Japan to work on this.

Vice-Minister Yabunaka told me that the investigation would start on September 25 and last for about six weeks for original material, after which a thorough report will be compiled in about two weeks and reported to me at the end of November. Additionally, while this is a thorough investigation to be conducted within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there will also be statements from former Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. I believe there will also be a need for the documents to be evaluated by a third party. Therefore, going forward I plan to establish a committee of outside experts in about a month or so and have the committee conduct an investigation as well. That investigation will interview former Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, go to the US to conduct investigations if necessary, and further scrutinize the documents found within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I also think that there is need to consider the situation at the times when the issues of these so-called secret agreements were being debated - why these happened and why they could not be helped. These issues must also be analyzed by external parties so that we can give the public a comprehensive explanation and thus fulfill our responsibility. In addition, currently administrative documents, not just limited to secret agreements, are in principle disclosed after 30 years, based on a certain set of rules. However, I believe that this may not necessarily be enough. For example, there may be occasions when information not disclosed in Japan is disclosed in the Republic of Korea or in the US. Therefore, I would like experts to discuss the rules of disclosure and the exercise of these rules as well and, if necessary, make recommendations on new rules and the exercise of the new rules. These are my thoughts regarding this matter and I have just issued orders to start with a thorough investigation of the documents in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2. The Issue of the so-called Secret Agreements

Question:
Regarding the committee of experts, do you mean to establish this after the internal investigation at the Ministry is concluded at the end of November, allowing for another month for the committee to review the investigation report?

Minister:
I believe that it is not necessarily the case that the investigation has to be completed first. Because the investigation is going to start now, I do not think it is necessary to establish the committee right away. I think there should be a period when both activities are going on simultaneously. Otherwise, it would take an enormous amount of time. I do not think that we need to wait until a conclusion is made at the end of November.

Question:
Regarding the digging up of documents, will this investigation be conducted entirely internally, or will the third party committee be involved in this as well? Additionally, when do you hope for the third party investigation to be completed?

Minister:
There is an issue of confidentiality if an outside person were to go through the documents one by one, even if that person were to be given civil servant status temporarily. So I believe it is not realistic for the third party to check all of the documents. However, for documents which might matter, having the experts look over them directly may be a possibility. As for when the third party investigation will be done, I do not think I can give an answer until it starts, but I do not think it is something to spend a great deal of time on, so I think that perhaps at the beginning of November they will start their review while the investigation is still underway and give a through recommendation without taking too much time. However, the most important thing is for the truth to be uncovered. In that sense, I place a great deal of importance of the investigation that will take place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Question:
Regarding the secret agreements issue, I believe that until this time, information must have been passed down unofficially. Under these circumstances, having received explanations on the situation up until now from Vice-Minister Yabunaka, what are your impressions on the probability of the existence of the secret agreements?

Minister:
Well, I have just become Minister for Foreign Affairs today, so I have not been briefed on anything in particular yet. I just took my first step in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have a certain degree of certainty that the so-called secret agreements do exist. However, there is no concrete foundation to this certainty so I would like to wait for the investigation that will take place.

3. The Realignment of US Forces

Question:
You already answered questions regarding this matter at the press conference held at the Prime Minister's Office, but I would like to ask two questions about the realignment of US Forces. Regarding the notification of the relocation of Futenma Air Station outside the prefecture or outside the country, your explanation was that this is included in the Okinawa Vision, but not in the Manifesto. Your repeated explanation stating that it is not included in the Manifesto can give the impression that your position aiming for a relocation outside the prefecture or outside the country has changed. Does your aim for a relocation outside the prefecture or outside the country remains the same?

Minister:
Our position to aim for a relocation outside the prefecture or outside the country remains the same. It is just that it is written in the Okinawa Vision, but not in the Manifesto or coalition joint policy agreement. Our position has not changed, but in order to prevent us from tying ourselves up so much that we cannot move, I believe this was perhaps done to increase our options a little. This is because the issue of Futenma Air Station will not be the only issue that will be discussed with the US side. While I do not believe that we should lay all the issues out on the table, the issue of Futenma Air Station and the issue of assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan are two major themes to be discussed within this year. This is not directly related, but it may be that in reality we must discuss issues at every stage with the US. If we declare that we will never give in, it will no longer be a negotiation and therefore we would like to keep our options open in negotiations. Our position remains the same.

Question:
Regarding the issue of the realignment of US Forces, your position is that it is an issue that should be taken up within this year. After having started negotiations for the review of the realignment, by when do you aim to come to a new conclusion?

Minister:
That is not a question I can easily answer as it involves another party. However, in the course of the realignment, relocation to Henoko is moving forward, and if we leave it alone it will end up becoming an accomplished fact. Therefore, we must swiftly deliberate on this matter.

Question:
While the issue of relocating Futenma Air Station outside of the prefecture is not in the Manifesto, bringing up a revision of the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement is, and it is also included in the coalition joint policy agreement. Specifically, which parts are under consideration to be revised? Is it the issue of criminal jurisdiction or that of environmental evaluation? What is the Government considering specifically?

Minister:
In my opinion, I believe that we should make it clear what we will start with. As for the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement that you just mentioned, which will be an overall revision draft, the three parties have drafted a revision in the past. It is an extremely important issue. However, issues that we must hurry to act upon are the realignment of US forces and the issue of the military bases. If we are to swiftly act on something, I think it should be these two issues. Of course, it would be good if all of our requests regarding the Status of Forces Agreement go through, but since it involves another party, I believe we should narrow our scope to an extent and go into discussions. As for when we should enter into these discussions, in my personal opinion I believe it should be the next step after we have come to an agreement, based on our mutual trust, on the realignment issue or the issue of Pakistan and Afghanistan. As for which parts we should narrow our scope to, this is something we must continue to deliberate on.

Question:
The relocation of US Marines based on the agreement between the government of Japan and the government of the United States concerning the implementation of the relocation of the III Marine Expeditionary Force personnel and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam as part of the original realignment roadmap, which is related to the realignment of US forces, is underway. Is the provision of US$2.8 billion, for example, to be effective until a new agreement has been made, or will you halt the execution of this budget?

Minister:
If we did so, it would be a complete confrontation. Discussions should not go on forever. I believe a realistic decision will be needed. Our aim is to conduct discussions for the purpose of finding better answers based on our relationship of mutual trust. Our aim is not to create conflict.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

4. The Continuation of the Replenishment Activities in the Indian Ocean

Question:
Regarding the replenishment activities in the Indian Ocean, the current activities are scheduled to end in January 2010. Are you planning to continue them or reconsider them?

Minister:
As I stated during and after the election campaign, my opinion is that we will not simply extend the mission.

Question:
Does this mean that you will consider some other form of assistance to take instead?

Minister:
It simply means that we will not simply extend it.

Question:
What are your thoughts regarding additional forms of assistance?

Minister:
Although it is not directly related to this issue, looking at the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I believe Japan will be expected to render steady assistance. Since it will be done using taxpayers' money, we must thoroughly deliberate what specific form this assistance will take in order to earn the people's understanding. That will be the premise upon which we will conduct thorough discussions.

Related Information (Enactment of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law)

5. The North Korean Issues

Question:
I have a question on North Korea. In your previous press conference, you stated that nuclear, abduction and missile issues would be resolved comprehensively. Will the DPJ actively call on the North Korean government to engage in intergovernmental dialogue for a total resolution?

Minister:
We may see various new developments in response to the change of administration. There are things that we must keep in mind, however. We have received virtually no response from North Korea on the reinvestigation of the abduction issue, which you just mentioned in your question. North Korea thus is not carrying out its commitment. On the nuclear and missile issues, they conducted nuclear tests and declared the possession of nuclear weapons - North Korea is doing anything that they want. The situation being as such, dialogue does not seem to be the right option. We might as well send a wrong message to North Korea that aggressive action would result in dialogue. Now is time to strengthen sanctions. The purpose is to make North Korea return to the negotiation table. And so, should there be any changes on the North Korean side in the course of imposing strengthened sanctions - in other words, should a situation develop in which North Korea stops taking all the actions I have just mentioned and shows a willingness to engage in dialogue in a sincere manner - I think would be appropriate to engage in dialogue within the framework of the Six-Party Talks.

Question:
Meetings for the Six-Party Talks have not been held for some time. As you just explained, we have long been in a situation in which the North Korean government has not been making an appearance at all. How will you overcome this stalemate? Please tell us if there is any room for Japan to go ahead with advancing bilateral relations with North Korea when North Korea appears to seek to engage in dialogue with the United States on a bilateral basis.

Minister:
That is something that I need to discuss thoroughly with the staff members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In principle, we must consider this matter carefully for the same reason that I just explained.

Question:
How will you handle the Act for Special Measures on Cargo inspections of North Korean Ships, which has been prepared as part of sanction measures and scrapped during the ordinary session of the Diet?

Minister:
As I emphasized during the election campaign, we seek a prompt enactment of the bill. It would probably be difficult to enact the bill during the current special session of the Diet, but we hope to enact it during the next extraordinary session of the Diet, if possible. I expect that the bill can be enacted without strong oppositions because it has been prepared by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Question:
On the situation of North Korea, is it correct to understand that the current administration's policy toward North Korea is no different from the one held by previous LDP administrations, in that Japan is waiting for North Korea's attitude to change while strengthening sanctions against it?

Minister:
The answer to this question depends on whether you mean the previous LDP administration, a previous LDP administration, or previous LDP administrations as a whole. There was a certain time in the Bush administration's era when the United States was said to seek a change in the current North Korean administration. The same goes with Japan's administrations; some Japanese prime ministers stressed a regime change in North Korea. The new administration does not share that position. If North Korea senses such possibility, the prospect of having them engage in dialogue would be weakened even further. It could be that time was basically on the North Korean side given that the previous Bush administration sought to achieve whatever it could up until the time came for a transfer of power. Now that the Obama administration has been inaugurated, I think that time is on our side. Therefore, we must steadily respond to various issues without haste. Of course, it does not mean that we can let time flow meaninglessly, especially so when the abduction issue is involved. But there is no need for us to make proposals hastily.

Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

6. Appointment of State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice Ministers for Foreign Affairs

Question:
I would like to ask about the appointments for State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice Ministers for Foreign Affairs.

Minister:
I submitted my requests on the appointments for State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice Ministers to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano, but I think some adjustment will be necessary as multiple recommendations might be made for the same person, and considering there is a need to appoint Diet steering members as well, such as committee chairs. The issue was brought up during the Cabinet meeting and consultation today. I expect the adjustment will be made by a reasonable time tomorrow. I cannot mention specific names right now.

Question:
Although you cannot mention specific names now, what criteria or priorities did you have in mind when submitting the request for the appointments?

Minister:
One is personal capability. Another is the ability to work well on the team. Based on these two points I selected the candidates.

Related Information (State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice Ministers)

7. The Relationship between the National Strategy Division and Foreign Policy

Question:
How will the National Strategy Division, which Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan will be in charge of, be made compatible with foreign policy?

Minister:
The National Strategy Division has not yet become a legally stipulated organization and, as such, we must have a flexible view on it. In principle, my understanding is that the division will put much of its efforts into matters related to budget in the immediate term. In addition, the division will probably be in charge of specific matters assigned by Prime Minister Hatoyama, which, I assume, would include diplomatic matters. Currently no instructions on diplomatic matters have been issued to the division. That is my understanding.

A bill to legalize the National Strategy Division will probably be submitted to the next extraordinarily session of the Diet, in order to clarify its position and decide its jurisdiction.

8. Japan-US Foreign Ministers Meeting

Question:
The Japan-US Foreign Ministers Meeting may be held next week at the earliest. Will you take up issues such as the secret agreements and the realignment of US forces in Japan during your first meeting with your US counterpart?

Minister:
I believe that we must convey to the US that we have launched an investigation on the issue of the so-called secret agreements because this could have some impact on the US as well. There may be cases in which Japan alone cannot decide on the extent of information disclosure and, as such, we must consult with the US in advance. It would probably be too early to discuss specific, individual issues, as this will be my first meeting with the US side. I intend to focus on deepening mutual trust and developing common understanding on the importance of the Japan-US alliance.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers Meeting)

9. Disarmament and Non-proliferation

Question:
You have been actively promoting disarmament and non-proliferation. Former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone announced plans to hold an international conference on disarmament next year in Japan. Do you also intend to convene such a meeting?

Minister:
I am not aware of the details of the plan, but I would definitely like to utilize such an opportunity. The Co-chairs [of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament] - former Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi and former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans AO - will announce a report on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issue this autumn during their meeting in Hiroshima. Japan should take various opportunities to more actively assert itself. I received a report from Ms. Kawaguchi on the current situation the other day, and I have conveyed my message to the group of people who will be meeting the Hon. Mr. Evans AO that I wish to meet him in person if possible.

Related Information (Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation)

10. The Right to Collective Self-Defense

Question:
I have a question on the issue of the right to collective self-defense. According to the current government interpretation [of the Constitution], Japan may not exercise this right. Will this interpretation be reviewed? Will the Hatoyama administration carry on the current government interpretation?

Minister:
We have never stated either in the Manifesto nor elsewhere that we shall amend [the government's interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.] In my view, there is no reason for us to amend the interpretation in haste. We held various discussions on a collection of four scenarios for self-defense during the time of the Abe administration, if I recall correctly. Some events can well be dealt with by widening the scope of our existing interpretation a small extent, whereas there may be other cases that cannot be dealt with unless we recognize the concept of the right to collective self-defense. This is something that requires further discussion. I hold the view that if we acknowledge the right of collective self-defense in a wide range of areas, it will rather contradict, at least, with the basic principle of Article 9 of the Constitution, which is restrictive on the use of force abroad.

11. East Asian Community

Question:
You have previously talked about building an East Asian community, what do you specifically intend to promote and in what timeframe?

Minister:
Besides myself, Prime Minister Hatoyama is also talking about this. Of course, we cannot simply apply to East Asia the image of the EU, which has a single monetary unit and has been pushing forward political integration. East Asia contains countries of different political systems, and not all are democratic. Therefore, I think political unification will take much more time. However, in terms of economic interdependence, East Asian countries are more interdependent than the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and are becoming even more so recently, although not to the extent of the EU. The profound mutual interdependence in the area of economy can be expanded to surrounding areas - for example, energy, environment, health, and influenza countermeasures - thereby deepening mutual interdependence in a multilayered way. I think that this will bring a major benefit also to peace and stability in the region. Therefore, at this moment, I will take the approach of steadily doing what I can toward this end.

12. The Japan-China Relationship

Question:
Concerning the Japan-China relationship, there has been a report that the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit will be taking place quite soon. How will you approach China going forward? It is said that China is about to surpass Japan in terms of GDP. So the first question is, do you perceive China, which has been ascending rapidly in all aspects including economy, as a threat, or something else? The second question is about the four important documents signed by Japan's preceding Cabinets and the Communist Party of China (CPC). The most recent one was the joint statement on the comprehensive promotion of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" signed in 2008 by then Prime Minister Fukuda and President Hu Jintao. Do you intend to follow these documents? Those are my two questions.

Minister:
To start with the latter, Prime Minister Hatoyama already mentioned the "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." Therefore, I assume that the Prime Minister will wholly inherit the four documents in principle. Actually the "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" is a term which is somewhat difficult to understand at a first glance, and I sometimes wonder if everyone can entirely grasp what it really means just by hearing it. Nevertheless, since this term, or the wording, is enthusiastically advocated by the Chinese side, and as it is also the term Prime Minister Hatoyama is using, I think there is no problem in inheriting it wholly. About the threat you mentioned, Japan may indeed fall behind China in terms of GDP in the future, but since the populations differ by tenfold, there is no need to take it too gravely. Rather, there are major benefits to be drawn from the robust growth of the Chinese economy, which Japan is currently enjoying indeed. Therefore, we should not be too negative about it. I think we need to thoroughly acknowledge the fact that we have a political and economic power of that magnitude as our neighbor, which is not a positive or negative matter, and carry out various policies.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

13. Objections to the Preemptive Use of Nuclear Weapons

Question:
Concerning the policy of not preemptively using nuclear weapons, I think you mentioned during the press conference at the Prime Minister's Office that efforts towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons will be addressed as a longer-term policy within the "300-Day Plan" framework as stipulated in the DPJ Manifesto. As mentioned a moment ago, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament co-chaired by Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Foreign Minister of Japan, and the Hon. Gareth Evans AO, former Foreign Minister of Australia, announced a plan to compile a report focused on urging the US to support measures against the preemptive use of nuclear weapons within this year. The US government will also be submitting a bill to the US Congress to revise the policy on the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the Department of Defense will be taking the initiative on this. The Government of Japan has consistently urged the international community, including the countries possessing nuclear weapons, to adhere to the principle of not preemptively using nuclear weapons. Do you have any intention to use this opportunity to reiterate this message in some way toward the end of the year that the preemptive use of nuclear weapons is not necessary for protecting Japan?

Minister:
That is my opinion, but having become a Minister, I would like to confirm the matter with the Secretariat. The report by the Hon. Mr. Evans AO and Ms. Kawaguchi does not represent the Government, as it features the opinions of experts from various countries around the world. I think they should compile it independently following what they believe, no matter what policy the Government of Japan creates.

Question:
Regardless of the non-governmental nature of the report, I am concerned that without a sense of purpose of some sort the report may end up being of no practical use.

Minister:
I think there will be no such concern as long as the government sits down to deliberate it once again when the report is submitted. That being said, my current thinking is that the preemptive use of nuclear weapons is quite unacceptable from an ethical standpoint as well as from the viewpoint of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons in the future, even if for example, used as a reprisal against weapons of mass destructions (WMD), meaning the illegal use of biological and chemical weapons. However, since the ban against the preemptive use of nuclear weapons does not prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in response to nuclear attack, there is concern about to what extent the mutual promise will be effective regarding countries possessing nuclear weapons, including the US. Nevertheless, I think it will be a step forward toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the use of nuclear weapons against countries not possessing nuclear weapons can be argued as being illegal in itself, since the use of other WMDs is also deemed illegal - although nuclear weapons are not treated in the same way right now.

Related Information (Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation)

14. WTO Negotiations

Question:
Do you have any intention of approaching WTO negotiations, or negotiations for EPAs and FTAs, differently from the previous administration? Furthermore, no minister from the previous administration attended the WTO Informal Ministerial Meeting held at the beginning of this month. What is your opinion on this?

Minister:
We told the administration back then that not sending a minister to the meeting was rather irresponsible. We have not yet discussed what approach to take for the stated negotiations since the new administration was just inaugurated yesterday. I will consider them while carrying out discussions with related ministries. No decision has been made at this moment.

Related Information (Japan and WTO)


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