(* 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 MACHIMURA Nobutaka
Date: Monday, August 27, 2007, 10:20 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Inaugural Greeting
- North Korean Issues
- Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law
- Instructions from Prime Minister Abe
- Aspirations as a Reappointed Minister for Foreign Affairs
- Futenma Air Station Relocation Issue
- Visits to Yasukuni Shrine
1. Inaugural Greeting
My name is Machimura, and I have been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. I will probably be meeting with all of you from the Kasumi Club frequently, and I hope to receive your rigorous and constructive opinions and questions.
I was just talking a little bit with my secretary. Soon after being appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs last time, I believe that it was here that I received an opinion or a suggestion from someone about something that I should do. I immediately carried that out and I thought that that was a very good opinion. I have unfortunately forgotten the details, but I recall that something like this happened. I thus hope to receive proactive comments from you, either here or individually.
As for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is the matter of the continuation of diplomacy. I would therefore like to thoroughly engage in the promotion of diplomacy, basing it on the statements and achievements of series of Ministers up to now. I stated the details of this a short while ago at the Prime Minister's Office and I do not want to repeat myself, so I would like to hear your opinions and questions. As I am confident about my physical strength, I intend to do my best and make every possible effort to fulfill the duties of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
2. North Korean Issues
Although you will not be directly involved in the negotiations, the Japan-North Korea Working Group will be meeting soon. I would like to once again hear your policy on how to deal with the abduction issue.
The abduction issue is truly a crime carried out by a nation, and properly resolving this has been a major policy of past Cabinets, and there is no question that it is a policy of the Abe Cabinet. The process of the Six-Party Talks has started. The Six-Party Talks had just begun and were in their initial stage while I was serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs. There were later various times when they were stalled and times when they moved forward. They are currently progressing to a certain degree and the process is in motion, and I think that we should definitely move forward with the Six-Party Talks toward denuclearization. My policy is unchanged: to resolve the various outstanding issues, including the abduction issue, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, and to settle the unfortunate past and realize the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea. It is true that progress is not really being made on the abduction issue. An exact time and date has not yet been decided, but the Working Group is to be scheduled to meet by the end of this month. I intend to make efforts so that progress can be seen there. In particular, the families are growing older in age, and this is not something that can be approached at a leisurely pace. I intend to make thorough efforts sufficiently keeping in mind the feelings of the families.
This question relates to the denuclearization of North Korea and the abduction issue. Japan's stance has been that if progress is not made on the abduction issue, Japan will not participate in economic assistance to North Korea, which is a part of the denuclearization process. Do you intend to continue this policy of not participating in energy assistance in the Six-Party Talks unless progress is made on the abduction issue?
The policy is that if progress is seen, it will be possible for Japan to more proactively fulfill its role in other areas, including economic assistance and energy assistance. Each country has its respective stance. The Republic of Korea has its stance, the United States has its stance, and China has its stance. This means making efforts to address the issue of denuclearization and realize the complete abandonment of nuclear weapons while mutually maintaining a thorough understanding of the respective stances. At any rate, I am aware that the Japan-North Korea Working Group is scheduled to meet as a part of the process of the Six-Party Talks, and I am expecting there to be progress.
It is still not clear as to what "progress" refers to. For example, in the case that North Korea has expressed that it will reinvestigate the abduction issue, do you believe that this can be assessed as having made progress?
Perhaps that is something better not to set. Perhaps we are able to have diplomatic negotiations precisely because, for the negotiations between Japan and North Korea, at least in terms of our position, we have not really clarified the specifics.
3. Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law
I would like to ask you about the issue of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law. At the press conference that just took place at the Prime Minister's Office you stated your intention to carry out clarification in a so-called straightforward manner with regard to the statements of President Ozawa of the Democratic Party at the time of the Gulf War and international peace cooperation activities. Meanwhile, if the understanding of the opposition parties is not won, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law will not be realized. You may intend to deal with this situation flexibly, but going forward, what type of approach do you intend to take in terms of your stance toward the opposition parties?
The fight against terrorism is currently making progress. I do not believe that action based on the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law is absolutely the only means in the fight against terrorism. But as the clearest specific action that Japan is carrying out internationally, it is both effective and receiving praise internationally and is, in a way, currently Japan's greatest means. I think that it definitely needs to be continued. My basic stance is to hold discussions with the opposition parties on such a premise and work to deliver a constructive response. The meaning of "flexible" is not always clear, but if it means revising the legislation, currently our discussions have not progressed to that point. A new Cabinet has made, I believe that it is necessary to hold a series of various discussions under this Cabinet, and if some sort of constructive answer or agreement is attained, it should be valued.
4. Instructions from Prime Minister Abe
When you were approached by Prime Minister Abe, specifically what things did he say he wanted you to focus on and what kind of an exchange did you have? Also, in the formation of this Cabinet, there are quite a lot of faction chiefs. What is your view of this structure?
Prime Minister Abe instructed me on a number of issues or priority items that should be addressed. These are extremely varied, and right now I do not have the materials in front of me, so I will just comment on what comes to mind, but there is of course the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law. There are also efforts toward making the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) and the G8 Summit successes, thoroughly engaging in diplomacy with North Korea, including in regard to the abduction issue, and strengthening Japan-U.S. relations, including the realignment of US military forces, which is a foundation of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. The Prime Minister also called for efforts regarding the promotion of friendly relations with neighboring countries such as China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia, and of course in the case of Russia there is the issue of the Northern Territories. Coordination with the United Nations was also brought up. "Proactive diplomacy" is the basic stance of the diplomacy of the Abe Cabinet. I have made efforts in "proactive diplomacy" on the occasion of serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs previously, and I believe that it is necessary to continue to carry this out thoroughly.
The faction chiefs are myself, Mr. Ibuki, and Mr. Koumura, and Mr. Aso and Mr. Nikai in the three key posts in the LDP. I do not believe that these people were selected because of the fact that they are faction chiefs. I believe that they were chosen from the perspective of putting the right person in the right place, as the Prime Minister says.
5. Aspirations as a reappointed Minister for Foreign Affairs
Having been reappointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs after a year and 10 months, you must be feeling an extraordinary sense of determination. Can you tell us in which areas you would particularly like to display your characteristic diplomacy?
While "Proactive Diplomacy" has been advocated since Mr. Abe was elected prime minister, even during my last appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I placed a great deal of emphasis on asserting myself clearly. Of course we're working in an international arena and therefore we must also exercise international coordination. While we cannot feel satisfied with unilaterally asserting ourselves either, there was a tendency to use vague, extremely elaborate diplomatic expressions that actually resulted in not getting the intended message across. I am recalling an example in the past when the Tiananmen Square incident took place, which prompted the European Union (EU) to prohibit exports of weapons to China. After this ban had continued for a while, some people within EU began to believe the ban could be eased or even lifted since a considerable amount of time had passed and China had changed a great deal since the incident. When I first met, I believe, the then French Foreign Minister Barnier, I said to him, "Japan has been asking that this issue be treated in a cautious manner, but it meant 'please do not ease the embargo; please keep the trade embargo in place." To that, Mr. Barnier showed great astonishment and said, "I never heard such a request from Japan." So I told him clearly, "Japan is a very courteous country and although so such subtle rhetoric is used, the meaning is the opposite." I realized that the misunderstanding was problematic and therefore ordered the ambassadors to various countries to clarify this message with the foreign ministers of their respective EU countries. The United States was in agreement with Japan's stance, and several EU countries also agreed with Japan. This is just an example, but in this way, I will assert myself clearly regarding things that must be said. Not everything said is going to become realized, of course. I believe it is important to maintain the fundamental stance of presenting one's own assertions as clearly as possible, and to listen to what the others have to say, and therefore I have asserted myself a great deal not only toward EU but toward China and the US as well. At the 2 plus 2 meeting I explained extensively to Ms. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld how the people of Okinawa have been suffering for such a long time. I had intended to carry out my tasks based on this basic stance, and this will be true during my reappointment as well.
There is a mountain of accumulated issues to tackle, including those related to the northern territories, the United Nations (UN) reform, global warming, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The question is how will Japan realize its national interests to the maximum extent in the midst of these issues. There are other countries involved, so the ultimate goal is to come up with the best possible solution while taking into consideration the assertions of other countries.
6. Futenma Air Station Relocation Issue
You touched upon the issue of the realignment of US forces in Japan and its significance for Okinawa at the press conference at the Prime Minister's Office. I would like to ask what your position is regarding the Futenma Air Station relocation, considering the current situation in which Nago City demands that the proposal agreed between Japan and the U.S. be amended regarding runways and other facilities, and it is difficult to reach consensus on the issue.
Since the conclusion of the Japan-U.S. agreement, there were elections and other developments that affected the issue and a lot of time has passed. We cannot leave it on the back burner forever. We must not repeat the mistakes made by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO). That is why, as I had a little time earlier, I had a talk with my good friend and Minister of Defense Masahiko Koumura, saying that we need to proceed with this issue as soon as possible. I intend to continue close consultations with the Minister of Defense. I believe not just our two ministries, but the entire government must actively engage in this issue. Therefore I intend to advance work as quickly as possible, in line with the determined time schedule. In this process, we will naturally seek to gain the understanding of the local residents, the Governor of Okinawa and the Mayor of Nago City. In that sense, I have no intention to make appeals for flexibility right away. However, I intend to advance work on this issue, while sufficiently taking into consideration the opinion of the local residents and gaining their understanding. Also, I will strive to advance work in a prompt manner. These two tasks may seem a bit contradictory, but I intend to do my best to fulfill them successfully.
7. Visits to Yasukuni Shrine
Previously, you touched upon the issue of "vague diplomatic expressions," but do you think the ambiguous strategy followed by Prime Minister Abe regarding Yasukuni Shrine is appropriate?
I believe the feelings of Prime Minister Abe on this issue are in a sense the same as those of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. I think both of them want to pay their respect to those who lost their lives in the wars and pray for lasting peace. The difference is in the way each Prime Minister chooses to express these feelings. I think that the choice made by Prime Minister Abe to not explicitly specify whether he will visit Yasukuni Shrine, ambiguous as it may be, is one appropriate and wise way to approach this issue. By the way, I did not visit Yasukuni Shrine during my previous term as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have not had time to reflect on the future policy on Yasukuni Shrine visits, but speaking strictly for myself, I do not intend to visit Yasukuni Shrine during my term as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
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