(* 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 12, 2011, 5:35 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to Japan of H.E. Amb. Antônio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil
    • (2) Visit to Japan of the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States
  2. Japan-China Relations
  3. Japan-US Relations
  4. Great East Japan Earthquake
  5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
  6. Realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to Japan of H.E. Amb. Antônio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Minister Matsumoto: His Excellency Amb. Antônio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil, will visit Japan on Saturday, April 16. The visit will take place based on his wishes to express condolences and solidarity to Japan upon the Great East Japan Earthquake. During his stay in Japan, the Minister and I are scheduled to hold a meeting and a joint press conference. We would like to exchange views on the disaster and others.

(2) Visit to Japan of the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States

Minister: As already announced, the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, will visit Japan on Sunday, April 17. A courtesy call to  Prime Minister Kan is scheduled during her stay, and I will hold a meeting with her as well. I have met with the Secretary of State on the occasion of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. This time, I understand that the Secretary of State wishes to visit Japan to show the solidarity of the United States with Japan, and we would like to cordially welcome her visit. I would like to exchange opinions over the bilateral relations of Japan and the United States including the cooperation between Japan and the United States in the context of the earthquake, and the deepening of the Japan-US Alliance.

2. Japan-China Relations

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: According to some media reports, you are scheduled to visit China in May, prior to the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit. Are you actually planning to do so?

Minister: I was surprised to know that "my schedule has been already fixed" when I read the newspaper. As I have been reiterating, China, which is separated from Japan only by a narrow strip of water, is an important neighbor. Since I was appointed Foreign Minister, I would like to visit China one day. Currently, however, I am not aware of any fixed schedule.

Saito, Kyodo News: I heard that you had a teleconference with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao a while ago. Could you explain what kind of conversations you had along with the significance of the teleconference this time?

Minister: Prime Minister Kan expressed his gratitude to China's sympathy, encouragement, and assistance aids to the earthquake disaster. He explained the situation of the disaster including the current condition of the Nuclear Power Plant and aid to  his Chinese counterpart that the Cabinet would continue to provide information with the maximum transparency. In addition, I understand that both parties agreed to deepen the relationship between Japan and China this year, when China commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, followed by the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China next year.
The cooperation  in the fields of disaster prevention, nuclear power, nuclear safety, and environmental conservation are the themes that we discussed at the Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministries’ Meeting as well. Furthermore, I am aware that we reached an agreement to endeavor jointly to make the East China Sea a sea of peaceful cooperation and friendship and steadily accumulate the tangible results of further reinforced cultural and personnel exchanges.

Saito, Kyodo News: Does what you mentioned imply that high-level Japan-China-ROK exchanges have not been started yet? Beyond the factual status you mentioned earlier, could you tell us around what time you wish to visit China, provided that your schedule permits? Furthermore, could you tell us about your hope or intention for the Prime Minister's summit-level exchanges?

Minister: Japan will host the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit this year, and we are responsible for fixing the schedule. As I mentioned a while ago, I would like to visit China at an early date. In the meantime, I understand that it is the Prime Minister's turn to visit China this year, and we must decide on the schedule. As you are well aware, however, the Diet is in session now. What is more, we must respond to the great earthquake, since which is passed one month yesterday, and one month and a day today. Taking all these into account, it is about time the Japanese government and MOFA thought of the schedule for the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit in more concrete terms. Unfortunately, however, we cannot talk about a concrete schedule with exact dates at the moment.

3. Japan-US Relations

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I have a more or less related question about a diplomatic schedule. I believe that you talked with the Minister of Defense at the Prime Minister's Office and the Diet this morning and afternoon over the 2+2 Meeting or the Prime Minister's visit to the United States. Please tell us about the results of the discussion.

Minister: Various media reports covered the 2+2 Meeting as a topic recently, and I remember that I had an opportunity to talk about the next 2+2 Meeting the other day. With consideration of Japan-US relations, I have been thinking of holding the 2+2 Meeting as soon as possible, and I believe that the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet agree on this basic idea.
I believe that it will be the first 2+2 Meeting attended by four Ministers in four years. In my understanding, we agree that it is important for all the four ministers to attend the 2+2 Meeting this particular time. As we often find in newspaper articles, it is true that Golden Week is a period that will allow us to work smoothly and provide a number of days that we can use comparatively with ease. We have been continuously making adjustments to decide on specific dates.
However, we should consider how soon Defense Minister Kitazawa will be available, for he is in charge of sending 100,000 self-defense forces (SDF) members to the disaster-stricken area right now. Although his schedule depends on where the 2+2 Meeting will be held, he will have to make preparations quickly to leave Japan if the 2+2 Meeting is held in the United States. We discussed and organized the matter including his schedule today.
As a matter of course, Minister Kitazawa cannot leave Japan at present. We agreed that we cannot say for sure that the Minister would be able to leave Japan during Golden Week, which is three weeks ahead of now. Accordingly, we would like to hold the 2+2 Meeting at an early date after the holiday period, and we must continue to make adjustments.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said this afternoon that the Prime Minister's visit to the United States in the first half of this year would remain unchanged. Although we will have to make specific adjustments from now on, I understand that our basic idea will not change.

Nagai, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: We understand that details of the relocation of the U.S. military base from Futenma will be discussed in the next 2+2 Meeting. Please tell us whether you are thinking of visiting Okinawa to ask for Okinawan people's understanding and how you are going to ask for their understanding.

Minister: I think we will have to discuss various matters including what to discuss at the next 2+2 Meeting. With regard to Okinawa's Futenma base issue, we would like to implement the May 28 agreement of last year. It is our position to explain it sincerely to the people of Okinawa and make efforts to gain their understandings. It may be one of our choices to visit Okinawa as you mentioned. While all the members of the government are working together, we would like to make progress in conjunction with the respective officials in charge of defense and Okinawa issues, and discuss what specific efforts should be made.

Matsuyama, Jiji Press: You mentioned a while ago that the government's basic idea of the Prime Minister's visit to the United States would remain unchanged. I believe that it means the government wants to keep what was agreed at last year's summit meeting, but is it still necessary for the Prime Minister to visit the United States in the first half of this year. In other words, does the government have to keep the schedule notwithstanding the occurrence of the disaster or think that the postponement of the schedule to a certain extent is unavoidable? What do you think about it?

Minister: We have not fixed any concrete schedule that we can announce, and we still have to make adjustments. As I reiterated, we must make a robust responses to the great earthquake, and as a matter of course, I do not think the great earthquake has little influence on our future arrangements.
On the other hand, we must continue to work on diplomatic and security issues without a break even for a day. It is April 12 today, and we cannot waste any moment, and we must finalize the schedule but we still think that the Prime Minister's visit in the first half of this year is feasible.

Ichihara, NHK: While you are working on the schedule, Secretary of State Clinton is visiting Japan on April 17. What do you think you should discuss in order to deepen the Japan-US alliance?

Minister: I understand that the main purpose of the Secretary’s visit is to express her feelings of solidarity over the quake disaster rather than to discuss that. Of course, we are to discuss various matters when we meet. As you mentioned, we are to discuss the deepening of the Japan-US alliance in the future while confirming the cooperating relationship and partnership between Japan and the United States over the quake disaster.

4. Great East Japan Earthquake

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I would like to ask you a question about the accident of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Today, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced an upgrade of Japan's nuclear crisis to level 7 from level 5. Please tell us how MOFA is going to convey the information to each country.

Minister: We gave the information to each country as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prior to the public announcement.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: A meeting of Japanese ministries concerned and a South Korean team of experts is being held today at MOFA. Did you give a specific explanation to the South Korean team?

Minister: The South Korean team says that they want to dispatch nuclear experts. We have said that we have been providing information with the maximum possible transparency. The nuclear experts' attendance will be subject to certain limitations as a matter of course. Explanations to the nuclear experts or letting them understand the situation is very meaningful. I understand that the nuclear experts visiting Japan can exchange information and opinions with Japanese experts.
I think that the meeting was over a while ago, and I have already received a report that a concrete explanation about Japan's tentative evaluation of level 7 was given to the South Korean team.

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: You mentioned earlier that you had informed each country prior to the public announcement. At the time of discharging the contaminated water into the sea from the Fukushima Power Plant, I understand that you sent a fax to each foreign embassy and mentioned the case in the regular briefing. Could you tell us more precisely by what means you informed each country and around what time it was?

Minister: In the previous case, we informed the diplomatic corps in Tokyo because the case happened just before the regular briefing. The case this time did not occur just before the scheduled regular briefing. Therefore, I understand that MOFA used various mean, such as e-mails and faxes, and informed the embassies prior to the public announcement.
If you need information about the exact timing, I would like to confirm it later.

Supplemental information: Regarding the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), it was announced at the joint press conference by NISA and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NCS) at 11 a.m. today (April 12). MOFA informed the diplomatic corps in Tokyo of the decision on upgrading of the scale by 11 a.m. by e-mail and fax. Furthermore, MOFA gave a more detailed explanation of the upgrading to the diplomatic corps at the regular briefing at 4 p.m. of April 12.

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question related to the prior notification. We are aware that South Korea, Russia, and other foreign countries expect prior notification in a thoroughgoing manner. However, I think that the people of Japan want to know such information as soon as possible. I would like to know whether you decide or consider to inform foreign countries of such information prior to the public announcement of the same in Japan because you want to gain overseas understanding to some extent. Please tell us if you have that kind of idea to a certain extent in mind.

Minister: As you said, we should combine several factors when you consider this matter. One factor is a solicitation that a decision on a measure for the nuclear incident, which is unfortunately still continuing, should be put into practice promptly, if it is once made as a result of considering various methods and measures. Upgrading to level 7 this time has no direct effect in this regard, though.
As I mentioned, we need to inform parties in advance if they are highly interested in the case  Those who are likely to receive inquiries immediately after the public announcement, for example, related organs and local government, need to be informed. And when they should be informed in order not to cause confusion is also a factor to be examined.
At the same time, as you said, we have a basic principle that we should promptly inform the Japanese people of matters that have been decided.
Our basic idea is to announce decisions promptly by judging the overall balance of these factors. While we should do what we can within a room for maneuver, we think that each foreign government may be put to a position receiving inquiries about matters once announced through the media. Therefore, we think that it is necessary to provide them with a certain explanation in advance. Furthermore, when we consider that Japan is an open country, the disclosure of such information is essential for the diplomatic relationship between Japan and foreign countries. I hope that you understand that we are doing what we can.

Kamide, Freelance: Please tell us about two points in relation to the quake disaster. It has passed over a month after the earthquake, and various problems are revealed now. I wonder if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) issue, which had been in dispute before the earthquake, is affected by the disaster. I would like to know at least your personal opinion about the relationship between the TPP and the earthquake. Various people visited Japan from overseas including nuclear power experts from France. There must be very fruitful or useful cooperation activities for the settlement of the nuclear accident besides the restoration of the disaster-stricken areas. I think some of them should be positively publicized. Could you tell us about these activities to a possible extent?

Minister: Firstly, from my standpoint, I mentioned a while ago that we must continue working on diplomatic issues without a break for even a day. I think EPA related issues including TPP are within the scope of diplomacy though such activities are linked to domestic affairs.
I have engaged in Japan's economic diplomacy to increase Japan's national strength with the further reinforcement of its economic power. Economic partnerships is a part of Japan's economic diplomacy. Since economy is a very important point for the disaster-stricken area toward restoration, I advocate that economic partnerships should be advanced. However, while a blueprint for the reconstruction of the entire areas will be drawn from now on, the way we open up the country and the status of the economic partnerships with each country will be discussed.
A minister has to handle such economic partnerships related issues all the while responding to the earthquake related issues. It may be true that these are cases that such an excessive burden on a single Minister might have negatively affected the development of the economic partnerships related activities. However, it is our mission to minimize such negative effects.
Secondly, cooperation with regard to the Nuclear Power Plant, in particular, is now ongoing. As you are aware, a number of experts came to Japan from foreign countries, such as the United States and France. Furthermore, I am aware that while we exchanged opinions with the experts from overseas, they offered various ideas and machinery.
As a matter of course, TEPCO, the operator of the power plant and the Japanese government take initiatives. Our records show that we were provided with various machines. It goes without saying that support from countries that are familiar with nuclear power plants and nuclear power generation is particularly very useful.

5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

6. Realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan

Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: I would like to ask you a question about the Futenma issue. It has passed 15 years today since Japan and the United States reached an agreement to return Futenma. Furthermore, there have been voices highly reevaluating the importance of Japan-US agreement after the U.S. forces operations after the earthquake. Please tell us what influence it has on the resolution of the Futenma issue.

Minister: We have highly regarded the Japan-US alliance. It is true that the joint disaster rescue activities this time made the importance of the alliance even obvious. However, the importance in itself remains unchanged.
With regard to the Futenma issue, as I have been reiterating in the past, we would like to implement the May 28 agreement, and I am saying that we would like to make sincere efforts to gain the understanding of the people of Okinawa. I do not think that our basic idea and position will change. As I mentioned a while ago, it was such a great disaster that its influence on everyone may be beyond our imagination as a matter of course. However, please understand that our basic attitude has not been affected by the disaster rescue activities this time.

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