(* 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, November 2, 2010, 2:50 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Japan-Russia Relations (Temporary return to Japan by Japanese Ambassador to Russia Kono)
  2. Japan-Russia Relations
  3. Japan-China Relations
  4. Japan-US Relations

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Japan-Russia Relations (Temporary return to Japan by Japanese Ambassador to Russia Kono)

Minister Maehara: I have only one announcement. In the wake of Russian President Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island, I have decided to shortly have Ambassador to Russia Kono temporarily return to Japan to give a briefing on the situation in Russia with regard to this visit.

2. Japan-Russia Relations

Ida, Shukan Kinyobi: On what date and at what time did you receive a report that President Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island was likely?

Minister: I would like to refrain from discussing matters related to information in detail.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: Regarding your announcement that Ambassador Kono is temporarily back in Japan, do you have approximate duration of his return in mind?

Minister: We only have him return to Japan temporarily in order to receive his reports about matters including President Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island. The duration of Ambassador’s return has not yet been decided.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: When you say “temporary return to Japan,” can we take it that he has been recalled? Or is it something else?

Minister: It is a temporary return to Japan in order for us to ask the Ambassador about the current developments.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: Are you saying that it is other than a recall?

Minister: As I said, it is a temporary return to Japan in order for us to ask the Ambassador about the current developments.

Yamao, Asahi Shimbun: If, upon hearing the situation, you find something serious, is it possible that he will not go back?

Minister: Since it is a temporary return to Japan in order for us to ask the Ambassador about the current developments, I do not know beforehand if the Ambassador reports such a serious matter. It is therefore a temporary return to Japan.

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: Could the Ambassador’s temporary return be interpreted as a de facto countermeasure? As potential countermeasures, many things come to mind, such as ceasing economic cooperation and aid given by Japan to Russia, or personal exchanges such as ministerial-level exchanges. Are you currently considering these measures, in the sense of protesting the president’s recent visit to Kunashiri?

Minister: This is a temporary return to Japan by Ambassador to Russia Kono in order to ask him about the current developments. Although various things have been reported in the media, speaking for example about diplomatic relations with Russia, our broad policy direction remains unchanged: resolve sovereignty issues, sign a peace treaty, and further strengthen Japan-Russia relations.
I would like to touch here upon the goal of our diplomacy. In short, during these lost two decades, the economy has not grown, and the population has fallen. The population has been falling since 2004. Our debt has also become enormous. It is now more than 1.8 times of our GDP. I think that this is precisely why we have had a change of government. If you ask me what kind of diplomacy we will conduct in these circumstances, then it is as I have said repeatedly: how do we regain Japan’s national strength is the question that counts. We cannot conduct diplomacy beyond our capabilities. Nor do I think we should do so.
Many aspects of our social security, education, and social capital will be due to be renewed in the future. Despite this, our resources for those things is shrinking. Our debt keeps growing, and we need to pay it back. There has also been a freeze on updates to our Coast Guard and defense related spending for more than 10 years. The situations do not allow them to grow. What I am saying is that if we apply the question of how to achieve a breakthrough here to the realm of diplomacy, then we must conduct diplomacy that promotes growth.
When Prime Minister Singh of India recently came to Japan, we talked about a comprehensive EPA, and the development of rare earths. This will truly expand Japan’s growth sectors rapidly, by opening Japan, and creating a comprehensive EPA with India, whose population is over one billion. We will also promote resource diversification. This agreement with Vietnam will also enable Japan or Japanese companies to win orders for infrastructure leveraging ODA, at a time when demand for infrastructure in Vietnam is growing. In particular, Japan has won orders for the construction of the second nuclear power plant. I think that the joint development of rare earths is also consistent with the attitude toward diplomacy of the Kan Cabinet, which has worked in accordance with this basis. We must continue to advance this.
We think that we must create agreements to advance this further at APEC. However, we must not focus solely on economic diplomacy. Actually, speaking of doing something amid the instability and uncertainty of this region, the answer is Japan-US (cooperation). We will have a solid foundation of the Japan-US cooperation, and further strengthen it. This must be another major pillar. Although I have been Foreign Minister only for a little over one month, I have spoken twice with State Secretary Clinton, and agreed substantially on the direction forward. We are currently translating the strengthened Japan-US relations into reality. Some of the initiatives are announced at these press conferences, and others are not.
In this sense, Japanese diplomacy has two cornerstones. For now, we will first rebuild and re-strengthen Japan-US relations. Secondly, amid questions of how to conduct economic diplomacy, free trade, resource diplomacy, and international promotion of infrastructure, we must consider how to rebuild diplomatic relations with a wide range of countries, by promoting economic growth, which is Japan’s fundamental issue. In this context, I think that Russia is an important country. Of course, the issues of sovereignty remain. We must resolve them. Our policy of resolving the issue of the sovereignty over territory, signing a peace treaty, and further strengthening economic cooperation between Japan and Russia remains unchanged.
I will say what must be said. We will communicate our way of thinking. Our policy remains unchanged from what I have just said, namely strengthening cooperative relations between Japan and Russia.

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: To confirm, from what you have just said, in consideration of the economic cooperation between Japan and Russia, with the rising share (of Russia) in the energy import of course, you do not intend to, while there occurred a problem related to the territory, take some countermeasures or reposition yourself.

Minister: Getting back to the very beginning of my statement, we are firstly having the Ambassador return to Japan temporarily in order to hear what the Ambassador has to say.

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: Concerning the temporary return to Japan, what specifically do you intend to confirm or clarify by speaking directly with the Ambassador?

Minister: I intend to ask the Ambassador all about the domestic background in Russia, and the political background; the Japanese Embassy in Russia has been collecting information, and I intend to ask about this, leaving aside whether I will be able to convey all of this to you.

Inada, NHK: I would like to ask you about two points.
Firstly, although I think that it is normal to call the Ambassador and ask about the situation, in the case of China, for example, this was not done. I think that in some cases, this could be perceived as a countermeasure. What is your reaction to this point?
Also, with regard to the recent visit to the Northern Territories by President Medvedev, he did not touch on sovereignty while he was there. I would like to ask for your overall evaluation of this.

Minister: I have spoken to you about the details of the summon of Russian Ambassador to Japan Bely yesterday. I said, “The visit to Kunashiri Island by President Medvedev contradicts Japan’s basic position, and neglects the feelings of the Japanese people. It is extremely regrettable, and Japan lodges a protest.”
Furthermore, on September 29th, I conveyed to Ambassador Bely that if the president were to visit (the territories), it would deteriorate Japan-Russo relations, and yesterday, we lodged a protest based on this.
  You mentioned the differences between Japan-China and Japan-Russia. The Ambassador’s temporary return to Japan is only to ask about the background and other aspects of the situation, as I have stated repeatedly.
Speaking overall, it is extremely regrettable that the president visited Kunashiri Island despite the expression of our concern.

Inada, NHK: What is your view of the fact that President Medvedev did not touch on the sovereignty issues while he was there, and cast the image of domestic tour?

Minister: I do not think that I should comment on that.

Hanamura, TV Asahi: With regard to its future impact, APEC is fast approaching. Amid this circumstance, what will be the impact of the temporary return of the Ambassador? Also, in the press conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku, the Secretary stated his expectation that there would be a Japan-Russia summit; what are your views on this point?

Minister: It has not yet been determined whether a Japan-Russia summit meeting will be held.

Fujita, NHK: Just now, you said with regard to how diplomacy will be advanced, that first Japan-US relations must be rebuilt. If this is the case, speaking of the visit to the Northern Territories by Russian President Medvedev, and relations with China with respect to the Senkaku Islands, is it your analysis that these incidents occurred because the Japan-US alliance has been shaken by the Futenma issue?

Minister: There is certainly no mistaking that the Futenma issue exists or existed between Japan and the United States.
My view, however, is that during the Hatoyama administration, there was an image that the Futenma issue was all there was about the Japan-US alliance. I do not think that this is a good thing for either of the countries. Of course, our course of action remains unchanged: we will ensure that the Japan-US agreement of May 28th is carried out, and we will ask the people of Okinawa sincerely for their understanding, while apologizing for the events to date. At our recent Japan-United States Foreign Ministers' meeting as well, we confirmed that Japan has the primary responsibility for Japan’s security, and that at the same time, the United States has made a commitment (to Japanese security). At the same time, we confirmed that we will exchange information on a wide range of regions, and enhance our analysis, because regional stability is an extremely important public good. We agreed to further strengthen our partnership and collaborate on a wide range of global issues as well. For example, we agreed to strengthen the solid arrangements to handle such issues as issues in the Middle East, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
Additionally, as APEC fast approaches, the Prime Minister stated in his policy speech that we will look into participating in negotiations for the TPP. Japan and the United states are the allies, and we are the world’s largest and second-largest economies, and we agreed to have a thorough exchange of views and build a trade regime with a high degree of freedom between Japan and the United States.
I also conveyed our expectations for areas of strength for Japan, such as nuclear power plants as a symbol of clean energy, as well as the Shinkansen or magnetic levitation train. The United States also stated that they viewed this as an important symbol of the Japan-US alliance.
We also agreed to promote personal exchanges, so the Futenma issue is not the only issue between Japan and the United States. We will resolve these issues appropriately between us. We spent two hours confirming cooperation between Japan and the United States, and that there are issues that we can make progress on. We also confirmed the advancement of specific cooperative relations. We additionally determined more concrete details of President Obama’s visit to Japan. Thus, although some media have reported that the Futenma issue and a weakened foundation of Japan-US relations have had various effects, I think in consideration of our exchanges with Secretary Clinton, and the working-level exchanges to prepare for this, that Japan-US relations are extremely solid and sound. I think that relations are good, and although I will not name the countries, I think that various Asian countries welcome this course of action very much.
We will build two diplomatic structures. We will further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. At the same time, we will work on the three sectors I mentioned before, as well as economic diplomacy, opening the country, and building a freer trade regime. We will also win contracts for infrastructure, which is one of Japan’s areas of strength, and we will conduct multifaceted resource diplomacy. Amid this course of action, I think that Prime Minister Kan’s diplomacy means ensuring that we create a solid foundation, be it agreements with India and Vietnam, or re-confirmation with the United States, or various discussions including work schedules, and I think that we create such an environment which is conducive to such diplomacy.

Matsuyama, Jiji Press: I would like to confirm two points about the Ambassador’s temporary return to Japan. The first point is that I believe that you discussed this topic this morning with the Prime Minister and his staff; did you decide to order the Ambassador’s temporary return to Japan at that time? The other question is, although I think that the duration of the return has not yet been determined, can we understand that he will arrive in Japan today?

Minister: With regard to your first question, this was decided after consultation with the Prime Minister.
With regard to your second question, I have not yet heard of the details from my staff.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: You said earlier that you did not yet know whether there will be a Japan-Russia summit meeting at APEC. The Ambassador will shortly be returning to Japan temporarily, and there are only about two weeks until the APEC starts. Given this opportunity, in order to create a climate conducive to proper talks between Japan and Russia in Yokohama, what do you intend to do after the Ambassador’s temporary return to Japan? Please tell us your intentions for these next two weeks.

Minister: As I answered to a question by your colleague earlier, I think that from a long-term perspective, we must firmly advance and strengthen Japan-Russia relations. I think that it is very important to create a relationship that is win-win for both Japan and Russia, for the return of the Northern Territories, to make this solidly clear, and to sign a peace treaty, and advance to a new stage of cooperation. However, we must properly convey our position with regard to the recent visit to Kunashiri by President Medvedev, and this is why we called Ambassador Bely to lodge a protest, and we have had our Ambassador return temporarily to Japan in order to ask various questions, including about the situation. I intend to first listen to what the Ambassador has to say, and then thoroughly consider the next step. As I think it is important to create an environment in which a Foreign Minister’ meeting can be held at any time, I would definitely like to speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov if he comes to Japan.

3. Japan-China Relations

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Prime Minister Kan commented during a press conference in Hanoi that the Senkaku issue “is a bit of a problem.” I think that this is clearly a mistaken perception, and as there also are voices among people questioning this as well. Do you think that the Senkaku issue is a bit of a problem?

Minister: Did the Prime Minister say, “A bit of a problem?”

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Yes, that is what he said.

Minister: I am not aware of that. However, I met with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi for one hour and 20 minutes although the meeting was originally scheduled for 30 minutes. At the outset, I asserted Japan’s firm position on the Senkaku Islands, and my counterpart expressed the position of his country. Later, we spoke about further promoting personnel exchanges that have now begun to resume, or although some newspapers released erroneous reports, I called for resuming negotiations on the East China Sea issue. In addition, I called for resuming Japan-China aviation negotiations – talks on the open sky issue – on which Japan and China agreed at the time I was Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. I also asked about China’s current stance on the rare earths issue. The discussions were very meaningful. In the future, in line with the trend toward making further efforts to normalize the bilateral relations with the top leaders of the two countries holding a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEM, I intend to firmly undertake what I can in my capacity as Foreign Minister.

Takeuchi, Tokyo Shimbun: I believe that it was on the 29th that an official meeting between Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen was canceled on the intentions of the Chinese side. With regard to this, a high-ranking Chinese Foreign Ministry official, as a matter of fact, made a pointed reference to you, commenting that (the Japanese side) “ruined the atmosphere” and “Japan bears complete responsibility.” With regard to this, are you aware in any way that your speech and behavior was interpreted in a certain way, or if not, how do you perceive China’s real intentions?

Minister: While I am not in a position to analyze the comments of the Chinese side, I feel that the Chinese side was probably talking about two things. I believe that one is that with regard to the Japan-US foreign ministerial meeting in Hawaii, US Secretary of State Clinton stated that “the Senkaku Islands fall within the scope of Article 5 of the (Japan-US) Security Treaty,” and the other is that Japan spread details of the Japan-China foreign ministerial talks concerning the East China Sea that were not true. However, the first point is not something that just started now. This has been confirmed during the time that the Liberal Democratic Party was in power. Although it was after the Democratic Party took power that they stopped taking the syllogistic approach and Secretary of State Clinton directly said during the joint press conference that “the Senkaku Islands fall within the scope of Article 5.”, I do not think that this is something new. As for the second point, it has been found that it was an erroneous report, and in that sense, I do not understand why the Japan-China summit meeting was canceled. In any case, I heard that later, there was a standing conversation (between Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen), and the Japanese and Chinese leaders talked about “holding talks again.” In light of that, my Chinese counterpart and I held talks for one hour and 20 minutes, and I think that it was a very fruitful meeting. In the future, in the process of steadily building up trust, I intend to make efforts toward sincerely building mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.

Saida, Nishinippon Shimbun: It appears that criticism of your tough diplomatic stance, so to speak, has been voiced not only by China but also by some ruling and opposition party members. How do you feel about this?

Minister: There is nothing that I have done so far in my 20-year political career, including my tenure as a member of the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly, for which I have enjoyed total support; nor is there any action for which I been completely criticized. I believe that politicians will always be appreciated or criticized, and I would like to thoroughly fulfill my official responsibilities with conviction.

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: During their informal conversation in Hanoi, Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen reportedly agreed to work out arrangements for holding talks in a relaxed atmosphere. Are there any prospects of setting up an opportunity to hold talks in a relaxed atmosphere before the APEC conference?
Minister: In the sense of a meeting between Premier Wen and Prime Minister Kan, I believe that it would be physically impossible to set one up before APEC.

4. Japan-US Relations

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: You keep referring to Japan-US relations as the cornerstone or base of Japanese diplomacy. With regard to the Japan-US summit meeting at the time of President Obama’s visit to Japan in November, are there any plans to issue a joint declaration as a result of talks on deepening the alliance that is being promoted on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the revised Japan-US Security Treaty similar to the 1996 joint declaration referred to as a redefinition of the Japan-US security alliance? Former Foreign Minister Okada had said that this would drag on to next year.

Minister: It has not been passed on to me that there already were plans to have this issued during the time of President Obama’s visit. Of course it is important to have the results, and I believe that the results will be issued at the upcoming Japan-US summit meeting. While you talk about issuing a joint declaration, I believe that we will do that at the appropriate time if that becomes necessary. What is important indeed is to firmly foster a relationship of mutual trust between Japan and the United States and deepen the bilateral alliance. To that end, I think that it is important for both sides to make efforts. I believe that it is important to strengthen the relationship particularly between the top leaders or between the foreign ministers so that a relationship can be created in which they can talk at any time. Although in Hanoi, State Secretary Clinton and I just passed by each other, we knew we would be meeting (in Hanoi), but before that, Japan alone was given a chance to separately hold a foreign ministerial meeting in Hawaii and I even received an offer to be present during her speech the next day, if possible. However, I could not be present due to my schedule. Nevertheless, I heard that State Secretary Clinton said in her speech that in the future, in thinking about its strategy regarding the Asia-Pacific region, the United States would hold consultations with its allies including Japan, and that it would indeed place Japan first on the list. In that sense, I think that it is important for Japan and the United States to cooperate and act while thoroughly exchanging views on various issues in the Asia-Pacific region or on its architecture, and as such, we would like to continue working together in that direction in the future.

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