(* 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 15, 2010, 7:46 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting Ministerial Interim Meeting
    • (2) Aichi-Nagoya Ministerial Meeting of the REDD+ Partnership
    • (3) Use of Cluster Munitions by the US Forces, Japan
  2. Japan -China Relations
  3. Hollowing Out of Employment Due to Yen Appreciation
  4. Resumption of Six-Party Talks
  5. US Subcritical Nuclear Weapons Test
  6. Establishment of the Japanese Version of the National Security Council (NSC)
  7. Realignment of US Forces in Japan

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting Ministerial Interim Meeting

Minister Maehara: My first announcement concerns the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting. The Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting Ministerial Interim Meeting will be held at the Iikura House tomorrow. Japan has been hosting the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting once every three years since 1997 in order to strengthen relations with the Pacific Island Countries Region. The latest ministerial interim meeting is the first attempt at holding a meeting during an interim year of the leaders meeting, which is held once every three years. I will be attending this meeting as a chairman, while Prime Minister Natapei of the Republic of Vanuatu, who is the chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, or PIF, will be serving as a chairman for the other side.
   With regard to holding the next meeting, the 6th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting, six places applied for hosting the meeting, but final arrangements are being worked out to hold the meeting in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. We will make an official announcement tomorrow on the ministerial meeting. As for the other five places, we have accepted their candidacy in confidence under the condition that they not be publicized.

(2) Aichi-Nagoya Ministerial Meeting of the REDD+ Partnership

Minister: The second announcement is that a Ministerial Meeting of the REDD+ Partnership will be held in Nagoya on October 26. The objective of this meeting is to strengthen the international efforts to preserve the forests of developing countries – efforts that will play an important role in resolving the issues of climate change. Minister Abal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, and I will co-chair the meeting. By bringing this meeting to a successful conclusion, it is hoped that progress can be made in international negotiations at COP 16.

(3) Use of Cluster Munitions by the US Forces, Japan

Minister: The last announcement concerns a recent question to which I did not provide an answer – a question concerning cluster munitions.
   Mr. Takimoto of Ryukyu Shimpo asked me “whether the Government of Japan has so far called on the United States, which is not a signatory state, to refrain from using the cluster munitions.” My answer is that “although the relevant Convention (on Cluster Munitions) came into effect in August this year, the Government of Japan, in accordance with Section 2 of Article 21 of the Convention, which discourages States not party to that Convention from using cluster munitions, had explained its position to the US Department of Defense at a stage before the Convention came into effect and requested that they refrain from using cluster munitions.”

2. Japan -China Relations

Inada, NHK: I believe that Director-General Saiki has returned to Japan, and you finally have received his report. Efforts toward a summit between Japan and China are currently receiving a great deal of attention; what stance do you think that the Government of Japan should take toward holding such a summit? Additionally, you have talked about recurrence prevention measures and the like; if there are some prerequisite conditions, please include it in your response.

Minister: Director-General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Saiki went to Beijing, and on my instructions spoke with his counterpart in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today, I received his report about those talks. Both the Chinese side and our side have put out feelers about the possibility of holding a Japan-China summit at an appropriate time. But there is basic principles that the Senkaku Islands are the inherent sovereign territory of Japan, and there are no sovereignty issues in the East China Sea. This is the preconditions for considering the prevention of recurrence. However, I heard that as expected, the Chinese side disputed these principles. But these are the points that we absolutely cannot cede, so there remains unsettled questions. On the other hand, we have reached a broad agreement that it is in our mutual interest to firmly strengthen our Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests in the economic arena, or in the arena of personal exchanges. I therefore intend to hold continued discussions at the working level.
I told him that we need not hurry to hold the summit too much. I instructed him to maintain our position solidly, and not to rush.

Inada, NHK: With regard to sovereignty issues, you said, “As expected, the other side disputed these principles.” Is it your understanding that the summit cannot be held unless the two countries agree on this?

Minister: We have no intention of ceding a single millimeter, and if we should cede, we will no longer be a sovereign nation. Consequently, we will absolutely not cede on this point, and the question is how the other side will react to this.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: This also overlaps with the previous question, but you said that Japan would not cede on its position, and that Director-General Saiki reported to you that Chinese side had disputed. Is it your position that as long as China disputes this point, neither a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China nor Japan-China summit will be feasible, or do you think that the summit will not be productive if Chinese side disputes this point ?

Minister: In 1978, Deng Xiaoping said that they should shelve this issue, and it may be the Chinese side’s recognition that the issue has been shelved until now. It is our position that the Senkaku Islands are historically the sovereign territory of Japan, and they have never been under the control of China. And our stance that there are no sovereignty issues remains unchanged. We will continue to maintain this. As we continue to maintain this, I think that there is still a good possibility of holding a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China, and a Japan-China summit. The fact is that our position will never change on this. Given this, however, I think that it is still possible to hold a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China or a Japan-China summit.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: You just stated that you were able to reach a broad agreement with the other side that strengthening a Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests is in our mutual interest. But as to the agreement itself, when Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Kan recently met, they exchanged views to this effect, and we have now had working-level talks. Frankly Speaking, is it your recognition that there has been progress, or in other words, progress toward holding meetings, or improving the relations? Alternatively, is it your recognition that no progress has been made?

Minister: It is not the case that no progress has been made. For example, China had been stating unilaterally that it would cancel the attendance of Japanese youths at the Shanghai Expo, but they have now accepted 1,000 Japanese youths. On the issue of rare earths, the recognition of the Chinese side differs from that of ours. They say that they have not given such instructions. But it does not fit the facts. We must follow through on this. They have discussed such specific issues. It is my understanding that the ball is in their court now.

Mori, Nikkei Business: I have a question on cooperation with ASEAN countries in relation to Japan- China relations.
At the recent ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, it seems they were unable to reach a consensus. Please tell us about what you think of the outlook and policy for the upcoming ASEAN+3 and East Asia Summit.

Minister: I may have said this at an earlier press conference, and I also recall stating this in a response before the Diet, but I wonder if it is wise to show solidarity in order to protect our seas, having purposely China in mind.

3. Hollowing Out of Employment Due to Yen Appreciation

Iwakami, Freelance: The situation of yen appreciation is now entering a very critical phase. It has been reported that Toyota plans to manufacture its Corolla models overseas. The administration of Prime Minister Kan has been inaugurated while asserting, "First, employment, second, employment and third, employment." I feel that it would be a very serious situation if the yen appreciates further and the hollowing out of employment occurs. Please tell us your thoughts on what is being considered within the Kan administration with regard to stopping the appreciation of the yen, or preventing the hollowing out of production or employment even if the yen were to remain at the current level of appreciation.

Minister: This was the biggest topic of discussion during the informal ministerial meeting held after the Cabinet meeting today. Minister Kaieda presented a number of ideas, and Finance Minister Noda, who participated in the recent G7 meeting, gave a briefing on what he spoke about at the meeting. My understanding is that, Prime Minister Kan gave us instructions.
   As you pointed out, the yen has appreciated quite excessively, and it is my understanding that the Prime Minister gave instructions on both short and medium terms – that yen appreciation must be prevented over the short term and, what must be done from a medium-term perspective. I would like to refrain from speaking about the details because they are sensitive in nature.

Iwakami, Freelance: Rather than about yen appreciation itself, please give us a comment about the problems of unemployment that yen appreciation would bring about.

Minister: I think, those engaged in traditional shop-floor production (monozukuri) probably manage to make profits at the exchange rate of 90 yen to the dollar, but at the 81-yen level as of today, it becomes impossible to continue monozukuri in Japan. Those who can move will naturally shift their production bases to overseas if yen appreciation continues over a long term, and I think that there will be an extremely strong possibility of the hollowing out of employment. We share that sense of crisis within the Kan administration, and this issue became the main topic of discussion during the informal ministerial meeting held after the Cabinet meeting today, and Prime Minister Kan gave instructions to us, including Minister Kaieda, and Minister Noda.

4. Resumption of Six-Party Talks

Deguchi, Kyodo News: When Director-General Saiki visited China, he also met with Ambassador Wu Dawei, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Korean Peninsular Affairs, and Amb. Wu Dawei previously met with First Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan of North Korea.
Today, First Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan made several positive statements to us in the media, including that they are prepared to resume six-party talks. Has there been any progress in this area?
Also, what actions by North Korea would be prerequisites for the Government of Japan to resume the talks?

Minister: Today’s budget-committee meeting was fairly long, so although I received a report from Director-General Saiki on his exchanges with China, I only heard that he had met with Representative Wu Dawei, and have not heard about the details of their meeting.
But in any case, the goal must not be the resumption of six-party talks. I think that in order to resume the six-party talks, it is important, at a minimum, that North Korea clarifies what sort of concrete progress they make in the talks.
 Given the past record, there may be a sense in which just gathering together would be enough. I do not deny that completely, but if we are to meet, we need to make sure what the North Korea’s specific goal in the meeting is. Otherwise, we would simply meet, without discussing any requests of assistance.

5. US Subcritical Nuclear Weapons Test

Okada, Chugoku Shimbun: I would like to ask you a question concerning the US subcritical nuclear test. The Government of Japan considers that the latest test does not violate the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty because it was not accompanied by nuclear explosions, and does not plan to lodge a protest. Ever since the test came to light, voices of criticism have arisen intensively from places that suffered from atomic bombing, charging that the test runs contrary to international trends “aiming at a nuclear-free world.” How do you feel about the latest test and about such voices?

Minister: Considering the feelings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors, I understand the anger they feel even against a subcritical test. However, this subcritical test does not violate the CTBT and was a nuclear test that does not reach the critical stage. Moreover, President Obama said in his speech in Prague that “although (the United States) would aim at a nuclear-free world, nuclear deterrence would be maintained during the transition period,” and the latest subcritical test was aimed for confirming the precision of the weapons in stock. Therefore, I do not think that the test is inconsistent with what President Obama said. However, considering the feelings of the survivors who suffered from atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the feelings of those who believe in a “truly nuclear-free world,” I fully understand their anger.

6. Establishment of the Japanese Version of the National Security Council (NSC)

Nanao, NicoNicoDouga: This is a question on behalf of our viewers. During the Budget Committee meeting on the 14th, Prime Minister Kan said that he would like to take a forward-looking position on the idea of setting up a National Security Council that would strengthen diplomacy and security. Please tell us your thoughts on this idea of a Japanese version NSC.

Minister: During the time that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was still an opposition party, the ruling and opposition parties reached an agreement on the Emergency Legislation and enshrined it into law. The need to set up a Japanese version of the NSC was stated in the legislation submitted by the DPJ at the time, so we have taken a positive position on that since then. However, as Prime Minister Kan has said and we also agree, it is futile to start from building the form not knowing its content. For example, in the case of the NSC of the United States, national security advisor gives a briefing to the President, including intelligence, every morning and gives advice on the President’s policy decisions. In other words, the briefings given to the President is information turned into intelligence to a great degree. In other words, there must be a very in-depth process of analyzing information and determining what kind of policies to be worked out before providing it to the President. In other words, I think that unless we create such a process, it would not be meaningful to just create a form (of the Japanese version NSC).
   Therefore, aside from whether relevant ministers would gather and receive a briefing every morning, the Prime Minister, at least, should receive a briefing every morning. Those briefings must be backed by intelligence, and I think that we should form a so-called staff, should I say, or a Japanese version of the JIC at the same time. JIC refers to the Joint Intelligence Committee, which exists in the UK. Those two organizations are the two sides of a coin. I think that the JIC must collect and analyze information and work together as a unit with the NSC which briefs the President on national strategy. Therefore, instead of starting off with a form, I would like to have thorough debates conducted on what to do about the details, as debates are currently being conducted on the National Defense Program Outline.

7. Realignment of US Forces in Japan

Nakaima, Ryukyu Shimpo: Today, the Nago City Council passed by majority vote a resolution opposing the acceptance of a base in Henoko, and demanding the retraction of the Japan-United States joint declaration. I believe that the Government’s position is to continue to request understanding, but the city of Nago, as well as the prefectural assembly and the governor, have a clear position of demanding that the base be moved outside the prefecture. Please tell us what the Government believes will make it possible for the base to be accepted.

Minister: I am aware that the (city) council’s resolution is extremely weighty. Since Okinawa was returned to Japan, it has been made to bear an excessive burden of US bases, and despite the fact that we said we would move Futenma outside the prefecture at a minimum during the general election, in the Japan-US agreement in May, we stated that Henoko will be the replacement location for Futenma. In the sense of these two facts, we must sincerely apologize to the people of Okinawa for the anger and disappointment we have caused them. That said, we intend to ensure that the Japan-US agreement of May 28th be carried out. I am of course well aware that the people of Okinawa are highly critical at the current stage, but if we can see this process through properly, it will lead to the reversion of Futenma, and it will also lead to the reversion of most of the bases in south of Kadena. While it is certainly true that we will be asking the residents of Nago to build a new base in Henoko, Futenma is the most dangerous base in all of Okinawa, and we think that relocation to Henoko will lead to the elimination of the danger of Futenma, the reversion of MCAS Futenma to Japan, and the reversion of a fair number of US military bases, as well as land and sea area. We therefore intend to continue to sincerely ask the people of Okinawa for their understanding.

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