(* 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 16, 2010, 6:38 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Emergency Grant Aid for Cyclone Disaster in Myanmar
  2. Japan-Russia Relations
  3. Attendance at Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony
  4. Situation in Myanmar
  5. Transfer of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty
  6. North Korea Abduction Issue
  7. Japan-China Relations

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Emergency Grant Aid for Cyclone Disaster in Myanmar

Minister Maehara: I have one announcement. I will talk about the emergency grant aid for cyclone disaster in Myanmar on which the Cabinet decided today. We have decided to provide emergency grant aid worth $500,000 for cyclone disaster in the western part of Myanmar. We intend to carry out this aid in cooperation with the UN World Food Program (WFP), which is conducting relief activities such as food distribution in the disaster areas. 

2. Japan-Russia Relations

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: The other day, after the closing of APEC, a local Russian newspaper carried a report on remarks by an informed source in Russia that Russia does not intend to hold negotiations based on the Japan-Russia Joint Declaration, which clearly stated that the Habomai and Shikotan islands would be returned to Japan. Has the Russian side made similar remarks during the summit meeting and the foreign ministerial meeting held the other day? In connection with this press report, has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the facts and gathered information? If so, please tell us what kind of reports you have received.

Minister: Such remarks were not made during the recent Japan-Russia summit meeting or the Japan-Russia foreign ministerial meeting. The both sides, of course, exchanged views on the territorial issue. However, there was no talk about what you just mentioned. I am not sure as to whom it is that was referred to as an informed source in the newspaper article, and as I am not in a position to go through the trouble to confirm that. We have no intention to conduct negotiations with Russia through remarks in newspapers or press conferences. We will conduct negotiations in person. We will conduct negotiations based on our position that the four northern islands are Japan’s inherent territory, as well as in line with documents and the like that so far have been repeatedly confirmed between Japan and the former Soviet Union and between Japan and Russia. We will then determine the attribution of the four islands and conclude a peace treaty with Russia. We have not made any changes to this policy at all.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: In the event that confirmation is made of this policy of the Russian side that the negotiations would not be premised on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, how would the government plan to respond in the future?

Minister: I have not confirmed it, and moreover, I do not believe that they will revoke the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, which is an agreement between two nations, so to speak. There are absolutely no changes to our policy of resolving this issue based on documents between Japan and the former Soviet Union and between Japan and Russia that have been continuously accumulated since then, and mutually concluding a peace treaty to further strengthen our cooperative relations, thereby creating a win-win relationship.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: At the Lower House plenary session today, Prime Minister Kan made a comment in connection with Japan-Russia relations, saying that at the summit meeting, he firmly conveyed Japan’s basic position that the four northern islands are sovereign Japanese territory. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama said, during his briefing on the same day, that Prime Minister Kan did not use the expression “inherent territory” at the meeting. So, which is correct?

Minister: We speak about inherent territory as a premise (to holding territorial negotiations). In other words, we did not conclude a peace treaty in 1956 because the reversion of two islands – Habomai and Shikotan – would not constitute a resolution of the territorial issue, as the four islands are our inherent territory. We believe that the fact that the four islands are our inherent territory is a major premise. I think that it would be fine if you acknowledge that as the premise.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: In that case, may I understand that the expression “inherent territory” was not used during the meeting?

Minister: Since we talk about the territorial issue on the premise that the four northern islands are our inherent territory, or otherwise we would not talk about it at all, I would like you to understand that it is not a matter of our taking a weak position because we don’t mention “inherent territory” or being tough because we do mention that, but rather that we conduct negotiations premised on that.

Takeuchi, Tokyo Shimbun: Did the two sides explicitly confirm the validity of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration during the Japan-Russia foreign ministerial meeting or the summit meeting, or is it that discussions were held on the premise that the Joint Declaration is valid? Which is it?

Minister: At least, Foreign Minister Lavrov made reference to the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration. Of course, I mentioned it, too.

Yamamoto, Sekai Nippo: It has been reported that during the meeting, the Japanese side, or Prime Minister Kan, lodged a protest over President Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island. Since then, there have been reports that President Medvedev also plans to visit Habomai and Shikotan. Please tell us whether, amid this situation, Prime Minister Kan lodged a protest…specifically protested in advance against visiting Habomai and Shikotan.

Minister: We have repeatedly conveyed our position to the Russian side through various diplomatic channels. 

3. Attendance at Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony

Tanaka, Nihon Internet Shimbun: You have responded on interpellations during the Diet, saying that China requested Japan not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. There are reports in the media that the Government of Japan has still not responded about whether it will attend, or not. I would like to confirm the facts of the case. Is it true that the Government of Japan has still not replied about the attendance? If it still has not replied, then why not? If it has replied, then what was the reason? Please tell us the reasons for each case.

Minister: There has still been no reply?

Tanaka, Nihon Internet Shimbun: Yes. This has been reported by various papers.

Minister: I have still not confirmed this at the working level. However, I responded to the Diet that we would make an appropriate decision.

Tanaka, Nihon Internet Shimbun: What do you mean by “appropriate?” The international community would consider attendance to be the normal thing.

Minister: From Japan’s perspective, the Nobel Peace Prize is extremely important, and the Japanese Ambassador has attended every award ceremony in the past. Of course, that is what I mean by “make an appropriate decision.” 

4. Situation in Myanmar

Kamide, Freelance: In your opening remarks, you said that Japan has decided to give emergency grant aid to Myanmar to provide relief for the cyclone damage. I would like to ask other questions. As you are aware, Ms. Suu Kyu has been released, while the results have not been clear yet. The ruling junta is still in control. You were extremely critical of this situation last time. Please tell us if you have any specific policies for improving this situation, and how.

Minister: Myanmar has held general elections for the first time in 20 years. The holding of general elections is praiseworthy to some extent. However, one out of four of the seats in the upper and lower houses were reserved for the military, and they certainly do not appear to have been fair and impartial elections. Since the NLD, which is led by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, boycotted the elections, in this sense, I do not think that there was broad and widespread participation in the general elections by political parties and groups. The question is what to do now. I think that it would be easy to say that it should have absolutely been a completely civilian election. However, I rather think that in its own way, Myanmar has taken a step forward. This is true, even if it does not completely meet our standards. When one asks whether we will say that is no good, or we encourage Myanmar to take another step or two, I think that Japan’s perspective should be the latter of the two. We intend to contribute to promoting the further transition of Myanmar to civilian rule. I recently spoke with the Foreign Minister of Myanamar from this perspective.
  In the past as well, Japan has provided aid from a humanitarian perspective, and I would like you to understand the current cyclone relief as aid from a humanitarian perspective as well.

Kamide, Freelance: I was actually there covering the story 20 years ago. At that time, Japan created the famed policy of “constructive engagement.” I think that your statement just now refers to this. What specifically, however, do you now intend to do with respect to trade with Myanmar and Japanese trading houses and the like? Do you intend to make some sort of response, or economic sanctions or the like?

Minister: The general elections were just recently held, and then on November 13th, shall we say according to schedule, as previously indicated, when Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi appears to have been released from house arrest, we intend to watch the response of the Government of Myanmar very closely, and make our decision, and choose our response. 

5. Transfer of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: I have a question about the return of the royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty that was decided at the Japan-Republic of Korea summit the other day.
  At the briefing following that meeting, we were told that the Prime Minister had stated that he intended to return them as soon as possible.

Minister: Transfer.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: He said that he intended to transfer them. The issue is the timing of “as soon as possible”; I heard that the Government of Japan initially intended to transfer them by the end of this year, which is the 100th anniversary. Given the situation of the Diet, I think that it may be quite difficult to do this if the current session of the Diet ends now. What is your outlook for this? Please tell us again. Even if they are not transferred by the end of the year, and it turns out to be next year or after, do you think that this would be unavoidable?

Minister: Regarding the documents of the Korean Royal Protocols, discussions with the Republic of Korea have developed, and at the recent meeting at APEC Yokohama, we agreed to transfer the royal protocols. Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security Kim Sung-hwan and I signed it.
   What I can say at the current stage is that Japanese government intends to transfer them as soon as possible. Since we also have the internal situation, I made a reservation to Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security Kim Sung-hwan, saying that we must take the situation of the Diet into account, while we intend to transfer them as soon as possible.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: Although I do not know if what you have just said was demanded by the opposition party, or said directly by a government party, may we understand that you would explain your point of view, such as what you just said, as a Minister as well?

Minister: Yes. 

6. North Korea Abduction Issue

Hashimoto, Kyodo News: With regard to the issue of abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea, 33 years have passed since the abduction of Ms. Megumi Yokota as of the 15th. As there still are no clues to resolving this issue, please tell us how you feel about it.
   Additionally, as to ways to resolve the issue, please tell us how you intend to search for ways to resolve the issue.

Minister: Recently, the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue was convened for the first time since the inauguration of the Kan administration. I also attended the meeting, where I proposed narrowing down the number of people (abduction victims) and hold thorough discussions by bringing together each other’s confidential information. Such discussions are currently being promoted.
   In particular, as we are in charge of diplomatic negotiations, we cannot give you all the details. However, we intend to make efforts in various ways to have the abduction victims return to Japan as soon as possible and resolve the issue. 

7. Japan-China Relations

Japan-China Relations
Kuroiwa, Yomiuri Shimbun: Xinhua News Agency has reported that a fishery patrol vessel equipped with helicopters left Guangzhou and headed for the East China Sea. Has the government confirmed the facts about this report? Japan and China agreed at the recent summit meeting that they would seek to improve their relations. If the Xinhua report has been confirmed as a fact, it means that China made such a move only a few days later. Please tell us how you feel about this.

Minister: I have not confirmed the facts yet.

Back to Index