(* 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 Hirofumi Nakasone

Date: Friday, January 16, 2009, 11:21 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks - Situation in the Gaza Strip
  2. Statement by United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband
  3. North Korean Issues
  4. Measures against Piracy Cases off the Coast of Somalia
  5. Selection of Secretary-General for the Japan-ASEAN Center
  6. Senate Confirmation Hearings Held in the U.S. Congress on the Confirmation of Hillary Clinton as the Next Secretary of State
  7. Media Reports on Deputy Cabinet Secretary Kounoike

1. Opening Statement

Minister:
Japan strongly deplores the increasing number of civilian casualties in spite of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860. Furthermore, the Government of Japan condemns the Israeli attack that has inflicted damage on United Nations-related facilities and hospitals, among many other targets. Moreover, Japan once again strongly urges both Israel and the Palestinian militants to call a ceasefire and to realize a ceasefire as quickly as possible. Furthermore, Japan has dispatched Ambassador Tatsuo Arima as the Special Envoy for Peace in the Middle East. Yesterday, Ambassador Arima met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Israel. Japan intends to continue to cooperate to realize a settling of the situation on the ground.

Question:
You have stated that the Government of Japan denounces the Israeli attack on United Nations facilities and others. Have you conveyed that view in any format to Israel, or are you going to do so? Please comment on this.

Minister:
As I just stated, on 14 January, Ambassador Arima held talks with Prime Minister Olmert and delivered a message from Prime Minister Aso to the effect that it is deplorable that such a large number of civilian casualties have occured. What I am saying here can be perceived as the view of the Government of Japan.

Question:
Does your denouncement refer to the attacks against United Nations facilities and other facilities that took place from yesterday and into today?

Minister:
Those attacks have reportedly caused grave damage to the United Nations facilities and hospitals, bringing the number of deaths to over 1,000 as of January 15. Seeing this as indeed a very serious situation, Japan deplored the attack by Israel.

Question:
Do you intend to once again convey this view to Israel via diplomatic routes or to the Israeli Ambassador in Japan?

Minister:
At this point in time, this press conference that I am holding represents the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the situation in Gaza.

Related Information (Situation in the Gaza Strip)

2. Statement by United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Question:
United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband suggested that the war on terror as a concept or keyword was incorrect, and that it could be misunderstood as an idea to use military force to suppress terrorism. At the time a new administration is being established in the United States, what are your views as the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the war on terror? In particular, would you say that the concept of the war on terror was incorrect and gave off the image of using military force to suppress, in particular, groups that were lumped together that have different backgrounds? Please state your views on that phrase and on the concept that it imparts.

Minister:
It is certain that the war on terror is a broad and vague term. Certainly, there are various forms of terrorism and there are various groups, but what we have described as the war on terror has been the actions that have been taken against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of course, there are terrorists in other regions as well, but for our part, when we consider the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces and other personnel, it is with these regions in mind. Therefore, I do not officially recognize the range that was covered by the statement made by Foreign Secretary Miliband. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to make a comment on that statement. However, given that such a large number of people have suffered from terrorism around the world, I do believe that this phrase of the "war on terror" has been used as a concept that is effective in getting the people all over the world to understand this concept.

Related Information (Japan-UK Relations)

3. North Korean Issues

Question:
The ROK's Yonhap News Agency reported that Kim Jong Il has named his third son Jong Un as his successor. How do you judge the authenticity of this report?

Minister:
The Government of Japan has been routinely in touch with information including the domestic affairs of North Korea. However, because of the nature of this issue, I will refrain from commenting on the details of this specific information. Whichever way, we continue to hold a strong interest in North Korea's situation and will remain committed to gathering and analyzing various information. I am aware of the report by the Yonhap News Agency.

Question:
U.S. Secretary of State Rice stated in an interview yesterday that North Korea possesses weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium. Has there been any contact from the U.S. side regarding this matter?

Minister:
On North Korea's uranium enrichment program, we have been exchanging opinions with the U.S. and other countries concerned. I will refrain from commenting on the details of these discussions. However, U.S. intelligence agencies have been announcing the possibility of the existence of a uranium enrichment program from before, and I believe that Secretary of State Rice's statement was along these lines. In any event, North Korea has already agreed to abandon all of its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in the joint statement of the Six-Party Talks. So we must continue to cooperate with the U.S. and other countries to work towards this.

Related Information (Japan-North Korea Relations)

4. Measures against Piracy Cases off the Coast of Somalia

Question:
Deliberation on the dispatch of Self-Defense Force vessels for the purpose of measures against piracy is currently underway in the ruling coalition. There seems to be the idea of issuing maritime security operations before making a new law. Please give us your opinion on this matter.

Minister:
I hear that deliberations are ongoing at the third meeting of the ruling coalition's project team for measures against piracy. There have been many cases of piracy in the areas off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, a cause of great concern. This is not someone else's problem. From the viewpoint of protecting the lives of Japanese nationals, goods, and assets such as ships, it is a pressing matter. This has been the consensus thus far and I believe we must start by doing what we can as soon as possible. Prime Minister Aso has also pointed out the necessity of coming to a swift conclusion in order to take measures and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will give its full cooperation towards this.

Related Information (Japan-Somalia Relations)
Related Information (Piracy)

5. Selection of the Next Secretary General of the ASEAN-Japan Centre

Question:
The selection of the next Secretary General of the ASEAN-Japan Centre has been brought up at the board meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives. The Committee was concerned with the fact that a former Foreign Ministry official is emerging as a major candidate in this process. Given that then Senior Foreign Vice-Minister Onodera had called for open recruitment at the previous Committee meeting in consideration of the criticism of amakudari (practice of landing ex-civil servants in cushy positions outside ministries), the Committee is questioning the wisdom of reverting to the choice of ex-Foreign Ministry staff. Please share your thoughts on this.

Minister:
Concerning the selection of the next Secretary General of the ASEAN-Japan Centre, some criticisms were made during the ordinary Diet session last year, in consideration of which we have opted for open recruitment in selecting Japanese candidates. The procedure of open recruitment has already begun, and selection of candidates for the next Secretary General is underway now. As far as I am concerned, the Japanese candidates will be selected appropriately based on the Diet deliberation. I do not know on what grounds Mr. Kono, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, made the comment in question, but I am confident that the selection will be conducted in a fair and transparent manner.

Related Information (Japan-ASEAN Relations)

6. Senate Confirmation Hearings Held in the U.S. Congress on the Confirmation of Hillary Clinton as the Next Secretary of State

Question:
At the confirmation hearings, the Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton made statements that emphasize the importance of Japan. What is your opinion on this? Additionally, what are your thoughts on the "smart power" diplomacy that she talks about?

Minister:
On January 15, Ms. Hillary Clinton was approved as the next Secretary of State by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. At the public hearing on January 13, she put emphasis on harmony with the international community and strengthening the relationships with allies. She stated that Japan-U.S. relations are the cornerstone of American policy in Asia and I was very encouraged by these words. Since I took up the position as Minister for Foreign Affairs last September, I have continued to call for the further strengthening of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, as it is important for both countries to show leadership for the stability of the Asia Pacific region and of the world. I believe that Secretary of State designate Clinton is of the same mind as I am, and I look forward to working with her once she officially takes up the position. I understand that she will enter into office on January 20.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

7. Media Reports on Deputy Cabinet Secretary Kounoike of the Ministry of Defense

(See Japanese version.)


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