(* 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 24, 2010, 3:29 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Japan-Russia Relations
  2. Realignment of US Millitary Forces
  3. Document on Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Turkey
  4. Visit to North Korea by US Governor
  5. Disclosure of Diplomatic Record

1. Japan-Russia Relations


Hanamura, TV Asahi: I have a question concerning Russia. While I have heard that Ambassador to Russia Kono is to be replaced, the Government of Japan did not make any particular comments concerning information-gathering capability on the occasion of the Russian President's visit to the Northern Territories in November. Is it the government's understanding that something was slightly lacking there? Although I have asked you before about your thoughts concerning diplomacy toward Russia, I would like to ask you now about the method of approach and information gathering in coming days.

Minister: No decision has been made with regard to personnel affairs, contrary to the media reportage. My understanding is that we are constantly trying to strengthen our information-gathering capability, which  is not limited to Russia.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: I have heard that immediately before the Russian President's visit, the Japanese Embassy had informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that there was a high possibility that the visit would take place. Was it that there was bad communication within the government? In any case, as the President actually ended up making the visit, how do you feel about your responsibility or the responsibility of the bureau director-general concerning this matter?

Minister: I would like to refrain from commenting on such matters as how information gathering is conducted within the MOFA because it could jeopardize information-gathering activities in coming days could be jeopardized.

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: I would like to ask you about the Northern Territories issue. I feel that throughout this year, there have been strong moves by Russia to reinforce its effective control over the Northern Territories, including the President Medvedev's visit and the fact that military exercises were conducted there. The first question is how you view Russia's moves over this year.
   I believe that you plan to visit Russia after the turn of the year, perhaps as early as in February, to hold talks with your Russian counterpart. On that occasion, as you, for example, commented the other day in Nemuro that you were thinking about a new strategy, please tell us what kind of approach you intend to take in holding the talks, in combination with that strategy.

Minister: Just as I have frequently responded to questions in the Diet, Russia has become financially affluent as a result of such factors as the rise in the price of resources. In the "Kuril Economic Development Program," on which Russia made a cabinet decision in 2006, funds totaling approximately 81.3 billion yen have been allocated for the period between 2007 and 2015, and infrastructure development has progressed. High-ranking government officials have gone there after 2006 to follow up on such projects. I believe that President Medvedev probably visited Kunashiri Island this year as a part of such activities.
   What is clear is that our position is that the Northern Territories are Japan's inherent territory and that there is absolutely no change to our policy to conclude a peace treaty with Russia upon determining the so-called attribution of the four islands.
   With regard to Japan-Russia relations in the future, it has yet to be decided as to when we will follow up, but even though the territorial issue is a major concern, I believe that there are very many areas where Japan and Russia can cooperate. I understand that it is also important to conduct negotiations on the territorial issue by firmly taking the proper procedures and at the same time mutually agreeing on various tasks for the development of relations between Japan and Russia.

Kamide, Freelance: With regard to the basic stance, as the issue of dismissal of the ambassador to Russia has appeared in newspapers, there were parts, including your evaluation, that had to be disclosed to the people, taking into consideration the Democratic Party of Japan's standpoint of leadership by politicians, and parts on which you refrained from commenting as you said earlier. From the perspective of information disclosure, I think that you should have your own opinion or criteria as Foreign Minister. What do you think about this?

Minister: If you are asking me  this on the assumption that the personnel action has been or will be issued, I believe that it is not appropriate to answer that because the personnel matter has yet to be decided.

2. Realignment of US Millitary Forces

Hashimoto, Kyodo News: My question is about the elimination of hazards from the area around MCAS Futenma.
    This is in regard to your statement during the conference between you and the Governor of Okinawa that it would also be possible to consider relocating elementary schools from the area around Futenma, should they so desire. Today, Defense Minister Kitazawa criticized your position, saying that this has not been decided by the cabinet. I would like to ask your reaction to this; in addition, during Governor Nakaima’s first term in office, he called for the closing down of Futenma within three years, and the elimination of the danger from the base. Although he had the relocation of Futenma’s helicopters in mind, would you also consider such a request from the prefectural government?

Minister: What I said to Governor Nakaima was a repetition of our request to relocate MCAS Futenma to Henoko, in accordance with the agreement between Japan and US on May 28th. However, he campaigned for governor with the promise of moving Futenma outside the prefecture, so he stated that he wanted the relocation site to be outside the prefecture. This means that the views of the national government and the prefecture of Okinawa differ, and during this time, MCAS Futenma will continue to be used. I think that it is actually without question that we should consider the removal of the hazards from the base. Additionally, this is something that we intend to remove at the request of the prefecture; it is not something that will be done forcibly.
  I mentioned Futenma No. 2 Elementary School as an example in response to a question from a local reporter. Therefore, this is not something that I discussed with the Governor. There is also the matter of removal of hazards, such as the relocation of training as in your question. If we receive a request from the perspective of removing hazards, we will of course listen to such a request, discuss it with the United States, and do what we can to respond to the request.

Ichihara, NHK: This question is in relation to the relocation of Futenma. On the 22nd, the United States legislature approved a one-fourth reduction to the fiscal-2011 budget requested by the Department of Defense for the expansion of base capacity in Guam, including the planned relocation of 8,000 Marines to Guam. Some are saying that this would make it unfeasible to complete the relocation by 2014; what is your reaction to this?

Minister: The explanation that I received from the United States on this US budget is that budget requests are fulfilled in order of need. In other words, it was explained to me that the budget was reduced because it would not be possible to spend it all. Our basic policy of mutually striving to reach the 2014 target has not changed.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: At Minister Kitazawa’s press conference today, he stated that the subsidy for the US military realignment for fiscal 2009 and 2010 will not be paid to Nago. Although this is a logical conclusion, since both the Mayor and City Council of Nago are opposed to the relocation there, on the other hand, I think that people in the local community will be opposed to the Minister’s statement. Please tell us your reaction to this, and how you will work to convince the local community.

Minister: This is a subsidy for the realignment of US Forces, so it is paid to the location that accepted this burden. Therefore, I think that what Defense Minister Kitazawa is correct in reference to the intent of the law.
  As I have stated often, we will not link the base issue to economic stimulus measures, such as one for the Hokubu region of Okinawa, and I intend to remain consistent on this point.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: This is in relation to the question just now. The City of Nago has already drawn up a budget assuming that the subsidy will be paid, for example for an elementary school and road repair. Does the Government believe that some other sort of allowance must be paid to them?

Minister: I cannot answer your question, because I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that is outside of my jurisdiction. Speaking in terms of the law, as Defense Minister Kitazawa stated, the realignment subsidy is for places that have accepted the burden of the bases, and I think that there is nothing else that can be done.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: This is also in relation to the earlier statement by Minister Kitazawa. At his press conference, Minister Kitazawa stated, “It is extremely dangerous to speak with the assumption that Futenma will become a permanent place for the MCAS. The government as a whole should consider this.”
  Since you stated earlier that the current situation will remain unchanged for some time, I believe that you were speaking of creating ideas for what to do with the current situation, on the assumption that it will continue. I think that what Minister Kitazawa assumes or consider is different from what you do, and he views this fact as dangerous. What is your view of this difference in interpretations?

Minister: I do not think that our interpretations are different. Defense Minister Kitazawa is also stating that we will comply strictly with the Japan-US agreement of May 28th, and we will request for Henoko to be the replacement location for Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture. Since this is the view of the government, it is impossible for our views to be different.
  For the case of Okinawa Prefecture, however, Governor Nakaima was elected for calling for Futenma to be moved outside the prefecture, and so he says that it should be relocated outside the prefecture. The ways of thinking of the national government and the prefecture do not match, and in that sense, continued use of the base resembles permanence, but in fact they are quite different. He is saying that we will have no choice but to continue to use it. I think that the intention to eliminate hazards during this period at the request of Okinawa Prefecture does not wholly conflict with the view of the Government. There is no way that Futenma will become permanent, and it is also the view of the Government that we will relocate Futenma because it is dangerous. Therefore, it is preferable to revert Futenma to Japan at an early date, and I do not by any means think that this statement conflicts with the view of the Government.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: At the current time, however, the assertions of the prefecture and the view of the national government are irreconcilable. They are like two parallel lines, which will never meet no matter how far out you go. If this is the case, then I think that it is an inescapable conclusion that Futenma will become permanent. How will you resolve this?

Minister: As I said in Okinawa, our past campaign promise of (relocation the base to) “at least outside the prefecture,” was not fulfilled in the Japan-US agreement of May 28th. Therefore, we are asking Nago to build a new base, while apologizing for this. This time, I have explained that if the entire process gets going, then it will assuredly reduce the burden on Okinawa, and I intend to continue to work to achieve their understanding.

Kamide, Freelance: If this is the case, then ultimately, the only method left for (the issue of the relocation of) Futenma – is to get the United States to compromise, or in short work to influence the United States and find a different way which are what some experts say. Is there absolutely no possibility that the agreement will change, or in short that a different path can be found by influencing the United States in a different way?

Minister: The current policy of the Cabinet is to continue to ask Okinawa to carry out the Japan-US agreement of May 28th.

3. Document on Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Turkey

Suzuki, Jiji Press: As I believe that you will now be meeting with the Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, please tell us about your outlook on the negotiations on the nuclear energy agreement and your enthusiasm with regard to export of nuclear power plants.

Minister: Export of infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, is one of the major pillars of the Kan administration's growth strategy. Following the recent successful reception of orders from Vietnam, we hope to receive orders on nuclear power plants from other countries, by all means. On that basis, with regard to the nuclear energy agreement with Turkey, we would like to start working as soon as possible toward concluding the negotiations, with our thoughts firmly in mind, and we do hope to receive orders for nuclear power plants as well. However, the premise is that the work is to be done basically by the private sector, so we would like to think of this as a business, taking the conditions into consideration upon thoroughly taking risk factors into account.

4. Visit to North Korea by US Governor

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: US New Mexico Governor Richardson visited North Korea the other day. During a meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, Governor Richardson presented three requirements, one of which was inspections by the IAEA or disposal of nuclear fuel rods or the hotline between South Korea and North Korea. Although you may not have confirmed this yet because he is not a (US federal) government official, voices can be heard from the United States and South Korea saying that these requirements cannot be readily accepted or they may be a curve ball. Please tell us your thoughts  about this at the moment.

Minister: I have heard that New Mexico Governor Richardson visited North Korea as a private individual. Although I am of course interested in what he spoke about as a private individual, I believe that with regard to what kind of judgment the US Government will make, we must respect its decision. At the moment, the US Government has not officially notified us regarding its view of the details of Governor Richardson's visit to North Korea. Therefore, the circumstances do not allow us to make our judgment yet.

5. Disclosure of Diplomatic Record

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: Among the diplomatic records that were disclosed on the 22nd, there were descriptions about incineration of confidential telegrams in the section on the course of Japan-US negotiations over the reversion of Okinawa, as well as missing documents on the contents of certain topics, whose front pages exist and the topics appear in a table of contents. Although this is about a rather distant past and I feel that the fact that the documents have been disclosed itself is a big step forward, please tell us your view on the management of diplomatic documents.

Minister: As a matter that we now need to address, I believe that the management of diplomatic documents must be done properly. I also feel it very regrettable that some past documents are missing. We would like to apply such lessons to the future.

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