(* 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 9, 2010, 5:41 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Participation in APEC Ministerial Meetings
  2. Northern Territories Issue
  3. Transfer of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty
  4. Opinion Poll (Cabinet Approval Rating)
  5. Japan-China Relations (Leak of Video of Chinese Fishing Trawler Collision)
  6. TPP
  7. Foreign Affairs Remuneration Fund
  8. Leak of Internal Documents from Metropolitan Police Department

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Participation in APEC Ministerial Meetings

Minister Maehara: I have one announcement. Under the premise that the Diet will give permission, I intend to participate as the chairman in the AEPC Ministerial Meetings to be held tomorrow and day after tomorrow in Yokohama. I would like to exchange views on such matters as support for a multilateral trade system, suppression of protectionism, evaluation of progress toward achieving the Bogor Goals, acceleration of regional economic integration, and formulation and implementation of growth strategy, and bring these together toward a certain direction.

2. Northern Territories Issue

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: At yesterday’s Lower House Budget Committee meeting, you made a comment about the four northern islands in connection with Russian President Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island, saying that they “are becoming Russianized,” and “it is important to conduct a fundamental review of the territorial negotiations.” Please tell us the real intentions behind your comments in concrete terms – for example, whether there is a plan such as reviewing the traditional strategy of using economic cooperation as leverage – and also the reason behind your perception that the Northern Territories are becoming Russianized.

Minister: Firstly, the fundamental point that I would like to make is that the four northern islands are Japan’s sovereign territory and we have no intention to change our policy of determining the attribution of the four islands and concluding a peace treaty with Russia. However, as I have repeatedly replied during Diet interpellations, Russia made a cabinet decision in 2006 and formulated what is known as the Kuril Development Program, with the first plan carried out from 2007 to 2010 and the second plan starting next year. Thanks to the rise in the prices of natural resources, Russia, which is rich in natural resources, is now able to spend money on the development program for the four northern islands, or the Kuril Islands, which are the most remote region from Russia’s viewpoint. What I said was that, for example, power stations were built in the past with Japanese aid, and when I visited Etorofu Island, I saw power stations built by Japan. However, Russia was also planning to build geothermal power plants there at the time when I visited Etorofu Island five years ago. Taking these matters into consideration, what can be said about these four northern islands is that Russia has begun to carry out various development programs using its own money rather than Japanese aid, and in that sense, Russianization or de-Japanization is in progress. Although there have absolutely been no changes in the principles that I mentioned earlier, what I am saying is that it has become difficult to use economic aid strictly for these four northern islands as leverage. On the other hand, however, such matters as, for example, resource development in the areas east of the Ural Mountain Range – Siberia, and Sakhalin – or energy efficiency in the entire country of Russia and various kinds of cooperation are Japan’s strongest area. Therefore, I think that it is also important to use those as leverage to promote the territorial negotiations. Considering the fact that the territorial issue has proven to be unresolved since 1956, this is not such a simple matter. However, since I have been inaugurated as foreign minister, I would like to have past history thoroughly reviewed– we have already done so to a considerable extent – and I upon such considerations determine what to do about the territorial negotiations and what to do about our diplomacy toward Russia. That is what I had in my mind when I remarked at the Diet.

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: You just said that if we look at the entire country of Russia, it is very difficult to use development of the Russian Fareast or the Northern Territories alone as leverage. The approach you just mentioned – you said that you gave a new mission to Ambassador Kono, whom you called back to Japan the other day; did you call him back with those things taken into consideration, or have you also instructed the officials in charge to study something specific?

Minister: I have said nothing like that to Ambassador Kono.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: You spoke about resource development in Siberia and Sakhalin, which are located east of the Ural Mountain Range, or about energy efficiency for the entire country of Russia. Is my understanding correct that such matters will be taken up as topics at the Japan-Russia foreign ministerial meeting or the summit talks that are expected to be held during the upcoming APEC meetings?

Minister: It is not that there has been no cooperation between Japan and Russia in the past. For example, there have been Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2, and private firms have participated in these projects. I believe that we will naturally be further looking into the possibilities of such projects.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: The other day, with regard to the visit to the Northern Territories by the President (Medvedev), former residents of the islands were saying to the Senior Vice Minister of Cabinet Office that they “wanted the Foreign Ministry’s explanation.” Do you have any plans to go to the relevant site? One more thing – as it is being said that the Russian President is planning to visit Habomai and Shikotan islands, please tell us about your current perception of the information, shall I say, or how you take it.

Minister: Regarding the latter question, Japan has conveyed its position to Russia over and over. For the former question, yesterday, the mayor of Nemuro, the president of the Nemuro City Council, and the head of the Nemuro branch of the Chishima and Habomai Former Residents Association came together with lawmaker Hiroko Nakano to pay me a visit. I received various requests from them. I have become one who is directly involved in the territorial negotiations. Although a year ago, I was the State Minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, I am now in a position to hold direct talks with Russia, so I am prepared to listen to the views of the local people as soon as possible.

Yamamoto, Sekai Nippo: With regard to the Northern Territories issue, you spoke about it this time again using the expression of Japan’s sovereign territory or the standpoint of Japan in principle. However, I believe that the local former island residents as well as the local people feel that the islands are under “illegal occupation.” Although I have not checked everything that you have said, the way you spoke about it again this time gives me the impression that you are deliberately avoiding using the expression “illegal occupation,” and your predecessor, former Foreign Minister Okada, seems to have said, “I am deliberately not using such words.” Please let us know whether there is such an agreement. Actually, there is a section regarding the Northern Territories on the MOFA website, and a quick check shows that the expression “illegal occupation” exists there. Please explain your thoughts, including on the consistency of that point.

Minister: As I said earlier, all I should say is that the four northern islands are Japan’s sovereign territory and we intend to determine the attribution of the four islands and conclude a peace treaty with Russia.

3. Transfer of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty

Anzai, Freelance: I would like to ask a question concerning Korea-related archives, which turned last evening to be transferred to South Korea. According to the Prime Minister’s statement, on which this transfer is based, items to be transferred are those which were brought to Japan during the period of Japan's rule through the Governor-General of Korea and which the Government of Japan has possessed. Among the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, this applies to 163 of the 167 volumes that are to be transferred this time, and the remaining four volumes are ones that were purchased and brought to Japan, shall I say, or come into the possession of the Imperial Household Agency. Please tell us the reason that these four volumes are also to be transferred.

Minister: We made efforts to conduct the transfer as faithfully as possible to the statement that Prime Minister Kan issued on August 10. In the end, as in the agreement reached during talks over the telephone with Minister Kim yesterday, we agreed to transfer at total of 1,205 volumes including the 167 volumes of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty and 1,038 volumes of other archives.

Anzai, Freelance: What is the reason for including the four volumes that came into the possession of the Imperial Household Agency through a purchase rather than going through the Governor-General of Korea?

Minister: In any case, based on Prime Minister Kan’s statement on August 10, an investigation was conducted in as much detail as possible, and a final decision was made that the Government of Japan would make the transfer in a way that is faithful to the statement.

4. Opinion Poll (Cabinet Approval Rating)

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Opinion polls conducted by various media outlets over the weekend showed the approval rating for the Kan cabinet plummeting to the low 30% range. As a reason for this drop in the approval rating, many of the Japanese people said that they were anxious about the foreign policy of the Kan cabinet. I understand that many events have occurred spontaneously since you were appointed Minister. Why are the Japanese people anxious about diplomacy and the leadership of the cabinet now, including this? Please tell us your analysis of this.

Minister: I think that Senkaku issue affected public opinion, and that many Japanese people are not satisfied with how the government is going about resolving this issue. I also think that many of the Japanese people are angry at the recent visit to Kunashiri by Russian President Medvedev.
Amid these circumstances, while of course there are a wide range of background factors, our role is to solve the root issue rather than treating the symptoms. If you were to ask me about the current situation, I would say that the consciousness of the Japanese people is something shown in the opinion polls, and I think that we must respect this.
At any rate, I have only been the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a month and a half, and I understand that I naturally must deal properly with the many issues that have arisen. The root issue is to protect and increase the national interests of Japan, through security assurance, bilateral relations with important countries, and above all, economic diplomacy to promote our national interests. I intend to plant my feet firmly and work to resolve these long-term issues, by doing these things properly and without wavering, and then having the Japanese people judge the results, and doing this together with crisis management.

Jimbo, Video News: This question is in relation to what you just spoke about. You conjectured that many of the Japanese people are not satisfied with Japan’s foreign policy. Why is this?
In other words, is the reason why the Japanese people do not understand what the government is doing, is what the Japanese people want, not based on the long-term national interest, to put it in the words you used just now, but are they instead demanding something short-term? Or is it that they cannot fully understand that some of the short-term things that the Japanese people are demanding may be being sacrificed for the long-term national interests of the government, because the government has not explained this properly? What are your views on this dissociation?

Minister: I think that it is a fact that many of the Japanese people are resenting at the respective countries involved with the Senkaku issue, and the Kunashiri issue as well.
Looking at past history, I think it may certainly be possible to gain the understanding, interest, and perhaps the support of the Japanese people by remaining uncompromising in statements or responses in the short term. However, if you ask how Japan will manage its diplomacy over the medium to long term, while properly asking for the understanding of the Japanese people, there are some things in diplomacy that can be said, and others that cannot be said, even if some say they are found unsatisfactory in the short term. Amid this, if you do not work with faith that what you are doing is properly in the medium to long-term interests of the Japanese people, there are many examples in history, not only in Japan, of the direction that the country has been taken by politicians under the cover of nationalism. In this sense, I think that even if people complain over the short term, it is vital to ensure the peace and stability of the country, and conduct diplomacy that will build a foundation promoting stability in the lives of the Japanese people, while maintaining our pride and dignity.

Jimbo, Video News: May I understand this as being, as you just pointed out, that even if you understand that one of the causes of the drop in the approval rating is Japan’s foreign policy, then even if the Japanese people do not understand Japan’s current foreign policy, in the sense of making short-term demands, you do not intend to change your foreign policy even given the reaction of the Japanese people, such as the approval rating?

Minister: I think that everything depends on the results. For example, generally speaking if the government comes out with some strong policy in the short term, then although it might win the approval of the Japanese people over the short term, if it turns out to do major harm to the interests of the Japanese people, then it would be said that the correct decision was not made.
  The difficult thing is to conduct diplomacy that properly matches the country’s national strength, while at the same time placing great value on the pride and self-respect of the Japanese people. In this sense, ; I think I always I have to bear in mind the Four Nakasone Principles, or the Four Diplomacy Principles laid out long ago by Prime Minister Nakasone, which include: we must not gamble; we cannot go beyond our national strength; or we should consider (foreign policy) as an extension of domestic policy.

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

Nanao, Niconico Video: This question may overlap with your answer just now, but I would like to ask this, which involves public opinion. What are your views on the calls for all video relating to the Senkaku collision incident to be made public?

Minister: Firstly, since I was the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism at the time, I am often asked why I did not release it at the time. At the time, however, there was a general understanding: the trawler’s captain was arrested for obstruction of the execution of official duties; it was understood that after an investigation, the case was immediately sent to the prosecutor’s office, and in that sense, it was evident that the video was being handled as evidence. As I have repeatedly stated, we must be extremely cautious about releasing items being handled as evidence to the public. I very much hope that the Japanese people will understand this.
Subsequently, while there have been many views on making it public, with many opinions, the evidence of the prosecutor’s office was seen by some members of the Diet. There are also various views on that, and then now the video has been leaked.
If we say that it is all right to release it to the public because it has been leaked, then the release (to the Diet members) will be questioned in the context of the consistency with the question of why the prosecutor’s office released it in light of Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. We will now have to return to the starting principle regarding what to do with the master tape, or the edited video, considering the fact that they were originally handled in accordance with these legal procedures. In other words, the items were handled as evidence in a criminal investigation, and the indictment has still only been suspended, so I think that we must get back to the original principle, that the video was released (to the Diet members) with annotation, according to Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

6. TPP

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: I have heard that this afternoon in Yokohama in connection with the TPP, a meeting was held between nine countries that are currently participating in the TPP and the officials in charge for the Japanese side. I have heard that this was a meeting rather than negotiations. Nevertheless, in view of the meeting, what kind of instructions have you given to the officials in charge? I think that it ended just a while ago, what kind of report have you received? This was my first question. To start off with, when you told us about this matter, we heard that China would be participating. However, it appears that China was not present. What kind of report have you received on this development from the officials in charge? Please tell us about these two points.

Minister: I have not received a report yet, and I am not in a position to comment on decisions made by other countries. However, I spoke to you while we had information that not only China but also other countries besides the nine countries had shown interest.
   This time, according to the Cabinet decision made this morning, we would be starting consultations, although this is not premised on our participation in the TPP. I believe that listening to how respective countries feel about the TPP in a setting where the countries are gathered should serve as the basis. In this regard, I gave instructions to participate in the meeting by all means in order to thoroughly listen to various countries to determine what kind of thoughts they have and on what kind of timetable they are planning to move things forward.

7. Foreign Affairs Remuneration Fund

Ida, Shukan Kinyobi: I have a question about the Foreign Affairs remuneration fund. Former Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Muneo Suzuki has stated that 12 years ago, he spent 300 million yen from the Cabinet Secretariat classified fund, including money from the Foreign Affairs remuneration fund, on the 1998 Okinawa governor’s election under the instructions of then-Prime Minister Obuchi. Since the Liberal Democratic Party was in power at the time, I will not ask you about the facts of the case. I would like to ask your general views on how the Foreign Affairs remuneration fund should be used, and whether it is used in prefectural governor’s elections in that manner.

Minister: The answer is simple. It cannot happen.

Ida, Shukan Kinyobi: I would like to ask a related question on the use of the Foreign Affairs remuneration fund. I think that there are many ways to collect intelligence. For example, what are your views on using classified funds when Ministry staff eat out or drink with newspaper reporters, television journalists, or executives from newspaper news agencies, commercial TV stations, NHK, or the like?

Minister: I think that it depends on the case. Of course, since they are national public officials, they must not reveal information themselves. While there are limits in the case of revealing information, however, people from the mass media have a wide range of information, and I think that it is good to exchange views with them, to obtain a wide range of information, and increase our analytical capabilities.
 On the other hand, I think it would be inconceivable to sanction (Ministry staff) just going out to eat, or drinking and partying.

8. Leak of Internal Documents from Metropolitan Police Department

Nishinaka, Freelance: As no one has asked this yet, I have a question about the leak of internal documents of the Metropolitan Police Department that was discovered at the end of October. I would first like to ask if you have seen the documents, and as this included a detailed investigation of foreign embassies to Japan, and included measures for public security and counter-terrorism measures, as well as documents about Muslims and mosques in Japan; these documents covered a fairly broad range, and they also contained personal information. I think that these documents included information that present issues for diplomacy and violation of human rights; have there been any inquiries relating to this incident by foreign embassies in Japan, or the like?
I would also like to ask how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to respond to this issue. Please tell us any views you have on this topic.

Minister: I have not received any reports of queries or inquiries to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from foreign embassies in Japan. Also, although this is an extremely regrettable issue, I have no comment, because the police have the primary role in investigating this issue.

Nishinaka, Freelance: Have you seen the documents?

Minister: No, I have not seen them.

Back to Index