(* 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: Friday, February 12, 2010, 3:00 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Statement
    • (1) The Foreign Minister’s Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK)
  2. Japan-ROK relations (Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, etc.)
  3. Foreign Residents’ Voting Rights in Local Elections
  4. The Issue of the Realignment of the US Forces in Japan
  5. The Incident of the Russian Border Patrol Firing at Japanese Fishing Vessels
  6. The Recall of Toyota Vehicles in the United States
  7. The Takeshima Issue
  8. Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)
  9. The Examination of the So-called Secret Agreements
  10. Scientific Whaling (Interference by Sea Shepherd)
  11. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)
  12. Cultural Diplomacy

1. Opening Statement

(1) The Foreign Minister’s Visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK)

Minister:
There has already been a lot reported on my visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) yesterday. While my time there was limited to one day, I had a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan, President Lee Myung-bak, and Minister of Unification Hyun In-taek  – despite their busy schedules – as well as with old friends and others in the economic circle. I also had the opportunity to exchange opinions with Japanese students learning Korean. I think my visit was extremely productive.

The contents of the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ meeting have already been reported in the media. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, and under the shared understanding that this is a sensitive year, I believe that the ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and I confirmed that we will cooperate thoroughly this year. Additionally, I believe we had a positive exchange of opinions on a Japan-ROK economic partnership agreement (EPA) and other matters. I especially think that my meeting with President Lee, whom I have not seen in a long time and whom I have not talked to directly since he became president, was extremely productive. He spared about 30 minutes to exchange opinions with me, despite the fact that two heads of state, including Dr. Mahmoud Abbas , were visiting as well. President Lee talked positively and energetically and he showed a very positive attitude toward resuming discussions on a Japan-ROK EPA.

One thing that he said which left a great impression on me was “Of course a leader must firmly listen to the opinions of the people, but if that is all you do you will not be able to make a decision. When it is time to make a decision, you should do so decisively.” President Lee’s approval ratings dropped to about 20% at one point, but now have recovered to about 50%, and I think these words come from his own experience. It was extremely helpful advice and it left a great impression on me.

Getting back to the topic at hand, as part of shuttle diplomacy, the President will visit Japan sometime during this year and Prime Minister Hatoyama will of course go to the ROK for the Japan-China-ROK trilateral summit meeting. There will also be G20 meetings, and APEC meetings this year, and with the two leaders going back and forth I am eager to get off to a good start for the next 100 years of Japan-ROK relations.

2. Japan-ROK relations (Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, etc.)

Question (Mizushima, Jiji Press):
Regarding Japan-ROK relations, you made a very insightful statement that “Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula was an event that wounded Korean national pride.” Can you explain to us the purpose of this statement and what you felt when you said this?

Minister:
I stated that “Japan deprived Koreans of their nation and left a great wound on their national pride.” If you were in their shoes you would understand immediately. For example, if Japan was put in the same position, I at least would feel that my pride as a Japanese national had been deeply injured – for Japan to disappear as a country and be annexed into another would be unbearable. If the Japanese people were in the same position, I believe many Japanese would understand and feel the same way. I often say that “the one to cause injury is quick to forget, but the one to receive it does not forget easily.” When considering this problem between Japan and the ROK, we must put ourselves in the position of the people of the Korean Peninsula – not only the people of the ROK – who were victims, and not forget the effect that it had on them. My statement was meant as a message to the people of Japan. If you put yourself in the position of another, you will better understand that person.

Question (Beppu, NHK):
Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, diplomatic contact between China and North Korea is currently taking place in Beijing. Has there been any official or unofficial communication regarding this from the Chinese government? Additionally, what do you think the meaning of this contact between China and North Korea is?

Minister:
I am not in a position to answer that. However, I do not see this as something I need to focus on at this moment.

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
I have another question regarding Japan-ROK relations. I do not think it was directly brought up in a major way during yesterday’s meeting, but I believe that the ROK side has its positions regarding historical issues, and that the Japanese government’s position is that the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea concluded in 1965 put an end to all rights of claim. I am sure there will be various discussions this year. Will the Japanese government’s position remain that these past issues have been resolved?

Minister:
In principle, it will not change. Legally, we have resolved this issue in a manner that satisfied both sides.

3. Foreign Residents’ Voting Rights in Local Elections

Question (Akaji, Sankei Shimbun):
My question is about a bill to grant voting rights in local elections [to permanent foreign residents], which you discussed with the foreign minister of the Republic of Korea. The ROK side seems to have expressed their hope that this bill will be passed. How will this bill be handled within the government? Are you for or against the bill?

Minister:
I will follow the policy decided upon by the Cabinet. I will refrain from stating my personal view, including whether I am for or against the bill. As a member of the Cabinet, I have to be careful about what I say. You can see what my basic stance is from my remarks in the past, but since I am a member of the Cabinet, I follow the policy that the Cabinet decides upon. Going forward, we have to coordinate views between the Cabinet and political parties, and among the ruling parties as well. I believe that what we are going to do is discuss this matter comprehensively. Nothing has yet been fixed at this moment. I explained to my Korean counterpart about the present situation; that we were examining this issue.

Question (Yanagawa, TV Tokyo):
You said that the Japanese government is examining this issue, but are you examining the issue with a consideration of what kind of merits and demerits the bill will have for the people of Japan?

Minister:
Your question would be better addressed to political parties, which have conducted discussions thus far, or the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communication, the head of the ministry in charge. I am not directly in charge of this bill and, therefore, there is nothing in particular that I can say as the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Question (Azumi, Freelance):
An exchange of views took place at a recent meeting of the National Association of Chairpersons of Prefectural Assemblies. Mr. Azuma Konno, who attended the meeting as the representative of the Democratic Party of Japan, said at the meeting that the conditions for naturalization were to have been a resident of Japan for five years and to be a decent person. If that is the case, and if we take into account the fact that the government and the ruling parties share the same policy, voting rights can be granted to a person who is not decent. What is your view on this?

Minister:
I do not follow your logic.

Question (Azumi, Freelance):
Mr. Konno’s argument was that a person must have been a resident of Japan for five years and live a decent life [in order to be naturalized], but that these conditions would not apply when it comes to voting rights. He said a person only needed to live in Japan for ten years in order to be granted voting rights.

Minister:
I have never heard that a ten-year residency in Japan would be the condition for granting voting rights and, besides, I still do not understand your question. Naturalization and voting rights are essentially different. I do not understand the logic by which you compare the conditions for these two matters only and stress the difference between them.

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

Question (Nezu, NHK):
I have a question on the relocation of Futenma Air Station. Members of the verification committee visited Guam yesterday, and the governor of Saipan expressed a positive attitude regarding Saipan as a relocation site. What is your take on this? In response to the governor’s remarks, Chair of the Social Democratic Party Mizuho Fukushima stated that the Social Democratic Party would consider the option. Please tell us what your view is on this.

Minister:
The verification committee is currently examining where, specifically, a relocation site should be. I will therefore avoid saying where the relocation site should or should not be. This has been my long-held policy and so I will refrain from making any comment in response to your question. I assume that the governor of Saipan indicated his attitude because he had the full support of the US government, not because he himself was ready to accept an offer wholeheartedly.

Question (Shinbori, TV Asahi):
The Verification Committee on the Issue of the Okinawa Bases will announce the proposal of the ruling parties next week. How will this proposal be discussed within the government and between the government and the ruling parties?

Minister:
The Chief Cabinet Secretary, who is in charge of the verification committee, must have some ideas on this. The Cabinet members will listen to him and hold discussions on the matter. Nothing has been decided at this moment.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
You spoke about Tinian some time ago when answering a question about the verification committee members’ visit to Guam. Apparently, the governor of Guam has expressed some reservations about accepting the air station, saying that an increase of Marines more than what is stipulated in the existing Japan-US agreement would be unacceptable. How do you respond to this view?

Minister:
I should not make any comment on specific matters, including the one you mentioned. The verification committee is still working on this issue. Therefore I will not make any comment.

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

Question (Kawasaki, Yomiuri Shimbun):
Concerning the incident of the Russian Border Patrol firing at Japanese fishing vessels, as you are already aware, the two captains of the two fishing vessels were arrested by the maritime security authority for switching off their satellite positioning systems. Could you please tell us your opinion on this? In relation to this, the Russian side has said through media reports that they will not hesitate to fire if what they call “intrusion into territorial waters” occurs again in the future. Could you please tell us your opinion on these two points?

Minister:
First of all, we have protested against the act of firing since it puts people’s lives in danger. There is no change in this stance. It is problematic if the fishing vessels were operating in the area beyond the mutually promised boundary, but at this moment all we know is that they were arrested for switching off their systems and that they are currently being questioned. I do not know at this time whether they will be indicted or not. Given this situation, I would like to refrain from commenting more. That said, if the truth becomes clear, I will probably make additional comments.

6. The Recall of Toyota Vehicles in the United States

Question (Shimada, Magazine X):
Regarding the issue of Toyota cars, there has been a lot of discussion in the US market regarding how manufacturers should handle such problems. What is your opinion on this matter?

Minister:
I am sure many things can be said. However, as a minister, I do not think I should give my personal opinion on this matter. On tangible issues, I think that the ministers in charge, such as the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism or the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry have made statements. Many statements have been made in the United States and some may have gone too far. These statements have been made by government officials or politicians from both countries based on their personal opinions and I believe I should not comment on any of them.

Question (Shimada, Magazine X):
You just brought up the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. Is there no policy at the moment to work in cooperation with other ministries to coordinate things with the United States?

Minister:
In principle, this is the problem of an individual company. Of course, if there is something that the government can do to assist, I would like to do so. However, currently I do not have any intention of initiating action from the government side. Of course, if the ministers in charge have any proposals, I would like to do as much as I can as Minister for Foreign Affairs to assist them.

7. The Takeshima Issue

Question (Ishikawa, Yomiuri Shimbun):
I have a question on the Takeshima issue. Legislator Akiko Kamei issued a question from the Diet to the government, asking if it was true that the ROK was constructing a maritime science base. In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a government statement today. According to the statement, the government is aware of the media reports, but cannot answer questions on individual diplomatic issues. Apart from media reports, is it the understanding of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the ROK is indeed carrying out such action? Has the Ministry protested this? Did you discuss this issue when you met with your Korean counterpart or when you paid a courtesy call on the ROK President yesterday?

Minister:
No, I did not.

Question (Ishikawa, Yomiuri Shimbun):
Aside from the media reports, is it your understanding that the ROK is carrying out such action?

Minister:
I read the government statement quite a while ago, and so I cannot quite recall what it said. I will check and get back to you on this.

8. Review Meeting on Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
What is the current situation of the task force for the review of ODA? Could you please explain to us this issue to the extent you deem appropriate?

Minister:
The task force has just begun its activities and there is nothing in particular that I can share with you at this moment. I will explain more when the time comes.

9. The Examination of the So-called Secret Agreements

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
It is expected that the trial on the secret agreement regarding Okinawa will be concluded on the 16th. Some media outlets have reported that they expect the government will take objection to the testimonies of Mr. Bunroku Yoshino at the previous trial and the one before it, arguing that his testimonies included speculation. What is the government’s stance on Mr. Yoshino’s testimonies at the previous trial?

Minister:
I have not confirmed it yet.

10. Scientific Whaling (Interference by Sea Shepherd)

Question (Nezu, NHK):
There was a collision again in the Antarctic Ocean between Japan’s scientific whaling vessel and a Sea Shepherd vessel, with three Japanese sailors injured from an attack in which bottles containing chemicals were thrown at the vessel. Could you please tell us again what diplomatic measures you are going to take? In the press conference right after the collision between the Ady Gil (the Sea Shepherd vessel) and the scientific whaling vessel, I think you said, “If this sort of thing continues in the future, I think we will need to do more than just protest; we will need to consult with relevant countries.” I think that this sort of incident has occurred three times now. Please tell us your thoughts as to how you will handle this issue.

Minister:
I am very concerned. Of the two vessels which followed Japan’s scientific whaling vessel and harassed it this time, one is registered in the Netherlands and another in Togo. I heard that bottles containing butyric acid were thrown onto Shonan Maru No. 2, and that the bottles broke as they hit the hull, spilling the acid all over the vessels and onto the faces of three sailors. The sailors report facial pain, but thankfully their eyesight is fine. This issue cannot be left unaddressed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has made a demand on this issue to the transportation director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through the Japanese ambassador of the local embassy. Since these incidents are continuing to occur, the Director of the Fishery Division of MOFA will request the ambassador of the Embassy of Netherlands in Tokyo to come to the Ministry this afternoon so that we can demand action. The Fisheries Agency is also considering various countermeasures.

Question (Kawasaki, Yomiuri Shimbun):
Similar incidents have occurred over and over again. I assume that MOFA has protested every time, and I think that people are starting to get the impression that the protests are leading nowhere. Have you considered issuing a strong protest at the political level, instead of the bureaucratic level, or any specific steps, such as talks with the relevant countries just mentioned, in the near future?

Minister:
The vessels are registered in the two countries I mentioned, Togo and the Netherlands. We must see if this issue can be resolved by protesting at a higher level. The continuation of this situation is extremely regrettable. I would like to consider our response. We are currently considering to whom we should make a protest and what the wording of that protest should be.

11. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
Concerning the US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) issued this month, you said a week ago that you had not had a chance yet to take a close look through it, as it was just after publication. I suppose you have had a look through it given a certain time has passed since then. The Review reemphasizes the position of Guam within the US’s strategy. Could you please tell us how you interpret this part?

Minister:
Given the various construction works that are underway right now, I perceive the Review as reconfirming current policy, without hammering out a new policy. However, as the Governor has said, I think there are various opinions at the local level about the extent to which military forces can be concentrated there.

12. Cultural Diplomacy

Question (Shimada, Freelance):
I would like to ask you a question from the standpoint of a freelance journalist. In your past blog entry about Iikura House, MOFA, you said, “Explaining Japanese cuisine to ambassadors and other guests is also one avenue of cultural diplomacy.” You also said in answer to my question the other day that you would like to continue working on cultural diplomacy as you consider it as being extremely important. Specifically, what direction or initiative do you want MOFA staff to take?

Minister:
Are you referring to Iikura House?

Question (Shimada, Freelance):
My question is not just about Iikura House; it goes beyond that. Could you please tell us if there is any specific direction you are considering as to how to develop cultural diplomacy, such as creating a certain team, for example?

Minister:
MOFA has been advertising Japanese culture by such means as the International MANGA Award, established previously for soliciting artwork from around the world. What I meant in my blog was that I would like to make the best use of Japanese cuisine as well as it is a very powerful tool in communicating Japanese culture to the world. I was in the ROK yesterday and ate dinner on the plane. I was a little disappointed that it was not Korean food as I expected, but the lunch, which was eaten during the meeting at the official building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), was a splendid Korean meal. I think that such things can significantly change the impression of the country held by visiting officials in a good way. I think there is a considerable benefit to carrying out discussion over meals at Iikura House, and there may be room to exercise creativity on other occasions. What I said yesterday was not about Iikura House but the Prime Minister’s Office. For reasons which I am not aware of, the Japanese meals served there are sometimes concluded with cake. For example, mont blanc aux marrons was served as a dessert for the meal for Vice President Xi Jinping of China. Although I do not know the reason behind this, instead of cake, I thought it may be better to conclude Japanese meals with wagashi (Japanese sweets) and/or Japanese tea, to make it consistent with the rest of the meal. That was what I stated yesterday.


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