(* 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, October 5, 2010, 3:00 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Flood Disaster in Pakistan (Conclusion of Transportation Activities by a Helicopter Unit of the JDR Team)
    • (2) Establishment of the “Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems” and the “Division for International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems”
    • (3) Visit to Japan by Beninese Foreign Minister Ehouzou
  2. Japan-China Relations
  3. Japan-Russia Relations
  4. International Assistance (Rules of Engagement on the Use of Weapons by the JDR Team)
  5. Realignment of US Military Forces

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Flood Disaster in Pakistan (Conclusion of Transportation Activities by a Helicopter Unit of the JDR Team)

Minister Maehara: My first announcement is about the JDR Team, which has been dispatched to Pakistan as a part of emergency humanitarian relief efforts in response to the flood disaster in that country. The team has transported goods and aid officials for five weeks from August 31, but following improvements in the disaster situation, the Government of Pakistan has requested Japan to conclude its transportation activities. Consequently, it has been decided that the transportation activities would be concluded as of October 10.
   I have heard that these relief activities have been highly appreciated by the people and Government of Pakistan. When I met with the Pakistani Foreign Minister at the United Nations General Assembly, I received appreciative words from the Foreign Minister. In addition, the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and US Secretary of State Clinton highly praised the helicopter operations of JAPAN Self-Defense Forces. As a member of the international community, we intend to continue actively engaging in activities to provide assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Pakistan in the future.

(2) Establishment of the “Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems” and the “Division for International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems”

Minister: My second announcement is that in order to create a structure to firmly consolidate information and knowledge related to infrastructure export, which – along with the establishment of FTAs, EPAs, and a multilateral free trade system, as well as resource and food diplomacy – is one of the three pillars for promoting economic diplomacy that I advocate, it has been decided that a “Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems” and a “Division for International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems” will be established within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
   I will be heading the Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems, and its members will include the State Secretary, Parliamentary Vice-Minister, and senior officials. It is intended that upon receiving regular reports from working-level officials, the Headquarters would study future policies and necessary coordination (with regard to international promotion of infrastructure systems), and make relevant decisions.
   A Liaison Conference for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems will also be established at the working level for consolidating and sharing information related to international promotion of infrastructure export. This conference, which will be hosted by the deputy director-general of the Economic Affairs Bureau, is to be held regularly.
   In order to conduct discussions on relevant efforts upon receiving reports on the latest situation concerning this important matter and the status of the efforts – which include information from overseas diplomatic missions – we intend to establish the Division for International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems.

(3) Visit to Japan by Beninese Foreign Minister Ehouzou

Minister: My third announcement is that Foreign Minister Ehouzou of the Republic of Benin will visit Japan from October 7 to October 11 as a distinguished guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the independence of Benin, as well as the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Benin. It is hoped that bilateral relations between Japan and Benin will be further strengthened as a result of Foreign Minister Ehouzou’s visit.

2. Japan-China Relations

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: A Japan-China summit meeting was held in Brussels lately, and progress in the Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests between the two countries was confirmed once again. Please tell us how you evaluate this meeting and what you think is necessary in restoring the soured relations.

Minister: I received a phone call – I believe that it was between six and seven this morning – from Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama and Prime Minister Kan, notifying me that the leaders of Japan and China held a meeting – exchanged some words, shall I say, while seated on a sofa – for about 25 minutes.
   I was informed that in this talk the Japanese and Chinese leaders once again firmly confirmed the Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests between the two countries and agreed to conduct high-level consultations for improving the bilateral relations. Since the phone call was from the government aircraft, we did not speak very long, and the Prime Minister suggested that we discuss our future approach at the Prime Minister’s Office after he returns.
   In any case, I am glad that top-level talks were held and a visible path toward resolving the problem at hand was found. We have made various efforts at the diplomatic level, but in the wake of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Chinese leader, as well as upon receiving instructions from the Prime Minister, we intend to decide at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with regard to what kind of diplomatic approach we actually take in the future.

Iwakami, Freelance: In connection with that, I would like to ask a question concerning Japan-China relations. DPJ Deputy Secretary General Edano expressed a harsh view about China at a park in Saitama City on the 2nd (of October), I believe. In order to confirm his views on that, I questioned DPJ Secretary General Okada yesterday. He also expressed a very harsh view, effectively endorsing Mr. Edano’s words, such as one that China is not a law-abiding country. In addition, he made remarks questioning the maintaining of economic relations with another country that is not law-abiding, by saying that companies that form economic relations of an economic partnership with such a country will have to do that at their own discretion. I think that this is an important point. This seems to slightly deviate or differ from his past talks about deepening economic relations (with China).
   How does the current government think of this point? Please let me confirm once again what will happen to Japan-China relations, particularly the bilateral economic relations, in the future.

Minister: I have not been following in detail all the comments made by Secretary General Okada or Deputy Secretary General Edano, so my remarks are not based on those comments, but my position is that as neighbors, Japan and China indeed need to further deepen their Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests, including economic activities, in the future.
   China will likely overtake Japan in terms of GDP and become number two in the world this year. I believe that this means that cooperation between the world’s number two economic super powers is extremely important, including effects not only on Japan and China but also on other regions. In that sense, I feel that it is important for the two countries to respond calmly and further strengthen their cooperative relations further more.
   Meanwhile, there were a number of instances in which China over-reacted, so to speak, to our matter-of-fact assertions, and on some points we have been seeking confirmation from China. For example, with regard to rare earth elements, as Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Ohata announced today, there seem to be some cases in which the export of rare earth elements has not been resumed. The METI Minister has made an announcement that METI has conducted an investigation, resulting all 31 companies that handle rare earth elements have made reports to the effect that exports from China have been hindered. Although there are reports that some export applications have been accepted or improvements have been seen, it cannot be judged yet that exports have been resumed. With regard to other items, 124 out of the 424 companies that have responded to questionnaires have reported 242 cases of delays, etc., while a very small number of cases, 8, to be exact, have reportedly been resolved. In other words, delays have been resolved in only a few of the cases, and there are still delays in a majority of them.
   With regard to these, we have been using diplomatic channels to call for resolving the delays. If the Chinese Government were involved in this matter, it would constitute a violation of WTO rules, so in that sense, I think that it is important for Japan to firmly say what should be said. In addition, I believe that economic activities must not be hampered by the latest incident or similar incidents.
   However, I believe that economic activities are undertaken by companies, and companies are required to engage in economic activities by taking various viewpoints into consideration. With regard to this point, I would like for companies to thoroughly take heed of the latest incident and firmly engage in economic activities, assuming responsibility on their own.
   Nevertheless, going back, I believe that from a mid- to long-term perspective, we must firmly promote Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests with China, and I would like China to understand that we always leave our doors open, which include measures to prevent further occurrences of such cases.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: With regard to the latest Japan-China summit meeting, the (meeting) was reportedly held after the (ASEM) conference. I would like you to confirm whether either the Japanese side or the Chinese side, or both sides, made a proposal in advance about holding a meeting if there was an opportunity. If, instead, this happened by chance, I may have to ask Prime Minister Kan or Premier Wen Jiabao in person to find out, but please tell us your thoughts on why there emerged a mood conducive to holding a meeting or talks amid circumstances in which the two leaders saw each other in their eyes or came face to face after the conference.

Minister: Diplomatic activities are conducted through various channels. As to the form in which the latest meeting was held, this concerns our conduce of diplomatic activities, so I would like to refrain from making any comments.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: During the meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao apparently asserted that (the Senkaku Islands) “are China’s territory,” while Prime Minister Kan said that “no territorial dispute exists.” The two leaders thus apparently remained apart on this matter, but how do you feel about China, which keeps making such assertions as usual?

Minister: I have been saying this on every possible occasion, but from a historical viewpoint, the Senkaku Islands are integral part of Japanese territory, and China began claiming sovereignty after it became known in 1971 that there may be resources (under the sea around the islands). It has consistently been Japan’s position that no territorial issue exists in the East China Sea.

Nara, NHK: During a speech you just gave at the FCCJ (Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan), you said that you intend to make efforts toward rebuilding Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests between Japan and China. I believe that this kind of situation developed in the wake of the Senkaku issue, indicating that Japan-China relations are fragile to a certain extent, but what do you envision with regard to doing something in order to further promote the bilateral relations or turn them into multilayered relations? Additionally, you commented on the need to reach an agreement on preventive measures or something, but in what form do you think that an agreement can be reached with China?

Minister: We need to work things out one step at a time. I believe that the principle of diplomacy is for us to firmly convey our position and thereupon seek common ground. In that sense, I feel that it is important to confirm each point of mutual agreement one at a time while holding thorough discussions without too much haste.

Saida, Nishinippon Shimbun: Prime Minister Kan held summit talks with the Vietnamese leader over so-called issues related to the sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. How do you feel about cooperation with countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea?

Minister: We have been cooperating in many ways with ASEAN member countries and other countries in Asia. There are many countries that are very important. We would like to further strengthen cooperation over various topics.

Yamamoto, Sekai Nippo: During your speech at the FCCJ today, you explained the historical developments with regard to the Senkaku Islands. Additionally, you are saying at today’s press conference that Japan and China are still apart on that matter. I feel that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to engage in more detailed enlightenment activities regarding the historical developments. While there is a brief outline of the matter posted on the MOFA website, there is a document titled “On the Senkaku Islands” in PDF format published by the MOFA Bureau of Information and Culture in 1972. This document is very detailed, and it includes a map, the details of which are just the way that you explained. It also contains very specific details, such as the Koga family that engaged in various kinds of fisheries there. Please tell us whether you have any plans to post this on the MOFA website.

Minister: That is a very good advice, and I would like to think about that right away. It is important to provide a thorough, detailed explanation of Japan’s position, and we recently posted (a brief outline) in Chinese following discussions in the Diet. I think that it is a very constructive proposal, so we would like to think about that in a forward looking way.

Nishioka, Jiji Press: With regard to the expression “doors are open,” which you have repeatedly used in recent speechs, etc., does this mean that you have already presented a concrete proposal on preventive measures and are waiting for a response from the Chinese side, or are you waiting for a proposal from the other side? Please tell us the specifics.

Minister: Since we are conducting exchanges through various diplomatic channels, I would like to refrain from commenting on the specifics.

3. Japan-Russia Relations

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: I believe that you said earlier during you speech that you were aware that a foreign minister-level, high-ranking government official has gone to the Northern Territories, but pointed out that it would have been a different matter had the Russian President, the top leader, gone there. Please give us a slightly more detailed explanation on that point.

Minister: The Northern Territories are Japan’s sovereign territory. In that sense, we have so far spoken about this issue as one of the greatest diplomatic issues between Japan and Russia, and we need to firmly speak about this in the future. My basic position is that Japan and Russia will thoroughly cooperate in areas where they can cooperate and conclude a peace treaty based on the results and mutual trust. I made that remark hoping that from that viewpoint, Russia would fully understand Japan’s position, and that there would be a big difference depending on who would be going there.

4. International Assistance (Rules of Engagement on the Use of Weapons by the JDR Team)

Saida, Nishinippon Shimbun: My question concerns (the dispatch of) the JDR Team to Pakistan. Due to legal restraints, the latest dispatch was the so-called “unarmed dispatch,” in which the team was dispatched there without carrying weapons. Amid the expansion of international cooperation in the future, do you have any intention to review the carrying of weapons or use of weapons?

Minister: Senior Vice Minister Shozo Azuma of the Cabinet Office proposed thoroughly reviewing how PKO and how various international contributions ought to be and conducting a study in a forward-looking way in the future. I readily agreed to that proposal and decided to have discussions conducted at the State Minister level. I believe that what you just mentioned should also be discussed during such occasions.

5. Realignment of US Military Forces

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: You mentioned earlier during your speech that you “need to make two kinds of apology” over the issue of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa – an apology for the fact that the proposed relocation site for Futenma Air Station (which the Democratic Party of Japan once tried to change to a different location) has been brought back to Henoko in Nago City and an apology for matters that have accumulated so far. However, in Okinawa, the people are not seeking an apology. Instead, they are seeking a resolution of the issue. From this standpoint, there is a sense of discomfort in Okinawa with regard to words of apology. Amid this succession of events, there is dissatisfaction in Okinawa over the fact that no explanation has been made at all with regard to the reason for returning to the Henoko plan. From your standpoint of having been involved in the Futenma relocation issue while serving as Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs under the former Hatoyama administration, please give us a straightforward explanation on “why it was necessary to return to the Henoko plan,” rather than saying that you apologize for the return to the Henoko plan, but intend to move on with this plan.

Minister: I believe that we have repeatedly spoken about this to Governor Nakaima – I have done this and so has former Foreign Minister Okada. I think that former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano has also spoken about this, but I feel that Governor Nakaima has not been convinced. I believe that it is important for us to continue thoroughly speaking with Governor Nakaima on the relevant developments and process and thoroughly speak about it until we can fully convince him.

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