(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Seiji Maehara

Date: Friday, September 17, 2010, 11:15 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Inaugural Greeting
  2. Japan-China Relations
  3. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
  4. United Nations Security Council Reform
  5. Realignment of US Forces in Japan
  6. Minister Maehara’s Outlook on Foreign Relations
  7. Takeshima Issue
  8. The Northern Territories Issue

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Inaugural Greeting

Minister Maehara: Thank you for coming here at this late hour. I spoke about my aspirations earlier at the Prime Minister’s Office, but I would like to tell all of you in a little more detail about what kind of written instructions I received from Prime Minister Kan.
   The written instructions from Prime Minister Kan were as follows: “Deepen the Japan-US alliance in a way that befits the 21st century. Promptly advance necessary efforts by working together with relevant ministers regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station and the reduction of the burden of military bases in Okinawa on the basis of the Japan-US agreement and the Cabinet decision of May 28, 2010. Devote all efforts toward the resolution of various issues such as nuclear disarmament, elimination of nuclear weapons, United Nations peacekeeping operations, and liberalization of trade and investment, including FTAs and EPAs, with a view to realizing peace and prosperity under international cooperation. Enhance partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region with a robust Japan-US alliance as a foundation and aim at the creation of an East Asian community in the future. Take all possible measures to ensure the success of the APEC summit to be held in Yokohama. Provide active support for reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan, etc. and for overcoming poverty in order to eliminate the threat of terrorism. Pour every effort toward the resolution of the North Korean nuclear, missile, and abduction issues. Promote global warming countermeasures under the initiative of the entire government and work together particularly with the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry so that Japan can play a leading, international role.”
   As I mentioned during my earlier press conference, I indeed would like to firmly carry out what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is capable of doing regarding how to develop the Japanese economy, while dealing with foregoing issues. I would like to promote diplomacy with economic diplomacy at the core. I would like to thoroughly carry out activities that contribute to the Japanese economy in various ways such as promoting EPAs and FTAs, promoting resources or food diplomacy, promoting export of infrastructures, and expanding exchange of tourism with foreign countries. Meanwhile, unless the foundation of the security of Japan is solid, the fundamentals, including investments into the country would collapse, so in that sense, I think that it is very important to create conditions under which economic activities can be firmly carried out upon firmly establishing the foundation of the security of Japan by further strengthening the Japan-US alliance.

2. Japan-China Relations

Mizushima, Jiji Press: This appeared during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office, but you said during the time when you served as the president of the Democratic Party of Japan that “China is a real threat.” I would like to make a confirmation regarding this point; is China currently still a real threat?

Minister: As I mentioned during my earlier press conference, China has accomplished remarkable economic development. It is a neighboring country with a population of more than 1.3 billion that has achieved economic development at an annual growth rate of approximately 10%. Taking into consideration the three major constraining factors, namely the diminishing Japanese population, declining birth rate and an aging population, and the huge budget deficits, I think that it is very important for the Japanese economy to firmly establish good economic relations with growing Asia, including China and emerging countries. In that sense, I believe that it is extremely important to promote mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests with China. Meanwhile, China has increased its military spending at an annual rate of more than 10% for the past two decades. In addition, in reports by the Pentagon and others, it has been pointed out that the total amount of military spending that China has publicized may not include all that it has spent. We are concerned about the purpose of its increasing military spending by such a large amount. In any case, we would like China to erase such concerns that various countries feel and firmly fulfill its accountability in order to establish win-win relationships with other countries. For Japan, China is also a valuable neighbor, and we would like to build mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. That is how I feel.

Komurata, Asahi Shimbun: In relation to China, it is said that the Chinese Government is increasingly repulsed at the Japanese Government’s handling of the Senkaku Islands collision incident. I feel that the Chinese Government is reacting in a very unusual way, with Ambassador Niwa being summoned five times. Meanwhile, progress has recently been made in gas field talks. Please tell us how you perceive the current situation and how you intend to deal with the matter.

Minister: There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty in the East China Sea. In that sense, the Senkaku Islands are an inherent territory of Japan, and there would be no problem if this were a case of an innocent passage within our territorial waters. However, the Chinese fishing boat was engaging in fishing there and violated laws against obstructing the execution of official duties by ramming into Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels. Therefore, it is natural for the Government of Japan to duly carry on relevant procedures in accordance with domestic law. In consideration of such points, we would like for China to make a calm response. You mentioned earlier that Ambassador Niwa was summoned five times, but the fact is that he was summoned three times – the other two times, he went to lodge a protest.
   With regard to the gas field issue, the Chinese side, for example, as former Foreign Minister Okada has mentioned during his press conferences, has transported equipment which has never been employed (to the gas field). However, the Chinese side has responded that it was doing repair work, rather than drilling operations. We intend to thoroughly confirm the facts, and in that sense, we hope that China will steadily carry through with joint development of the gas field, on which the two countries have agreed so far.

Komurata, Asahi Shimbun: At a press conference held the other day, former US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage commented on the series of reactions of the Chinese Government, saying: “China is testing Japan. They are testing what they can get away with by doing various things while Japan-US relations are chilled.” How do you feel about that?

Minister: I do not feel that Japan-US relations have chilled, and we held that there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty in the East China Sea. (The Chinese fishing boat) that conducted operations in our territorial waters rammed into our Coast Guard’s patrol vessels, which tried to expel it, resulting in the violation of the execution of official duties. We are merely duly responding to that in accordance with domestic law. Since Japan is a country under the rule of law, we will duly respond in accordance with domestic law.

Higa, Kyodo News: With regard to the gas field, the Chinese side has reportedly explained that (equipment has been transported) for repair work, but if the Government of Japan later confirms that drilling is being conducted or production has started, has it thought of any countermeasures in that case?

Minister: That is a hypothetical question, but I believe that if some kind of evidence were confirmed, Japan will take necessary measures.

Tsuruoka, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask a question regarding “concerns toward China” mentioned earlier. Are you currently not taking the position that this is a threat that consists of intentions and capabilities?

Minister: As I replied earlier, China’s defense spending has grown by an annual rate of more than 10% for the last two decades – I believe that over the past two decades, China’s defense spending has perhaps increased to approximately 19 times the initial figure. We are concerned why they have increased defense spending by such a huge amount. I believe I also mentioned this earlier, but in reports by a British think tank and the Pentagon of the United States, it has been said that China’s defense spending may be more than the figure it has released. Therefore, we would like China to provide thorough explanations.

Komurata, Asahi Shimbun: In relation to the gas field, a deputy spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on the 17th, saying: “China has complete sovereignty and jurisdiction over this gas field. Chinese activities are perfectly legal.” Please tell us your views on this.

Minister: What we have confirmed through diplomatic channel is that the explanation by the Chinese side is that they “have transported equipment, but they were doing repair work.” Therefore, at the moment, that is their explanation. On the other hand, we intend to watch what kind of operations will be conducted in the future.

3. Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: I have a question about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Former Foreign Minister Okada had advocated a meeting of foreign ministers of non-nuclear-armed states on the occasion of the General Assembly of the United Nations next week, and I have been told that more than 10 countries have already agreed to this. In what form will you carry on the meeting of foreign ministers, and what results will you aim for?

Minister: I am aware that my predecessor, Minister Okada, worked actively on this topic and devoted a great deal of energy to it. Of course, this is an important issue, and I intend to work on it sharing the intentions of Minister Okada and the idea of the meeting he was aiming for and solidly carry on his goals.

4. United Nations Security Council Reform

Noguchi, Nippon Television: If Minister Okada were to have remained Foreign Minister, he had two diplomatic tasks he planned to designate as pillars in the future. One is about nuclear disarmament that was just mentioned, and the other is about reform of the United Nations Security Council. Please tell us your views on whether you intend to carry on this UN Security Council reform as Minister Okada’s will and on the reality of the fact that UNSC reform, in other words, means Japan’s gaining a permanent seat in the UNSC.

Minister: Japan has attempted UNSC reform in the past, but it has been a difficult challenge. This time, following my inauguration as Foreign Minister today, I will attend the UN General Assembly session from the 21st to the 26th and hold various bilateral meetings or participate in conferences. One of those conferences will be the G4 meeting. During this G4 meeting, I believe that we will review what we did in our previous efforts to achieve UNSC reform, and although I think it will be difficult – but nothing will happen if we give up just because it will be difficult – I think that we will discuss the contents of our plans to cooperate on matters that we can thoroughly cooperate. At any rate, just as in the case of nuclear disarmament mentioned earlier, I intend to thoroughly ask Minister Okada during the transition briefing on his thoughts regarding UNSC reform and whether he had anything up his sleeves with regard to achieving UNSC reform.

5. Realignment of US Forces in Japan

Iwakami: I would like to ask about the Futenma issue. Earlier, Mr. Richard Armitage spoke about China in a lecture during his visit to Japan. I am told that he also spoke of China about the Futenma issue. He indicated his judgment that if a candidate for governor opposed to the relocation of Futenma were elected in the November elections for the Governor of Okinawa, the relocation would become impossible. I have been told that the United States has exhibited a flexible attitude, so that even if a complete relocation is not possible, it will do the second-best thing, even if it means a partial relocation. Given the current flexibility being shown by the United States, shall I say, what are your views on this?

Minister: I know Mr. Armitage well. He was the Deputy Secretary of State during the first term of the Bush administration, and I have spoken with him many times before that, and after he left his post as well, but he is not currently a member of the government. Actually, I was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs today, and I have not yet spoken with people currently inside the US Government, so in this sense, I think that I will need to gain a solid feel for the approach of the United States in our discussions moving forward.
What I think now, however, is that the United States will probably ask us to respect the agreement between Japan and the United States, and ensure that it is carried out. Now we made an agreement. I would like to apologize to the people of Okinawa for having imposed an excessive burden of bases there up to now. At the same time, during the time of the Hatoyama Cabinet, we said it would be outside the Prefecture at least, and outside the country if possible, and it has returned to Henoko, so I would like to apologize in this sense as well. I am committed to gaining the understanding of Okinawa, while maintaining accountability.

Takimoto, Ryukyu Shimpo: This is in relation to the Futenma issue. Regarding the significance of the change of administrations, it is said that the lack of strategic thinking and management have dispersed the hopes of the Japanese people. Truly, with regard to the relocation of Futenma Air Station, when the DPJ was an opposition party, and you were the Chair of the Special Committee on Okinawa and Northern Problems, you said in an interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo that the plans to relocate Futenma Air Station to Henoko or to Camp Schwab were impossible. You said that it would be impossible in terms of the environment to landfill the beautiful shore. The idea of relocating it to Henoko, within the pretecture, itself lacked strategic thinking and also had managerial problems, and I think these explain why the relocation had not made any progress for 14 years. In that sense now that things returned to where started, and considering the current situation in which public opinion is increasingly opposed to this relocation, I think that it will be impossible in practical terms, please again tell us your views on the Japan-US agreement now, including the spirit of the statements you have made in the past.

Minister: All of us in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), including Mr. Hatoyama, had the aim of relocating Futenma Air Station outside the prefecture or the country, if possible, when we were an opposition party. But when we actually took over the government, we found that it was extremely difficult, and in the end of the Hatoyama administration, this resulted in the relocation destination for Futenma to return to Henoko. I do not deny the anger at the fact that we raised the expectations of the people of Okinawa, and despite these raised expectations, the result has been a return to Henoko. But it is after various procedure – as the minister in charge of Okinawa issues  I watched the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and Chief Cabinet Secretary, working on this issue – that we ultimately made the bitter decision of returning to Henoko. Based on this, we made an agreement between Japan and the United States, and the panel of experts decided on a certain direction for moving forward at the end of August. Based on this agreement between Japan and the United States, I think that we must apologize to the people of Okinawa for these twists and turns, while at the same time, responding with all sincerity in order to somehow gain the acceptance of the people of Okinawa, and gain their understanding that we are fully committed to reducing the burden of the bases, and that we are committed in both word and deed to reducing the total burden on the people of Okinawa.

6. Minister Maehara’s Outlook on Foreign Relations

Nanao, Niconico Video: Earlier, there was talk of carrying on the intentions of former Minister Okada. This may have already been mentioned earlier at the press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office, but this is being relayed now on our network, so I would like to ask you again your intentions in continuing in the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Minister: There is a phrase that I am fond of: “There are no friends or enemies in diplomacy, only national interests.” This is a quote by the Secretary General Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union, but I think that it is true that any country must think of its own national interests in diplomacy. Now, of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of foreign policy in general, but when I think about why there was a change of government, I think that the Liberal Democratic Party lacked a strategic perspective, and things had stalled, and the desire for this to be changed was received by the DPJ. With such a low rate of childbirth, why have no measures been taken to mitigate it? And the rapidly aging society is shaking the foundations of our social security – medical care, pensions, and nursing care. We are also burdened by a massive fiscal deficit that would make any company or individual bankrupt. In other words, I think that this lack of a strategic perspective and lack of management took away the ability of the Japanese people as a whole to have hope for the future, and I think that this was the reason for the change in government. So if you then ask what is demanded of the DPJ administration now, I think that it is to do our utmost to rebuild the economy. Consequently, I think that it is vital to conduct diplomacy in a way that somehow strengthens our economy. I am no Marxist, but I think that he was correct in calling the economy the substructure. I think that if the substructure is not sound, we will also not succeed in international politics, and our diplomatic negotiations with other countries will not go well. In this sense, I think that rebuilding the economy will be a major pillar of my time in this post. Consequently, I intend to make economic diplomacy a core of my policy: negotiations over EPAs and FTAs; resource and food diplomacy; the export of Japan’s infrastructure, etc.; increasing Japan’s wealth by increasing tourism and exchange; increasing the ripple effects on employment and the economy; and conducting diplomacy in order to strengthen the Japanese economy from a wide range of perspectives, these will be the core components of my diplomacy.

7. Takeshima Issue

Asaka, Freelance: I have a question about the Takeshima issue. The government’s view is that Takeshima is being illegally occupied by South Korea, but former Minister Okada did not use the words “illegal occupation.” What are your views on this?

Minister: Japan has taken a consistent stance on the sovereignty over Takeshima. We will continue to focus persistent diplomatic efforts on the peaceful resolution of the Takeshima issue.

Asaka, Freelance: Will you not use the words, “illegal occupation?”

Minister: It is as I have just answered.

8. The Northern Territories Issue

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: This is a continuation of my earlier question concerning the Northern Territories. I am fully aware of your desire to resolve the Northern Territories issue, and last year, when you were the minister in charge of Okinawa and the Northern Territories Affairs, you said clearly that we should continually state that Russia was illegally occupying the Northern Territories. Can we understand that your view remains unchanged that it is necessary to repeatedly state that it is an illegal occupation?

Minister: The view of the Government that the Northern Territories are an inherent territory of Japan, and that it must be returned at the earliest possible date, remains completely unchanged, and I intend to work for this thoroughly as Minister in charge.

Shimada, Hokkaido Shimbun: May we interpret your statement that (“this must be stated repeatedly”) as meaning that you will continue to state it?

Minister: I am afraid I am repeating myself, but the Northern Territories are an inherent territory of Japan, and I intend to work for their return as Minister in charge.

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