(* 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 8, 2011, 4:46 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Minister Matsumoto's attendance at Special ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
    • (2) Visit to Japan by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia and Mr. Tim Mathieson
  2. Japan-US Relations
  3. Japan-India Nuclear Agreement
  4. Great East Japan Earthquake
  5. ODA Budget Cut
  6. South Korean Senior Official's Remarks on Japan's Arrangements for Nuclear Power Plant Accident
  7. Visit to Japan by the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Minister Matsumoto's attendance at Special ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Minister Matsumoto: I will attend the Special ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta tomorrow. This meeting is proposed by Indonesia, the chair of ASEAN, and I think it is very significant as it shows ASEAN's support to Japan and the strong and special solidarity between Japan and ASEAN.
 At the meeting, I will express our gratitude to the solidarity shown and the joint support of ASEAN member states. At the same time, I would like to clearly inform them of our present efforts regarding the disaster and discuss future cooperation between Japan and ASEAN including in the field of disaster prevention.

(2) Visit to Japan by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia and Mr. Tim Mathieson

Minister: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Mr. Tim Mathieson will pay an Official Working Visit to Japan from Wednesday, April 20 to Saturday, April 23.
 During their stay in Japan, Prime Minister Gillard and Mr. Mathieson will be received in audience by their Majesties the Emperor and Empress on Thursday, April 21. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Gillard.
 I would like to welcome their visit, as it will lead to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between Japan and Australia.

2. Japan-US Relations

Saito, Kyodo News: With comprehensive consideration of the circumstances surrounding the present Japan-US relations and remedial arrangements for the earthquake disaster, what is the most desirable period of holding the 2+2 Meeting? I would like to hear your frank view. In addition, please tell us the desired period of Prime Minister Kan's visit to the United States.

Minister: Speaking from a diplomatic viewpoint, in order to indicate that Japan and the United States have a solid relationship, that the cooperation between Japan and the United States is making progress in a variety of ways, and that Japan-US relations remain very significant in the future as, I think that the 2+2 Meeting should be held at an early date. As for the Prime Minister's visit to the United States, with consideration of his diplomatic calendars along with the importance of the relationship between Japan and the United States as I mentioned, it is desirable to hold the 2+2 Meeting at a right time. Practically speaking, four ministers should attend the 2+2 Meeting. Actually, however, no 2+2 Meetings have been held with the attendance of four ministers for the last four years, which may have suggested the difficulty of coordinating the schedules of four ministers. However, I firmly believe that it is important for all the four ministers to attend the 2+2 Meeting this particular time, and I think all parties concerned with Japan-US relations probably share the same idea.
Meanwhile, Japan must continue to make good remedial arrangements for the unprecedented earthquake disaster. With comprehensive consideration, we would like to decide the schedule as early as possible.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I presume that you discussed the matter with the Defense Minister today. Defense Minister Kitazawa denoted at a news conference this morning that it would be a little difficult for him to leave Japan at the moment. I think that the Minister indicated the difficulty of holding the 2+2 Meeting during the consecutive holidays in Japan. I would like to hear your opinion as Foreign Minister. Please tell us what you think of holding the 2+2 Meeting during the consecutive holidays.

Minister: I cannot discuss specific dates right now. As a matter of course, in the situations where 100,000 SDF personnel are mobilized, I understand what’s in Minister Kitazawa’mind. As you mentioned, I had a talk with Minister Kitazawa today. I believe we share the perception that the Prime Minister's visit should be made at an appropriate time, the 2+2 Meeting should be held before the Prime Minister's visit to the United States, and the four ministers should attend the 2+2 Meeting, though we know that it is not easy for the four ministers to be on the same table. I think we must think of a certain arrangement with consideration of these matters.

3. Japan-India Nuclear Agreement

Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask you about Japan-India relations.
Indian Foreign Secretary Rao is now visiting Japan. I understand that you will meet the Foreign Secretary and have secretarial-level talks. I believe that the Japan-India Nuclear Agreement, which is under negotiation, will be a topic in the talks as a matter of course. I would like to know what kind of standpoint or view of Japan you are going to inform India this time after the disaster. Would you tell us about that?

Minister: Of course, the reinforcement of nuclear safety must be made worldwide. I think that Japan should seriously discuss the reinforcement of nuclear safety with each country utilizing nuclear energy and that we should reach an agreement that is acceptable to both governments as well as the peoples of both countries. The main purpose of the agreement for the transfer of material and equipment technologies is the peaceful use of them within the legal framework of Japan. At the time of individual cooperation or discussions about the additional reinforcement of safety, our arrangements should be made with experts in the field involved. As far as the negotiation for the Japan-India Nuclear Agreement is concerned, I believe that India wants to advance the talks on the premises that we basically share the same recognition that a certain legal framework for the peaceful use of the technologies is necessary.

4. Great East Japan Earthquake

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: According to a media report from South Korea, Japan informed South Korea approximately 50 minutes after the large-scale aftershock last night that the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant had no abnormal condition. The report evaluated that the information was shared quickly. However, there is a little question how the Japanese government grasped the event in as short as 50 minutes late at night. Please tell us at what stage Japan informed South Korea of the event and what content it was.

Minister: I was awake and watching TV at the time of the aftershock. As you are well aware, certain on-site information on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was provided at a very early stage through the media.
As I mentioned here before, the balance between the prompt provision of information and the carefulness in confirming the authenticity of the information is rather difficult. With consideration of the relationship between Japan and Korea in the past, I understand that the parties concerned are making effort to provide South Korea of certain information promptly after they obtained it.

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: Again, I would like to confirm with you the facts from South Korean
reports. According to one of the reports, a Japan-Korea meeting of experts will be held next week in order to discuss countermeasures against the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Another report says that a joint statement on cooperation in nuclear safety will be signed at the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit in May. I would like to confirm these two points with you.

Minister: I am not aware of the entire schedule, but I would like to welcome experts' discussions from the viewpoint of provision of information and higher transparency.
Scheduling and time adjustments will be necessary as a matter of course, but I do not have concrete information that I can provide in response to your question. However, I think it very meaningful and necessary for experts to discuss together.
As for the documentation at the Summit, as you pointed out, we started a Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministerial Meeting in March to strengthen our cooperation in the field of nuclear safety in the hope of contributing to some fruitful results of the Summit. However, at this moment, I am not aware of any documentation or other arrangement finalized.

5. ODA Budget Cut

Inada, NHK: In the aftermath of the Earthquake, over 130 countries expressed their will of offering assistance to Japan. Many people point out that it reflects Japan's ODA. On the other hand, I understand that Secretary General Okada informed MOFA of a 20% cut in ODA to secure the budget for the disaster recovery.
A 20% cut is rather a big reduction though it is for the sake of disaster recovery. Please tell us your opinion about the large-scale reduction of ODA.

Minister: As far as I know, Secretary General Okada stated at the press conference that a certain reduction for a limited period of one year might be acceptable. Furthermore, I am told that Secretary General Okada explained about the reduction to officials who visited Secretary General Okada for a explanatory meeting. The party or the government has not made a final decision, I expect that we will have a discussion before that.
Having said that, I would like to argue several points. First, assessed contributions and ODA are subject to the conditions of each fiscal year. A sizable portion of ODA has been appropriated from the supplementary budget of the fiscal year in the past, and I think we need a careful discussion before deciding on the amount of reduction based on the main budget.
Not a small portion of the main budget consists of items including contribution in personnel that have been continuously provided every year. Unlike cutting additional supplementary budget items, slashing the items that are continuous in nature can have not a small impact. Depending on the size and nature of the reduction, we should expect no small repercussions.
I do not think the countries support us because we have been giving support through ODA. I do not think we should take their support as a repayment for what Japan have paid. I take that they are supporting Japan as a reliable and friendly nation as a result of Japan's support to these countries including ODA, contribution in personnel, and diplomatic efforts. At the same time, we definitely want to restore and reconstruct the disaster-stricken areas. I think many countries expect that Japan will prosper at least as much or more than before in cooperation with other countries.
In this sense, as I mentioned a while ago, I would like to avoid ruining Japan's past contribution  as much as possible.

6. South Korean Senior Official's Remarks on Japan's Arrangements for Nuclear Power Plant Accident

Saito, Kyodo News: Yesterday, South Korean Prime Minister Kim clearly stated that Japan was incompetent with regard to Japan's response to the nuclear accident. Firstly, please let us know what you think of the Prime Minister’s remark. Secondly, it seems that this remark is probably the manifestation of the South Koreans' distrust of Japan's arrangements for the nuclear accident. What arrangements do you think Japan should take in order to dispel this distrust?

Minister: Judging from the course of his discussion, it is controversial if the Prime Minister meant it. With consideration of the good relationship between Japan and South Korea, however, we are aware that the South Korean government is raising an important question whether a prior detailed explanation or better procedure or step was possible before discharging the contaminated water,  however imminent it was. Although a prompt decision and action within a very limited time are necessary and will be necessary for the restoration of the Nuclear Power Plant in a sense, it is the Japanese government's basic policy to make further efforts to gain the neighboring countries' understanding as much as possible. While the South Korean government is raising the question, I do not think the Prime Minister’s comment as a remark of the (South Korean) people nor Prime Minister (Kim) expressing that the Japanese government or Japan is incompetent. You can take that we have confirmed this from the South Korean government.

7. Visit to Japan by the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia

Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask a question about the visit of Australian Prime Minister Gillard to Japan. I think Japan-Australia relations have various issues. What kind of discussions do you expect? I think that people expect the progress in negotiations over Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement(EPA). Please tell us what discussion is expected.

Minister: We think that Japan-Australia relations are very important from the viewpoint of politics as well as security and economy. As you know, the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Japan and Australia is under deliberation in the Diet. I remember that Australia has provided us with transport aircraft service as its support to the disaster-stricken areas.
In that sense, Japan and Australia have a wide range of cooperative relations. As a matter of course, as you mentioned, the relations include Japan-Australia economic relations. Australia is an important supplier of resources. Australia has a great merit of exporting natural resources to Japan. The Japan-Australia EPA is still under negotiation but we would like to make every effort toward the fruitful conclusion of the negotiation from the viewpoint of deepening Japan-Australia economic relations in a broad sense. I should refrain from singling out a specific topic from our cooperative relationship in a broader sense, but it is one of the themes considered among possible discussions.

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