(* 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 Masahiko Koumura

Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 9:46 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Visit to Japan by Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi of the People's Republic of China
  2. A "Joint Document" with the People's Republic of China
  3. Visit to Japan by President-elect Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan
  4. Murder Case in Yokosuka
  5. Visit to Russia by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura
  6. Impressions on the First Six Months of the Fukuda Cabinet
  7. Impact of the Current Diet Situation on Japan's Diplomacy

1. Visit to Japan by Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi of the People's Republic of China

Question:
There are reports that from 17 April, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi of the People's Republic of China will visit Japan. Do you intend to reach a certain degree of conclusion regarding the gas field issue or the frozen dumpling issue by then?

Minister:
In any event, when there is an issue at hand, it is best to resolve it sooner rather than later. However, since these are not simple issues, although sincere efforts are being made, my understanding is that no specific deadline was established by our countries aiming for any specific date or the mutual visits by any high official. Still there is no doubt that the sooner the better.

Question:
You have stated that when Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi comes to Japan, you will not be able to avoid touching on the current situation in Tibet. As of right now, what message do you intend to convey to Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in that regard?

Minister:
It will depend on where the situation stands at that time. Rather than speaking about exactly what message I will convey then, and at that time I will have to decide how to convey this, but generally speaking my message will be something along the lines of, "Even though this is a domestic policy issue, it is also a matter about which concerns are being expressed regarding the human rights situation. As much as possible you would be better off ensuring transparency and being open about this matter. This is necessary due to the fact that in the world at large, there is concern regarding human rights and at the same time, it is in the interests of China itself to do so. In order to ensure that the Olympics can be held smoothly, it is also good to do that." I do not know whether or not I will use these exact words when I speak to Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, but this is the line that I always focus on. Furthermore, including these points I will consider at that time what is the best way and the best content to convey depending on the situation prevailing at the time.

Question:
What type of agenda would you like to talk about when Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi comes to Japan? Furthermore, what results do you expect from his visit given that President Hu Jintao will also be coming to Japan in the near future?

Minister:
Speaking in general terms, in order to achieve concrete advancement in our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, it is essential that each and every occasion produce some concrete results. There are some areas in which we are able to act proactively and some areas which become stumbling blocks. Naturally, we will discuss those as well. It seems that the media tends to have more interest in the talks in areas that become stumbling blocks. It is indeed a fact that we are thinking about how we can eliminate those areas and if they cannot be eliminated, how we can best deal with them. At the same time, we are thinking proactively about advancing environmental and energy conservation cooperation, as well as advancing youth exchanges. Like these issues, we will spend some time talking about how we can make concrete progress in moving forward some things that have already been decided.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

2. A "Joint Document" with the People's Republic of China

Question:
Regarding a joint document with China, in the past you have stated that if a good document can be made, then it would be good to make it.

Minister:
Yes, that is the case.

Question:
What is it that you have in mind when you speak of a "good document"?

Minister:
I am talking about the overall situation and therefore it is not necessarily the case that there must be concrete progress on any specific item. I have in mind something that overall both sides can agree on and that is good for the future of both sides. Furthermore, I think it would be good if we were able to make a document that becomes a good message for the international community.

Question:
In that case, given that there are matters which are areas of concern affecting Japan and China, would it be better not to touch on those for now?

Minister:
That is not necessarily the case. It could be the case that there will be words to ensure that areas of concern disappear or that we move in a direction toward lowering the level of concern. Currently, we are involved in various office works and although I have not received an update recently and do not know exactly what the state of that is right now, what I meant to say was that as long as a good document can be made, we ought to make it.

Related Information (Japan-China Relations)

3. Visit to Japan by President-elect Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan

Question:
It appears that President-elect Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan has indicated an interest in visiting Japan, prior to being sworn into office. How will the Government of Japan respond to that?

Minister:
I have not heard that, and as such, I have nothing to say at this time.

Related Information (Taiwan)

4. Murder Case in Yokosuka

Question:
Regarding the incident involving the murder of a taxi driver in Yokosuka, the US sailor who left his credit card behind in the car has been arrested on charges of leaving the scene and there is suspicion that he may have been involved in the case in one way or another. Is it true that currently you do not intend to request interrogations?

Minister:
Am I in a position to call for interrogations? I am certain that if there is a need for interrogations, it will be requested by the police authorities in due course of the investigation.

Question:
Do you think that stage has not yet come?

Minister:
This is something to be thought about by the police authorities. It is the police authorities who are proceeding with the investigation and I as an ordinary citizen, am certain that if necessary in the course of the investigation, they will request interrogations.

Question:
Yesterday, at the Committee on Budget of the House of Councillors you indicated the policy to ensure information sharing regarding the incident of the US fugitive sailor. How would you like to share information specifically and how quickly do you think it should happen?

Minister:
It is extremely difficult to determine whether or not this really amounted to deserting or just not showing up to work and going missing. There is quite a lot that must be decided on both sides on the conditions when the US side informs the Japanese side, such as when a US solder has deserted or goes missing in a broader interpretation or immediately after he is temporarily missing. At the same time, this is not a matter of one side unilaterally saying, "This is how it should be" or "We demand this." Speaking in overall terms, right now from our side, we would like to have some form of information sharing.

Question:
Do you intend to immediately enter into discussions with the US side?

Minister:
I think the sooner the better. I think that in any case where there is a question, it is always better to address it sooner rather than later.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

5. Visit to Russia by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura

Question:
Regarding your visit to Russia, some say that you will go in the middle of next month. Have you already made a lot of progress in coordinating that?

Minister:
Unfortunately, we still have not made much progress in coordinating that. Last year, we agreed that Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers' Talks would take place at the soonest possible opportunity that was convenient for both sides. However, although there have been many possibilities mentioned regarding when would be a good time for both sides, and when I refer to "good for both sides" we must remember that for Japan, it is necessary to gain Diet approval in order for it to be good for both sides, and unfortunately we have not yet arrived at a stage of reaching a concrete agreement on the timing.

Related Information (Japan-Russia Relations)

6. Impressions on the First Six Months of the Fukuda Cabinet

(See Japanese version.)

7. Impact of the Current Diet Situation on Japan's Diplomacy

(See Japanese version.)


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