(* 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: Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 3:00 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Attendance at the UN General Assembly Session
  2. North Korean Affairs (Meeting of Representatives of the Workers’ Party of Korea)
  3. Prime Minister's Attendance at the ASEM
  4. Collision with Japanese Patrol Vessels by a Chinese Fishing Trawler near Senkaku Islands
  5. Visit by Russian President Medvedev to Northern Territories
  6. Reform of the UN Security Council
  7. US Military Realignment Issue
  8. Dalai Lama's Visit to Japan
  9. Arrival in Japan of Refugees Accepted for Third-country Resettlement
  10. Japan-China Relations

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Attendance at the UN General Assembly Session

Minister Maehara: I have one announcement.
   Although it was immediately after my inauguration, I attended the UN General Assembly Session in New York, where in the end, I attended 19 bilateral meetings and 11 multilateral meetings. It is not easy to visit foreign countries to directly meet with the foreign ministers there or have them come to Japan. Amid this situation, I was able to meet with many foreign ministers from among the 192 UN member countries, if multilateral meetings are included, and some of them have agreed to speak over the telephone, so I feel very glad about that. During the multilateral meetings – while former Foreign Minister Okada has paved the way for this – there emerged a group to firmly take the initiative and make efforts with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as a conference to once again strive for reforming the UN Security Council and cooperate in continuing to make efforts. I feel very glad that such a situation has developed. I intend to continue making efforts to this end in the future.

2. North Korean Affairs (Meeting of Representatives of the Workers’ Party of Korea)

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: In North Korea, a meeting of the Representatives of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) is currently under way. Prior to that, a man believed to be the third son of General Secretary Kim Jong Il – Kim Jong Un – has assumed an important post in the military. Please tell us how you have analyzed developments in North Korea with regard to the process of establishing a successor regime and how Japan intends to respond to that.

Minister: I have heard reports that six persons including Mr. Kim Jong Un and Ms. Kim Kyong-hui, who is Mr. Kim Jong Il’s younger sister and the wife of Jang Song Thaek, have been conferred the title of the “general.” While it was reported at two o’clock that Mr. Kim Jong Il has been recommended to be reappointed as the General Secretary (of the WPK), we would like to conduct various in-depth analyses upon carefully discerning what kind of post Mr. Kim Jong Un will now assume.

Yoshioka, Jiji Press: In connection with the matter at hand, it is not clear yet as to what post Mr. Kim Jong Un will assume, but at this stage, how do you assess whether this will have a positive or negative effect on Japan?

Minister: I would like to refrain from making clear statements since it has yet to be decided. At any rate, regardless of what kind of post he will assume, he has been conferred the title of a general, so there is no mistake that this is a clear expression of intention. We would like to carefully observe moves within North Korea in that sense.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: What expectations do you hold with regard to the North Korean nuclear issue amid this process of transition to a new leadership?

Minister: The position of the Government of Japan is that unless the nuclear, missile, and abduction issues are resolved, the premise for the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea based on the Pyongyang Declaration will not be in place. While we plan to closely observe what kind of leadership will now be established, we basically intend to aim at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we have the Six-Party Talks as one of the frameworks for that. However, there was the incident involving the South Korean patrol ship “Cheonan,” in which 46 soldiers were killed. Since North Korea has not admitted (its responsibility), I believe that from the standpoint of valuing cooperation among Japan, the United States, and South Korea, we must determine how to respond, not taking the Cheonan incident lightly and working with South Korea, although North Korea has somewhat indicated a forward-looking attitude regarding the Six-Party Talks.
   In the United States, I conducted various situational analyses and exchanged views, but amid this situation, we would like to closely watch what kind of leadership will take shape at the Meeting of the Representatives of the WPK and whether there would be a subsequent change in the power structure within North Korea. Moreover, since our policy remains steady with regard to our ultimate goal of the resolution of the nuclear, missile, and abduction issues, we would like to respond by firmly collaborating with the relevant countries.

Kubota, Sankei Shimbun: Now that Mr. Kim Jong Un’s name has come out, I think that a transition toward a post-Kim Jong Il regime has begun for the first time. Please tell us what kind of significance this post-Kim Jong Il move has with regard to Japan-North Korea relations.

Minister: We are currently analyzing various information, and since we believe that (Japan-North Korea relations) will be substantially affected not only by the fact that Mr. Kim Jong Un has clearly been conferred the title of general, but also by what kind of post he will assume, we would like to closely watch upcoming developments at the Meeting of the Representatives of the WPK.

3. Prime Minister's Attendance at the ASEM

Hanamura, TV Asahi: Prime Minister Kan is to attend the upcoming ASEM conference. Please tell us the significance or the objective of the fact that at this stage, the Prime Minister turned around and decided to attend the conference and whether the Government of Japan intends to call for a Japan-China summit meeting.

Minister: I believe that the Democratic Party of Japan, for its part, had discussions held among the top government officials with regard to the schedule of the Diet, as well as bills and treaties to be submitted, including the possibility of a supplementary budget. Amid this situation, Prime Minister Kan had wanted to attend the ASEM as much as possible, and I had also heard that in the event that he would not be able to go, Japan would have to send a very high-level government representative. I am very glad that understanding was gained from the Diet and the Prime Minister himself would be able to go. I think that it is all very fine for the Prime Minister to speak at an international conference and thoroughly explain Japan’s position on matters including the latest incident with China. As for calling for a (Japan-China) summit meeting, we are currently not taking such action. My impression at the moment is that it is quite difficult to set up (such a meeting).

4. Collision with Japanese Patrol Vessels by a Chinese Fishing Trawler near Senkaku Islands

Iwakami, Freelance: There was a press conference earlier with the Minister of Justice, which I attended. When we asked the Minister about the seizure of the Chinese fishing trawler, the release of the trawler’s captain, and other topics, he answered the journalist’s question, and provided an explanation. He said that the Naha Public Prosecutor’s Office performed the seizure and arrest, and when deciding whether to release the captain, after receiving a briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they decided to release him in consideration of a diplomatic perspective. How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explain this matter?
  Also, regarding this decision, we were told that until now, it has been the sole decision of the prosecution. Could you please explain a little what kind of influence the Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerted, and what actual views the government handed down or communicated?

Minister: It is a fact that Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel provided a briefing at the request of the prosecution. But as it was reported to me, this briefing was about factual matters relating to the historical background of Senkaku, and the current case, such as a series of actions by the Chinese side. For example, I was told that they provided a briefing including not such matters as the future shape of Japanese-Chinese relations overall, but such matters as what the current reaction of the Chinese side was. It is my understanding that the prosecution made its decision with a grounding in these facts.

Iwakami, Freelance: When this incident occurred, you were the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. I have heard that at that time, you received a report of this. At that time, there may have been the option of dealing with the incident by seizing the boat, or by letting it go free. But I have information, or you may say a conjecture, or you may say it has been leaked to me, that you were firmly decided that the boat should be seized. Could you please comment on this point in your own words?

Minister: When this incident occurred, I was Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which has jurisdiction over the Japan Coast Guard. When the Japan Coast Guard briefed me on this incident, I also saw the video. Before this incident, Chinese and Taiwanese fishing trawlers had been operating in these waters fairly frequently and they sometimes enter Japanese territorial waters, in part because there is good fishing there. Also, since I have become a Diet member, I had opportunities to observe the area on a Japan Coast Guard’s fixed-wing aircraft for three times, and on each of those three occasions, the weather was very good, and we were able to view Coast Guard ships chasing out fishing boats. Therefore, Chinese and Taiwanese fishing trawlers have been operating in these fishing grounds on a daily basis. Although I do not remember the figures exactly, there have been more than 10 cases of boarding such trawlers for inspection since the beginning of 2010. But with regard to this incident, from what can be seen on the video, the Chinese fishing trawler rammed the Japan Coast Guard’s patrol vessel. Additionally, given the fact that there is an extremely high likelihood that this was intentional, the decision was made at the site that this constituted obstruction of the execution of official duty. This was a comprehensive decision amid an incident with a maliciousness that we have not before seen.

Iwakami, Freelance: Did you make take part in that decision personally?

Minister: The Japan Coast Guard has the final authority to make arrests, not the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. I was the Minister in charge (of the Coast Guard), and from what I could see in the video, I thought that it was a malicious incident, and I told this view to the Japan Coast Guard.

Kamide, Freelance: There have been various debates over how far politics should figure in the decisions of prosecutors. I believe that there have been various debates over whether your briefing was inconsistent with the separation of the three branches of power. Although the government may have had no choice but to exercise its will at this stage, what is your view of this point? People in the Liberal Democratic Party have been saying that they should have been expelled from the country, and Mr. Tanigaki said that he would have done so at an earlier stage. There have been many views, but please tell us how you view this.

Minister: As I recall, the past case that Party President Tanigaki is said to have mentioned was a case of violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee-Recognition Law. In other words, it was a case of illegally landing on the Senkaku Islands, and then being expelled from the country. This was a case of obstruction of the execution of official duty, or in other words, it was a malicious incident whereby a Chinese fishing trawler rammed a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, and I do not think that it is appropriate to compare them.

Ida, Shukan Kinyobi: You earlier called this an “incident with a maliciousness that we have not before seen.” In other words, how did you analyze and consider the background behind these unprecedented actions by the other side? I think that this will change your future handling or response, so please tell us about that.

Minister: The response was a decision of the prosecutor’s office, so I will not comment on that. As I also responded to questions at the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councilors today, those waters are under the jurisdiction of the Japan Coast Guard, in jurisdiction area 11. I believe that I have been to jurisdiction area 11 a fair number of times, and I have been to the local Ishigaki Coast Guard Office twice. There, I spent the evening listening to Coast Guard personnel tell me over drinks about various past incidents, and their day-to-day activities. What I heard during these discussions was that they are good fishing grounds, and amid circumstances where various aspects of fishing change according to the ocean temperature and the like, (foreign boats) enter our territorial waters there frequently. Until now, we have thoroughly expelled any such incursions. Amid these circumstances, in the present case, the trawler’s captain crashed into our ship intentionally, In this sense, the gut reaction of Coast Guard personnel who have seen these process for a long time must be that rather than whether the action was intentional or planned, that among the many fishing trawlers that have entered those waters, the reaction of this trawler was the most horrible. This is what I understood after hearing the report of the incident. Consequently, I cannot say that the probability that it was an intentional act is zero. Although I cannot say it is zero, it is my understanding that the probability is low.

Koyama, freelance: The other day, Secretary of State Clinton said that the Japan-United States Security Treaty applied to the Senkaku Islands. On that same day, a spokesman from the State Department said the United States would not take a clear stance on the issue of sovereignty over Senkaku. It is my impression that it is contradictory to say that the Japan-United States Security Treaty applies when it is not known who has sovereignty, but how does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs interpret these two statements?

Minister: This is what the Government of the United States has always been saying. I believe that in English they used the word “sovereignty,” and it will not comment on that. But Japan has administrative authority over the Senkaku Islands, and she was saying that Article Five of the Japan-United States Security Treaty applies to territories under the administrative authority of Japan. Consequently, it is my understanding that she was saying that Japan has administrative authority over the Senkaku Islands, and that if an event in Article Five were to occur, the US Forces would take action based on that.

Koyama, freelance: Does the fact that it is an issue of Article Five mean that in the event of an invasion of Japan, or in other words, in case of territorial dispute, the United States believes that the Japan-United States Security Treaty does not apply?

Minister: I do not understand the meaning of your question.

Koyama, freelance: Article Five applies to cases of invasion of Japan. Does this mean that the Japan-United States Security Treaty would not apply in the case of a territorial dispute, if China were to move to take the Senkaku Islands only?

Minister: The Senkaku Islands are under our administrative authority. Since they are under our administrative authority, it means that Article Five applies. I therefore believe that if an event in Article Five were to occur, the United States would act in accordance with the Japan-US Security Treaty.

Yamamoto, Sekainippo: You have just mentioned that since the Senkaku Islands are under Japan’s administrative authority, then the security treaty applies. Now, it is being newly communicated that many vessels from the Chinese side, although I do not remember what type, have been seen approaching. When you were the party leader (of the DPJ), you said, “Without deterrence, there can be no effective dialogue or engagement over the issue of these remote islands, including the Senkaku Islands. It is vital to show a firm and resolute intention to protect Japan’s interests, including ensuring our air and sea mastery.” Based on this statement, do you intend to take any further measures in order to place Senkaku firmly under Japan’s administrative authority?

Minister: There are no territorial issues in the East China Sea. The Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory including from a historical viewpoint, and we exercise effective control over them, and we will firmly retain this policy.

5. Visit by Russian President Medvedev to Northern Territories

Inatsuka, Hokkaido Shimbun: It was reported that the Russian President will be visiting the Northern Territories. Have you obtained any new information on this?

Minister: This was a report by the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper. I have seen this report. I am not aware of any plans for a visit such as the one you mention at this time.

Kawasaki, Yomiuri Shimbun: Can I understand by your statement that there is no visit planned at this time, that you confirmed this with Russia via diplomatic channels, and that was the response you received?

Minister: I would like to refrain from mentioning the details of exchanges with the Russian side.

6. Reform of the UN Security Council

Noguchi, Nippon Television: I would like to ask you a question concerning UN Security Council reform. You went to the UN General Assembly Session, and I believe the G4 Foreign Ministers’ meeting was also held. Please tell us what kind of approach you intend to take with regard to this reform of the UN Security Council and also the details of the foreign ministers’ meeting.

Minister: Needless to say, the G4 refers to Japan, Brazil, Germany, and India. The foreign ministers of the four countries held talks, with me allowed to serve as the chair. The Foreign Minister of Brazil first said that it (reform of the UNSC) will not be all that easy and we cannot be optimistic.
   However, there also were comments that not taking any action would be unacceptable. Since this (reform of the UNSC) is an issue that would be taken up at the UN General Assembly Session, it would require at least two-thirds of the 192 member countries to vote in favor (for the reform to take place). If they unite, the largest single group of countries (in the UN) would be the African Union, the AU. Therefore, the Foreign Minister of Brazil presented a proposal concerning how we should move in the future to solicit the support of the AU, citing the names of a number of specific countries. In addition, the Foreign Minister of Germany commented that President Sarkozy of France endorses the G4’s thinking and suggested looking into various possibilities including Mr. Sarkozy. Like the Foreign Minister of Brazil, the Foreign Minister of India also said that he did not have such an optimistic outlook. However, he indicated that in the process of taking some kind of action, we should carefully watch the reactions (of other countries) and think about how to create a movement – at least give it a try. We decided that by talking with various foreign ministers, we would explore their thinking, and the four of us would meet once again between December and February – although that is a rather broad time frame – and bring together our reviews of our activities and share among the four. Although I feel that the outlook is rather difficult, our first meeting concluded with our agreement that each country should take action based on its own thinking – what I mean by own thinking here is the thinking of the G4 – and upon observing the reactions, we would share relevant information.

7. US Military Realignment Issue

Nakaima, Ryukyu Shimpo: I would like to ask a question concerning the Futenma issue. At the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly session today, Governor Nakaima clearly stated that he intends to call for the relocation of the Futenma base to a site outside the prefecture. While the Governor has so far said that “relocation within the prefecture would be extremely difficult,” he has not in particular taken a clear position regarding relocation to outside the prefecture. I believe that during the time you served as the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, you met with the Governor a number of times and in the process of talking with him, you observed all the anguish he has been going through over this issue. Please tell us how you interpret this change in the Governor’s statement.

Minister: I have always been saying this, but I have to apologize to Okinawa for two reasons. I must apologize over the fact that ever since Okinawa’s reversion in 1972, 75% of all the areas for (US military base) facilities have been concentrated in Okinawa, which accounts for only 0.6% of Japan’s total land area, thereby forcing on Okinawa the excessive burden of military bases under the Japan-US alliance. The other reason is that before the previous general election, we spoke about relocating Futenma to a site at least outside the prefecture and outside the country if possible, but in the end, we arrived at the decision of relocation to Henoko. Therefore, I believe that we must apologize to the people of Okinawa for these two reasons. Amid this situation, we made Governor Nakaima go through a lot of trouble, and I believe that he has been anguished. We intend to somehow gain Okinawa’s understanding by persistently and thoroughly explaining that as it was confirmed at the latest Japan-US foreign ministers’ meeting and between Prime Minister Kan and President Obama that we would firmly implement the Japan-US agreement of May 28, the relocation of Futenma to Henoko would lead to the return of military bases located south of Kadena and definitely lead to an overall reduction of Okinawa’s burden.

8. Dalai Lama's Visit to Japan

Shimada, Freelance: It has been rumored that the Dalai Lama will be visiting Japan. Is there a possibility of or a scheduled arrangement for his coming in contact with high-ranking government officials, cabinet ministers, or those related to the imperial family?

Minister: I do not know about the other people, but I have not received a request for a meeting.

9. Arrival in Japan of Refugees Accepted for Third-country Resettlement

Murase, TBS: I have a question about third-country resettlement for Myanmar refugees. Japan has accepted third-country resettlement for the first time. Please tell us about the significance of this, and how you will handle future issues.

Minister: Regarding this issue, I think that as we are having them come from Myanmar to Japan, we must provide proper support. Firstly, over the next approximately 180 days, the Government intends to provide comprehensive resettlement support, including Japanese-language education, guidance on life in Japan, and job referrals. After that, I believe that they are expected to lead an independent life in their local communities. This time, of the 27 family members, the arrival to Japan of 9 people from 2 families will be delayed due to family health issues. Various countries are also focused on this, so in order to make this first case end in success, we intend to ensure that the programs I just mentioned are carried out steadily, and provide national-government support for those coming to Japan to resettle in this country.

Nishinaka, Freelance: The number of refugees that have been accepted is extremely small, at just 90 people over three years. The support readiness is also currently being handled by different related agencies, and so far there has been almost no collaboration with Karen people living in Japan. Although I believe that this is being handled entirely by the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, what kind of collaboration will they be carrying out? Also, there are many refugees who have fled to Japan on their own; please tell us if you have any plans for how to handle the refugee program overall.

Minister: Since we are to accept the refugees, I think that we have the responsibility to support their settlement. Over the next three years, we will be accepting roughly 30 people per year, so it will be vital to create success stories by resettling the refugees over the 180 days of the government program of Japanese-language training, guidance on life in Japan, and job referrals. Beyond that, we must create success stories, and I think that it will be a process of trial and error. In this process of trial and error, I think that it will be vital to provide compassionate and sympathetic support, offering advice while listening to what they have to say. Rather than think too far into the future, I intend to put all my efforts into providing proper support for the 30 people per year in the current decision.

10. Japan-China Relations

Nanao, Nico Nico Douga: I would like to read a question on behalf of our listeners. With regard to diplomacy between Japan and China in the future, I feel that the latest collision incident has revealed differences in the way that Japan and China think. In comparison to Japan, China has actively made statements and taken actions, and depending on how you look at it, I think that its strategy has become rather clear. Can we hold expectations that the gathering of such data will become beneficial in building strategic, mutually beneficial relations with China in the future?

Minister: I believe that you are talking about the differences between the way that China releases information and the way that Japan releases information. This time, we have basically been saying that there exist no territorial issues in the East China Sea and that the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory. We charged (the trawler’s captain) with obstruction of official duty based on domestic laws and handled this matter on the basis of domestic laws, but they are saying that the islands are their territory. I believe that we should not get up on this stage. I believe that Japan’s position would be to go on asserting straightforwardly and solemnly that there exist no territorial issues in the East China Sea, that regardless of how you look at them, the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory from a historical viewpoint, and that we will continue exercising effective control over them.
   Meanwhile, I have given instructions to provide explanations including the series of measures that China has taken this time, as well as what this incident was all about, through our overseas diplomatic missions abroad and embassies in Tokyo. I believe that it was important for me to explain to the world at the latest UN General Assembly Session, the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the Japan-US foreign ministers’ meeting in New York what the latest incident was all about and how China responded to that. I believe that the world is paying attention to the series of actions that China has taken this time.

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