(* 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 Koichiro Gemba

Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 10:52 a.m.
Place: In front of Ministerial Reception Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to the United States
    • (2) Visit to Southeast Asia
    • (3) The 8th WTO Ministerial Conference
  2. Prime Minister’s Visit to the United States
  3. TPP
  4. Attacking on Coast Guard officers of the Republic of Korea by Chinese Fisherman
  5. Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to the United States

Minister Gemba: I am visiting Washington D.C. from Sunday, December 18 to Wednesday, December 21 on the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In addition to holding a foreign-ministerial talk with the secretary of state on Monday, December 19 local time, I will be meeting some U.S. government officials and key figures including U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for an exchange of opinions.
I hope that the upcoming Japan-U.S. foreign ministerial talk will help enhance our personal relationship of trust through a frank exchange of views on bilateral issues including security, economy and cultural and personal exchanges, as well as the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and other global issues.

(2) Visit to Southeast Asia

Minister Gemba: Upon receiving the Cabinet approval, I will be visiting Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia from Sunday, December 25 to Thursday, December 29. In Myanmar, I will pay a courtesy visit to President Thein Sein and meet with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and other key figures to assist the country with its democratization and national reconciliation efforts.
In Thailand, which was recently stricken by the flood, I will meet with high-ranking government officials to exchange views on bilateral co-operation. I will visit the industrial park damaged by the flood as well.
In Cambodia, which will assume the presidency of the next year’s ASEAN meeting, I will have an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni, pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hun Sen and meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

(3) The 8th WTO Ministerial Conference

Minister Gemba: The 8th WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Geneva from Thursday, December 15 to Saturday, December 17. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Joe Nakano will be visiting Geneva to attend this conference. Ministers from 153 member countries will gather at this biannual conference, which is the top decision making body of WTO, to discuss or make decisions on Russia’s accession to WTO as well as how to advance the stalled Doha Round.
Parliamentary Vice-Minister Nakano is also expected to exchange views with the ministers attending the conference and other concerned parties on wide ranging themes related to international affairs and trade.

2. Prime Minister’s Visit to the United States

Hanamura, TV Asahi: My question is about Prime Minister’s visit to the U.S. It appears that he is making arrangements for the earliest possible visit. Could you tell us when this will be? There has been a report by the media that the originally scheduled visit in January is likely to be postponed.

Minister Gemba: It is not that we have set a certain date for the visit or have been making arrangements for it. I think the visit by the Prime Minister should be timed in a way that is most convenient for both countries and most conducive to producing a result.

3. TPP

Hanamura, TV Asahi: With regard to TPP, I understand that the cross-departmental teams have been inaugurated at last. It has been said all along that the MOFA is supplying less information than it should. How do you intend to proceed with this issue under the new system?

Minister Gemba: I am fully aware that providing information is part of the responsibility of the MOFA. However, among the three teams that have been inaugurated, I understand that there is a team dedicated to providing information which reports to the Minister of State for National Policy. We will see to it that information is supplied to the public in an organized and easy-to-understand manner. There is no need to hide information. At the same time, however, there will be certain type of information that we may not be able to release right away in consideration of the relationship with other countries. As for the information that can be disclosed, we will make efforts to provide it for the public in an organized and understandable form.

Ikegawa, NHK: I believe that you were already collecting information in Malaysia over the weekend. How was the result and how do you feel about it?

Minister Gemba: I received briefing by Ambassador Katayama today on this matter. To put it simply, I think we are still halfway through. In this sense, we need to keep gathering information thoroughly and to supply information as deemed appropriate. At the same time, it will also be necessary to hold elaborate bilateral talks before proceeding with the negotiation.

Ikegawa, NHK: Regarding the bilateral meeting and prior consultation, the arrangement with the United States has been published in the official gazette. How do you foresee the possibility of initiating such prior consultation by the end of this year?

Minister Gemba: I think that will depend on what you mean by prior consultation. As you said, the U.S. used to have legislation called TPA which is expired. The U.S. is a country where trade authority lies in Congress. In that regard, we have a 90-day timeline to think about. Unless we make prior consultations with the Congress before the required 90-day-prior-notification is done, it will be difficult to ensure a smooth deliberation. Therefore, I think that such an arrangement that you just mentioned will be necessary. It is again the matter of how you define prior consultation, but I think it is quite possible that we initiate such arrangement by the end of this year.

4. Attacking on Coast Guard officers of the Republic of Korea by Chinese Fisherman

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: A coast guard of the Republic of Korea has been stabbed to death by the captain of a Chinese fishing boat, and so far there has been no apologies from the Chinese government. What do you think of this incident?

Minister Gemba: It is difficult for me to comment on this matter until I am fully informed of the situation, such as if the incident took place within the EEZ (exclusive economic zone). If it is made clear that there has been an apparent violation of law, then it is natural to assume that the case is brought to the court in the Republic of Korea. There are several things that we need to consider here, for example,  when it happened and whether it took place within or beyond the EEZ. In fact, there have been frequent conflicts between the Republic of Korea and China during so far. Especially, the incident which occurred in December last year was a serious one, although Republic of Korea ended up releasing those who had been arrested. I think it is a matter that we need to keep watching closely.

5. Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan

Kamizawa, Nikkei Shimbun: There has been a report that the U.S. Congress reached an agreement to cut the entire funding for the planned relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam from the annual spending bill for fiscal 2012. Do you think it will affect the Futenma air base relocation issue?

Minister Gemba: I am aware of the report. I also understand that the U.S. Senate and the Congress have different views on this matter. The Senate passed the bill that practically cuts the entire budget for relocating the U.S. base to Guam. At the governmental level, however, Japan and the U.S. have both confirmed our commitment to relocating the U.S. base to Guam at several occasions. I think that the U.S. government will again express its commitment to the U.S. base relocation to Guam.

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