(* 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, November 5, 2010, 3:17 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Japan-China Relations (Leak of Video of Chinese Fishing Trawler Collision)
  2. Japan-Russia Relations
  3. US Military Realignment Issue (Visit to Tokyo by Nago Mayor and Nago City Council Delegation)
  4. Former DPJ Secretary General Ozawa's Refusal to Appear before Deliberative Council on Political Ethics (Omitted)
  5. TPP

1. Japan-China Relations (Leak of Video of Chinese Fishing Trawler Collision)

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: This is in relation to the collision with the Chinese fishing trawler in the waters off the Senkaku Islands. A portion of the video of the incident apparently taken by the Japan Coast Guard has been leaked to the Internet. Have there been any inquiries by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs relating to this incident, and has there been a response from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and if so, what were they?

Minister Maehara: With regard to the possibility that this video has been leaked, in the early morning hours of November 5, the Chinese Embassy to Japan in Tokyo made an inquiry to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ China and Mongolia Division regarding the facts and background of the incident. At around noon on the same day, a message expressing interest and concern was conveyed from the Chinese side via diplomatic channels in Tokyo and Beijing.

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: What was the response by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to this?

Minister: We replied that we are currently investigating the following facts: whether the leaked video was really taken by the Japan Coast Guard, and if it was, how it was leaked, or alternatively whether it was stolen.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: Is China concerned that (the video) was leaked?

Minister: They conveyed that they were concerned.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: You said that they were concerned. With Japan-China relations currently strained, do you believe that this will impact the APEC Ministerial  Meeting in particular, or the scheduling of a Japan-China summit at the leaders’ meeting or meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and China?

Minister: With regard to the representations via diplomatic channels, it was reported to me that the exchanges were protests in their content. I do not think that there has been any change to the movement generated by Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen Jiabao at their meeting for ASEM and improving Japan-China relations. Additionally, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and I had a wide-ranging and fruitful discussion in Hanoi recently. I also would like to make this trend a solid and strong one. I therefore definitely hope that the leader of China will come to APEC as well, and hold fruitful discussions with us.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: You said that they expressed interest and concern via diplomatic channels. I wonder if the Chinese side described in a little more detail what their “concern” was Also, what word the Chinese side actually used to express the meaning of “concern?” Also, please tell us who contacted the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister: As this communication was via diplomatic channels, I will refrain from stating specific names. The report that I received only stated that there was an expression of interest and concern.

Kamide, Freelance: Although I think that the Coast Guard will be central in this matter, when is the deadline you set for revealing the results of your investigation of the background to the leak, and other matters? Also, one more question. I also watched the video; is it routine for the Coast Guard to watch and video each vessel allegedly crossing lines regardless of whether an accident occurs? Please tell us whether all vessels that enter the area are videoed, within the scope of your knowledge.

Minister: We are now confirming whether that video was taken by the Coast Guard, and we should know that shortly. I have an impression that the video on the Internet was probably the one taken by the Coast Guard. At the same time, the video that I saw when I was Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was shorter than that; the video that was uploaded to YouTube was fairly long. The video that was seen by me and the Commandant of the Coast Guard totals about five minutes. Therefore if this video is genuine, I think that a different edition of the  video was leaked. At any rate, if it is the case that a Coast Guard video was leaked, then it means that a government document was leaked despite the obligation of confidentiality by public officials. I therefore think that this will be handled as a criminal matter. In this sense, I think that there will be a thorough investigation to find out who leaked the video. And if that person is discovered, and it cannot be handled internally, then I think that we will send the case to the investigating authorities. I think that it is not  me to say by what time this will be done.
With regard to your second question, as I just said, I am not very sure what kind of editing has been performed. Since the length (of this video) is different from that of the one I watched, I am unable to answer your question.

Inada, NHK: I would like to confirm just two points. My first point is with regard to your statement that you saw it on YouTube. Did you personally view this video?

Minister: I did not see the whole thing. I saw a little of it.

Inada, NHK: With regard to the handling of the video, the Japan Coast Guard has said that at one time they considered releasing them to the media, or that a large number of copies were made when the video was sent to Tokyo , but later discarded.If this video had been leaked when you were Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, how would you have dealt with your own responsibility for the incident?

Minister: As I said earlier in my response to the Diet, I think that it is important to first find all the facts of the case.

Tanaka, Nihon Internet Shimbun: I am a representative of this “bothersome” net media. You said that if the video has been leaked by a public official, then it will be a criminal matter, and I certainly think that this would fall under the definition of a leak of confidential information by a public official.
I would like to ask for your awareness on the following: as long as the Internet exists as a communication device, these kinds of happenings will always occur. Unless strict measures are taken to restrict the freedom of speech, including things like China’s death penalty, they will always get out.
When you were Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, you indicated a determination that it would be best to show the video soon after you arrested the captain of the fishing trawler. While I now think that your determination was correct, what are your thoughts now? Please tell us your views.

Minister: There were two factual mistakes. Firstly, I did not make the arrest. The arrest was made by the Japan Coast Guard. Secondly, you claimed that I argued that the video should be shown; I certainly had my own view after a suspended indictment was handed down, and a certain stage had passed with the issue. However, the Coast Guard made the arrest, and then immediately after an investigation had been made, the case was sent to the prosecutor’s office. At that time, the video was being handled as evidence, so I ,as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism,was initially extremely cautious about releasing the video.

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: Please excuse this hypothetical question, but if someone has leaked the video, could you please tell us your conjectures as to what this person’s intentions were?

Minister: I am not sure. I am not sure of the intention of the person who leaked the video.

Nanao, Niconico Video: This is a question from our viewers.
Firstly, although I think that the details will be brought from a future investigation, I think that this incident created a great deal of fear for the Japanese people. If I were to express this using specific words, there are those who view this as an anti-government action. In short, there are those who think that the person who leaked the video was taking anti-government actions. I would like to ask you to state your views with regard to the anxiety of the Japanese people. Next, I would like to ask you to speak simply about the facts of the case. Was the video of the collision taken by the Japan Coast Guard provided to foreign governments? That is my second question.

Minister: Firstly, I do not think it was provided outside Japan. I think that there is no way that such a thing could happen. Having said that, with regard to your first question, I also agreed with you. Public officials have an obligation to maintain confidentiality in their work. It is a major premise that information gained in the course of one’s work duties must not be made public. This time, leaving aside the possibility that the video was taken by the Coast Guard, and then stolen, if this was not the case, and somebody inside the government leaked the video, or posted it to YouTube, then this would be an extremely serious issue, and that is precisely why it must be investigated thoroughly. Also, if this were the case, then I think that a thorough criminal investigation would need to be carried out to prevent such a case from happening again.

2. Japan-Russia Relations

Arai, NHK: I would like to ask you a question regarding President Medvedev’s visit to the Northern Territories. I think that one of the reasons that the Russian President decided to visit the Northern Territories is his reaction to the Japanese Government’s continuing to use of the expression “illegally occupied.” As a former minister in charge of the Northern Territories who visited Nemuro at the time, please tell us your view on whether the Japanese Government has so far handled this issue properly.

Minister: I believe that there is nothing wrong with what I have said. Japan has taken a consistent position. I think there is nothing wrong with the thinking that the Northern Territories are Japan’s sovereign territory and that a peace treaty would be concluded between Japan and Russia upon clarifying and settling the issue of the attribution of the four islands.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: In connection with the Russian President’s visit to the Northern Territories, Prime Minister Kan instructed Ambassador Kono in Russia to thoroughly gather relevant information. What are your thoughts on strengthening the entire Foreign Ministry’s capacity to collect information? Please tell us if you have any plans to study the possibility of increasing personnel in charge or reviewing the organization.

Minister: Currently, it has been a month and a half since I assumed this post. I have various thoughts about individual matters, not limited to this time. I would like to tell you about such things at the stage where I have managed to sort my thoughts.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: I believe that the Russian Foreign Minister and the President are coming to Japan on the occasion of the APEC meeting next week. While I believe that it has yet to be determined whether a summit meeting will be held, what do you or Prime Minister Kan intend to convey to the other side?

Minister: I myself would like to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov by all means. I plan to express regret over the latest matter and convey Japan’s position on this territorial issue. I then plan to tell him that the Kan administration would also like to conduct thorough negotiations on the territorial issue.
   At the same time, we would like to settle this territorial issue, or in other words, determine the jurisdiction over of the four northern islands and conclude a peace treaty. On the occasion, I would also like to call mainly for economic cooperation between Japan and Russia in the future and build a win-win relationship.
   As for Prime Minister Kan, it has not been decided yet regarding with whom he will be holding summit talks, and this does not apply only to Russia. Therefore, I would like to report to all of you after this has been decided.

Inada, NHK: When you moved on from minister of state for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs to become foreign minister, you said that although it had been frustrating in the sense of holding negotiations with Russia, you now would like to work firmly on this. As a matter of fact, I believe that you went to Nemuro to sincerely listen to the voices of former residents of the northern islands at the time (that you were the minister of state for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs). Now that this event has occurred, however, those voices are beginning to turn into voices of anger. How do you feel about this? Furthermore, do you have any plans to take some kind of direct action for these former island residents?

Minister: Considering the feelings of the former residents of the northern islands, President Medvedev’s latest visit to Kunashiri Island is a very regrettable matter, and I understand very well the feelings of the former island residents who are angry and lamenting.
   At the same time, we politicians, especially Prime Minister Kan or I, as the Foreign Minister, are in the position to directly negotiate with Russia to resolve the territorial issue. I feel that while sending a message that Japan’s position remains unchanged, it is important how we make efforts to resolve the territorial issue. With regard to this, I feel that we must firmly convey our strong determination to the former island residents.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: In connection with that, I believe that there were plans that in the wake of the President’s visit, the Government of Japan may consider taking countermeasures.

Minister: When is that?

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: You summoned the ambassador and on that occasion, you told the ambassador that the Government of Japan would think about how to respond upon analyzing the situation at the time of the president’s visit.

Minister: Yes, how to respond. You were just now speaking about countermeasures.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: In any case, with regard Japan’s response, the Japanese Government has currently taken the action of having the Japanese ambassador to Russia temporarily return to Japan to hear about the situation. At the moment, is the government considering taking any additional countermeasures?

Minister: At the moment, nothing is being considered.

3. US Military Realignment Issue (Visit to Tokyo by Nago Mayor and Nago City Council Delegation)

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: Today, Mayor Inamine of the city of Nago in Okinawa and a petition delegation including Nago City Council President Higa arrived in Tokyo to present the city council’s resolution to the central government and convey the mayor’s opposition to the relocation (of Futenma Air Station) to Nago City’s Henoko district. Although the petition delegation has continued to request meeting with the Minister, State Secretaries, and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers, the government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has consistently had officials in charge handle the matter. In objection to this, the delegation discontinued their petitioning activities and went back home.

   With regard to the relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago City, the government, including the Foreign Minister, has always spoken about gaining the understanding of the Okinawa side. Amid this situation, the mayor of the city concerned has come and requested a meeting with the political-level representative of the Ministry. I would think that not meeting the delegation despite the scheduling coordination that has been worked on since yesterday constitutes an inconsistency between speech and behavior. How do you feel about this?

Minister: Although I do not know what they specifically requested to petition for, they actually came  for a meeting with the Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau at 11:30m a.m. Although Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga is currently on an overseas assignment, the other political-level officials were all participating in a meeting of the Lower House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In that sense, if that was the designated time, it was physically impossible for us to respond to the requests of the petition delegation.

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: Then, although you were not aware of the details of the petitions by the Nago mayor and the Nago City Council, you were willing to adjust the time, even though I believe that there naturally are restrictions to adjusting the time. So, how do you think you should have responded?

Minister: I believe that it is a known practice that not only Okinawa issues but also all petitions are handled through the party. As such, although it would be ideal if the Minister, State Secretaries, or Parliamentary Vice-Ministers were able to meet all the petitioners, that would be rather difficult considering the number of petitions that are filed. Therefore when it comes to who should meet, we are letting the parliamentary vice-minister who is in charge to handle that. Therefore I believe that this was how the decision was made. There are no other intentions behind that, and I believe that it was a comprehensive decision that took into account the circumstances and schedules of the relevant officials for that day, as well as other matters.

4. Former DPJ Secretary General Ozawa's Refusal to Appear before Deliberative Council on Political Ethics (Omitted)


5. TPP

Hanamura, TV Asahi: With regard to the TPP, the Democratic Party of Japan has compiled its proposals, according to which Japan is to enter into talks, including information collection. Considering that you have been speaking about aiming at participating in the TPP, I feel that this is slightly a step backwards. As I believe that a Cabinet decision will be made on the course that Japan will take, what is your view of the current situation?

Minister: I have been working in this job for 16 years since I became a member of the Diet and 19 years if I include my career as a member of a local government assembly. My thoughts are my thoughts, and when it comes to how far you pursue your own thoughts, it is not true that your thoughts will be completely accepted.
   In that sense, I believe that the party, including Mr. Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, who headed the Project Team, worked very hard amid a situation in which cautious views have been prevalent. The rest is that with regard to how the government will conduct discussions on the proposals compiled by the party and eventually make a Cabinet decision, I intend to firmly express my thoughts on this. As for what will be worked out, I intend to give it my full cooperation.

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