(* 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: Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 3:32 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Responses to Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant
  3. Relief Suppliers from Foreign Countries
  4. U.S. Military Realignment Issue
  5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Great East Japan Earthquake

Minister Matsumoto: Yesterday, I dispatched three parliamentary staff of the MOFA, namely, State Secretary Takahashi, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta, and Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga on a day trip to the three disaster-stricken prefectures of the Tohoku region for field investigations. It had to be a self-sustainable trip, and they left Tokyo early in the morning and returned late at night.

State Secretary Takahashi visited Iwate Prefecture, and exchanged views with staff of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, who are involved in aid activities, and staff of the Culture & Activity Fureailand Iwate, where evacuees are accepted, as well as Mayor of Morioka and officials of Iwate Prefectural Police Headquarters. For details, please refer to the handout that has been delivered to you. State Secretary Takahashi reported that new needs have been emerging with the shifting of disaster management phases while a meticulous response to overseas support have been required.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta visited Miyagi Prefecture, and exchanged views with local officials over the activities of an Israeli medical team and a Turkish rescue team. Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta reported that importance should also be attached to medical inspection functions and preventive countermeasures against infectious diseases.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga, exchanged views with officials of Fukushima Prefecture and Tochigi Prefecture, staff of the Nihonmatsu training facility of JICA's Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, the government's local liaison office in Fukushima Prefecture, and Tochigi Prefectural Branch of the Japanese Red Cross Society. He reported to me that there are voices in Fukushima, in particular, requesting measures against groundless rumors overseas. Japan received tremendous cooperation immediately after the earthquake from overseas in the form of support teams or aid supplies, so I would like to make use of the results of the field investigations for our future activities. The details of each report are in the handout distributed to you.

2. Responses to Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant

Noguchi, Nippon Television: I would like to ask you a question about the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) started discharging water that contains radioactive material intentionally into the sea, though the concentration of the radioactive material in the water is reportedly low. Voices of repulsion seem to have come out through the South Korean media. In this connection, please let me confirm whether there were any consultations or agreements with neighboring countries over the discharge of the contaminated water into the sea. First of all, I would like to confirm whether there were any consultations or agreements in advance with neighboring countries.

Minister: You pointed out that the contaminated water was discharged intentionally. As a result, of course, it is true that the water was consequently discharged on purpose. However, please understand first that the arrangement was made as an emergency measure based on a domestic law, namely the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors. In addition, the water does not have a significant adverse influence on human health. Accordingly, I do not think that the arrangement will cause an immediate problem in relation to obligations under international laws. However, with consideration of the necessity for providing the international community with appropriate information voluntarily, the fact of this case was reported to the IAEA. We mentioned the case in the regular briefing of April 4 for the diplomatic corps as well. Besides, we advised the diplomatic corps of the case by a fax message sent from MOFA.

Noguchi, Nippon Television: You mentioned that you made a contact with them. Do you think that the arrangement successfully gained understanding of each country, including neighboring countries, in particular? Moreover, please tell us if there have been any voices of repulsion.

Minister: So far, I have not been aware of any reports on concrete voices over the case. As I said earlier, I asked for their understanding to the arrangement as an emergency measure. In plain words, it would have been better not to do so if it had been unnecessary. I was not in a position to decide on the arrangement. In my understanding, however, the arrangement was made as a necessary measure most probably in consultation with experts as well as the parties concerned with the nuclear accident. I am thinking of the necessity of explaining the matter with the backgrounds clearly to each country and international society.

Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: You just said that you do not think that it will cause an immediate problem relation to obligations under international laws. Does the expression "immediate" connote any significant meaning? In other words, does it mean there is a possibility that a different interpretation may be made by foreign countries, though the Japanese government does not think that the arrangement was problematic, or may I understand that the arrangement was not problematic at all?

Minister: Japan must abide by the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, which requires that a nuclear accident be reported through the IAEA if the accident results or may result in a release of radioactive material that can affect the safety regarding radiation across international borders, and that relevant information be provided for other countries affected. We do not think that the case affects other countries across the border at this stage. Article 3 of the Convention, however, stipulates that States Parties may notify in the event of nuclear accidents other than the above. I think I have explained that we are providing of the international community with explanatory information as much as possible on a voluntary basis.

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: Let me confirm one thing. I would like to know if an inquiry about the case has been made by South Korea through its embassy or any other channel has not been confirmed at the ministerial level.

Minister: To be precise, I have not yet come across a report of any government-level approach over the issue from South Korea. I did not say I still cannot confirm it. I meant I have not yet come across it.

Tsuruoka, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to confirm with you about international treaties, apart from the report obliged by the Convention on Early Notification. I am afraid that the discharge of the contaminated water on purpose yesterday, as you mentioned while ago, may be deemed as a breach of other international laws. For example, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which defines the protection and preservation of the marine environment, provides some obligations. In terms of marine environment protection and preservation under the Convention, does not the intentional discharge of the water cause a problem?

Minister: I presume that you are familiar with the whole of UNCLOS. As a matter of course, every one of us has the general obligation of preventing marine pollution. Based on this premise, each country is to take steps to minimize the discharge of contaminants from all sources of pollution with the best feasible measures used in order to prevent, alleviate, and control marine pollution that may result from the sources of pollution. In my understanding, our colleagues are doing their best now.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: With regard to the discharge of the contaminated water, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), for example, was not informed of the arrangement in advance by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) or TEPCO, according to the MAFF Minister.
You mentioned at yesterday's regular briefing that MOFA had explained the arrangement to the diplomatic corps. Was MOFA informed of the arrangement in advance by the METI or TEPCO? Firstly, I would like to confirm this. Secondly, are you going to continue seeking for each country's understanding in the regular briefing sessions from now on, or are you or ministry officials going to seek for each country's understanding individually? Please advise us of your policy.

Minister: With regard to the latter part of your question, I mentioned here what I have heard about the summary of yesterday's briefing. I received a report that the corps were informed of the plan of the discharge, but I am not sure if there was any conversation that had been particularly notable. However, a further report will have to be most probably made today on what was done and to what extent it was accomplished on site.
As far as I am aware, a briefing has been held almost every day recently, mostly once a day and it is a fact that assignments scheduled or planned immediately after now will be most probably announced in the next and succeeding briefing sessions.
Further arrangements may be made depending on what opinions each country expresses.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: Was MOFA informed of the arrangement in advance yesterday?

Minister: I did not know about the MAFF Minister's press conference, because I was not in a position to get hold of it. However, I understand that the arrangement was decided on a government level, and I would like to continue making efforts toward the elimination of obstacles to the government's vertical administrative structure as one of the goals of the government led by the Democratic Party.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I am sorry to ask you for confirmation again. TEPCO started discharging the contaminated water at 7 pm yesterday. What I want to ask you is what time MOFA's briefing was and whether it was before or after 7 pm. If the briefing started before 7 pm, I would like to know whether TEPCO or Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) informed MOFA of the arrangement.

Minister: The briefing for the diplomatic corps started at 4 pm.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: May I understand that there was a report in advance then?

Minister: In my understanding, the arrangement was made and shared by the government as well as TEPCO and all other parties concerned.

Yamamoto, Sekainippo: I believe that the German Federal Foreign Minister, who visited Japan recently, talked with you over issues regarding the disaster. I remember that most leading German newspapers commented that Japan was doing its best and that evacuees' behaviors were superb right after the disaster. At the end of March, however, the media skeptically wrote that the auxiliary power supply of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant might not have been functioning since before the disaster. I am not sure if the Federal Foreign Minister introduced them such contents. In the meantime, there have been various changes in Germany, such as the defeat of the ruling party in a election. Could we know if he implied such a skeptical tone or theoretical opinion with a connotation that proper arrangements might not have been made before the occurrence of the accident?

Minister: I am not in a position to comment about the domestic political affairs of Germany. At the foreign ministerial meeting, I explained our current arrangements and he offered full-fledged support to both the quake disaster and the nuclear accident.
As I mentioned at the press conference the same day, we talked about the bilateral relationship and international relations. I would like to decline to comment on the further conversation with him from a diplomatic viewpoint.

Yamamoto, Sekainippo: With consideration of such a tone found in the media, I think that it may be necessary for Japan to give a message reiterating that the power plant had been maintained properly or pre-inspected perfectly. What do you think of the government's arrangements to clear up the misunderstanding?

Minister: As a matter of course, there are various regulations for nuclear power and I believe that the plant had been operated in accordance with the regulations. However, I would like to take what you mentioned as a useful suggestion.

3. Relief Suppliers from Foreign Countries

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask you about the situations of relief supplies from foreign countries and your follow up. We have been informed that the governments of various countries have expressed support and offered relief supplies. A number of countries, such as Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia, have expressed that they are ready to send various relief supplies. However, I overheard that overseas support is not making progress as smoothly as expected owing to various problems including those in coordination and acceptance systems in Japan.
I wonder if there is any room at this time for maintaining or improving transportation and acceptance systems in Japan in order to respond to the kind offer of each country. Would you tell us your opinion about this?

Minister: As I mentioned in the report on State Secretary Takahashi, needs vary with each disaster response phase. As far as I remember,  we have been making use of our experience in the past and endeavoring to coordinate the needs with relief supplies as much as possible—we informed what was in need in a timely manner. For example, though the exact items need to be checked we informed that blankets and preserved food were in need recently while boots were in need at comparatively recent stages. In practice, however, we understand from the disaster-stricken areas that there are some relief supplies the total amount of which has been meeting the demand while other relief supplies are still in demand, depending on the kinds of relief supplies though I cannot say exactly what they are at the moment. We would like to make effort to convey such information in an effective way as much as possible.
In fact, I remember that approximately 130 countries offered support or relief supplies, though again you should check the exact figure if necessary, and bout a quarter of the supplies offered have actually arrived while 20% of the further supplies seem to be in transit or in process now. Our action assignment right now is to coordinate more or less 20% of the supplies offered to meet the concrete demand of the disaster-stricken areas.
On the other hand, a little less than half the offers that Japan has received are support in general terms. As I said a while ago, we are now informing them of the exact needs in various ways. If there are further offers, we would like to coordinate the offers with the demand in a concrete way. I think it the best to deliver the kind, precious support offers from abroad in the most effective forms available to the disaster-stricken areas, which, I hope, will please both the people in the area, and the countries offered them.
Then, as you pointed out, we must save time to coordinate the demand with supplies, and arrange to deliver them as quick as possible. Probably, we will notice many points that need improvements one after another while we are actually working on the coordination and delivery. In close contact and cooperation with the stricken areas, we should make improvements one after another. I understand the trip to the stricken area yesterday by the State Secretary, Parliamentary Vice-Minister, and Senior Officials was a part of our arrangements for coordination. In my opinion, it is desirable to make improvements whenever we notice with consideration of reports that we receive so that the accumulation of improvements will make our arrangements perfect.

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a related question. Speaking on a region-to-region basis, Indonesia as chair of ASEAN is very earnestly expressing the importance of support to Japan. We understand that its arrangements are still under coordination and not finalized yet while your meeting is scheduled in Indonesia. I would like to ask you about Indonesia and ASEAN countries' intention to support Japan at the moment and how you are going to work in cooperation with them in the future.

Minister: Japan has been attaching importance to Japan's relations with ASEAN countries. In that sense, I understand that their offer of active support this time is based on the high importance that each ASEAN country attaches to its relations with Japan.
As I mentioned a while ago, I think a reliable relationship between countries will be further developed when the intensions or feelings of the countries are exactly transmitted to each other. It is understood that the realization of relief supplies is more desirable. At the time of concrete realization of relief supplies, however, if the relief supplies dispatched should be not in demand any more, we must feel very sorry for the donating countries. Therefore, we should make careful arrangements.
As a matter of course, difficulties in the coordination of the needs and supplies or transportation of supplies should not be a reason to decline or postpone accepting supports. I have given instructions in this respect, and I believe that each staff member is making effort in accordance with the instructions. I would like to definitely actualize the kindness offered by the foreign countries.
It was a pity that the last ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise (ARFDiREx) took place in the following week of the disaster, and Japan's Self-Defense Forces could not participate. Therefore, I dispatched Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta of MOFA on behalf of the Japanese government. After all, I feel that Japan has been playing a constant leading role in such large-scale disaster relief exercises in the past.
In all senses, the verification of disaster preventive measures will be implemented simultaneously with the restoration and reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas in the future. Unfortunately, ASEAN countries have encountered a number of large-scale disasters that occurred in the East Asian region. Considering this we must further strengthen preparedness for natural disasters. In that respect, I think each ASEAN country will be able to make use of Japan's knowledge and human resources in a wide variety. Therefore, we would like to conduct diplomacy that can contribute internationally in that sense.

4. U.S. Military Realignment Issue

Nakaima, Ryukyu Shimpo: I have a question about the Japan-US Status-of-Forces Agreement. With regard to a revision of the regional agreements, you responded in the National Security Committee's meeting in the morning that it is a pressing issue and you intend to review the matter with consideration of the progress of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station. Would you please tell us the reason the development of the Futenma issue should be taken into consideration for the revision of the regional agreements?

Minister: I do not know how to explain, but I do not think that the revision directly link with the development of the Futenma issue. I mentioned to the effect that we should consider the issue earnestly from the viewpoint of the Japan-US relations in a broad sense. I hope you will understand that I meant that the relocation issue of the Futenma Air Station is also a pressing issue.

5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

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