(* 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, September 17, 2010, 9:40 a.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room
- Opening Remarks
- (1) Foreign Minister’s Resignation
- The Opening of Press Conferences
- Realignment of US Forces in Japan
- Minister Okada’s Idea of Future Major Foreign Affairs Issues
- Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
- Development of Gas Fields in East China Sea
- Vision for Diplomacy by Democratic Party of Japan
- Deepening of Japan-US Alliance
1. Opening Remarks
(1) Foreign Minister’s Resignation
Minister Okada: Due to an unexpected turn of events, I am resigning as foreign minister. I would like to thank you all for helping me out during this time. Although it may be an exaggeration to say that holding regular press conferences twice a week has served as a good occasion for stress release, I have looked forward to these press conferences, as I have been able to listen to various opinions from all of you, and in the process of answering your questions, I have been able to organize my thoughts. It is very regrettable that I will no longer be able to do this as the Foreign Minister.
However, as the Secretary General (of the Democratic Party of Japan) – although my appointment as secretary general is still tentative – press conferences at the party headquarters have traditionally been opened up in the same manner, and I plan to continue this in the future, so you are welcome to come by there occasionally.
I have dealt with various matters as a foreign minister. Such matters as the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as reform of the United Nations Security Council, are policies that I had intended to position as pillars over the next year. I would like to hand them over to my successor. Of course, how to deal with them is up to the decision of the new minister, so I have no intention to say this or that about them. Nevertheless, I would be glad if the new minister takes over them firmly.
What leaves me having regrets is that I have to move on to a new post without having established a firm outlook on the Futenma relocation issue. However, I would still like to be involved in this issue as the Secretary General. In addition, with regard to such matters as negotiations on EPAs, the system of having ministers hold discussions had begun to be established to a great degree, but except for the negotiations with India, the negotiations on EPAs between Japan and other countries, such as South Korea and the EU, are still at the stage of being placed on the table again after being withdrawn once. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to move these forward a little more.
Additionally, what is memorable is the issue of secret agreements, and I believe that a certain level of results was achieved on this. Recently, former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kuriyama published a book through Iwanami Shoten, Publishers. With the lifting of the confidentiality obligation, he has spoken about the secret agreements in considerable detail. I believe that the latest disclosure of material on the secret agreements and relevant reports have served as a trigger toward firmly holding in-depth discussions on one aspect of our postwar diplomacy from here on. Of course, it is also very memorable that we have been able to create rules and relevant systems concerning the disclosure of documents.
In addition, I have tried to go overseas as much as possible and did so to the best of m physical ability, managing to visit 31 countries in 21 trips. Looking back, this seems much less than I expected, but I believe I have done to the best of my ability to go out to the field as much as possible during breaks in Diet sessions. In particular, I visited Afghanistan and Haiti, where the situation is very severe, since having a first-hand experience at the field or not would have made a difference, I am very glad about that, too. A network among foreign ministers was also taking shape considerably, as I had met six or seven times with US Secretary of State Clinton, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan. As for foreign ministers with whom I met two or three times, there is a considerable number of them. We gradually began to recognize our compatibilities, among other things, and build relationships of trust. I feel that it is regrettable to have to move on to a different post just when we could work together on the basis of those things. However, I really enjoyed it, and I believe that it will be an invaluable asset. Many of the foreign ministers are capable persons from whom I feel that I have learned a lot.
The staff members at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have done very well. I would like to sincerely thank all the staff members who worked with the best of intentions in verifying the secret agreements, and in the process, I feel that we were able to build a relationship of trust to a certain degree. Holding discussions within the ministry from the standpoint of how we can make our female staff members find easier to work has greatly impressed me. It has yet to reach a sufficient level to put into practice, but creating an environment in which staff members can work tenaciously is also an important job for the foreign minister, so I would like to have my successor take over this, by all means. At times, I have made strict remarks to the officials, but basically, I think we have been able to hold thorough discussions. I have absolutely no intention of doing things in a top-down manner. My impression was that we developed policies by holding discussions together. We discussed various policies based on the idea of holding discussions from scratch without being tied too much to conventional ways of thinking. I very much looked forward to those discussions, and I feel that the substances of those discussions have deepened. I would like to sincerely thank all the officials who held discussions with me and worked with me.
2. The Opening of Press Conferences
Iwakami, Freelance: You have spearheaded efforts to open up press conferences. Please tell us how you have felt about continuing to hold these press conferences not only with the members of the press club, but with also freelancers and journalists from the Internet media and magazines included. You mentioned a little bit about this earlier in your opening remarks, but I would like you to make further comments in retrospect.
Minister: As I said earlier, I enjoyed these press conferences. I learned a lot, and I would like to thank you for holding discussions from a very broad perspective. I would also like for you to come to the party headquarters, by all means.
Iwakami, Freelance: With regard to the opening of press conferences, I feel that your leadership was a very big factor. While I believe that Mr. Maehara, who probably has tentatively been chosen as your successor, will become the foreign minister, is there a possibility that you may ask your successor to carry on press conferences that have been opened up in this way?
Minister: It has not been decided yet as to who will become my successor. At any rate, it is up to the minister to decide what he wants to do in the end, but I would like to do the turnover properly.
3. Realignment of US Forces in Japan
Yoshinaga, Mainichi Newspapers: This question is in relation to the Futenma issue. During the DPJ administration, past DPJ Secretary-Generals have not been very actively involved in the Futenma issue, but how do you intend to be involved as Secretary-General?
Minister: Policies are determined by the government, so the Secretary-General will not necessarily be involved. This is something that is decided within the government. But of course, we also have Diet members who are from Okinawa in our Party, We also have the party’s Okinawa Prefectural Chapter, and amid the many ways that we are involved with Okinawa, perhaps I should say that I will watch the Futenma issue with great interest. While I do not intend to speak out on policy, I will continue to maintain my interest.
Murao, Yomiuri Shimbun: I have a question relating to the Futenma issue. You just said that you will leave policy to the government, but in November, there will be an election for the governorship of Okinawa, and I believe that for the party as well, the Secretary-General will naturally be responsible for the election. Please tell us your views at the present time regarding how you will handle the Okinawa governor’s election.
Minister: I am not yet the Secretary-General, so I would like to avoid mentioning it during this transitionary period.
Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: You have stated that you want to remain involved in the Futenma issue even after becoming Secretary-General of the DPJ. I would like to ask you again: during the past year, the issue of Futenma has been quite large, and although you may have said in your opening remarks that you had regrets, looking back over the issues that were not resolved, what was it that went wrong? There have been several periods in your own tackling of the Futenma issue, such as merging it with Kadena, but analyzing the present circumstances yourself, please tell us what you think it was that went wrong.
Minister: That is a very difficult question. The feeling of the people of Okinawa is that they want the burden of the military bases to be reduced. I think that it was an extremely difficult issue to deal with, not because Mr. Hatoyama emphasized it, but because what had been suppressed until now welled up and became stronger, partly spurred by the change in administrations. On the other hand, the presence of the US Forces is of course essential for the stability of Japan. This, in result, forced us to deal with an extremely difficult paradoxical problem. There has been much talk on the topic of merging Futenma with Kadena, but as you can see from the transcripts of my press conference, at that time I said that moving Futenma outside the Prefecture was not an option, and I said that it was unfeasible. I then mentioned merging it with Kadena as an example, but all that the media reported was the merger with Kadena. Part of the backlash that we received from the people of Okinawa was backlash against the merger with Kadena, but there was more backlash against my statement that moving Futenma outside the prefecture was not an option. But it really had to be said somewhere that moving it outside the prefecture was not an option, so I said it, expecting that there would be a certain amount of backlash. I think that it was unavoidable. If it had to be said somewhere that outside the prefecture was not an option, then I think that it was unavoidable.
4. Minister Okada’s Idea of Future Major Foreign Affairs Issues
Tanaka, JanJan: As a member of the Internet media, I would like to once again pay my respects to you, Minister Okada, for opening up press conferences here before other government ministries and agencies did so.
From here, I have a question. Please cite several foreign affairs issues that you would have liked to have taken care of at the very least if you were to have remained foreign minister. I would be grateful if you can also tell us the reasons.
Minister: I basically spoke about this earlier, but it is difficult to narrow them (diplomatic matters) down to “at the very least,” since they cover a very wide spectrum. However, I feel that the issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as reform of the UN Security Council, have been the major pillars in terms of multilateral issues. As for bilateral issues, there is the Japan-US (relations)—the deepening of the alliance and the handling of the Futenma issue, particularly because this year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Japan-US security treaty. As for Asian (diplomacy), Japan currently has strained relations with China over that issue in question, but I believe that basically, we have been able to deepen the relationship of trust, so I would have liked to carry out Asian diplomacy in a slightly more dynamic style. As a strategic move in preparation for that, I visited nine countries including Afghanistan over the past month. With that as a basis and since the 21st century is the age of Asia, it has been my basic thinking to secure Japan’s peace and prosperity in the process of bringing peace and prosperity to Asia, and I would have liked to have promoted that in more concrete terms.
5. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
Okada, Chugoku Shimbun: You said earlier that you had wanted to make nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation a major pillar of your tenure. Please tell us your views on the results you have achieved over the past year as Foreign Minister, or what you felt were challenges, and what steps should be taken now in order to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
Minister: I have said this many times before, but in order to aim for a world without nuclear weapons, we must aim for a world with low nuclear risk. My aim has been for a world without nuclear weapons, and the government has also used this phrase as a kind of slogan, but if you look at concrete actions, they have not always necessarily been in line with that aim. What I have said is that we must aim for large future topics, while taking realistic steps. I have urged concrete steps to be taken, while maintaining a clear vision forward. These steps include reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons, and reducing the roles of nuclear weapons. I have been criticized for this, including by the media. They have said that this is unrealistic, or that we will lose nuclear deterrence. On the other hand, some people have said that I have not gone far enough. I think that being in a position where one hears views from both sides is just the right place. But I hope that a route will be firmly established of taking steady and sure steps, with a clear political intention of aiming for a world without nuclear weapons.
6. Development of Gas Fields in East China Sea
Tsuruoka, Asahi Shimbun: It has been reported that the Chinese side has transported drills to the gas fields in the East China Sea. Please describe the facts of the case, and the response of the Japanese side.
Minister: I do not know whether they are drills, but it has been confirmed that a new type of equipment, which has not been transported there before, has been transported. We are currently analyzing and confirming the details of this equipment. Although there are some views that they are drills for production, and drilling has begun, it has not been confirmed that drilling has begun. This was confirmed several days ago, and we asked the Chinese side multiple times to confirm the facts of the case, such as the purpose of the equipment, including at a high level. The Chinese side has explained that they are performing repair work. With regard to this issue, I have told Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in a meeting that if they begin drilling, it would be in violation of our promise, and I have strong expectations that this is not the case.
7. Vision for Diplomacy by Democratic Party of Japan
Noguchi, Nippon Television: You will now become the Secretary-General of the DPJ, but I would like to ask you about the DPJ’s vision for diplomacy. Former Secretary-General Ozawa did such things as visiting China, taking many Diet members with him. Please tell us how you think Party diplomacy should be, in comparison with the diplomatic activities of the government and as (Foreign) Minister, and if you have any plans or intentions, please tell us what they are.
Minister: Speaking frankly, I have not thought that far yet. I think that it is good for the party leaders to go overseas, but since we are the party in power, I think that party diplomacy must be consistent with government policy. I intend to consider the approach we should take carefully, including such things as our vision for Diet members’ leagues.
8. Deepening of Japan-US Alliance
Akiyama, TV Tokyo: You said earlier that if you were to continue as Minister of Foreign Affairs, you would like to work on the issue of deepening the Japan-US alliance. Now, on the threshold of the 50th anniversary of the security treaty, I think that it is necessary to redefine the Japan-US alliance again, but what are your thoughts on this now?
Minister: I would say “deepen” rather than “redefine.” Although I do not think that a redefinition is necessary, but I think that it is vital to deepen it. But this has already been discussed quite thoroughly at senior official levels, so I think that this should now be discussed at the political level. I think that we must have such a discussion in the near future, but at any rate, I am on the way out, so I would like this to be considered under the leadership of the new (Foreign) Minister.
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