(* 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, December 3, 2010, 2:37 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room
- Opening Remarks
- (1) Visits to Indonesia, Tunisia, and Algeria
- Japan-South Korea Relations
- Diet Administration (Omitted)
- Resumption of Six-Party Talks
- The Northern Territories Issue
- Issue of Abductions by North Korea
- Uranium Enrichment by North Korea
- Release of US Diplomatic Documents by WikiLeaks
- Postal Reform Bill (omitted)
- Realignment of US Military Forces
1. Opening Remarks
(1) Visits to Indonesia, Tunisia, and Algeria
Minister Maehara: I will be visiting the United States from the 6th, and then I will be attending the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), Indonesia and will be delivering a speech there. I will speak about Japan's thoughts on democracy. I plan to hold bilateral talks with my counterparts from Indonesia and other countries’ and intend to strengthen relations with those countries. I also intend to speak about Japan's position on the latest North Korean incident. I will then visit Tunisia to attend the Japan-Arab Economic Forum, after which I will visit Algeria. It will be the first visit to that country by a Japanese foreign minister since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1962, which is the year that I was born. I intend to go there to solidify the bilateral relations in view of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations that will take place in 2012. However, this visit will take place only if nothing grave happens, and if something does happen, I may have to return to Japan. I will go there on that premise.
Suzuki, Jiji Press: Please excuse me for asking this question amid a situation in which there are a pile of diplomatic and security issues, but with regard to the TPP, a meeting of chief negotiators is to be held in Auckland beginning on 6th. Please let us know how Japan intends to gather information and conduct other activities. Also, with regard to the Bali Democracy Forum, you just said that you plan to hold bilateral talks, etc. Please tell us whether talks on the TPP will also be held there.
Minister: First of all, with regard to the 4th round of talks on the TPP, participation in the talks as an observer is not permitted. Therefore, Japan will not participate in this meeting. However, I intend to go about gathering information thoroughly.
No official decision has been made yet regarding with whom I will be holding bilateral talks. However, once a decision has been made and if my counterpart is from a country participating in the TPP, I plan to discuss this matter in the meeting.
Suzuki, Jiji Press: Let me ask you an additional question. When you mentioned information gathering, were you thinking about sending working-level officials to Auckland?
Minister: Yes, I am thinking about it, as well.
3. Japan-South Korea Relations
Yamaguchi, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask a question about South Korea. I think that the president of South Korea had planned to visit Japan around the middle of this month. However, there are reports that South Korea notified Japan that due to various reasons, the visit would be canceled, or its schedule would be changed and that the president would not visit Japan. I would like to confirm the facts. Another thing is that because the Diet session closed today, Diet approval was not gained during the Diet session with regard to the transfer of Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, which the Kan administration, including Foreign Minister Maehara, had continuously sought. Please give us your opinion on this. With regard to the reason that Diet approval was not gained, opposition parties have expressed the opinion that the government and the ruling parties failed to conduct sufficient legwork or make enough prior preparations. Please let us know how you feel about this.
Minister: I believe that Asahi Shimbun has released such a report. We had State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Matsumoto take the lead in conducting sufficient groundwork with various parties. Regrettably, due to the various reasons such as not extending the Diet session and the fact that although four treaties were approved by the House of Representatives, deliberations have yet to be held in the House of Councillors, it has thus been decided that the matter would be taken up at the ordinary Diet session. I hope that Diet approval can be gained as soon as possible regarding the treaty for transferring the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty.
In addition, with regard to President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Japan, South Korea has notified us that it has judged that it would be difficult at this time due to such matters as the latest shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea. With regard to shuttle diplomacy, however, South Korea has also expressed its strong feeling that shuttle diplomacy is extremely important and that South Korea wants to resume shuttle diplomacy at an early date. Therefore, while closely watching the environment surrounding our country and South Korea, we intend to exchange information and opinions so that we can maintain close cooperation, as Japan-South Korea relations is a very important relationship and we are at an important juncture.
4. Diet Administration (Omitted)
5. Resumption of Six-Party Talks
Lee, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: I believe that Japan is currently taking a cautious stance toward the emergency session of the Six-Party Talks proposed by China. Have you still not ruled out agreeing to these emergency talks? If you have not ruled it out, would there be conditions that would need to be met in order for you to agree to them?
Minister: I think that the framework of the Six-Party Talks is an important one, and Japan also places a great deal of weight on making full use of this framework. What the Chinese side is now calling for is not the official Six-Party Talks, but rather a gathering of representatives from the six parties as a preliminary stage for the talks. Essentially, the Six-Party Talks are originally a forum for discussing nuclear issues. If that is the case, then I think it is important to consider what stance will be taken at the meeting toward nuclear weapons, rather than simply getting together and talking. I also confirmed this with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Hanoi. I think that there is no sense in dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and I think that it is important to move forward based on agreements made in Six-Party Talks to date. In this sense of moving forward, this would not after all be a formal meeting. They are saying, let us first get together, but I think that it is important to move forward in line with the Six Party Talk agreements. We do not decline China’s call for the meeting just by saying “Having a meeting for its own sake is non-starter,” but we think about what needs to be included in the meeting or what should be confirmed before we can accept the Chinese proposal. I would like to discuss this with my US and South Korean counterparts. For example, a new issue of uranium enrichment has arisen. Until now, the Six-Party Talks have only dealt with the issue of plutonium, but uranium enrichment should also be discussed at the Six-Party Talks. I think that this is probably an issue that can be agreed upon by Japan, the United States, and South Korea. For example, although a nuclear scientist Dr. Hecker was shown uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon, the questions is whether that facility is really operational. In other words, experts must see thoroughly whether or not that facility is really operating. When North Korean withdrew from the NPT, they expelled IAEA inspectors. I think that it is important that North Korea allow IAEA inspectors’ entry again, and show the facility to them, including the uranium enrichment facilities, and by doing so, increase the transparency and openness regarding whether it is really operational. South Korea and the United States may have different views, but the three countries can meet, and discuss the matter further and respond to Chinese side. We should not say that the proposal from the Chinese side is non-starter. In this sense, I think that the key point will be to consider how we respond to North Korea through close collaboration between the five parties, including China and Russia.
Takeuchi, TBS: My question concerns the recent shelling. It was reported in the media that you met with Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua last night in Tokyo. Please tell us, to the extent that you can, whether this meeting was a response to the additional, stronger call for an emergency meeting by the press secretary of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or whether the meeting included a discussion of restoring relations to date.
Minister: I do not understand the meaning of “restoring relations.” Although there is an issue with the Senkaku Islands, our position is that the Senkaku Islands are the inherent territory of Japan, and that this is not a sovereignty issue. In this sense, I do not understand very well the context of “restoring relations.” I have heard that a reporter assigned to cover another minister was nearby, and found us. We had been planning to have dinner together for some time, and after the coordination of our schedules, the date was moved up to that day. This was not a sudden decision to meet in response to the recent incident. We discussed work related topics as well, but since we have known each other for a long time, and we have friends in common, much of the conversation was of fairly non work-related topics.
Lee, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: I would like to confirm this: is there a possibility that Japan will agree to an emergency meeting, depending on the next discussion between the Foreign Ministers of Japan, the United States, and South Korea?
Minister: It is not our intention to refuse China’s proposal. We listen to China’s proposal, but I said that it is not a good idea just get together, without making any progress. As I have already said, the framework of the Six-Party Talks is extremely important. Given this, however, the question is what the conditions are for each party to come to the table. I gave two examples earlier. I would like to discuss this with South Korea and the United States, and listen to their views. Since a peaceful resolution is the only option, I would like to speak candidly with the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, and bring our views into alignment, with regard to how to resume the Six-Party Talks as a framework for peaceful resolution.
6. The Northern Territories Issue
Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: With regard to your inspection of the Northern Territories tomorrow, yesterday lawmaker Muneo Suzuki stated, “Minister Maehara went there last year. Although I would understand if he was going there with a new strategy, I think it would be better to call it off if he is just going there as a performance, without a new strategy.” Is it a performance for you, or do you have a strategy?
Minister: There are now some 8,000 former residents of the islands. Their average age is 77. They wish very strongly for the Northern Territories to be returned. I do not think in any way that it is a performance to go there, and meet and speak with these people, and share them with my strong determination for the return of Northern Territories and listen to their views.
Takahashi, Sankei Shimbun: Do you have a strategy?
Minister: Strategies are not something to blabber about. Although I am in a position to know what lawmaker Muneo Suzuki has been doing, I will not comment on that.
7. Issue of Abductions by North Korea
Nanao, Niconico Doga: This is a question from our viewers. It concerns the abduction issue. On the 25th, Prime Minister Kan provided an eight-point policy directions on the response to North Korea at the Headquarters on the Abduction Issue. I think that this is the first official policy on the abduction issue since the Democratic Party of Japan came into power; why did it take that long time and what is the direction taken by the eight-point policy directions?
Minister: During the administration of Prime Minister Hatoyama as well, Minister Nakai was extremely passionate about this issue. I think that the Minister in charge of the abduction issue is grappling actively with this issue. I do not think that it is the first time that a policy was enunciated after the change of administrations.
However, the Minister in charge of the abduction issue has changed in the Kan Cabinet, and I think that a policy was formulated for all ministries and agencies to work thoroughly on Prime Minister Kan’s strong intention to move this issue forward. Also, even before this was put out, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I reviewed what diplomatic actions had been taken with regard to North Korea. There were a wide range of directions about the abduction issue, so it is not by any means my understanding that we belatedly started our moves.
Nanao, Niconico Doga: Incidentally, it was some of the media that reported that this is the first time that an official policy has been put out. If that is mistaken, then I correct it.
Minister: I see.
8. Uranium Enrichment by North Korea
Deguchi, Kyodo News: My question concerns the uranium enrichment facility in North Korea. It has been reported that although there are movements by the UN Security Council to take up this issue, China remains negative about it. At the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Japan, the United States, and South Korea next week, what kind of messages are prepared for influencing China with regard to the North Korean nuclear issue and the shelling incident?
Minister: I think that it should be discussed thoroughly by the Foreign Ministers of the three countries, so we have not decided on any messages in advance.
I nevertheless think that the uranium enrichment issue is a very serious one, and that it should not be left unaddressed. I think that the international community must grapple with this issue from a wide variety of perspectives. My view is that this issue should be raised at the United Nations, and leaving aside what sort of approach should be taken with that as a presupposition, I think that we will also work to influence China on this issue.
9. Release of US Diplomatic Documents by WikiLeaks
Takahashi, Fuji Television: With regard to WikiLeaks, you said the other day that it was outrageous. I believe that with regard to this, you met with US Ambassador Roos yesterday. How did you explain to Ambassador Roos about the position of the Japanese Government with regard to this matter? Did Ambassador Roos express any kind of appreciation on this matter, shall I say, or express gratitude for Japan's support? Please tell us about what you discussed with the Ambassador to the extent that you can.
Minister: Ambassador Roos visited me yesterday for a meeting mainly regarding my visit to Washington at the beginning of next week. We discussed various other matters, but I would like to refrain from commenting on those matters.
Yamao, Asahi Shimbun: With regard to the WikiLeaks issue, it has been said that US Secretary of State Clinton telephoned the leaders of a total of 12 countries and apologized, or expressed regret over the matter. Did the Government of Japan receive any such calls?
Minister: I did not receive a direct call from Secretary of State Clinton. However, although it was slightly a while ago, there was a notification through diplomatic channels.
Nanao, Nico Nico Douga: I read out a question on behalf of our users. With regard to the latest incident, does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intend to review its system of managing confidential information, is there a possibility that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would actively promote information disclosure in the future?
Minister: First, with regard to your first question, Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku recently said at the Diet that a drastic review would be conducted with regard to the entire government's protection of confidential information, and we are currently working on that in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are starting from where we can and are currently conducting a study within the ministry including whether this would require legal revisions.
As for information disclosure, I think that we should follow former Foreign Minister Okada's policy and continue to disclose information for which a certain length of time has elapsed to the extent that is possible without undermining Japan's diplomacy and national interests.
10. Postal Reform Bill (omitted)
11. Realignment of US Military Forces
Inafuku, Ryukyu Shimpo: Please allow me to ask a question concerning the issue of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa. Yesterday, Prime Minister Kan said he wants to visit Okinawa soon. Do you have any plans to visit Okinawa as well?
In that case, Prime Minister Kan intends to visit Okinawa in order to get firsthand knowledge about issues related to Okinawa. Now that a governor who seeks a review of the Japan-US agreement made in May and demands relocation of Futenma Air Station to a site outside the prefecture has been elected, I would like to ask you for what purpose you intend to visit Okinawa.
Minister: First of all, the Prime Minister wants to go to Okinawa as soon as possible. I think that relevant ministers should then visit Okinawa and first express apology. We campaigned in the previous general election saying that Futenma Air Station should be relocated "at least outside the prefecture and outside the country if possible," and I think that there were many Okinawan people who cast their votes for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), pinning their hopes on that. However, it turned out that the relocation plan has reverted to the plan to move the air station to Henoko. As I think that this situation is inexcusable regardless of the reasons, I think that it is important for all cabinet ministers to apologize for that. At the same time, I also think that it is necessary to apologize for having forced Okinawa people to shoulder excessive burdens until now.
On that basis, we will be asking (the people of Okinawa) to shoulder the burden of hosting a new base in the Henoko district of Nago City. Overall, however, this would definitely result in reducing Okinawa's burdens and lead to the return of Futenma Air Station, which is the most dangerous air station. I intend to thoroughly explain this to the people of Okinawa including the governor and speak to them with sincerity in order to gain their understanding.
At the same time, I am in the position of Foreign Minister. Previously, I served as Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs and was in charge of such matters as promoting Okinawa's development and reviewing the Special Measures Law Concerning the Return of Land Used by the US Military in Okinawa Prefecture. Now, with regard to military base issues such as, issues concerning the contents of the Status of Forces Agreement and the requests of various municipalities or the prefectural government concerning US military bases, I think that it is important to correct what can be corrected even if they are minor things by thoroughly listening to such requests. I thus wish to be allowed to visit Okinawa from that viewpoint.
Inafuku, Ryukyu Shimpo: Have you decided when you intend to visit Okinawa?
Minister: It has yet to be decided as to when the Prime Minister would be able to visit Okinawa, and as I announced at the beginning, I am scheduled to be away from Japan from the 6th to the 14th. Therefore, it will be after that. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister himself intends to visit Okinawa first, so we hope to visit Okinawa as soon as possible after the Prime Minister has been there.
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