(* 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, January 11, 2011, 4:17 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to the United States
    • (2) Visit to South Korea
    • (3) Candidacy in the 2015 Election for Non-permanent Membership of the UN Security Council
  2. Japan-North Korea Relations
  3. Lifting of EU Ban on Arms Exports to China
  4. TPP
  5. Candidacy in the 2015 Election for Non-permanent Membership of the UN Security Council
  6. Domestic Politics (omitted)
  7. Japan-US Relations
  8. FY2011 Draft Budget (omitted)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to the United States

Minister Maehara: I have three announcements.
   The first announcement is a report on my visit to the United States. It lasted from 6th until yesterday, and I went to Washington D.C. and Tallahassee, the capital of the state of Florida. I was able to conduct valuable exchanges of views with many US officials including Secretary of State Clinton, Vice President Biden, Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg, National Security Advisor Donilon, nine senators all together, and one congressman.
   One of the main objectives was to go there to hold thorough discussions on setting specific agenda for the three pillars of the substance of Prime Minister Kan's visit to the United States, and their relevant directions. The others were to exchange notes on the strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region including North Korea and to confirm the future policy of Japan and the United States’ working in cooperation.
   In Florida, as there is a plan to introduce a high-speed railway system, I talked with Governor Scott, who was elected with his cautious election pledges. I believe that he has deepened his understanding that Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains are safe and would bring positive effects on the local economy. Together with JR Tokai (Central Japan Railway Company), the Government of Japan intends to continue to support efforts to gain further understandings. 

(2) Visit to South Korea

Minister: My second announcement is that at today's Cabinet meeting, I received approval to visit South Korea on the 14th and 15th. Among other things, I plan to meet Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan, pay a courtesy call on President Lee Myung-bak, and hold discussions.
   Basically, I intend to exchange views on various issues for further promoting the very favorable relations between Japan and South Korea and promote firm strategic dialogue concerning the surrounding environment including issues related to North Korea. 

(3) Candidacy in the 2015 Election for Non-permanent Membership of the UN Security Council

Minister: Lastly, my third announcement is that I would like to report to you all that Japan will run in the election in 2015 for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
   Between 2009 and 2010, Japan contributed to the maintenance of international peace and security as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. In particular, with regard to North Korean issues, Japan contributed to the formulation of resolutions and the Chairman's Statement as a Security Council member, and I believe that Japan thoroughly fulfilled that role.
   Although our term in the UN Security Council expired last year, we have decided to run in the election in 2015 for a non-permanent seat, considering that in the sense that Japan has indeed made great contributions not only to the Security Council but also to the United Nations, it would be important for the peace and stability of not only Japan but also of the world for Japan to thoroughly fulfill its responsibilities. 

2. Japan-North Korea Relations

Deguchi, Kyodo News: At your press conferences before and after the New Year, you expressed positive views on dialogue with North Korea, while there has been commentary praising the moves by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency as positive. How do you intend to respond to these movements by the North Korean side?
  Also, when you visit South Korea this weekend, how do you intend to convey your views on talks between Japan and North Korea to the South Korean side?

Minister: Firstly, we are not yet at a stage where we have anything we can convey to South Korea. Since concrete talks between Japan and North Korea have not begun, we intend to have thorough discussions with South Korea once concrete talks have started.
  In any case, the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002 states that Japan and North Korea will normalize our diplomatic relations if the various pending problems between them are resolved, and we have strong intentions to resolve the pending problems of abductions, nuclear weapons, and missiles in particular. We intend to advance direct dialogue properly, while mutually confirming the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: This is in relation to talks between Japan and North Korea. At a press conference on the 10th, US Assistant State Secretary Crowley expressed a view with regard to the North-South dialogue being called for by the North, that North Korea should take concrete actions, and that a dialogue with North Korea might not be feasible for South Korea at the current stage. Do you intend to set conditions for holding negotiations between Japan and North Korea, as we have for the Six-Party Talks? In such a case, should the conditions be the same as with the Six-Party Talks? Please answer in detail on those points.

Minister: The Six-Party Talks are a framework for handling the issue of nuclear weapons, and there are other issues between Japan and North Korea besides nuclear weapons, such as the abductions and missiles. In this sense, I believe that talks between Japan and North Korea should be held, regardless of whether Six-Party Talks are held.
  The need for North Korea to take concrete actions for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, as stated by Mr. Crowley, was also re-confirmed at the recent Foreign Ministers’ meeting between Japan and the United States, and we also think that it is preferable for talks to be held between the North and South. I fully understand the situation of South Korea: seen from their perspective, the other side is making provocations, and it would be quite unfeasible to hold a dialogue without some sort of concrete actions. 
Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: At a press conference at the end of the year, you said that the topics you intended to take up in negotiations between Japan and North Korea were nuclear weapons, missiles, and abductions. May I understand that you intend to place your main focus on the abductions?

Minister: On the three of them.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Among those three, nuclear weapons are mainly handled by the Six-Party Talks. In the case of negotiations between Japan and North Korea, would the order also be nuclear weapons, then missiles, then the abductions?

Minister: Rather than setting up an order, they are all important topics, and I do not think that there is much sense in ranking one above another. We will take up these three main topics without fail.

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: When your party was in the opposition, you asked questions about Japan and North Korea to Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Fukuda in the Diet. In short, you said that we should not provide any type of support to North Korea if no progress was made on the abduction issue, and rather that we should narrow the discretion of negotiations. You also said that we should not focus overly on the abductions, and that if we focused too much on them, that Japan would rapidly lose its influence in the framework of the Six-Party Talks. Do your current views remain unchanged? Please tell us your views on the statements you made when your party was in the opposition.

Minister: My basic stance has not changed at all. However, when we reach the issue of negotiations between Japan and North Korea, it is necessary to consider many things. Therefore, as of the current time we are moving forward on this from a clean slate.

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: Although you said that your basic views had not changed, currently, for example, although I think that at the time the issue was over whether to provide economic support as measures for the second stage of the Six-Party Talks, I think that in the case of Japan, the situation was that no progress was being made on (resolving) the abduction issue during the Abe and Fukuda administrations. Does this mean that there is no change in your view of thinking about this a little more flexibly?

Minister: I will consider this concretely when there is concrete progress. I do not think that there is much sense in hypothetical discussions of this now, when we have not yet reached that situation.

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: In your meeting with Secretary Clinton, did you say anything about intentions to hold working-level talks between Japan and North Korea in a visible format, or did you indicate a position?

Minister: We did not discuss it.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I would like to confirm something about the talks between Japan and North Korea mentioned just now. Do you think that there is a possibility of a dialogue between Japan and North Korea before the Six-Party Talks, or the emergency summit by the leaders of the Six Parties being called for by China, or the resumption of dialogue between North and South Korea?

Minister: This is when the preconditions are met. We are not yet at that stage.

Saito, Kyodo News: There was also a working-level agreement between Japan and North Korea in the summer of 2008, and the North Korean side has repeatedly said that it would renege on the working-level agreement. In other words, this is the matter of the reinvestigation committee. With regard to the handling of this reinvestigation committee, if we were to call for or agree to talks between Japan and North Korea, would we comply if the North Korean side does not change its current position on the handling of the reinvestigation committee? With regard to this point, is having the North Korean side take adequate measures the foundation of the talks? I would like to ask your position on this point as of the current time.

Minister: I would like to say two things. Firstly, although there has been a change of governments, we continue to observe the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002 and we will hold talks based on that. At the same time, since there has been a change of governments, while we will of course continue to observe the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002, we intend to decide on the format for future talks from a clean slate. 

3. Lifting of EU Ban on Arms Exports to China

Lee, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: China has been calling on the EU to lift its ban on the arms exports to that country. With regard to this, some countries in the EU have voiced support, and while Japan has expressed opposition so far, please tells us your thoughts on whether Japan is still unconditionally opposed as before or would change its position if some kind of conditions are met.

Minister: With regard to this, we have not changed our position. As China's military spending has increased by 20 times in 21 years, it is unclear with what intension it has been expanding its military, and there are also concerns that aside from the open figures, expenditures that account for military spending in ordinary countries are unaccounted for in China's military spending. Therefore, we have been calling on China to increase the transparency of its military spending. Such accountability, the intension of the military expansion, and securing transparency that is standard in other countries are important matters, and as long as China leaves those matters unfulfilled, it has not met the conditions for us to change our position. 

4. TPP

Suzuki, Jiji Press: With regard to the TPP, Japan and the United States are to hold consultations on the 13th and the 14th in Washington. Please tell us about your objectives and the expectations.

Minister: Discussions at this Japan-US Trade Forum are not limited to the TPP in particular, and as the title of the meeting indicates, discussions will be held on trade between Japan and the United States and economic affairs in general. However, as it is written in the "Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships," on which a Cabinet decision was made last year, that Japan would hold consultations on its participation in the TPP with countries participating in the TPP, we plan to discuss this during the Japan-US Trade Forum.

Suzuki, Jiji Press: Do you expect anything to come out from this?

Minister: At the moment, we have not made any decisions on this, so the primary focus will be on our receiving information from the United States and our gaining the understanding of the United States by explaining our "Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships." 

5. Candidacy in the 2015 Election for Non-permanent Membership of the UN Security Council

Noguchi, Nippon Television: You said earlier that Japan plans to run again in the election for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2015. Please excuse me if I am mistaken, but since a non-permanent member is only prohibited from being elected for two consecutive years (sic. terms), I think that Japan could run in the election as soon as in 2013. Is there a reason for not running in 2013?

Minister: As you know, since you are either elected or not in an election, it is rather difficult to run in the election without sufficient time for preparation. It has become customary to spend a significant amount of time to make preparations for elections not only in the UN Security Council but also in various international arenas. Therefore, we are in the process of starting preparations to aim at gaining a non-permanent seat in the Security Council in 2015.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: With regard to the status of non-permanent membership, I believe that efforts toward becoming a permanent member are a major pillar of Japanese diplomacy, as the position of a non-permanent member is unstable. During this period, how does Japan intend to work on gaining a permanent seat in the Security Council? I have also heard that with regard to non-permanent membership, there is an "argument that Japan has been in that position too many times." How is the Government of Japan working to address such concerns? Please tell us about these two points.

Minister: Is there such a "monopolizing argument?" While I have never heard of that, what is in the backdrop of the G4 countries -- in other words, Germany, India, Brazil, and Japan -- seeking to cooperate and bring about UN Security Council reform is that at the time that the United Nations was formed, there actually existed the Axis countries and the Allied countries, and as the Allied countries were the winners in the war, the United Nations was formed among them. Its English name, the United Nations, shows that nothing was changed. There also are such things as the so-called enemy clause, which applies to those countries that were defeated in the war. In that sense, fundamental circumstances surrounding membership and how that ought to be have drastically changed after 65 years. With regard to whether it is appropriate for the Security Council to consist of only the P5 countries, you are aware that since the circumstances surrounding the world have changed after 65 years, many countries have given support to Japan, which has made many contributions so far and become the second largest economic power in the world.
   It is in that sense that Japan is said to be qualified to become a permanent member of the Security Council. Therefore, as we are trying to fulfill our responsibilities as a non-permanent member until the United Nations is reformed, I think that criticism that Japan has sat on the council too many times or seeking that too many times is off the mark.
   In any case, we will aim at reforming the United Nations. Until such reform is achieved, we intend to fulfill our roles as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

Noguchi, Nippon Television: Although Japan is not planning to run in 2013 because it needs time to prepare for the election, were there any views in the ministry asserting the drawbacks of not running in 2013?

Minister: After the process of exchanging views within the Ministry, we decided to aim at running in the election for non-permanent membership in 2015. 

6. Domestic Politics (omitted)


7. Japan-US Relations

Kamide, Freelance: I have another question about a basic aspect of your visit to the United States. Although I believe that your discussion with Secretary Clinton dealt with a future security treaty and various other topics, from the basic situation now, it appears that the United States has misunderstandings about various aspects, or in a sense there were some tensions, and you stated on television that this was undeniable. I think that the diplomacy over the past year was in order to regain this lost ground. Although I think that the general consensus is certainly that diplomacy should be nonpartisan and consider national interests, relations have rather gone backward, and People's New Party President Kamei has stated that we have entered a situation in which we are doing the bidding of the United States, and it also appears to the Japanese people that we are no longer able to influence the United States on equal footing in order to resolve such issues as Futenma. What is your view on this?

Minister: Isn’t that a view held by a portion of the Japanese people? We state our views to the United States thoroughly, and we are not members of the alliance as volunteers. Our alliance is based on our mutual national interests, and we are discussing the deepening of the alliance because our mutual interests are in alignment.

Inafuku, Ryukyu Shimpo: While there were some reports in the media that in your visit to the United States, Secretary Clinton suggested scheduling a 2+2 meeting before the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States, I would like to ask whether this is true, and also, although I believe that your recent visit was in preparation for the visit by the Prime Minister to the United States, please tell us your views on whether a 2+2 meeting should be held before Prime Minister Kan visits the United States.

Minister: Japan and the United States are in complete agreement on the 2+2 meeting. I also said that the timing of holding the talks within the next several months, as mentioned by Secretary Clinton in a press conference, was appropriate. There is nothing more or less than this. 

8. FY2011 Draft Budget (omitted)


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