(* 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 Takeaki Matsumoto

Date: Friday, April 1, 2011, 4:45 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake
    • (2) Visit to Japan by Federal Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle of the Federal Republic of Germany
    • (3) Diplomatic Bluebook
  2. Japan's Response to the Import-related Measures of Foreign Countries and Regions after the Nuclear Power Plant Accident
  3. Takeshima Issue (School Textbook Screening)
  4. Domestic Affairs
  5. Disclosure and Announcement of Information Related to the Nuclear Power Plant

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake

Minister Matsumoto: With regard to the (Tohoku-Pacific Ocean) Earthquake, while the State Secretary already explained several points on the import-related measures of foreign countries and regions, I would like to reiterate. Regarding the import-related measures on food products from Japan imposed by foreign countries in response to the nuclear accident, the MOFA has been gathering information through the overseas establishments of Japan while providing foreign embassies and international organizations located in Tokyo of information with an explanation. In the meantime, as State Secretary mentioned, we are approaching countries that seems to be taking excessive measures for corrective actions. In this regard, I called the ministries and agencies concerned to hold a meeting at a state secretary level on March 31 (yesterday) chaired by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama. I understand that the participants reached an agreement at the meeting to work together in conjunction. As Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama already stated in the briefing on that occasion, origin certification is one of the measures considered, and I understand that the ministries concerned are making preparations for the same. As for the measures of each country, the MOFA has given instructions to the overseas establishments for investigations. The ministries and agencies concerned in consultation with the MOFA have been providing each industry and party concerned with the results of the investigations from time to time. We are planning to post the measures of major countries on the MOFA's website within a day or two. The MOFA will continue providing each country with sufficient information on the latest state of the nuclear power plant, and work in close cooperation with the ministries and agencies concerned in order to prevent excessive reactions or unreasonable import bans taken overseas. A number of foreign embassies in Tokyo were closed after the disaster, which reopened one after another. I understand that there are 14 embassies presently closed.

(2) Visit to Japan by Federal Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle of the Federal Republic of Germany

Minister: Federal Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle of the Federal Republic of Germany will visit Japan on April 2 (tomorrow), and I am expecting to hold talks. I understand that he is visiting Japan to express Germany's solidarity and support for Japan in response to the occurrence of the earthquake, and I look forward to meeting him for fruitful talks. Japan and Germany commemorates the 150th anniversary of exchanges this year, and I think it is a good opportunity to deepen the friendly relationship between the two countries. As a matter of course, I would like to explain our responses for the earthquake and countermeasures taken against the accident of the nuclear power plant.

(3) Diplomatic Bluebook

Minister: I have distributed a gist of the diplomatic bluebook at the cabinet meeting today. As is well known, the bluebook explains Japan's diplomatic endeavor with consideration of the international affairs in 2010.

2. Japan's Response to the Import-related Measures of Foreign Countries and Regions after the Nuclear Power Plant Accident

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask you a couple of questions about the import-related restrictions that you mentioned first in your opening remarks. First of all, you explained Japan's arrangements for countries that seem to be taking "excessive measures." Are there any clear governmental guidelines that specify what actions are excessive and unreasonable? If yes, could you indicate the government's concrete definition of excessive or unreasonable actions?
Secondly, I would like to confirm if a considerable loss has been observed as a result of such measures that seem unreasonable. I am not asking you about specific data, but would like to know whether you have the impression that an actual loss has been resulted from such excessive measures.
Furthermore, I would like to know as much as possible for what corrective actions the Japanese government is specifically asking them.

Minister: As you know, there are international standards that every country should follow and each country is required to clearly indicate internationally a scientific basis (for its restrictions on imports). In this regard, as I mentioned that the government is gathering information in each country, I think it is an important task to make a query about what actions are taken along with the specific standards and grounds for the actions. I understand that necessary representations have already been made to some countries based on the information that we already obtained. I gave a brief explanation about the latest development on the government's arrangements for origin certification a while ago. Each country has taken different measures, ranging from a suspension of imports to a requirement for the attachment of various certificates. We have been working on each individual case and making specific claims as much as possible, and we will continue to do so.
With regard to the actual loss or consequence that you inquired about, I cannot give you an exact figure at the moment because it is not available. Rescue and relief operations have continued in the disaster-stricken areas along with victim support activities, to which the first priority must be given. In the meantime, we must advance the restoration and reconstruction of the areas as well, for which it goes without saying that the Japan's overall economic activity must make progress. From that standpoint, we have been making arrangements to respond properly to such import-related measures taken by foreign countries.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: You mentioned that necessary proposals have already been made to some countries. I would like to know what specific representations have been made and which countries they are.

Minister: I cannot say the details of each individual representations. During the previous Japan-China-ROK talks, however, I requested that China indicate clear standards for its import-related measures. The arrangements include Japan's request for the clarification of the contents and purposes of such import-related measures. In my understanding, the representations include not only the request of clarification but that of correction to such import-related measures.

3. Takeshima Issue (School Textbook Screening)

Inada, NHK: I would like to ask about school textbook screening. As a result of the recent screening, most geography and civics textbooks describe that Takeshima is a inherent territory of Japan, to which the South Korean side including its President is showing discomfort. I understand that you met South Korean Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun today. Please tell us what kind of request you received from the Ambassador and of what Japan's position you informed him. Furthermore, please tell us your opinion of South Korea's reaction to the description of the textbooks.

Minister: I recognize that the Ambassador expressed the South Korean government's standpoint. The Ambassador also mentioned that matured Korean citizens think that support to the victims of the earthquake disaster is a different matter, and the Ambassador shares the opinion. Firstly, I informed him that we were not able to accept South Korea's protest, because Japanese government's standpoint to Takeshima is consistent. In addition, our standpoint to school textbook screening is consistent.
Secondly, I requested that South Korea act from a comprehensive point of view because we recognize that Japan's relations with South Korea as a neighboring country are very important.
Thirdly, I expressed our gratitude for the South Korean government of its support to the disaster-stricken areas and that we are delighted to receive their kindness.

Inada, NHK: As a matter of course, young people will have the same perception as it is mentioned in school textbooks. I think that there is a consensus that Japan-ROK relations should be reviewed for betterment. However, the gap of perception between Japan-ROK has continued. What do you think Japan should do to terminate the exchange of protests?

Minister: First of all, we have a major premise that the Japanese government's standpoint on Takeshima is consistent. I must explain the circumstances based on the major premise. I do not think there is an immediate and concrete measure against the unfortunate protest. From my position, that holds responsibility in foreign affairs, I would like to state that we should make persistent efforts to urge South Korean people to understand the Japanese standpoint.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I have a related question. When the government guidelines for education described Takeshima as a territory of Japan in 2008, South Korea took a strong attitude of protest including a temporary return of the Ambassador. When we see the Korean media now, it seems that the media's attitude is a little restrained compared with that in those days. If there is a difference between the media's attitude in 2008 and that at present, could you give us your opinion about what the difference is and what the reason for the difference is?

Minister: We received a protest directly from the Ambassador today, which means that the South Korean government expressed its standpoint. I do not think that I am in a position to evaluate the response of the South Korean media. Therefore, I do not think I have anything to say about the difference between the media's attitude in 2008 and that at present.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Let me ask you a further question. Have Japan's relations with South Korea been making progress for betterment from those in 2008? South Korea thinks that it separates the territorial issue from the earthquake disaster. Do you think that the separation of them indicates any maturity of the bilateral relations between the two countries?

Minister: As I reiterated while ago, we maintain our standpoint consistently. As I said, we recognize that Japan's relations with South Korea as a neighboring nation are very important. Both countries have their own recognitions, and I do not think it proper to evaluate one-sidedly that the relations are making progress. However, it is favorable if both countries can show any progress.

Asaka, Freelance: I would like to ask you about the Takeshima issue. You answered the question of Mr. Sato, member of the House of Councilors, that South Korea "occupies Takeshima with no legal basis." You did not use the term "illegal occupation." Since the Democratic Party came to power, no foreign ministers used this term. I mean Mr. Okada or Mr. Maehara did not use the term "illegal occupation." Is this a message handed over from the former minister?
I have another related question. You said the Japanese government's standpoint to Takeshima is consistent. Does it mean that Japan's standpoint has been consistent? When the LDP was in power, the Japanese government used the term "illegal occupation." Therefore, I wonder if what you said means that the standpoint of the Democratic Party as ruling party is consistent.

Minister: I do not remember precisely, but I do not think that the uses the term "illegal occupation" is somehow related to the LDP or the  Democratic Party. I thought by myself that it is appropriate to say that South Korea "occupies Takeshima with no legal basis."
It is true that I was handed over the office from the former foreign minister in all aspects and have been in charge since then. However, please understand that I have been using the expression at my own discretion since I took over the responsibility of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question related to Takeshima. You are aware of the South Korean public opinion. According to the major media of South Korea, South Korean people are saying that they are now trying their best to support Japanese people who suffered from the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake in the hope of improving South Korea's relations with Japan, but they are upset with Japan's attitude to the territorial issue.
Although I will not ask for your comment to each media report, I think you are aware of their strong tone. I understand that you see South Korea's assistance to the quake-stricken people and Japan's principle standpoint to the Takeshima issue as two different matters. Will you please explain the Japanese government's standpoint to the South Korean people and the South Korean people's feelings and thoughts to the Japanese people more clearly? I would like to know how you separate their idea of assistance from the Takeshima issue. In other words, I would like to know how you separate them and respond to the people of South Korea. Will you please tell us your stance in these points?

Minister: It is true that the media would cover various stories. In my recognition, the Ambassador, who answered our invitation today, expressed the South Korean government's standpoint on Takeshima, and at the same time, he expressed his views on assistance. My answer to him was what I mentioned a while ago.
In that sense, I have been mentioning that our standpoint on the Takeshima issue is consistent. I have been mentioning as well that the relationship between Japan and South Korea is very important. Moreover, we appreciate South Korea for its assistance to the earthquake disaster this time. There are many South Korean nationals who suffered this time in the disaster-stricken areas. We must send our deep and abiding sympathy and prayers to the South Korean victims and their families. We should support and rescue the South Korean victims as well as the Japanese victims and have been making arrangements accordingly. I would like to have understandings on such arrangements.

4. Domestic Affairs

Hashimoto, Kyodo News: The idea of grand coalition seems to be emerging in the government and the ruling party. I would like to ask you about that.
Prime Minister Kan asked LDP President Tanigaki to join the Cabinet but Mr. Tanigaki declined. I would like to ask you what you think about his declination. I think that it would be easier for the people to understand the government's arrangement if opposition leaders join the Cabinet from the viewpoint of bipartisan corporation to the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas. What do you think about it?

Minister: I remember that I was asked of a similar question at that time. Support to the disaster-stricken areas and the restoration and reconstruction of the areas should be conducted as a national mission of Japan by all means. We also feel that the voice of the people demands cooperation in the realm of politics.
As you mentioned, a bipartisan cooperation could take a wide variety of forms; a joint crises-response meeting of the ruling and opposition parties is one of the forms. It could be one of the forms to participate in the Cabinet and act with a responsible commitment as well. The most important thing is our decision on what to do and how to accomplish it. We have many challenges that we must overcome for the rescue, restoration, and reconstruction of the areas. Our arrangements, as a matter of course, include a need for the Diet's support in terms of legislation.
I think that the prompt realization of policies as a result is the most important thing. We do not deny that there are choices in a wide variety of forms. However, as I understand that the opposition parties are willing to cooperate with us in the restoration and reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas on a number of occasions, I would like to have both the ruling and opposition parties discuss and decide the best concrete arrangements from the viewpoint of presenting policy effects in the quickest way.

5. Disclosure and Announcement of Information Related to the Nuclear Power Plant

Nanao, Nico Nico Douga: You explained the situation of the nuclear accident in your opening remarks. The disclosure of obviously belated or incorrect information on the accident of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant can lead to Japan's loss of confidence from the international community. Furthermore, such information can result in harmful rumors.
While there is still no concrete prospect of settling the nuclear accident, there will be a possibility that harmful rumors and a negative outlook for Japan's environmental status in foreign countries may continue for a long period. How are you going to deal specifically with these risks?

Minister: I think it our duty to provide accurate explanations as much as possible through this kind of press conference. With regard to your comment, however, we do not think that we are so belated in the sense of providing actual information. As you mentioned, it is true that striking a balance between the accuracy and promptness of delivering information is essential. From the viewpoint of the situation on the ground, however, the repeated confirmation of information will increase the accuracy of the information but it will take time as well.
I think the accident needs to be examined from every angle in due time, including the provision of information. I think all parties concerned including me, people on site, and those who hold press briefing are making every effort to confirm and provide information in a manner and situation that seemed to be the best.
I think at least incorrect information has been corrected promptly. I would appreciate it if you could accurately convey our attitude including what I have just mentioned.
There were several press reports yesterday on the IAEA's assessment of radioactivity. I saw the IAEA's announcement and confirmed what kind of expression was used. The announcement expressed that a sample was obtained, and reported that the IAEA was still in the stage of assessment with a need for a more precise investigation. I think that the contents of the IAEA's announcement are very consistent with the government's current response. Therefore, I would rather like to inform the people that the government in cooperation with the international organization continues to verify and confirm data mutually in due course.

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