(* 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 23, 2010, 3:00 p.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Statements
    • (1) Visit to Australia by Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada
  2. The Foreign Minister’s Visit to Australia
  3. Scientific Whaling
  4. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Efforts to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
  5. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Nuclear Deterrence and Nuclear Disarmament)
  6. The Issue of the Realignment of the US Forces in Japan
  7. Target for the Resumption of Six-Party Talks
  8. Sentiments of the People of Okinawa
  9. Japan-US Security Guarantee (Deterrence through the Presence of the US Military)

1. Opening Statements

(1) Visit to Australia by Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada

Minister:
First I would like to talk about two things. The first is my recent visit to Australia. As has already been announced, a joint statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, “Toward a World without Nuclear Weapons” was released. I believe this statement to be an agreement which supports the efforts of the world toward creating “A World without Nuclear Weapons,” which began with the speech US President Barack Obama delivered in Prague. In the future I hope to talk to my counterparts from other countries and expand this circle. This year the Nuclear Security Summit and Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will be held. Besides actively working on these important meetings, I also hope to take a central role for holding an international conference to take a strong step toward “A World without Nuclear Weapons,” if possible, in the latter half of this year. I intend to conduct thorough discussions aiming for “A World without Nuclear Weapons” – or for the time being, a world with fewer nuclear risks – through dialogue with my counterparts in other countries, including Australia.

While of course many subjects were discussed this time, such as a free trade agreement, unfortunately the subject of whaling was the main point of discussion. I believe that both Japan and Australia will take firm steps to discuss the whaling issue separately from other issues, with both sides taking care that the issue will not severely affect our bilateral relations. There will be difficult times, taking into account our considerable differences on the matter. However we will continue discussions bilaterally, or before the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Of course, a lawsuit – if there is to be one – is one way to resolve the issue, and if this should be the case, we plan to openly argue Japan’s position in international court.

During my visit this time, I was able to hold quite a long discussion with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and had meaningful discussions with Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith. What was a little disappointing was that I only had 90 minutes to exchange opinions with Minister Smith to begin with and we lost about 20 minutes because we were stuck in an elevator. Of course it was an accident and could not have been helped, but the actual meeting ended up being only about an hour long. Additionally, this affected the length of the press conference, limiting the number of questions from journalists to two. Both questions were in relation to the whaling issue and I was not able to properly talk about the overall results of the meetings, which was disappointing.

2. The Foreign Minister’s Visit to Australia

Question (Saito, Kyodo News):
I have a question about your visit to Australia. You said that you spent a substantial amount of time in Australia discussing the whaling issue. Did you have a chance to talk about security cooperation, which you originally intended to discuss? Australia – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in particular – has been advocating the initiative for an Asia-Pacific community comprised of nations such as the United States and Australia, a different version of the initiative for an East Asian community. Is there any information you can share with us on security cooperation?

Minister:
Regarding security, it has been confirmed that Japan and Australia will start their discussions on an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) this March. It has also been confirmed that a 2+2 Ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo sometime in the first half of this year. The specific schedule is to be decided. At the 2+2 Ministerial meeting, we will confirm the status of progress of discussions on the ACSA. Naturally, a decision on the ACSA will be made prior to the meeting if working-level consultations will have been completed by then. It all depends on when the 2+2 Ministerial meeting will be held, although it is highly likely that discussions on the ACSA will continue for some time. In any event, it has been confirmed that we will discuss the ACSA at the meeting. The ACSA with Australia is essentially different from the ACSA with the United States in that the one with Australia mainly involves rescue activities in case of earthquakes and natural disasters. I strongly wish to conclude this agreement.

Prime Minister Rudd and I had very good discussions which lasted more than one hour. I do not recall him taking up the initiative for an Asia-Pacific community during our meeting. Probably we did not discuss it at all. The initiative was taken up at the summit level when Prime Minister Rudd visited Japan last time. At that time, I suggested that we take the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) into account. I also urged that discussions be conducted from the perspective of how we can utilize Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an existing framework for discussion that Japan and Australia have established. No concrete discussions on the initiative took place this time.

3. Scientific Whaling

Question (Nezu, NHK):
I have a question about the scientific whaling issue. First, please tell us what your thoughts are on Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand’s statement at a press conference saying that if Japan did not discontinue scientific whaling, New Zealand would follow Australia in filing a suit at the International Court of Justice. Second, please tell us how Japan will respond to the IWC Commissioner’s proposal to drastically reduce the number of whales permitted to be caught for scientific whaling and control this under the IWC.

Minister:
I am not aware of the latter situation. I do not think an official proposal has been made. It is a fact that various discussions have taken place in the past at the IWC, including ones with Japan, however, these discussions have not been made public. Therefore I will not comment on this matter any further for now. As for Prime Minister Key’s comments, as far as I recall, they were quite different from what you just said. What Prime Minister Key stated was “What we must first try is to find a diplomatic solution. If the diplomatic solution fails and the only other option is to file suit, at that point New Zealand will consider whether to take Australia’s side. Lawsuits take a long time to resolve. A diplomatic solution is a much faster option than a lawsuit.” That is the statement by Prime Minister Key as I understand it. It is quite different from a statement saying that New Zealand will follow in Australia’s footsteps and file suit.

Question (Kawasaki, Yomiuri Shimbun):
As was stated during the recent Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Australia’s position is that they seek the phasing out of scientific whaling by Japan, and if this is not accepted, they will file suit. Can the Japanese government say at this point that it cannot accept this request by the Australian government for gradual termination? Please let me confirm this again.

Minister:
What the Australian Prime Minister said is not completely clear. “In the Antarctic Ocean” can be construed as meaning not a complete termination of whaling everywhere, but it is not clear. The request can also be taken to mean not only a gradual reduction, but a complete termination at the end. Therefore, I will not comment on this lightly. Japan’s basic position is to quietly but firmly conduct discussion and I believe it best that neither side start a war of criticism through the media. Japan’s whaling is a legally permitted practice, and in the first place, whale meat is a traditional part of Japanese food culture. I understand the logic that limits need to be set to preserve the species, but I do not think we have received adequate explanation to be satisfied about limiting captures not grounded on the preservation of species. I believe it is important to properly argue these points.

4. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Efforts to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)

Question (Ida, Shukan Kinyobi):
I respect your eagerness to abolish nuclear weapons. A reduction of nuclear weapons is certainly desirable, but there is a risk that the balance with conventional weapons will be lost if only nuclear weapons are reduced. Efforts need to be made concurrently for the reduction of conventional weapons as well. I believe negotiations for nuclear disarmament under the Bush-Gorbachev regime of the United States and the Soviet Union took the reduction of conventional weapons into consideration. What is your take on this?

Minister:
This is a difficult subject, especially so because, unlike the era of East-West confrontation, we are facing various threats today. We are no longer in an era in which only the United States and Russia may be deemed as the world’s dominant players. Furthermore, the United States and Russia are currently discussing strategic nuclear weapons, but what we need to discuss going forward are tactical nuclear weapons. We also have conventional weapons. This is indeed a complicated issue. If we take a look at the scale of impact, destructive power differs significantly between nuclear and conventional weapons. I believe there are two steps that need to be taken once the US-Russia negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons are settled: first, while this will probably be very difficult, the United States and Russia should steadily advance discussions on tactical nuclear weapons; second, the world as a whole, not only the two powers of the United States and Russia, but China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and other countries as well, should work for nuclear disarmament. I believe that discussions on nuclear weapons should be separated from those on conventional weapons. Otherwise, the issue will only become more complicated, making it difficult to draw conclusions from discussions. It goes without saying that inhumane conventional weapons must be restricted by, for example, prohibiting cluster munitions or banning landmines.

Question (Inoue, Kyodo News):
This might relate to tactical nuclear weapons, but in a letter you sent last December to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton following the US decision on the retirement of the nuclear-tipped Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, you requested that explanations be given regarding the impact the retirement of the missile will have on expanded deterrence, and supplementary measures for its retirement. What kind of explanations has the United States given so far? What is your take on them?

Minister:
That is not all I wrote in my letter; I also wrote that we were not in a position to tell the United States which weapon should or should not be retired. That was the main message of my letter. That said, I have no comments to make on the Tomahawk. I am aware that some media outlets reported that Japan has received a notification from the United States. It is true that we recently had Japan-US talks on deterrence for nuclear expansion, but since both sides agreed not to disclose what was discussed during the talks, I have no comments to make.

5. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Nuclear Deterrence and Nuclear Disarmament)

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
My question is about the relationship between nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament. I can understand that you want to make this year the one in which Japan and Australia start their efforts for nuclear disarmament in East Asia. At the same time, Japan is protected by US nuclear deterrence. To me, these two points seem to be contradictory. How will you coordinate – or how have you coordinated– their relationship in order to advance nuclear disarmament and secure nuclear deterrence?

Minister:
This is something Secretary of State Clinton and I discussed and agreed upon at our January 13 meeting in Hawaii. The Secretary of State and I were in complete agreement that these two issues were things which needed to be balanced and were not in contrast to each other, and that general discussions would not lead to an answer to the question of where and how to place emphasis in order to maintain a balance between the two and, as such, we needed to advance specific discussions. I think various discussions will arise regarding where to place emphasis, but general discussions will not result in a conclusion. We need to advance discussions in concrete terms. This is not only about expanded deterrence and nuclear disarmament; this is about non-proliferation as well, given that one essential goal for nuclear disarmament is to secure non-proliferation. 

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
I can see that this is a difficult issue involving balance maintenance. However – and this is just an example – there seem to be many things that can be discussed when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons, which you mentioned earlier. Isn’t it necessary to set a direction now that the United States is conducting Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)? Unless a direction is set, it will become difficult, once discussions start, to determine what to prioritize. Could you please tell us on which occasions discussions will take place?

Minister: 
I do not really understand your question. Japan and the United States have been constantly exchanging views. With discussions moving forward from the strategic nuclear weapons stage to that of tactical nuclear weapons, we will eventually run into the issue of tactical nuclear weapons being disproportionately deployed in the United States and Russia. China’s nuclear program will also have to be taken into account. Discussions will thus become more concrete. Japan has not been deeply involved in discussions between the United States and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons. Such involvement was not necessarily needed. Once we move to the next step, however, I think Japan will need to involve itself more actively in nuclear policy and nuclear disarmament. It has rather been rare for Japan to be deeply involved in US nuclear strategy. In that sense, we need a system for Japan to obtain larger amount of information on various nuclear issues – a system to ensure an exchange of views between Japan and the United States. That is the direction in which we are advancing various discussions.

Question (Inoue, Kyodo News):
On a related note, I have a question on two concepts described in the recent Japan-Australia joint statement: “Negative Security Assurance (NSA)” and “sole purpose.” The United States is expected to complete its NPR soon. Is it your wish that these two concepts will be incorporated in the NPR?

Minister:
The NPR will be finalized taking into consideration various discussions within the US government. I do not think it is appropriate for me to take an occasion like this to state what I wish for the United States to do.

Question (Nishino, Kyodo News):
In your opening statements, you said that you wished for Japan to take the initiative in holding a nuclear conference against the backdrop of a Nuclear Security Summit, a NPT Review Conference, and other recent meetings. You also said that Japan should be involved more actively than it has been in the past. Is it with this in mind that you wish to convene a nuclear conference in Japan?

Minister:
When I said that Japan should be more involved, I was mainly talking about discussions between Japan and the United States. This year is a crucial year in that what we do this year will determine whether or not we can take the first step toward “a world without nuclear weapons.” As you know, proliferation has advanced up until recently, slowing the momentum toward disarmament. This situation has been changing significantly. This is a fact. The Nuclear Security Summit and NPT Review Conference, both scheduled for in the first half of this year, are great occasions to ensure change. As such, the success of these conferences is extremely important. This should not be the end of our efforts; rather, we need to arrange a meeting for the nations involved to gather together so that we can ensure “steps towards a world without nuclear weapons” even after the Nuclear Security Summit and NPT Review Conference. This is still just an idea. I cannot give you specific information now because concrete matters, including which countries would participate and the subjects on the agenda for discussion, are currently under examination. What I am aiming for is to carry the momentum gathered in May and in the first half of this year over to the latter half of the year, to ensure increased momentum.

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

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
Regarding the Futenma issue, Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chair Mizuho Fukushima said this morning at her press conference after the Cabinet meeting that hasty and poor decision-making must be avoided. There seems to be talk within the SDP about how extremely difficult it will be to make a decision by the end of May, and about postponing the decision again. Can you please tell us your thoughts on this?

Minister:
The Verification Committee is discussing this right now, and in principle I believe it is better for me not to comment too much on the specifics. However, I also attended the Ministerial Meeting on Basic Policies which Minister of State for Financial Services Shizuka Kamei and Minister Fukushima attended. It was confirmed at the meeting that the government will make a decision by (the end of) May. As Minister Fukushima was also present, I believe significant weight is being accorded to what was confirmed at the meeting.

Question (Nezu, NHK):
I have a related question. I understand a decision will be made by (the end of) May, and that Minister of Defense Kitazawa said it would be difficult to meet this deadline if the Verification Committee does not compile a relocation proposal by the end of February, given that this will only leave three months to negotiate with the US and with the local community. How do you view the schedule in light of your negotiations with the US?

Minister:
This is not a matter that can be easily negotiated. A certain amount of time is needed. In that respect, I believe a decision must be made as quickly as possible. In principle, however, it is the Verification Committee led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano that is working hard on this matter, and I believe it is not really in anyone’s interest to speak freely about it from the outside. If the need arises, I will convey my opinions and thoughts to the Chief Cabinet Secretary directly.

Question (Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo):
I would like to ask a question on this topic. The Verification Committee has been underway with the Chief Cabinet Secretary as the committee chair. My question is based on my understanding that the committee will next come out with a relocation proposal, which according to the Chief Cabinet Secretary, will be brought to the government for consideration and discussions will follow on whether or not the proposal is feasible. Based on that, the government will be holding talks with the local community and the United States. I believe you previously said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be carrying out negotiations with the United States. In terms of the schedule of those negotiations, although there may not yet have been any talks about them, if there are, will the Ministry be starting negotiations as early as next month? What channels will the Ministry be using and how will the negotiations proceed?

Minister:
It is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that will carry out negotiations with the US Government. I have nothing further to say right now regarding the timing or any other specifics. I am in close communication with the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and I cannot say anything beyond that.

7. Target for the Resumption of Six-Party Talks

Question (Saito, Kyodo News):
I would like to ask a question about the situation of North Korea. Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth will soon visit Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo in a tour of Asian countries. It has been reported that his aim may be to discuss the recent talks between China and North Korea with top Communist Party official Wang Jiarui. A considerable amount of time has passed since the Six-Party Talks last took place. There have been limited exchanges between China and North Korea, and there has been gradual progress with other relevant countries. How do you view the current situation? Do you feel that there have been gradual realistic developments toward the resumption of the Six-Party Talks or have such developments yet to occur?

Minister:
As Special Envoy Bosworth has said, it is important to handle the situation with patience. We have imposed various sanctions, and these seem to be producing results. The relevant countries, including Japan, have conveyed to the North Korean side that there is no course but to unconditionally return to the Six-Party Talks. It is thus a matter of what the North Korean side decides to do under these circumstances. I think that once they recognize that they absolutely cannot achieve favorable conditions by letting time go by, this will lead to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

8. Sentiments of the People of Okinawa

Question (Ida, Shukan Kinyobi):
I would like to ask a brief question about the sentiments of the people of Okinawa. At a press conference on Friday, February 12 when there were reports on the foreign ministerial meeting between Japan and the Republic of Korea and so on, you said that the one to cause injury is quick to forget, but the one to receive it does not forget easily. I believe that this is a very important idea. The people of Okinawa joined Japan through the process of Ryukyu Shobun (“doing away with Ryukyu”), and they later experienced the Battle of Okinawa, one of the few ground battles of the Pacific War. Since then, they have carried the burden of military bases. I would like to hear your thoughts regarding the sentiments of the people of Okinawa who have experienced these types of situations.

Minister:
When Okinawa was called “Ryukyu”, it of course had various exchanges with Japan. I am currently reading a book entitled “Ryukyu War 1609.” Reading this book, it becomes clear that there have been various exchanges since before the invasion of Ryukyu by the Satsuma Domain. There were also the events that you just mentioned, and Ryukyu went from being an independent country to being under the control of Japan. It was also turned into a battlefield during times of war. Since we are all people of Japan, we should never forget the extremely harsh conditions that the people of Okinawa have experienced. Currently there is the considerable burden of bases. The presence of the US military benefits Japan as a whole, and Japan’s safety is being protected in various ways. The bases also make a significant contribution to the peace and safety of the Asia-Pacific region. Nevertheless, the fact that many of the bases are located in Okinawa means that Okinawa is carrying a large burden. As I said in my foreign policy speech, I believe that it is important to properly convey to the people that Japan’s safety is protected by the presence of the US military. At the same time, it should be conveyed who is carrying the burden for this. There are some Japanese people who think for some reason that our safety is protected naturally, but this is incorrect, and we need to do a better job of communicating the situation.

9. Japan-US Security Guarantee (Deterrence through the Presence of the US Military)

Question (Beppu, NHK):
The topic of deterrence came up, so I would like to ask a question. The safety of Japan is protected by the presence of the US military, and I believe that you said that the deterrent of the US Marines should be present in Japan. I would like to ask a question for clarification. From what threats is deterrence protecting us? Also, in order to more clearly understand deterrence, do you have any clear examples of what we receive from certain things being here and how much the danger grows from certain things not being here?

Minister:
This is a problem that is difficult to describe quantitatively. Besides, there is of course the problem of whether it is right to be vocal about “threats.” Looking at the environment surrounding Japan, however, it is a grim fact that there is a country on the Korean Peninsula that possesses nuclear weapons and missiles. It is also a fact that China’s military strength has been growing every year and its capabilities are increasing. Going forward, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to significantly grow economically, and there are various optimistic and pessimistic views regarding the kind of effect that this will have on the security environment. The fact is that this is a problem that must be kept in mind. When we think about whether Japan alone can respond to problems in such an environment, we have to take into consideration that there are certain limitations to Japan’s defense capabilities. Japan is a country that does not have offensive missiles or aircraft carriers, under Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan therefore handles defense, and the US military fulfills the role of offense. It is of great significance that the existence of deterrent force prevents the occurrence of conflicts before such possibilities actually occur. This is of course not only a military problem. The Marines have a track record in dealing with disasters, and I believe that it can be expected to play a major role in Japan as well as surrounding countries.


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