(* 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: Friday, October 1, 2010, 4:02 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Natural Resources Diplomacy
  2. Japan-US Relations
  3. Natural Resources Diplomacy
  4. Japan-China Relations
  5. Approval Rating for Kan Administration
  6. Sanctions against Iran (Development of Azadegan Oil Field)
  7. US Military Realignment Issue

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Natural Resources Diplomacy

Minister Maehara: I have one announcement. It is about rare earth elements. Securing a long-term, stable supply of mineral resources that contain rare earth elements is one of our country’s important diplomatic goals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, intends to engage strategically in such matters as diplomacy in the area of natural resources.
   To this end, we intend to pour further efforts through our diplomatic missions abroad into collecting information that contribute to development of mines overseas and securing of relevant interests, as well as into strengthening bilateral relations through mutual high-level visits, meticulous economic cooperation that take into consideration the needs of countries that possess resources, and other means. Taking into full account the needs and requests of Japanese companies, we intend to actively support private enterprises by working together with relevant ministries, agencies, and institutions and working as a team, utilizing various tools such as ODA programs and technical cooperation.

2. Japan-US Relations

Iwakami, Freelance: On your visit to the United States, you spoke with Secretary of State Clinton. It has been communicated that Secretary Clinton said that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-US Security Treaty. At this time, there is talk that it has not been confirmed that Secretary Clinton’s statement was made somewhere else. I would therefore like to ask for confirmation, on what occasion did Secretary Clinton make this statement? Could you please tell us again, in a little more detail?

Minister: What is the intent of your question? I have answered this many times already.

Iwakami, Freelance: I am sorry. I did not accompany you on your overseas visit.

Minister: I understand, but in short, I said that her statement was made in one of these meetings. I believe that I have said that Secretary Clinton made this statement many times already, and I think that if you want to confirm this, your intent would be best served by asking the US side.

Iwakami, Freelance: I am sorry, but it is due to the Internet and so on. Now is a valuable opportunity that you can directly communicate with the Japanese people in your own words. This is therefore a good opportunity to explain what you said to the press corps that accompanied you on your overseas visit now, directly via the Internet, so again, what was the background of this statement? My intention is to ask you to speak on this point once more. Thank you.

Minister: Before I spoke with Secretary of State Clinton, a senior official of the US government stated clearly that Article Five of the Japan-US Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands. I therefore brought up the comment at our meeting, because I very much wanted to confirm it. I first brought it up by paying respects to Secretary Clinton for the statement by a senior US government official that the Senkaku issue is subject to Article Five of the Japan-US Security Treaty. Secretary of State Clinton replied by saying that the US would not comment on sovereignty, but Japan has administrative authority over the Senkaku Islands, and Article Five of the Japan-US Security Treaty applies to territories under the administrative authority of Japan. In other words, Secretary Clinton stated that Article Five of the Security Agreement applies to the Senkaku Islands.

Iwakami, Freelance: At that time… it is covered by the Japan-US Security Treaty, based on the Japan-US alliance signed in 2005, the Self Defense Forces have the primary obligation to protect island regions and the US Forces would not necessarily be mobilized. This is what Minister Okada said when I confirmed with him on May 11th. Again, I would like to ask about what is covered by the security treaty, and the stipulations of the Japan-US alliance. Based on this, I would like to ask your views on how the Self Defense Forces and US Forces will be mobilized in the event of an actual crisis in the Senkaku Islands, and confirm whether you discussed this with Secretary Clinton.

Minister: It was a wide-ranging discussion, so I did not delve into further detail on that issue alone. On the other hand, if I were to speak to what you just said, it is a matter of course that Japan’s own organizations will first respond to an event involving Japan, and this does not apply only to island regions. We will not suddenly ask the United States to act based on Article Five, without first utilizing our police forces, Coast Guard, or Self Defense Forces. I think that it is a matter of course that in principle, Japan’s Self Defense Forces have the primary obligation to defend Japan should it be attacked.
In addition, when my party was in the opposition, I put together a series of contingency legislation. With regard to this, I think that Japan and the United States naturally have determined concrete actions for defense cooperation for an emergency situation in Japan. The contingency legislation was created in this sense, and the two sides have discussed concrete cooperation in peacetime, in the event of contingencies in the areas surrounding Japan, and in the event of crises in Japan.

3. Natural Resources Diplomacy

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: My question concerns the matter regarding mineral resources that you mentioned at the beginning. Rather than the fact that in general terms, mineral resources that contain rare earth elements are important, please tell us once again what you had in mind when you thought about doing such things at this time as well as developments that led to your giving such instructions. As this is a project involving not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also the entire government including Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), please tell us also about how you intend to have the government collaborate with the industrial circles and the economic circles.

Minister: When I assumed this post and spoke about the order of precedence regarding what I would like to be allowed to do upon becoming foreign minister, I think that I spoke about economic diplomacy. In this, there are three pillars, one of which is to further invigorate Japan’s economic activities by creating a freer flow of goods, people, and money through the conclusion of free trade arrangements such as FTAs and EPAs with other countries and regions.
   The second pillar is natural resources diplomacy. This includes oil, coal, and natural gas, as well as various mineral resources, which of course also include rare metals, or rare earth elements, and food diplomacy in the sense of food security is also positioned as the second pillar.
   The third pillar I mentioned is export of infrastructure systems. I spoke about overseas promotion of Japan’s excellent technology such as high-speed railways, expressways, nuclear power plants, and the water supply and sewerage systems. While mentioning these as the three pillars, I also spoke about determining what kind of needs exist. In the case of natural resources, for example, we need to think about what kind of mineral resources exist in various countries, how Japanese companies, especially trading companies, are currently committed in these, and as a practical matter, how far they have currently progressed; or if no progress has been made even though they have interest in these to a certain extent, what factors are hindering progress. With regard to such factors, perhaps if technical cooperation using ODA programs or JICA is possible, we may be able to go beyond the line that private companies alone would not be able to cross. For example, there may be cases in which Japan can use its ODA programs to build access roads, and this could result in resolving the problem of transportation that had been a bottleneck, which in turn could facilitate development of rare earth elements in the relevant region. In that case, we would be able explain to the Japanese taxpayers that their money is being used effectively in the sense that MOFA’s ODA programs would lead to Japan’s acquisition of natural resources.
   I met with METI Minister Ohata today, and with regard to these needs, I spoke about working together, as it would be nice if we can collaborate with various industry groups under the METI’s jurisdiction, provide help and collect various information through our overseas diplomatic missions that I just mentioned, and engage in various projects as a team effort with the government working hand in hand with the private sector using cooperation via ODA programs, JICA, and the like.
   Additionally, when I met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku and held talks just between the two of us today, we agreed that we should speak about these matters to Prime Minister Kan soon and have relevant ministers gather to hold thorough discussions on economic diplomacy and promote this with a sense of speed. I therefore believe that such an opportunity will be set up soon.

Yamasaki, Asahi Shimbun: I believe that it happened after your inauguration, but the other day, there was a series of decisions with regard to whether the issue of rare earth elements was linked to the Senkaku Islands issue. Is there a possibility that this matter pushed you into once again mentioning it (rare earth elements issue) today?

Minister: (Japan) relies on 96% (of its import of rare earth elements) on China. Although the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has denied it, I have received reports that as a practical problem, exports of rare earth elements were hampered. I feel that it is indeed not good to depend on a single country from the standpoint of security of natural resources, but if this is true, it would be a violation of WTO rules. However, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce denies it. Nevertheless, conducting multilateral natural resources diplomacy reduces risks, and this was on my mind from the beginning. This is a matter of fact in general terms even before this incident occurred. We will conduct pluralistic risk management. Since I had believed from the beginning that it is not good to have natural resources concentrated at a single source, we are solemnly proceeding with this matter at the moment.

Suzuki, Jiji Press: In connection with this matter, do you have any specific region, shall I say, or a country in mind?

Minister: First of all, countries where rare earth elements can be found are limited in number to a certain extent. There are some countries with which Japanese corporate groups, including trading companies, are still secretly negotiating. In that sense, I believe that you know where rare earth elements can be found. Therefore, considering that such countries or territories are being envisaged, I would like to convey to you that when it becomes clear to a certain extent with regard to projects in which a specific company or a corporate group is involved, that company or corporate group would be engaged in such projects in a certain country or mining area, and consequently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would provide full support.
   This applies to the case of export of infrastructure systems as well, but as there certainly are many cases in which each company has absolutely been maneuvering so that other companies do not know about its moves, I believe that we must be very careful about this, so I would like to ask for your understanding.

Sakamaki, Bloomberg: With regard to this matter of strengthening natural resources diplomacy, was giving instructions to overseas diplomatic missions to collect information a measure that the MOFA specifically implemented? If there were any other specific measures besides this, please tell us about them.

Minister: This was the case at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), where I previously served, but in particular, the MLIT is a government office into which four ministries have been integrated. When I searched for the international department, I found four sections. About 10 years have passed since then, but there still exist four sections. It has been decided under organizational requirements that these sections would be consolidated, and a section tentatively titled the International Bureau has now been created in the MLIT. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is somewhat in a similar situation. With regard to international promotion of infrastructure systems or natural resources diplomacy, there is an aspect in which the MOFA has yet to reach the point of having its overseas diplomatic missions serve as antennas, so to speak, firmly conduct information collection, and consolidate the information. In that sense, I believe that it will become necessary to reform the organization and centralize such matters as the centralization of such information, including the organization, determining the order of their precedence and determining how to link these to foreign policy – in particular, how to link ODA programs, bilateral treaties, JICA’s technical cooperation and dispatch of technical experts. That organization, while collaborating with relevant ministries, must move on to promote concrete economic diplomacy, natural resources diplomacy and international promotion of infrastructure systems. We are currently in the process of carrying out such undertakings.

4. Japan-China Relations

Deguchi, Kyodo News: My question is about the three Fujita employees who have returned to Japan. I would first like to ask for your frank reaction, and also, there is talk that Defense Minister Kitazawa is seeking a meeting between the Japanese and Chinese defense ministers at the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus on the 12th, with the aim of restoring relations between Japan and China. When do you intend to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting, or do you intend to wait for the other side to bring it up?

Minister: Yesterday, three of the four Fujita employees were freed. One individual, however, is still under house arrest. Ambassador Niwa therefore called for security assurance of the remaining employee and continuous consular meetings, and for a peaceful and early resolution. Additionally, our embassy staff who saw them off at Shijiazhuang Airport made a similar request to officials of the Hebei Province Foreign Affairs Office. At any rate, we are very concerned that one more person is still under house arrest, and we intend to continue to strongly and firmly call the Chinese side for resolution.
   As to a dialogue between Japan and China, we are always open. We are always prepared for dialogue. We are prepared to take an opportunity and to do so at any time, but we will not bend our principles. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty in the East China Sea, and the Senkaku Islands are an inherent territory of Japan. We must therefore state firmly and clearly that we will respond in accordance with domestic law if a similar incident were to occur, and that we are still open.
At the same time, I think that both sides need to utilize our knowledge and experience in order to take measures to prevent this from occurring again. We are open to dialogue at any time, including this topic, if an environment for rational discussion is available.

Ida, Shukan Kinyobi: You spoke of pooling knowledge and experience to create measures to prevent a reoccurrence. Please tell us what you intend specifically. Also, does this statement take into consideration the safe operation of fishing vessels in the Northern Territories, for example?

Minister: Nothing specific has been decided. We have a vision, but this is something that must be negotiated, so I would like to refrain from speaking in detail.

Nanao, Niconico Video: I have a related question. Considering early improvement of relations between Japan and China, which have been worsened by this incident, it might be a separate issue to release the video taken by the Japan Coast Guard, which the Japanese people or members of the Diet are extremely interested in. But, could you please tell us your views on this?

Minister: This morning, I met at the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s office with Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Mabuchi, Minister of Justice Yanagida, and the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. Including these three, there were seven people there in total. At this meeting, we discussed this topic.
   At the intensive review by the budget committee yesterday, there was a request for documents. With regard to this, I have heard that it is in the custody of the board of the House of Representatives budget committee. If this board makes a decision and makes a request to the government, I believe that in accordance with Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the decision will be the primary responsibility of the Ministry of Justice.

Mori, Nikkei Business: I have a related question. Is it possible that negotiations between Japan and China will be that of multilateral, coordinating with ASEAN countries to include issues in the South China Sea as well?

Minister: We have ties with ASEAN countries in many forms, and we intend to strengthen them further. We intend to have various discussions and strengthen ties not just on a multilateral level, but on a bilateral level as well. At any rate, I think that we must strengthen our ties on such issues as economic activities, and issues involving our respective sovereignty.

5. Approval Rating for Kan Administration

Takahashi, Fuji Television: In an opinion poll conducted by Fuji Television yesterday, 70% of those responding said that they do not approve of the overall response by the Kan administration. The administration’s approval rating has also dropped by 15%, to 48%. Please give us your assessment as to the reason for this overall lack of approval and your frank perception on this.

Minister: I think that the issue of the release of the captain of the Chinese trawler has had a large impact. But regarding this decision by the prosecutor’s office, our judicial decision, and particularly that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could spur various emotional reactions by the Japanese people; alternatively, this could create diplomatic issues, and I think that we must explain this properly to the Japanese people, and if this becomes a diplomatic issue, then I think that we need to resolve it properly. We will do our utmost to regain the trust of the Japanese people through these efforts. We will do our best.

6. Sanctions against Iran (Development of Azadegan Oil Field)

Penn, Pan Orient Press TV: (Development of) the Azadegan oil field was begun as a friendship symbol between Japan and Iran. At the current stage, if Japan supports economic sanctions, there will also be no cooperation in the Azadegan oil field. If Japan fully supports the United States’ Iran policy, then how will the traditionally friendly relations between Japan and Iran be maintained?

Minister: We are contributing to the sanctions with regard to the issue of Iran’s nuclear development, in accordance with the decision of the United Nations (Security Council) US Resolution 1929. In other words, the sanctions are based on a UN resolution made amid concern that this will lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or to the destabilization of the Middle East. Meanwhile, as to the Azadegan oil field, the Japanese company INPEX (International Petroleum Exploration Corporation) holds the rights to this oil field. INPEX is an international corporation active not only in the Azadegan oil field but globally. I think that attention is now being paid to the reaction taken in light of the US law, or in other words the law applying sanctions on Iran. It is my understanding that currently, INPEX is not subject to the law applying sanctions against Iran, and that it is also not subject to special regulations. As for us, based on UN (Security Council) Resolution 1929, the government also owns shares in INPEX, but as a global enterprise, I think that it will decide on its actions with consideration as to whether it can do so without having its activities restricted. Regarding your question on relations with Iran, I think that relations between Japan and Iran are extremely friendly, and this is precisely why I think that it is vital to negotiate directly with Iran, and strengthen our relations, and ask Iran to fulfill its accountability to answer the current suspicions that it is developing nuclear weapons. I also think that it is extremely important for Japan to act on its own to convince Iran to work together with the international community, and in this sense, I believe that we must carefully manage our bilateral relations.

7. US Military Realignment Issue

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: I have heard that during the recent Japan-US foreign ministers’ meeting, US Secretary of State Clinton demanded increasing the “Host Nation Support (HNS) budget” or the cost of stationing US military forces in Japan. During the doorstepping interview and the like immediately following that meeting, I think that you surely replied that there was no such discussion. If this issue was not brought up there, have there been any US demands for increasing the HNS budget submitted through any of the various diplomatic channels between Japan and the United States? Minister of Defense Kitazawa said during a doorstepping interview this morning that this matter has come up in a different channel. Please tell us what kind of channel this matter has appeared in and how the Japanese side has responded to it.

Minister: During the Japan-US foreign ministers’ meeting held in New York, US Secretary of State Clinton made no mention of the HNS. I did not bring it up either. On the other hand, with regard to whether this matter has been brought up elsewhere, Assistant Secretary of Defense Gregson, with whom I met the other day, and US Ambassador Roos, with whom I met yesterday, did mention the HNS. I told both of them that the Japan-US alliance is extremely important and at the same time it should not appear that the alliance has been shaken due to this matter. On the other hand, since Japanese taxpayers’ money is being used, I asked them to fully understand that we are required to increase the efficiency and transparency with regard to usage of this money. I told them that in any case, we should try to work it out well, with working-level officials thoroughly discussing this issue.

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: May I understand that what they brought up is to increase the HNS?

Minister: It was about a bigger picture. It was not about increasing the amount. The two US officials talked about the HNS in the sense that they are paying attention to it and suggested having working-level officials hold concrete discussions. What I said was as I mentioned earlier.

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