(* 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 Katsuya Okada

Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Statements
    • (1) Visit to Japan by Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President
    • (2) Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)
    • (3) Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) by Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada
  2. The Issue of the Realignment of the US Forces in Japan
  3. Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)
  4. The Incident of the Russian Border Patrol Firing at Japanese Fishing Vessels
  5. Deepening of the Japan-US Alliance
  6. US-China Relations
  7. The Middle East peace process
  8. Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) (The 100th Anniversary of Japan’s Annexation of the Korean Peninsula)

1. Opening Statements

(1) Visit to Japan by Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President

Minister:
I am starting today’s press conference at this late hour due to the Diet and Cabinet Meeting schedules. I have three announcements today.

The first announcement is about the visit to Japan by Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President. President Abbas will visit Japan from Sunday, February 7 to Wednesday, February 10. During his stay in Japan, on Monday, February 8, President Abbas will hold talks with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. On Tuesday, February 9, President Abbas and I will have a meeting, which will be followed by a banquet. Taking the opportunity of this visit, we will exchange frank views with President Abbas about the course of the Middle East peace process and Japan’s contribution in the peace process. Japan will also express its support for the President’s peace policy, thereby fulfilling its role in promoting the peace process. That is the purpose of the President’s visit to Japan. We will also discuss Japan’s assistance to establish the Palestinian State.

I have met with President Abbas once in Tokyo and twice in Palestine, so this will be my third meeting with the President.

(2) Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Minister:
The second announcement is about the review meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA). You have the handout on this. This is something that I have touched upon in my foreign policy speech, and we will review the items listed in the handout. Namely, the five points to be reviewed are: philosophy and basic principle on international cooperation; promotion of public understanding and support; collaboration with various parties concerned; effective and efficient implementation of assistance; and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). I do not think that ODA has received sufficient public support. The review will thus be conducted from the standpoint of gaining public understanding and support. The public understanding and support will, I believe, help us implement ODA more strategically and effectively.

This is not the first time that I mention this, but contrary to survey results in which 60 to 70 percent of respondents think that ODA is necessary or that ODA should be increased, the opinions we hear quite often and predominantly in reality include ones questioning why ODA should be increased when Japan is in such a severe situation, or those arguing that the ODA budget is pork-barrel spending. Against this backdrop, it is important that we sufficiently convey to the public how Japan’s ODA in fact benefits the world, especially Japan’s interest and those people who are struggling even to live their daily lives. As a precondition to doing so, we first conduct the review from the perspective of enhanced efficiency of ODA, taking into account various criticisms that we need to pay attention to. Accordingly, task forces will be established for each item for review under State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Tetsuro Fukuyama and Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Chinami Nishimura and with the participation of the International Cooperation Bureau and the Foreign Policy Bureau. We will also seek opinions from experts outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of non-government organizations (NGOs).

(3) Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) by Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada

Minister:
Thirdly, I would like to talk about my visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK). I will visit the ROK from the night of Wednesday, February 10 until Thursday, February 11 (a national holiday). I am scheduled to have a Japan-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting. The actual time I will have in the ROK is one day, February 11. I do not have anything planned for February 10. A more specific schedule is currently being coordinated. This will be my third foreign ministers’ meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan. I hope to conduct an exchange of opinions on a wide range of topics such as cooperation between Japan and the ROK and the North Korean issues in order to further strengthen future-oriented Japan-ROK relations.

2. The Issue of the Realignment of the US Forces in Japan

Question (Nezu, NHK):
Concerning the relocation of Futenma Air Station, I think you made a statement about the relocation site yesterday in the press conference at the Japan National Press Club, which was something like, “Although it is not very desirable, if there is no alternative site, there is a possibility to maintain the status quo.” The statement has been criticized as problematic by some senior officials of the People’s New Party (PNP) and the Social Democratic Party (Social Democratic Party), as well as some Diet members from Okinawa Prefecture. Could you explain again your take on these remarks as well as your true intentions behind yesterday’s statement?

Minister:
My true intentions were as you just said. I think this is why the government is currently committed to considering candidate sites at the review committee so to avoid this possibility. The mission of the review committee is to explore alternative sites. If that mission was accomplished, there would be no need to maintain the current state. If no appropriate location was found, in the worst case, we may essentially end up with the status quo in Futenma, although we would be making efforts like reducing the risk as much as possible. My statement was intended to express this sense of crisis.

Question (Nezu, NHK):
How do you take the criticism from the SDP and the PNP?

Minister:
That is why I would like each party to make a substantial proposal. We would end up without finding any solution if we keep objecting.

Question (Beppu, NHK):
A working-level consultation on deepening the Japan-US Alliance was held today, and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell responded to our questions at the doorstepping interview with journalists after the meeting. In the interview, Assistant Secretary Campbell said that the US was prepared to “discuss” about the relocation site, and that he was prepared for two things: first is to clarify the US stance that the current plan is the best solution, and second is to “explore,” at the same time, a new site for relocation. He says he has already communicated this to the Japanese side. How do you take the second part of his statement that he is prepared to “explore” a new site for relocation?

Minister:
I have not heard about it. Given that there is no change in the US’s stance you first mentioned that the current plan is the best solution, if I think on that assumption, I cannot tell at the current stage what the second part of Assistant Campbell’s statement would mean. The US side is of course aware of the consideration currently underway in Japan, although they may not have a favorable view of it, and the statement might have been made in reference to this. At least, Japan should come up with a solid plan, and I think it would be a little off the mark if his statement meant that the US would look for a site together with Japan.

Question (Kaminishikawa, Kyodo News):
In relation to the first question, on your statement that in the worst case you cannot exclude the possibility of maintaining the status quo, Prime Minister Hatoyama has made it explicit that there will be no return to the status quo, and I think there is some gap between this and your statement. That is my first question. Another question is that, considering the original starting point of the discussion which was to eliminate the risk of Futenma Air Station at the earliest possible date, the people may question the legitimacy of choosing this government if that turned out to be impossible after all these considerations. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) administration at least came up with the conclusion of relocating the base to Henoko, though it may not be the best solution. However, there is a criticism that the DPJ administration might ask the people to accept the status quo if an alternative site was not found. Could you please tell us your thoughts on this point?

Minister:
First of all, only a part of the Prime Minister’s statement has been quoted in the media reports, etc. His entire statement was, “Since the issue was started for the purpose of eliminating the risk of Futenma, there will be no return to this starting point. With that determination, we are currently working on creating the best scenario.” I do not think he was saying anything fundamentally different from my statement. I would also reiterate that we are intent on considering possible ways to eliminate the risk of Futenma, for which we originally started the discussion. We naturally hope that we will come up with a plan in this process. If we cannot reach a consensus within Japan, we would end up with the worst scenario of maintaining the status quo. We must find alternative locations by all means in order to avoid this. Since we are discussing on a zero basis, I think we should not single out a certain plan as being good or bad.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
There is one point I would like to clarify in relation to this question. You say “zero basis,” but I think the original intention of the consideration was to consider alternative plans and ways to eliminate the risk. I understand the “zero basis” to mean that the government is currently working on a clean slate with no preconceived plan at all.

Minister:
That is not what it means. It means that there are all possibilities.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
I am not speaking about the priority, but I think there is the Japan-US agreement at the starting point. Does “zero-basis” mean that everything, including this Japan-US agreement, will all be treated equally on the same starting line?

Minister:
My intention was to say that there are all sorts of possibilities. I have been repeating it a number of times.

Question (Kozuka, Nikkan Gendai):
Continuing on this question about your statement of maintaining the status quo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano said last week that relocation can be carried out “without the agreement of the local community,” which has invited a range of criticisms, including those from the local side as well as the ruling party. Your comment on Mr. Hirano’s statement at that time was, “When you put it that way it gives the impression that the opinion of the region decided upon will be completely ignored. I think that you need to pay closer attention to the way you phrase things.” Given this situation, I wonder why you chose this moment to mention the worst case scenario of maintaining the status quo in Futenma? Could you please explain?

Minister:
I meant that there is no option of closing Futenma Air Station without any solution. The starting point of this discussion is to simultaneously fulfill the two needs of maintaining deterrence provided by the US forces and reducing the burden on Okinawa. Therefore, I said there would be no option of asking the US forces to leave Japan.

Question (Kozuka, Nikkan Gendai):
The government is still at the stage of exploring possibilities. Why did you venture to mention the worst case scenario at this moment?

Minister:
It is because I thought the Prime Minister’s statement was not accurately conveyed in some aspects.

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
Although you just mentioned that the government should come up with a solid plan before making a proposal to the US side, I think this will require the agreement of the local community. The agreement of the local community was also mentioned concerning the Henoko plan. When finding an alternative site, wherever it should be, I think the overall situation calls for the government to build up the local consensus. As a result of the previous general election, the DPJ has secured seats in almost all constituencies if those re-elected into the proportional representation blocs are included. Therefore, wherever they choose for a relocation site, I expect the DPJ politician will be held responsible as the ruling party. Do the government and the ruling parties share the same awareness in this respect?

Minister:
I do not think I need to answer questions which are based on assumptions.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
I think you just mentioned that there is no option, or possibility, of doing away with the US forces. The purpose of my previous question was to clarify if you made the said statement in order to express this point. For the question from Nikkan Gendai, “Why did you venture to mention the worst case scenario at this moment,” you said that the starting point is to seek the way to simultaneously meet the need to maintain the deterrence of the US forces and the need to reduce the burden on Okinawa. Is it correct to assume that you mentioned there is no possibility of “asking the US forces to leave Japan” in this context?

Minister:
We cannot make decisions without considering the role played by the US forces, that is, the deterrence. I can at least say that. But that does not necessarily have to be located within Okinawa.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
Upon confirming this point, can I please confirm if your statement was intended to warn against repeating the same argument about relocating to Guam, which has been argued by the SDP?

Minister:
That is not what I meant. Since we are discussing on a zero basis, I have no intention to say “no” to any idea. Rather, I am saying that I cannot take part in discussion about which plan must be dismissed. Since we have started the discussion to consider all possibilities, I think this kind of screening should be handled within the review committee and not expressed externally. That is what I have been saying.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
I think you also mentioned that even in the worst case there would be no maintaining of the status quo without reducing the risk. Can I assume that this means that elimination of the risk must be considered even when allowing for the worst case scenario to happen?

Minister:
I think I should refrain from going too far into detail. To begin with, there is no consensus even on what is the worst case scenario. Some may say that adoption of the current plan would be the worst case. Since it all depends on individual points of view, I cannot specify what is the worst, and I should not single out a certain plan as being bad at this stage when the government is considering all possibilities. In this context, I am saying that we should not exclude the possibility of maintaining the status quo with 100-percent certainty.

3. Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Question (Igarashi, Asahi Shimbun):
I have a question about the review of ODA that you mentioned in your opening statements. I assume that the review will be conducted within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Who specifically will be the members of the task forces? What is the deadline for reaching conclusions of the review? Will the conclusions be documented in a report? Are you thinking of going so far as to review the ODA Charter in response to the conclusions of the review?

Minister: 
As for the deadline, I stated in my foreign policy speech that the government will conduct the review “by this summer.” The scope of the review is something that we will discuss from now on.

Question (Tanaka, Japan Internet News):
I have no intention whatsoever of opposing ODA. In fact, I agree with you in that an effective use of ODA has high strategic value. I can tell from my own experience that Japan’s presence abroad is strongly supported by ODA. I am afraid that the reduction of the ODA budget will be inevitable as the Japanese economy shrinks going forward. This is just an example of the way to secure Japan’s presence, but is it possible in your philosophy to make a drastic change in foreign policy, shifting its emphasis from ODA to the handling of interests of post-conflict reconstruction, in the same manner that the three Scandinavian countries – Norway and Sweden in particular – actively intervene in conflicts for their resolution?

Minister:
First of all, I do not pressure that the Japanese economy will shrink going forward; in that sense, you and I have a different ground for reasoning. We have to make clear, from the philosophical standpoint, the reasons why Japan provides ODA. Otherwise, ODA becomes an opaque initiative to the people’s eyes.

Question (Kawasaki, Yomiuri Shimbun):
You did not answer this question earlier, so let me ask once again. Who will the members of the task forces for the ODA reform be? I can see from the handout that each and every task force will have JICA staff as members, but what about expert members? Are all the task forces going to have expert members as well? Or are some task forces comprised only of JICA staff and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? What is the composition of each task force?

Minister: 
The task forces will be established under the Director-Generals of the Foreign Policy Bureau and the International Cooperation Bureau, so basically, it will be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that will conduct the review. Experts and NGO members are listed right next to me in the table in the handout, so that is their position. We will seek their opinions as a third-party.

Question (Beppu, NHK):
ODA can be provided with a variety of philosophies, but when it comes to basics or the impact of the message that Japan tries to convey to countries abroad, the amount of the ODA budget counts. What is the basic stance of the new government? Is it going to increase the ODA budget? Or is it going to carry on the reduction trend – the trend which started in 2000 under the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party?

Minister:
We seek to increase the ODA budget while gaining the public understanding. At the same time, in order to increase the ODA budget we need to gain the understanding of the Cabinet members as well; just the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting an increase of the budget will achieve nothing because the ODA budget involves the nation’s budget as a whole. I thus think that we should work to gain the Cabinet understanding as well.

Question (Kurashige, Asahi Shimbun):
This is rather a detailed question. This handout states that one of the items to be reviewed is “promotion of public understanding and support.” Does this item include a PR strategy to enhance Japan’s presence by showing to the people in recipient countries specific ODA projects that Japan has been implementing in these countries?

Minister: 
The promotion of public understanding and support is a basic condition of ODA because it is provided using Japanese taxpayers’ money. The understanding of the people in recipient countries will of course be an important point.

Question (Yoshida, NHK):
You said that the review would be concluded by summer. Is it correct to understand that the results of the review will immediately be reflected in the budget request for fiscal 2011?

Minister: 
The end of summer is the latest deadline [for the results to be reflected in the budget request]. I have no intention of spending time needlessly on this review. My goal is to reach a conclusion a little earlier than the stated deadline. I said “by summer” so as not to be criticized for being delayed in reaching a conclusion on an exact date. The earlier we conclude the review, the better.

4. The Incident of the Russian Border Patrol Firing at Japanese Fishing Vessels

Question (Sato, Hokkaido Shimbun):
I have a question about the incident where Japanese fishing vessels were fired on by Russians in waters around the Northern Territories. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a protest to the Russian side about the gunfire against the fishing vessels, but later an issue with the fishing vessels’ vessel monitoring systems (VMS) was pointed out. Can you give us your opinion on this incident, from the first report that flare bombs were shot at the vessels and the developments up until now, as well as the effects of this incident on future Japan-Russia relations including the Northern Territories issue?

Minister:
First of all, the shooting of the vessels by the Russian side could have led to the loss of people’s lives and therefore cannot be condoned. Additionally, the Russian side’s actions on the premise that they have jurisdiction of the Northern Territories contradicts Japan’s position on the Northern Territories issue. Regarding the missing VMS data you referred to, while it was not reported at first, it has now come to light as a fact. I think it is necessary to conduct thorough investigations into why such an incident occurred and what implications it will have.

Question (Sato, Hokkaido Shimbun):
How do you think it will affect Japan-Russia relations?

Minister:
I do not think it is appropriate to comment at the moment as the facts have not all been laid out yet. However, I would like to thoroughly investigate the facts and comment on this incident based on them.

5. Deepening of the Japan-US Alliance

Question (Tsuruoka, Asahi Shimbun):
I would like to ask again about your thoughts about the deepening of the Japan-US alliance, especially as a meeting of senior officials of the US-Japan Security Subcommittee (SSC) was held today. Judging from your statements up until now, it seems your image is one of expanding into areas other than the realignment of the US forces in Japan including the issue of the relocation of Futenma. I believe that the question of whether that is “deepening” rather than “expanding” has come up before. When you say “deepening,” do you mean, for example, something along the lines of what the Republican Party and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were trying to do by unifying the Self-Defense Forces and the US military?

Minister:
On how one interprets “deepening” and “expanding,” I think it is basically an issue of how one handles the matter. However, when I say “deepening” I mean deepening within the Asia Pacific region. Therefore I believe the term “deepening” is more appropriate in the sense that we are trying to achieve closer cooperation.

6. US-China Relations

Question (Nezu, NHK):
I believe my question is related to today’s SSC meeting. Recently, it seems that US-China relations are somewhat strained with issues such as the US providing arms to Taiwan and the Google issue. Please tell us your opinion on what effects this may have on Japan’s diplomacy in which the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone. Additionally, please tell us how you will treat China in future SSC discussions.

Minister:
Regarding the US export of arms to Taiwan and the resulting conflict – although I think conflict is too strong a word – I think both parties should use sound judgment and discuss the matter. However, as I said somewhere previously, I believe that this matter was basically within China’s anticipations and I do not think it will turn into a full blown conflict. This matter and the discussions for deepening the Japan-US alliance at the SSC meeting are not directly related.

7. The Middle East peace process

Question (Kaminishigawara, Kyodo News):
Regarding the visit to Japan by Palestinian President Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, there have been reports saying that his term as President has already ended and he is rapidly losing influence within the Palestinian National Authority. One of the reasons for this is the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, but according to media reports, the reason he will not run in the next election is his objection to the pro-Israel attitude of the United States. What kind of role does the Japanese government want to play for the Middle East peace process, including peace with the United States?

Minister:
What you said in the beginning and what you said in the end do not connect.

Question (Kaminishigawara, Kyodo News):
There have been media reports stating that one of the reasons President Abbas has been losing influence is the US pro-Israel policies. With Japan and the United States trying to promote cooperation in various ways, what kind of role do you want to play in the Middle East peace process including peace with the United States, as President Abbas makes his visit to Japan?

Minister:
I do not understand the purpose of your question. However, it is true that President Abbas does not have a good relationship with Hamas and the West Bank and Gaza are, in a sense, divided. This is something I am concerned about. It is also true that President Abbas will not run in the next election. However, I do not believe these are related to President Abbas effectively losing influence. President Abbas still has a certain level of support and is continuing his presidency.

Regarding the Middle East peace process, Japan has been supporting the Palestinian Authority from a slightly different stance than the United States and Europe, and has tackled the issue based on our own thinking. Of course we exchange various opinions with the US side in this process, and I think there can be various approaches to this and our processes do not always have to be the same.

8. Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) (The 100th Anniversary of Japan’s Annexation of the Korean Peninsula)

Question (Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun):
I have a question about your visit to the ROK which you mentioned in the opening statements. You stated that during this visit you would establish future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of the Korean peninsula. Please tell us your thoughts on the annexation. Additionally, I believe this milestone year will be a year in which people will be acutely aware of nationalism. From this point of view, what are your thoughts on future-oriented relations or the past in relation to the annexation?

Minister:
Regarding Japan’s annexation of Korea, looking at the world’s situation at the time, this sort of action was perhaps not limited to Japan. However, from the viewpoint of the annexed side, various things happened during this process such as losing one’s home country and having to change one’s last name to a Japanese one. Considering this, I believe we must not forget the feelings of those who had to bear these pains.


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