(* 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 30, 2010, 3:55 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to Nemuro
  2. North Korea
  3. Japan-South Korea Relations
  4. Realignment of US Military Forces (Okinawa gubernatorial Election)
  5. Release of United States Diplomatic Documents by WikiLeaks
  6. Visit to Nemuro

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to Nemuro

Minister Maehara: I have one announcement.
   On Saturday December 4, I plan to visit the Nemuro district and observe the Northern Territories from the airspace over Nemuro and Cape Nosappu, as well as hold dialogue with people involved in the Northern Territories reversion movement, including former residents of the northern islands.
   While I visited Nemuro in October last year as the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, this will be my first visit in my capacity as Foreign Minister. In the dialogue, I would like to explain my thoughts on how we intend to conduct our diplomacy toward Russia in the future, while explaining the contents of the recent Japan-Russia foreign ministers' meeting. I also intend to earnestly listen to the views of the people involved in the Northern Territories reversion movement and local municipal authorities.

2. North Korea

Deguchi, Kyodo News: With regard to North Korea, I have heard that Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director-General Saiki is to arrive in Beijing today and hold talks with Special Representative on the Korean Peninsular Affairs Wu Dawei. What kind of message do you plan to convey to the Chinese side through Director-General Saiki?

Minister: I told him to exchange views on various matters, and with regard to calls for an emergency meeting of the Six-Party Talks, I instructed him to convey our basic policy that the talks must not be held just for its own sake and that any talks must be such that the agreements made so far in the Six-Party Talks can be moved forward.
   Meanwhile, we do not intend to close the door to dialogue. We believe that the Six-Party Talks provides an important forum for dialogue. We keep the door open for dialogue. However, our intention is to convey the view of the Japanese side that it is unreasonable that we resume the Six-Party Talks after North Korea makes a self-disclosure about its uranium enrichment program or after its indiscriminate shelling of an island inhabited by unarmed South Korean people.
   At the same time, I gave instructions to conduct a frank exchange of views to seek ways to resolve this issue without aggravating the situation and by managing it well putting our heads together.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: I heard that North Korea's Secretary Choe Tae Bok of the Workers Party of Korea and Kim Yong Il, director of the party's International Department, are visiting China today. Are there any plans, etc. for Director-General Saiki to have contact with these high-ranking North Korean officials?

Minister: No, there are no plans.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: In connection with North Korea's shelling, as a result of that incident, procedures to make Korean schools tuition-free have tentatively been suspended. To begin with, considering the current North Korean regime, I believe that the latest shelling incident could have been predicted and similar situations can be expected in the future. In light of this, I think that the Korean schools that conduct education to glorify the current North Korean regime should be made ineligible for the tuition-free status. How do you feel about this?

Minister: This matter falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. In the end, a decision will be made from the viewpoint of education. However, as a premise to that, I have been asked to give my views as Foreign Minister. I have commented on two points.
    The first point is that improvements need to be made with regard to the contents of the education you just mentioned. The other point is that I requested that they think cautiously particularly when there is a new development.
   The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology will make the final decision. I conveyed my views to him again after the shelling incident.

Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: In that case, would the two points that you mentioned be the precondition to resuming the procedures?

Minister: Although speaking with me and exchanging views with relevant ministers would be one of the processes, excuse me for repeating myself, but the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology will make the final decision.

Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: This is for confirmation, but according to your earlier explanation, may I take it that rather than giving Japan's response to China's recent call on the six parties, Director-General Saiki was sent to exchange views to look into China's intentions behind its calling on the six parties for the emergency meeting or to ask about the position of the Chinese side?

Minister: I believe that it is important not only to convey the thoughts of the Japanese side with regard to Special Representative Wu Dawei's comments, but also to exchange views by meeting face to face. As I have repeatedly been saying, since China is a very important player, it is important to exchange views closely. I told Director-General Saiki to go to China for that purpose.

Takahashi, Fuji Television: Meanwhile, as your telephone conversation with the Russian Foreign Minister was reportedly under coordination, if this is still under coordination, that gives us the impression that it is taking very long time. Please tell us whether the coordination is complete, or if this is still under coordination, why it is taking so long.

Minister: The main reason is that we have not been able to find a time that is convenient for both of us.

Koyama, Freelance: With regard to the abductions by North Korea, I believe that it is necessary to devise a strategy in order to get the abductees back to Japan. Otherwise, I think that we can never get the abductees back home. Has Director-General Saiki devised such a strategy?

Minister: Although Director-General Saiki is one of the people in the position to devise a strategy, this is a matter that the entire Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the entire Cabinet needs to think about. Currently, we are coordinating on this matter with the Cabinet and the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue, discussing how to handle it and taking action.

Yamao, Asahi Shimbun: What do you think about the timing of China’s call for an emergency meeting of the Six-Party Talks? Is Director-General Saiki visiting China upon China’s request?

Minister: Regarding the latter half of your question, it is us that sent Director-General Saiki to China. They did not request that.
   Although I believe that the Chinese side called for what may be called a preliminary meeting of the Six-Party Talks based on various considerations, we are not in the position to comment on that. I instructed Director-General Saiki to convey our current position.

Inada, NHK: While North Korea revealed that its uranium enrichment facilities are in operation, you said during the previous press conference that with the shelling incident, the Six-Party Talks had already been pushed back at that time. And now that the North Korean regime made this announcement, the possibility of resuming the Six-Party Talks has moved even farther away. Please share with us your views on the situation, and as you have so far sought the implementation of the past agreements reached among the six parties, let us know if you have any requests concerning what North Korea should at least do.

Minister: I would like to refrain from making any specific comments at this time. In any case, we think that the greatest problem is that although the six parties reached an agreement, this agreement has not been implemented despite North Korea's agreeing to move forward the so-called irreversible nuclear abolition process.

Inada, NHK: What is your view on the operation of the uranium enrichment facilities?

Minister: With regard to the operation, North Korea showed the facilities to Dr. Hecker and told him that the facilities were in operation. That has not been confirmed yet.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: In connection with North Korea, a meeting among the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, and South Korea is to be held in early December in Washington. Please tell us about the state of the coordination for this meeting, how you position this meeting, and what you plan to discuss there.

Minister: This is currently under coordination.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: What is going to be discussed there?

Minister: As I said, coordination is currently under way premised on that.

Takenaka, Reuters: I would like to make a confirmation in relation to the Six-Party Talks that China recently called on. You mentioned the preconditions earlier. There are an emergency meeting of the six parties involved in the Six-Party Talks, as well as the normal Six-Party Talks. At this point, as there are the uranium issue and the indiscriminate attacks, does Japan intend to participate in both kinds of meetings or does Japan consider it unreasonable to do so, or perhaps it may be too early to hold the Six-Party Talks, but does Japan have some other thoughts about the emergency meeting? Please let us just confirm this once again.

Minister: It is China that called for a meeting before holding the Six-Party Talks. We are not the one drawing a line between the meetings. However, our thoughts are clear. We are not rejecting the Six-Party Talks itself. Nevertheless, our position is that if we are to convene it, some kind of progress must be made with regard to the past agreements reached at the Six-Party Talks.

3. Japan-South Korea Relations

Tajima, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: My question concerns the visit to Japan by President Lee Myung-bak being considered between the governments of Japan and South Korea. Although I think that the recent shelling by North Korea has had an influence on this, please tell us the current state of coordination, including the possibility of President’s visit to Japan.

Minister: This is a resumption of shuttle diplomacy, and it is a fact that the two respective heads of state confirmed this at the recent Japan-South Korea summit meeting. There is the question, however, of the views of the South Korean side as a result of the recent shelling incident, and of course, it is our sincere hope that no further contingencies occur, and we are also taking actions for this purpose. We still cannot, however, predict how the situation will develop. So we are not yet at the stage where a Japan-Korea summit meeting is scheduled. We are still coordinating.

4. Realignment of US Military Forces (Okinawa gubernatorial Election)

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: My question is about the Okinawa gubernatorial election. Current governor Nakaima was reelected; in a post-election interview, the Governor stated clearly that there is no place in Okinawa to which to relocate Futenma. You have been saying that you would continue to ask forgiveness and to make the request; as Governor Nakaima has been reelected, do you think that there is still room for negotiation regarding a relocation within the prefecture? Also, yesterday, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Matsumoto stated in a press conference, "With regard to promoting Okinawa as well, I intend to strive to obtain understanding while maintaining serious discussions with the people of Okinawa." When you were the minister in charge of Okinawa, you continually stated your view that the bases and Okinawa development measures would not be linked. In this regard, I would like to ask you again what your views are at the current time regarding Okinawa development measures and the relocation of Futenma.

Minister: Yesterday morning, I telephoned Governor Nakaima to congratulate him on his victory in the elections. I also told him during that telephone call that I would very much like to speak with him, and he accepted by saying, "Yes, let's definitely meet again." The approach of the government is consistent. We apologize to the people of Okinawa for the excessive burden we have continued to place on them, and we apologize for having said that US bases would at least be moved outside the prefecture in the general elections, but now having it return to Henoko. While apologizing sincerely in these two senses, we intend however to explain that Japan-US agreement of May 28th will lead to a reduction of general burden on Okinawa, and ask the people of Okinawa to accept it.
  Regarding the latter half of your question, we will not link Okinawa development measures with this issue. I have confirmed this. What I did as minister in charge of Okinawa issues are still going on. The current Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan expires next year. Consequently, we must consider what to do about the post-Okinawa Promotion Plan. Also, the Special Measures Law on Reversion of Military Facilities (“Guntenho”) will expire. We must discuss what kind of new framework we will create separately from the issues of Henoko and Futenma. I think that State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Matsumoto spoke in this context.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: In the Japan-US Summit meeting at the recent APEC, both the Japanese and US heads of state mentioned that Prime Minister Kan would visit the United States by spring next year, and that there would be a joint Japan-Us declaration regarding strengthening the Japan-US alliance. Even if the Futenma issue is not everything about deepening of the alliance, I think that it is a major element. Do you have in your mind a schedule for holding a 2 + 2 meeting and resolving the Futenma issue by then?

Minister: In the recent Okinawa gubernatorial elections, both of the main candidates were demanding Futenma (Air Station) to be relocated outside the prefecture, and Governor Nakaima was reelected. We are asking such an individual to relocate (the air station from) Futenma to Henoko, and I do not think that this matter will be resolved easily. Given our stance of moving forward while apologizing to the people of Okinawa, I think that it would be disrespectful to the people of Okinawa to make requests of them while setting a deadline.
   Consequently, although the timing of Prime Minister Kan's visit to the United States has not been determined, we do not intend to set the visit to the United States as a deadline. The Futenma issue is an important one, Japan's strategic environment is extremely harsh. Strengthening the Japan-US alliance, which is a regional public goods, is important not only for the security of Japan, but also for the regional stability, even when you set the Futenma issue aside. In this context, I think that it is highly significant for Japan and the United States to issue a joint declaration, and for this to be confirmed between the two countries' heads of state.

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: With regard to the joint declaration, even if there is no visible progress on the Futenma issue, do you think that there would not be anything particularly inconsistant or problematic about issuing a joint declaration ?

Minister: Excuse me for repeating myself, but I stated that we do not intend to make apologies to and requests of the people of Okinawa while setting a deadline.

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: If that is the case, then have you not yet made any particular decision as to whether to separate the declaration from the Futenma issue?

Minister: I replied to you clearly. Setting a deadline would be disrespectful to the people of Okinawa, and we will apologize to and make requests to the people of Okinawa and this is not linked to the timing of the summit meeting.

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: I have a simple question. Is resolving or making progress on the Futenma issue included in the section of the declaration “strengthening the Japan-US alliance”?

Minister: That is a hypothetical question. The question is what the situation will be like when Prime Minister Kan visits the United States. We will not make apologies to and requests to the people of Okinawa with a deadline. We will make our decision considering the circumstances at that time.

5. Release of United States Diplomatic Documents by WikiLeaks

Nanao, Niconico Doga: I read out a question on behalf of our viewers. WikiLeaks has started to release diplomatic cables of the United States government. Secretary of State Clinton denounced these leaks strongly. It appears that they will pursue those who
leaked the information. Meanwhile, the reactions of the world’s press have been mixed, with some welcoming the leaks, and others voluntarily ignored them. What is your view of the whistleblower sites such as WikiLeaks?

Minister: I think that this is egregious, because it is a criminal act. In other words, it is stealing other people's information without permission, and releasing it without permission.It is none other than the Government that decides whether to release its document. I do not think that there is any room to praise the act of stealing and releasing the information without permission.

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: Regarding the WikiLeaks incident, documents have been published that include the names of officials currently working at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Have you ordered an investigation of the facts concerning this?

Minister: I will not comment on this. I will not investigate the facts.

Anai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Has the Japanese side asked for some sort of response from the Government of the United States, or asked for related information, or have you received explanation from the United States?

Minister: There was a prior explanation from the United States via diplomatic channels.

Anai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Did the Japanese side make any sort of requests?

Minister: No, we did not.

Kamide, Freelance: This concerns the WikiLeaks incident. I cannot overlook the statement as a member of the media industry. In short, all of the press, including the major newspapers is reporting this. Are you criticizing the media too? Also, the secret agreements on Okinawa were revealed by the journalist Nishiyama. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs published related documents again, although it was left unfinished due to a number of technical issues. I think that depending on how you regard them, your statement now could be related to these issue and is an important one. I heard your statement not simply criticizing the actions of some computer nerds, but one having significant implication for the freedom of speech. Was there any such implication?

Minister: This is my criticism. I said that stealing other people's secrets is a crime, and releasing them is egregious.

Kamide, Freelance: How about the mass media that reported it at their discretion?

Minister: I do not think that we can prevent the press from reporting it.

6. Visit to Nemuro

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: This question concerns your observation of the Northern Territories, which you announced in the opening remarks. Please tell us if Minister Mabuchi or others will be accompanying you. Please tell us who will be accompanying or following you; I appreciate if you give me the names of the main individuals. Additionally, have you already notified or explained to Russia regarding this?

Minister: I will be going as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and will not be going with other Ministers, Vice Ministers, or parliamentary secretaries.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: Have you given any kind of prior explanation to Russia regarding this?

Minister: I have received no such reports.

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