(* 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 Seiji Maehara

Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 3:25 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to Japan by ASEAN Secretary-General Surin
    • (2) Visit to Japan by UN General Assembly President Deiss
  2. Japan -China Relations
  3. Japan-US Alliance
  4. Inauguration of Mr. Xi Jinping as Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China
  5. Resource Diplomacy
  6. Visit to Japan by UN General Assembly President Deiss
  7. Economic Diplomacy (Promotion of TPP)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to Japan by ASEAN Secretary-General Surin

Minister Maehara: I have two announcements. ASEAN Secretary-General Surin is scheduled to visit Japan as a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from tomorrow to the 23rd. I believe that Mr. Surin’s upcoming visit to Japan will be a good opportunity for exchanging views to further strengthen future Japan-ASEAN relations from the medium- to long-term perspectives, as well as for ironing out differences between our views and the views of the ASEAN side with regard to the latest ASEAN-related summit meeting scheduled to be held late this month, prior to that meeting. The fact that the ASEAN Secretary-General will be visiting Japan immediately before the summit meeting is an indication of the strong cooperative relations between Japan and ASEAN. We hope that through Secretary-General Surin’s visit, Japan-ASEAN partnership will further deepen and become stronger.

(2) Visit to Japan by UN General Assembly President Deiss

Minister: The other announcement is that UN General Assembly President Deiss will be visiting Japan as a distinguished guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from October 26 (Tuesday) to October 30 (Saturday). During his stay in Japan, UN General Assembly President Deiss is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Kan and hold talks with me. In addition to visiting Nagoya to attend the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, he is also scheduled to visit Hiroshima. We hope that through UN General Assembly President Deiss’ visit to Japan, cooperative relations between Japan and the United Nations will further deepen.

2. Japan -China Relations

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: I would like to ask about the Senkaku issue. I think that in diplomacy, a country has lost if it is considered as a country which would easily yield to strong assertions posed by another country. I think that the Senkaku issue truly brings this issue to the forefront. I have been told that at a meeting of the Ryounkai on the 14th, you said regarding the Senkaku issue that you wanted the members of the Diet to be utterly determined to maintain effective control over the Senkaku Islands, and I thoroughly agree with this.

Minister: That is not true. The Sankei was writing satirically.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: That was not a satire, but a straight article. Did you make that statement?

Minister: It is not my place to comment on statements made at a (party) group meeting.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Well then, do you have such a determination?

Minister: I will refrain from commenting.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: In other words, what is your determination with regard to protecting Japan’s sovereignty?

Minister: If I were to answer you, I would say that there are no sovereignty issues in the East China Sea, and the Senkaku Islands are the inherent territory of Japan.

Takahashi, Sankei News: In relation to that, there have been a string of anti-Japan demonstrations in China. Although I think that it is extremely regrettable that these have also led to violence, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a statement about these demonstrations, saying that it can understand the righteous indignation over Japan’s erroneous actions. I would like to ask about your reaction to this, and since this is clearly a mistaken understanding, I think that the Government of Japan should lodge a protest, but what is your view?

Minister: It is my understanding that protests were held on the 16th in Chengdu, Sichuan province, and in the cities of Zhengzhou, in Henan province, and Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, and on the 17th in the city of Mianyang, in Sichuan province, and then on the 18th in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province. Although no Japanese citizens living or traveling in China have been confirmed to have been harmed during these protests, there have been damages such as the windows of Japanese-owned supermarkets being broken. In response, the Japanese Embassy in China and the Japanese Consulate in Chongqing have expressed their regret over the incidents to the Chinese authorities, and demanded strongly that the safety and security of Japanese citizens and Japanese-owned businesses be ensured. Then on the morning of the 19th, Japanese Ambassador to China Niwa made the same statement to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and the Foreign Minister’s reaction was that China would do their utmost to ensure their safety and security. The recent anti-Japanese demonstrations that have led to destructive actions by a portion of the demonstrators are extremely regrettable. On the other hand, I think that it is vital for the Government of Japan that both countries’ governments and peoples react rationally, taking a broad perspective of Japan-China relations.

Inada, NHK: I have a question relating to the demonstrations. These demonstrations were held over multiple days, and in the middle of the fifth plenary session (of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China). Additionally, the demonstrations went on for several days, despite the fact that the police authorities stepped in to stop them. What is your reaction to this situation as the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Additionally, I think that the Chinese authorities are in an extremely difficult position; what is your understanding of [Chinese authorities’] perception?

Minister: I understand that the press secretary of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated informally that he does not agree with irrational and illegal actions. We also think that destructive actions should not be carried out, and I think that in this sense, the Government of China is extremely concerned over this, so I certainly would like for them to react appropriately. As I just stated, I think that it is vital for us to look at Japan-China relations from a broad perspective, and resolve this issue thoroughly.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: In your speech earlier, you stated, “We are coordinating a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China or a Japan-China summit at ASEAN via diplomatic channels.” Please tell us whether these demonstrations will impact the coordination for the meeting.

Minister: Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen Jiabao met at ASEM, and they agreed to mutually strive to normalize Japan-China relations. We are currently advancing discussions via diplomatic channels, and it is not my understanding that these demonstrations in China will impede a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China or a Japan-China summit in Hanoi, which are our common targets.

Takeuchi, Tokyo Shimbun: If a meeting between (the Japanese and Chinese) Foreign Ministers is held in Hanoi, you have said before that you are discussing measures with the Chinese side to prevent recurrence of the incident in the Senkaku Islands; what is your outlook on this?

Minister: I think that we will discuss a wide range of matters. At any rate, we are currently putting together our respective views, positions, and topics of discussion via diplomatic channels.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: In my earlier question, you did not respond regarding your reaction to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press secretary’s statement that they “can understand the righteous indignation over Japan’s erroneous actions,” and whether you have lodged a protest regarding that, so please allow me to ask you again.

Minister: I cannot understand it. That is all.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Will you not lodge a protest?

Minister: They were spontaneous gatherings convened by appeals through the Internet. Therefore, we have made strong representations regarding destructive activities and the protection of Japanese citizens.

3. Japan-US Alliance

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: In your speech at the symposium earlier, I believe it was in the context of strengthening the Japan-US alliance, you stated with regard to revising the guidelines, “I think that it may be good to revise them thoroughly once more.” Does this mean that the guidelines have been revised in the past, and they should be revised again to bring them into line with the current situation, or does it mean that the current guidelines should be updated? If this is the case, then what specific revisions do you envision? Additionally, has this already been discussed at a Japan-United States Foreign Ministers' conference or the like, and have you discussed this with Defense Minister Kitazawa? I am sorry for asking multiple questions.

Minister: In my speech today, I spoke about the following: there was a discussion on revising  the guideline in 1978. There were efforts to discuss the peacetime guideline, the guideline on defense cooperation, and the guideline on defense cooperation in the event of an emergency situation in Japan, and additionally, at the time there were efforts to discuss the guideline for defense cooperation in the event of an emergency situation in the Far East. These discussions have been shelved for a long time, and although I do not remember exactly how many years ago it was, when the Emergency legislation was being created, the guideline for defense cooperation in the event of an emergency situation near Japan was revised. It may be important for these revisions to the guidelines to be kept up to date, but I think that it is vital to envision concrete contingencies, and create readiness that will enable Japan and the United States to cooperate as smoothly as possible. Of course, we have held various map exercises, as well as joint training, and Japan and the United States have held joint map exercises, and actual training is also conducted jointly, and these are actually conducted with some sort of scenario envisioned, but I raised the question of whether we need to revise these with a slightly broader view, and ensure thoroughly that what is truly necessary is carried out.

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: Has this already been discussed between the Foreign Ministers (of Japan and the United States), or with Defense Minister Kitazawa within the Cabinet? I think that actual specific unit operations will be conducted by the Defence Minister rather than you.

Minister: I think that we share a common understanding of these issues in many occasions.

4. Inauguration of Mr. Xi Jinping as Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China

Fujita, NHK: It has been informally decided that Mr. Xi Jinping will become the next top leader of China. Please tell us how you feel (about this), and as there are various views about Mr. Xi Jinping such as that he is a hardliner against Japan or that he has a more flexible way of thinking, please tell us your view with regard to this – those two points, please.

Minister: I have never met him, so I do not know, and since it is a personnel appointment of a foreign country, I feel that it is not appropriate to make too many comments. However, he has a very gentle-looking appearance, and I have the impression that he is a well-brought-up person, so I hope that he will firmly play a role in (promoting) Japan-China friendship.

5. Resource Diplomacy

Kamide, Freelance: In relation to resource diplomacy, there was a happy news about the mine accident in Chile in which all (those trapped in the mine) were rescued. In the backdrop of that problem is the consumption of copper by such countries as Japan and other industrialized countries, as well as China. What countermeasures does Japan plan to take in the future, and how does Japan intend to be involved in the supply of copper in relation to this incident? If you have any thoughts or impressions about this problem, I would like you to make some comments in relation to future resource diplomacy.

Minister: Pardon me, but will you please repeat that?

Kamide, Freelance: In relation to future resource diplomacy, how does Japan intend to be involved in working out countermeasures in the future with regard to this incident in Chile? I would like you to make some comments if you have you own views or impressions regarding this matter. Has any specific action been taken with regard to countermeasures in the future?

Minister: Purchases of rare earths, rare metals, and other resources, or the conclusion of relevant contracts are done by private enterprises, so the government does not directly take countermeasures. However, when it comes to thoroughly implementing safety measures, further expenses are involved. In that case, I think that the costs would rise. What surprised me is the fact that while China currently produces 96-97% of the world’s annual (production of) rare earths and although it may not be limited to just rare earths, more than 3,000 persons die annually in accidents that occur at mines. If we think about that, I believe that it is indeed necessary to thoroughly implement some kind of safety measures. However, I think that that is a matter that must be done in each individual country, and for that matter, I believe that in certain aspects, it cannot be helped if the costs rise to a certain extent. In any case, as an all-out national effort to support private enterprises in their transactions, I believe that when talking about places where there are rare earths, rare metals, or various natural resources so that we can diversify our resource diplomacy, we will – in the sense of talking with other countries – naturally be asking that safety measures be thoroughly implemented.

6. Visit to Japan by UN General Assembly President Deiss

Okada, Chugoku Shimbun: With regard to UN General Assembly President Deiss’ visit to Hiroshima, which you mentioned earlier, there are expectations for visits by VIPs to the sites of atomic bombing, and there have been a series of visits to Hiroshima this summer by VIPs, including US Ambassador Roos and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but there are also strong voices in Hiroshima calling for US President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. With regard to this, do you have any plans to ask President Obama to visit Hiroshima on the occasion of the APEC meeting next month?

Minister: Although we are talking with the US side about the timetable, I have a feeling that President Obama will have a very tight schedule, as he will be coming to Japan after visiting a number of countries following the US mid-term elections. In any case, Japan is the only country that has ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, so we will appreciate if many leaders of the world or influential people visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see the horrors of atomic bombing in museums, etc. and make efforts to realize a world free of nuclear weapons. We continue to say that we would like all leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

7. Economic Diplomacy (Promotion of TPP)

Hashimoto, Kyodo News: In the speech you gave earlier, you repeatedly stressed that (Japan) should join the TPP. However, that brings up the question of what to do about primary industries. To what extent have views within the government been unified? In relation to that, lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party have visited the United States. A senior official of the Office of the United States Trade Representative has reportedly said that the Japanese side has not contacted the US side yet with regard to discussions on its participation in the TPP. Can you comment on that?

Minister: I said in the speech that considering the situation in which Japan is currently placed, it is important to open up the country and enhance national power by leveraging Japan’s strengths in a more liberal trade system and at the same time implement appropriate agricultural measures as a premise to that, as has been done in South Korea. Currently, discussions are held within the government at the State Secretary level. I have not been reported that the discussions have been concluded. I would like the discussions to be concluded with consultations with the party. Therefore, you can understand that Japan will not be holding negotiations with other countries – with TPP member countries – without completing discussions in the government and the ruling parties.

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