(* 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 17, 2010, 3:40 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) The Creation of a Visa for Medical Stay
    • (2) Opening of "Foreign Minister's Corner" on MOFA Website
  2. Realignment of US Millitary Forces
  3. Missile Defense Policy
  4. Leak of a video showing a collision between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese trawler
  5. North Korean Situation (Resumption of Six-Party Talks)
  6. Defense Policy
  7. Domestic Political Situation (Summons of Mr. Ozawa, etc.) (Omitted)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) The Creation of a Visa for Medical Stay

Minister Maehara: I have two announcements. The first announcement is about the creation of a visa for medical stay. With the aim of promoting so-called medical tourism under the "New Growth Strategy," we have decided to create a "Visa for Medical Stay" in order to make it easier for foreign patients to visit Japan for the purpose of receiving medical treatment. The services will start in January 2011.
   We have designed this visa to be more convenient for foreign nationals wishing to visit Japan for the purpose of receiving medical treatment, taking humanitarian aspects into consideration. Specifically, this will make it possible for foreign nationals to receive various medical services including advanced medical care and medical check-ups, and family members and/or caretakers would also be allowed to accompany the patients. When the length of a single stay is within 90 days, multiple visas valid up to three years may be issued so that patients could visit Japan repeatedly within that period to receive medical treatment. This visa will also make it possible to stay in Japan for up to six months straight.
   As a result of this visa, we sincerely hope that as many people as possible can visit Japan and become healthy by receiving advanced medical services or come here for medical check-ups.

(2) Opening of "Foreign Minister's Corner" on MOFA Website

Minister Maehara: The second announcement concerns the creation of a "Foreign Minister's Corner" on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have decided to set up the "Foreign Minister's Corner" on the MOFA website so that people can further understand the activities of the Foreign Minister.
   If you take a look at the "Foreign Minister's Corner," you should find it easy to understand what kind of diplomacy I am engaged in as Foreign Minister. With regard to its contents, my comments concerning major foreign policies are compiled in the section titled "Speaking on Maehara Diplomacy" so that you can understand Japan's foreign policy at a glance. In the section titled "History of Domestic and Overseas Trips," there is a world map indicating the countries and regions that I visited, and I would be glad if viewers can get a visual idea of my efforts in the field in various countries of the world in securing Japan's national interests. We also plan to upload videos in the future.
   As we plan to further enhance the contents of the "Foreign Minister's Corner," we would like to solicit suggestions from you all.

2. Realignment of US Millitary Forces

Hanamura, TV Asahi: I have a question concerning Okinawa. Prime Minister Kan is currently visiting Okinawa. After this, I believe that Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Mabuchi, Minister (of Defense) Kitazawa, and Minister (of Foreign Affairs) Maehara will also be visiting Okinawa. Please tell us how you all plan to contact Okinawa based on your own individual standpoints, as I think that you all have your own roles and objectives in talks among cabinet members at the Prime Minister's Office,.

Minister: What is common to all of us is that it is important that we all express apologies for the fact that despite during the general election in August last year that with regard to the Futenma Air Station replacement facility, we advocated its relocation "at least to outside the prefecture and outside the country if possible," the relocation destination returned to Henoko in the end under the Japan-US agreement reached on May 28. We would also like to apologize for the fact that although we were an opposition party at the time, approximately 75% of the area where US military facilities are located has remained concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture, which accounts for 0.6% of the area of all the land in Japan, ever since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. Although this is currently about 74%, As Foreign Minister, I particularly would like to make efforts to reduce this burden. Although we have to ask Nago to accept a new facility under this Japan-US agreement, it would lead to the return of a substantial amount of the area where military facilities are located, especially in areas south of Kadena. In addition, the relocation of 8,000 Marines, or 17,000 persons if their family members are included, would lead to the reduction of the burdens. The government's firm commitment in the use of land after the return of Futenma Air Station would also lead to Okinawa's development. I intend to explain these matters.
   While we have received various requests related to the issue of diversion (of returned military land to other uses) or the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, I believe that it is one of my roles as Foreign Minister to reduce the burdens as much as possible by fully conveying Okinawa's requests during talks with local US military officials in charge of the matter. As for Minister Mabuchi, since the Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan will expire next year, I think it will be an important task for him to listen to the views of the people of Okinawa, including Governor Nakaima and municipal leaders, and create a new Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan, a post-Okinawa Promotion Plan. In any case, with the reduction of the burden of military bases and Okinawa's independent economic development as the two wheels of a cart, relevant cabinet ministers will make efforts to gain the understanding of Okinawa by visiting Okinawa and conveying their resolve.

Inafuku, Ryukyu Shimpo: You said "burden reduction and independent economic development are the two wheels of a cart," please tell us your thoughts on the idea of linkage between military bases and the economy.

Minister: What I have clearly been saying since the time I served as the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism and Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs is that they will not be linked. That is the reason that I have said that "promotion of economic development of the northern region (of Okinawa) should indeed be carried out separately from the issue of accepting the burden of military bases."

3. Missile Defense Policy

Nanao, Nico Nico Douga: My question is on behalf of our users. The Missile Defense Agency under the US Department of Defense announced on the 15th that it failed in a test to intercept a long-range ballistic missile. This is the second failure this year, and I feel that it was at least shocking considering that the United States possessed the capability to respond to North Korea's long-range ballistic missiles. Please tell us your views on the impact that this will have on dealing with North Korea or on the effects on Japan and South Korea.

Minister: Of course, I feel that it was extremely unfortunate that the test did not go well. However, after I visited Hawaii at the end of October, an SM-3 intercept test was conducted with the participation of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, and this was successful, so it does not mean that there are only failed cases. Anyway, I feel that it is important that Japan and the United States upgrade their interception capabilities together in preparation for emergencies by improving the targeting accuracy.

4. Leak of a video showing a collision between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese trawler

Kamide, Freelance: Although it seems that the Senkaku video leakage issue has somewhat disappeared from mass media reports, please tell us the Cabinet's perception and your own views on this matter, including the issue of the treatment of Japan Coast Guard personnel who leaked the video.

Minister: There is still no change to my view that because this video was submitted to the District Prosecutor's Office as material evidence, making it public should be done very carefully in line with Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. With regard to the Coast Guard personnel who leaked this video and uploaded it to YouTube, I think that regardless of the reason, restraint should be strictly exercised when releasing internal information that one possesses without permission, and some kind of punishment is thus necessary. My understanding is that such punishment was given.

5. North Korean Situation (Resumption of Six-Party Talks)

Deguchi, Kyodo News: At their meeting last week, the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, and South Korea agreed on the conditions for resuming the Six-Party Talks. North Korea's Foreign Ministry, however, issued a statement that it would not agree to resumption of the talks if it has to accept those conditions. In promoting progress in the North Korean nuclear issue, what do you have in mind as the next step?

Minister: I do not recall having mentioned the number of five. Also, as Mr. Crowley's remarks about the content are not conditions, I would like you all to understand that by all means. In any case, we are lodging protests because the uranium enrichment program and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island are impermissible. What is important is for North Korea to sincerely fulfill its pledges under the Joint Statement adopted at the Six-Party Talks in 2005. Therefore, we intend to continue making diplomatic efforts so that not only Japan, the United States and South Korea but also the five countries including China and Russia will firmly demand North Korea to fulfill its obligations.

6. Defense Policy

Nanao, Nico Nico Douga: This question also includes the earlier topic of the failed missile test. In relation to the defense policy and Midterm Defense Program that were created the other day, and which were the first ones to be created by the Democratic Party of Japan government, although the defense budget has remained virtually unchanged from the present status, please tell us your views and evaluation of these issues, including the contents of the plan, amid instability in the regional situation in East Asia.

Minister: Although I think that this was probably not the case during the Liberal Democratic Party government, the four cabinet ministers concerned held a meeting repeatedly in the process of creating  this defense policy. The Chief Cabinet Secretary, Defense Minister, Finance Minister, and myself met repeatedly, and I think that this is probably a case of so-called “political leadership.” Based on the strategic environment currently surrounding Japan, and the prospect as to how this will change over the next 10 years, I think that we have been able to create a positive commitment from various perspectives: shifting from fundamental defensive capabilities to dynamic defense capability, and putting a stronger focus into the southwest: changing personnel assignments as Self Defense Force personnel continue to grow older: creating a new organization under the Prime Minister for thorough discussion among the relevant Cabinet Ministers on our national strategy for diplomacy and security assurance, while thoroughly reviewing the current Security Council of Japan: reviewing the five principles on (the participation in) peacekeeping operations (PKOs).
   At the same time, people often ask what the defense policy of the Democratic Party of Japan government is. I think that we would be able to show to the Japanese people that this defense policy forms the core of the national security policy of the Democratic Party of Japan, as the recent discussions by the party was also taken into considered.

Saida, Nishinippon Shimbun: My question concerns the defense policy. In your statement just now, you mentioned the review of the five principles on PKOs (within the defense policy). Although this probably means the active participation by Japan in international peace activities, what are your views of its problems and areas needing improvement at this time?

Minister: As written in the defense policy, we will thoroughly study the way that the five principles on PKOs ought to be. The Vice Ministers of the relevant ministries and agencies have played a leading role in the discussions, and I would like them to discuss these points thoroughly.
   You asked my awareness of the issues. With regard to the five principles on PKOs, for example the criteria for use of weapons, these have been reviewed many times in the past. However, I think that these criteria should be discussed further, including ensuring that the criteria for use of weapons enables the Self Defense Personnel assigned to a post to ensure the safety of that location, and that they can carry out their mission.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: This is in relation to the defense policy. The defense policy has refrained from clearly stating the review of the three principles on arms exports. The meeting of the four relevant cabinet members and the party had been in consensus over reviewing the three principles of arms exports; what is your reaction to the fact that the review of the three principles was not included at this time due to consideration for the Social Democratic Party?

Minister: This was regarding a policy in response to changes in the international environment relating to defense equipment, including the fact that joint international development and production have become the norms. In my view, what is problematic is that, for example, even if we allow other countries to utilize our old ships for anti-pirate actions, and if it is an old ship used by the Self Defense Forces, then it will be counted as a weapon, and I question this. Alternatively, Japan purchases equipment from other countries. Considering that joint production is now the norm, it is natural that the country, or the partner that participated in this, and jointly produced that equipment, will be selected. However, it is the trend of the times to participate in these kinds of things, and I think that this may change the philosophy behind the three principles of arms exports that we have had until now. Since a study of this had been scheduled this time, I think that they should of course be studied, and we should receive positive responses. Your point that the result of the discussion was  affected by consideration for another party, is off the mark.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: Japan and the United States are currently discussing deepening of their alliance. I believe that amid these discussions, the United States side is also making requests regarding the three principles of arms exports. I would like to know the impact of the fact that the three principles of arms exports were not mentioned on deepening the alliance.

Minister: Speaking of future possibility, as I have just said, I think that it is the trend of the times for countries with technology to pool their knowledge and experience, and conduct joint development to make better things more cheaply. I think that it is very important to move in this direction. I of course think that some conditions must be added when doing so. However, if one were to ask what specifically the pressing issue is between Japan and the United States, then although there are future challenges, things like, for example, the missile defense nosecone are being produced jointly as an exception by issuing a statement of the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Alternatively, if one were to ask whether the United States plans to build a new fighter, then they are currently building the F-35, and in this sense, if one were to ask whether we have specific equipment in mind, I do not think that this stands out. Therefore, since this defense policy states that this will be “studied” as a future issue, I think that it will be important to thoroughly discuss when a concrete need arises, reach a conclusion and explain the conclusion properly to the Japanese people.

Kamide, Freelance: Although I understand that this is your understanding at the present time, I think that the orientation toward pacifism of the Democratic Party of Japan when compared to one of the Liberal Democratic Party was part of the background of the selection of the Democratic Party of Japan by the Japanese people, and that many of the Japanese people reacted to this with a little surprise. In particular, even the Liberal Democratic Party did not change the three principles of arms exports. Do you not feel that there is a gap between (the DPJ and) the Japanese people on this issue?

Minister: The foundation of our country is our Constitution, and the three pillars are fundamental human rights, democracy, and pacifism. We create policies within the philosophy of pacifism, I think that it is of course important to remain within a large framework. At the same time, however, I think that we must react properly to the changing times. In my impression, on the topic of the differences between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, you imply that the Liberal Democratic Party is not so pacifist, and that the Democratic Party of Japan is peace oriented. I think that both of them should be peace oriented. I essentially think that foreign or security policies should actually not change greatly due to a change in governments. There are fundamental common values that we share as a nation, and it is important that this axis not change greatly even when there is a change of governments. In this sense, it is impossible that our diplomatic policy or defense policy would change at a fundamental and basic level, even after the Democratic Party of Japan came into power; for example, that the cornerstone of the Japan-US alliance would change. In this sense, a party that reacts to the changing times, while sharing the same values, will be supported by the understanding of the Japanese people, and I think it is important for us to fulfill our accountability thoroughly for that reason.

7. Domestic Political Situation (Summons of Mr. Ozawa, etc.) (Omitted)

(Omitted)


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