(* 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 22, 2010, 3:20 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Flood Disaster in Central Vietnam
    • (2) First Meeting of the Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems
    • (3) Japan-Vietnam Nuclear Energy Agreement (Agreement in Substance)
    • (4) Joint Research Project on a New Era of Japan-ROK Relations
    • (5) Visit to United States
  2. Japan-China Relations
  3. Japan-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
  4. Economic Diplomacy (TPP)
  5. Future Japan-US Cooperation in the Oceans, Outer Space, and Cyberspace

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Flood Disaster in Central Vietnam

Minister Maehara: My first remark concerns a succession of powerful typhoons that have hit Vietnam, especially in the central regions. These regions have been subjected to large-scale flooding. The government of Japan decided that it provides emergency relief supplies worth 20 million yen, including blankets and generators, based on the local disaster conditions and the request of the Vietnamese government. We hope that this assistance will help improve the living conditions of the people who suffered from the disaster.

(2) First Meeting of the Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems

Minister: My second remark is that today, we held the first meeting of the Headquarters for the International Promotion of Infrastructure Systems, headed by myself. This Headquarters is a place to study and decide our policies, necessary coordinations, and the like for promoting Japan’s infrastructure systems internationally. I created the Headquarters in order to strengthen the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ initiatives. The main activities today were receiving reports mainly about Vietnam, information on its infrastructure, discussing our responses with State Secretaries and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers etc., and I gave necessary instructions. I would also like to further discussions on arrangement within the Ministry for promoting infrastructure systems, and following up on meetings between relevant Ministers to date.

(3) Japan-Vietnam Nuclear Energy Agreement (Agreement in Substance)

Minister: My third remark is that we reached an agreement in substance on the nuclear energy agreement between Japan and Vietnam. Negotiations are finalized. Following this agreement in substance, each side will advance procedures in respective governments, and when Prime Minister Kan visits Vietnam at the end of this month, the agreement will be confirmed at the head-of-state level. Japan and Vietnam will strive to swiftly sign and implement the agreement.

(4) Joint Research Project on a New Era of Japan-ROK Relations

Minister: Fourthly, a report was published today by the Joint Research Project on a New Era of Japan-ROK Relations. This project was agreed to at a Japan-Korea Summit Meeting in April 2008. Subsequently, Japanese and Korean experts in a wide range of fields, including international politics and economics – Japan’s chief representative is Dr. Okonogi – these experts conducted a joint research on what should be done for Japan-Korea relations to contribute together to the international community. The report includes a large number of creative ideas and suggestions for facing challenges that should be addressed by Japan and Korea. The very fact that this report was compiled is highly significant, and I welcome it. The government intends to follow up thoroughly, studying the report.

(5) Visit to United States

Minister: My final remark is that after receiving approval at a Cabinet meeting, I am scheduled to visit Hawaii on 27th, and hold a Japan-United States Foreign Ministers' meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. This will be our second meeting, following the Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the General Assembly of the United Nations in September. I intend to discuss a wide range of topics, such as bilateral relations, including the deepening of the Japan-US alliance relations that was confirmed at the last Foreign Ministers’ meeting or summit meeting, as well as the regional situations in the Asia Pacific region and globally. I expect that this Foreign Minister’ meeting will accelerate the preparations for the Japan-US Summit meeting in Yokohama APEC.

2. Japan-China Relations

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: I have three questions regarding Japan-China relations. There is just one week left before the ASEAN Summit meeting in Hanoi. My first question is as follows. I believe that this is currently being coordinated or prepared;  what is the outlook for a Japan-China summit or Foreign Ministers’ meeting? My second question is: what sort of topics would you discuss at that meeting? Finally, my third question is as follows. Conversely, yesterday Hu Zhengyue, Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a series of comments that China is verbally attacked every day, and demands why Minister Maehara is trying to damage Japan-China relations. It seems that he implied that a Summit meeting or the like might be postponed. What is your view? Please comment on these three questions.

Minister: Weren’t there two questions?

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: The first one was the outlook for a Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The second one was what you would discuss at a meeting, and the third one was yesterday’s statements by Mr. Hu Zhengyue.

Minister: Ministries of foreign affairs of Japan and China continue to work hard to hold a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China, and a Japan-China Summit meeting at the end of this month in Hanoi. I certainly intend to accelerate the series of moves to resume high-level negotiations to normalize Japan-China relations, agreed between Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen recently at ASEM.
   As to what will be discussed, firstly, relations between Japan and China are strained over the Senkaku issue, but I intend to look beyond this, and take the broad perspective of building a Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests, and discuss the broad direction for efforts to improve Japan-China relations, while at the same time, discussing individual matters as well if possible. By individual issues, I mean issues of rare earths, and the gas fields of the East China Sea, and resumption of negotiation about aviation agreement between Japan and China, at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting.
As I said earlier, my impression of the statements by the Chinese side is that I, and the current government as well, will advance a Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests between Japan and China. China is currently Japan’s number-one trading partner, both for exports and imports. For China, Japan is China’s number-one source of imports, and its number-two export destination, following the United States. There is a major cooperative relationship between China and Japan for this flow of goods as well. There is a large movement of people between the two countries as well, and I think that it is very important for the world’s second and third-largest economic powers to properly cooperate. I believe that I have said this before but by taking the broad perspective in mind, it is important to make efforts to resolve problems between Japan and China. I continue to speak and act from this standpoint.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: I have a related question concerning the international order of the seas in the East China Sea and South China Sea, in the context of the Joint Research Project on a New Era of Japan-ROK Relations. It includes a policy recommendation on the need to deepen dialogue with China. What is your reaction to this policy recommendation, and what kind of actions will you take?

Minister: I appreciate that those involved with the Joint Research Project on a New Era of Japan-ROK Relations cooperated well, and produced a good report.
   On the other hand, however, this is not something members of the government produced. It is my understanding that these recommendations are the product of knowledgeable experts. I intend to examine these recommendations in detail, and use them as a reference. As for the recommendations that are feasible, we will make efforts about them.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Last time, I asked a question about a statement by the press secretary of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and you answered, “I cannot understand it. That is all.” I thought that this statement sent a weak message. The intent of my question was that, it would send a wrong message. When China made a clearly erroneous action or statement, and Japan do not act resolutely, such as lodging a protest; Chinese will think that they can say or do anything to Japan. That was the intent of my question.
  Then, you said earlier that you intended to discuss the improvement of a Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests, beyond the Senkaku issue. Firstly, regarding the Senkaku issue, China is asserting that the Senkaku Islands are their inherent territory. Today, and at the Japan-China summit on the 5th, the Japanese side only stated its position, without properly refuting the statement of the Chinese side. I think that this will end up acknowledging Chinese assertions, and sends a wrong message, that sovereignty issues exist internationally. Do you intend to refute or protest the Chinese assertions that the Senkaku Islands are their inherent territory?

Minister: I believe that there are a wide range of individual opinions, as well as opinions of various media, but I think that it is important to at least ensure that the Japanese people are thoroughly informed, and to show as many people outside Japan as possible, that there are no sovereignty issues in the East China Sea; and that the Senkaku Islands are the inherent territory of Japan, both historically and under international law. Since we actually have effective control of the islands, I think that it is best to maintain that attitude consistently.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: Earlier, regarding a Foreign Ministers’ meeting between Japan and the United States in Hanoi, my notes say you said that you expect that you will accelerate the preparations for a summit meeting at Yokohama APEC when you meet Secretary of State Clinton.
Meanwhile, I assume that whether a similar Summit meeting between Japan and China will be held is currently being coordinated.The statements by the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs were spurred by statements you made, and although it may also have been in his manner of speaking, the statement that the atmosphere is not right was also made at the press conference yesterday by the Assistant Minister. Leaving aside your personal feelings on the topic, I think that perhaps you felt no need to talk about your views upon hearing this, but amid these circumstances, what is your view on how the two countries can act to build a positive and mutually beneficial relationship, and whether you intend to do so. Please tell us your views on these points.

Minister: I repeat myself but both I and the Kan administration believe that as Japan and China are neighboring countries, and it is in both of our countries’ interests to advance a mutually beneficial relationship between Japan and China having a broad perspective in mind. I think that it is important for both sides to recognize this, and to make statements with that recognition. As long as we make statements from that perspective, messages in the statements can vary.
  The statement by the Chinese side referred to my statement. I think that the true intention of the Chinese statements was that they think that both the Chinese side and Japanese side should work to improve our relations, and advance a mutually beneficial relationship. I think that at the bottom lies a desire for the meeting in Hanoi to be successful.
  At any rate, I am not sure how the former part of your question ties into the latter part, but I explained what is taking place between Japan and China to Secretary Clinton thoroughly at our recent meeting in New York, and the Madam Secretary understood the situation. So in that sense, I do not think that we will touch on issues between Japan and China. I intend to talk thoroughly about deepening the Japan-US alliance and relations, and achieving the three pillars of security, economy, and personal/cultural exchanges, while at the same time, to speak concretely about further advancing cooperation with regard to global issues of our common interests.

Inada, NHK: You just said that a desire for a meeting in Hanoi is at the bottom of the statements of the Chinese side. The Kan administration has stated that Japan and China are separated only by a narrow strip of water, and that the two countries have a relationship dating back thousands of years. On the other hand, until now you have been saying that there is no need to act with undue haste. I think that it is important for each side to tell the other what it is thinking, take a broad view, and debate the matters thoroughly. How important do you think a meeting in Hanoi will be amid the long relationship between Japan and China? Please tell me if you think this meeting is necessary. Additionally, you said earlier that the ball was in the court of the Chinese side, but with regard to the reaction by the Chinese Foreign Affairs official, what kind of ball has come back?

Minister: When I said that the ball was in the court of the Chinese side, it was when Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen Jiabao met at ASEM, and in response, we were in the phase of discussing various matters via diplomatic channels, and it was at that point in time when I said that the ball was in the court of the Chinese side. Subsequently, many things have been discussed via diplomatic channels, and that is precisely why I would like you to understand that we are working mutually with the aim of having a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China or a Japan-China summit at the ASEAN meeting in Hanoi.

3. Japan-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Deguchi, Kyodo News: You touched earlier a little on your meeting next week with Secretary of State Clinton, and you said that you would talk concretely about security, the economy, and personal exchanges. I assume that security issues are currently  discussed within the Government of Japan. There are the issue of the Host Nation Support, and the issue of relocating MCAS Futenma –there will be the governor’s elections in November. How do you intend to discuss these points?

Minister: Firstly, speaking of the Futenma issue, I intend to again convey that Japan will work hard to gain the understanding of the people of Okinawa, based on the Japan-US agreement of May 28th. On the topic of host nation support, this is discussed between Japan and the United states at the working level, and it is not yet clear what kind of discussion we can have in Hawaii, but I think that some sort of related discussion will be held. But with regard to whether some kind of conclusion can be reached in Hawaii, I do not think that we are at that stage yet. In any case, we are currently holding discussions at the working level.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: You said earlier that when you meet with Secretary of State Clinton, they already have a full understanding of matters between Japan and China, so you will probably not touch on the Japan-China issue. Does this mean that you also do not intend to touch on the Senkaku issue? Alternatively, I believe that there are many issues relating to China, such as Japan-China issues, and the issue of China’s maritime expansion; are you including such matters? Also, one more question: please tell us if you plan to exchange views on the recent situation in North Korea.

Minister: When I said that we will not discuss China issues, I meant that we have fully discussed in New York what has occurred in the Senkaku Islands, including the historical background of the islands, and therefore, we will not be discussing these matters. I think that the analysis of the situation in North Korea, as well as the future prospect in Northeast Asia, including in China, as well as how cooperation between Japan and the United States will be further advanced, are naturally some of the major issues.

4. Economic Diplomacy (TPP)

Noguchi, Nippon Television: First, I would like to ask you about your basic position and view on TPP. Also, strong opposition is voiced within the Democratic Party over whether to enter the negotiations, and a large number of Diet members met to discuss it; please tell us your views on these movements.

Minister: Each of those Diet members were selected in their district elections, or by the Japanese people in a variety of forms. I thus think that it is natural that they make comments in their capacity. It is a fact that amid these circumstances, there are voices both in favor and against it. I also think that it is important to debate whether we should enter the negotiations. I also think, however, that it is a major issue as to how much of our personal viewpoints we should bring to the debate. In fact, I do not think that the difference between those in favor and those opposed is as great as it appears from the outside, nor do I think that it is as great as it appears to you in the press. For example, even among the people who think that agriculture is important, I think that there are those who wonder if the agricultural policy that we have had to date is appropriate. For those of us in the Democratic Party in particular, we have a strong view that the agricultural policies of the Liberal Democratic Party have ruined agriculture today, and as I often say, given the agricultural policy of the Liberal Democratic Party to date, of avoiding entering FTAs and EPAs as much as possible, or even when they entered them, they tried to protect such sensitive areas to a fair degree. If you ask whether this has really developed our agricultural industry, look at the numbers. It is 1.5% of GDP, and the average age of farm workers is 65.8 years old, and over 80% is categorized in farming households with side jobs. When you look at this situation, even the people  who think that the agricultural industry today is not properly protected think that we cannot continue the current agricultural policies put in place by the Liberal Democratic Party. Therefore, if we enter TPP, the agricultural industry would be strengthened. Or if we enter TPP from a broad perspective like Korea did, then if we debate from the perspective of supporting agriculture thoroughly, including budgetary support, I think that we will be able to reach a conclusion. I do not think that any of the people arguing for promotion of TPP think that we can disregard the agricultural industry. This includes myself. Of course agriculture is important, and I actually think that we must improve the food self-sufficiency. I think that it is important to discuss how we will design a system to do this. On the other hand, however, even if I discuss the issue with the standpoint of promoting TPP, I think that we must show a larger framework. As to what kind of framework, I think that if you ask why Japan entered the WTO, and in short, what we have learned from the Second World War, is that economic blocks had the effect of triggering wars, and consequently, the GATT system was created shortly after the end of WW II, in order to ensure the free trade. We must recognize this again. Additionally, we are taking a leading role in promoting APEC, and we are advancing discussions to expand free trade between 21 countries by 2020. If you ask what the most realistic approach for achieving this is, the answer is TPPs. On top of this, TPPs are debated fairly frequently, and if Japan does not show clear support for them at some point, it will not be join the rule-making process, and if it attempts to enter TPP after some set of rules are set, Japan will not be able to assert its position. In this sense, I think that those who argue for promoting a TPP and those who argue for caution essentially have the same direction in mind. It is important to discuss the issue thoroughly, and I think that if we discuss it, we can reach a compromise on this issue.

5. Future Japan-US Cooperation in the Oceans, Outer Space, and Cyberspace

Nanao, Niconico Video: There are arguments that there will be a great need for future cooperation between Japan and the United States with regard to the oceans, space, cyberspace, and the like. I think that one specific example is the establishment of international rules. Please tell us your views on how we should relate with the United States in the future regarding global issues.

Minister: I think that this is a vital topic. I am one of the people in the nonpartisan backing of the Basic Law on the Oceans, and after the enactment of the Basic Law on Space, I promoted my views as the Minister in charge of space development. Speaking from that perspective, I think that cooperation with other countries is of course important. I also think that it is first of all important for our country to have a firm commitment to the issues you mentioned. Speaking on the issue of the oceans, this is an area that Japan has very much pioneered. In terms of land area, Japan is the world’s 61st largest country, but when our territorial waters and exclusive economic zones are added in, we are the world’s 6th largest. Additionally, the sea floors of our sovereign territorial waters and exclusive economic zones hold limitless resources. For example, there are hydrothermal deposits on the ocean floor, and methane hydrate, and these resources are lying there. We are currently advancing development of these resources in accordance with the Basic Law on the Oceans, and in accordance with the Basic Plan that is based on it. Although this is something that we should carry out, the cost is enormous. Taking methane hydrate as one example, there is a possibility that any country bordering an ocean has methane hydrate, but it is located at some depth below the seabed, and when it is brought to the surface, it becomes methane, so technical cooperation is very important. Speaking of methane hydrate, Japan and the United States are actually advancing cooperation in this area, and I think that in this sense, on the question of how to develop methane hydrate, I think that cooperation is already being conducted between Japan and the United States, or in other words development is being advanced by countries with shared interests. With regard to other ocean-floor resources as well, we must handle them well. I also think that there are areas where multilateral cooperation is possible, rather than just between Japan and the United States, such as freedom of navigation on the oceans, and conserving and protecting marine resources.
Speaking on the topic of space, Japan is also cooperating with the space station, and I think that Japan and the United States have long cultivated cooperation in this area. The recent launch with which I made the decision when I was the Minister in charge of space development was successful, and our Quasi-zenith satellite MICHIBIKI is truly supplementing the GPS system of the United States. The United States has advanced satellite and space technologies, and by further developing them, Japan can, for example, have more precise positioning information. We have also been cooperating in these launches, and we will continue to do so. We have cooperated in space in a variety of realms. In the defense field as well, we have cooperated in missile defense. I think that this is a field where we will continue to cooperate with the United States and other countries.
The same applies for cyberspace. In particular, it is important for countries with shared values, or those waging the same war on terrorism, or those facing threats from terrorism, to collaborate. It is my recognition that the possibilities for collaboration in this field are limitless.

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