(* 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 15, 2011, 4:05 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Decision on the Schedule of the Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  2. Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  3. Japan-US Relations
  4. Takeshima Issue
  5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
  6. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Tourism
  7. Foreign Media Reports Related to Great East Japan Earthquake

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Decision on the Schedule of the Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

Minister Matsumoto: The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit will be held in Tokyo on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. Prime Minister Kan hosts the Summit this time, and Premier Wen Jiabao of the People’s Republic of China and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea are expected to attend the Summit. As you are aware, the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit has been held for the purpose of further reinforcing dialog and cooperation among the three countries, which bear a great responsibility for the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, in a broad range of fields under the initiatives of the leaders. The Summit, which started in 2008, has been hosted by the three countries in turn, and Japan will act as chair for the second time. I expect that enhancing cooperation in the fields of disaster management and nuclear safety will be discussed in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake besides the trilateral cooperation in other areas as well as regional and international affairs.

2. Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

Nishioka, Mainichi Newspapers: Are the three countries going to work in the direction of producing some fruitful results in the fields of disaster prevention and nuclear safety?

Minister: That depends on how the discussions of the leaders come out. At the moment, however, I understand that nothing concrete has been decided yet.

Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: There is a growing move to restrict Japanese food imports in China and South Korea. Is this going to be a topic of discussion in the Summit?

Minister: I think there are various assessments on whether the food import restrictions is spreading. In any case, we have been requesting both China and South Korea that they respond appropriately. With regard to individual restrictions, I understand that we have already given necessary communications, which are discussed through various channels between Japan and China, and South Korea. This is an imminent economy-related issue, and we are currently undertaking measures. I am hoping to see a good result, without waiting for May.

Tajima, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: I would like to ask a question related to the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, too. You said that you had been already working on matters related to economy. I think you had the Japan-China-ROK investment agreement on your mind. Japan has continued the negotiations to reach an agreement. Please tell us if an agreement or some progress is expected at the Summit. In addition, I have a question about the joint research of Japan-China-ROK Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs). I heard that the research would start earlier than originally scheduled. What prospect do you have in this regard?

Minister: I do not remember if I said matters related to "economy," but did I?
The Summit consists of dialog and cooperation among the three countries in a broad range of fields, which of course include the field of economy. With regard to Japan-China-ROK FTAs and investment agreements, which you mentioned, I think it is desirable to produce some results based on our accumulated efforts in the direction of cooperation. At the moment, however, I do not have anything to talk concretely about at the juncture of the Summit Meeting.

3. Japan-US Relations

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask you about the visit of US Secretary of State Clinton on April 17. I would like to ask what results you expect from her visit to Japan for the Japan-US foreign ministerial meeting and what you think is the most significant part of the meeting.

Minister: I understand that US Secretary of State Clinton is visiting Japan to express the solidarity of the United States with Japan and her encouragement and support to Japan and its people. I heard indirectly that she had wanted to visit Japan since the early stage of the disaster and had been seeking for an opportunity. I presume that Secretary Clinton has been considering the circumstances of Japan in accepting her on the other hand. I think that is the reason she decided to visit Japan on the weekend one month after the disaster. We have received a great assistance from the United States since the disaster. I would like to tell Madam Secretary sincerely that the cooperation and support of the United States have been of a great help for the people of Japan and that the solidarity of the United States with Japan has been a great encouragement to us. This will be my second time to meet US Secretary of State Clinton, following the first meeting at the last G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. I hope that this will be a good opportunity to deepen our relationship of trust while we continue making progress in our discussions toward strengthening Japan-US alliance.

Saito, Kyodo News: Currently, people focus on how to deal with the Nuclear Power Plant. I believe that the cooperation of the United States over the Nuclear Power Plant has resulted in various achievements up to now. What the effects have you seen as a result of the cooperation of the United States? I have another question. Have there been any changes in the situations of East Asia and the Pacific Ocean surrounding Japan? I would like to ask you if there have been any changes in the planning of Japan-US strategic targets in the future. Could you give us your understanding?

Minister: With regard to your first question about the Nuclear Power Plant, it is true that many items, such as individual apparatuses and the US Forces' various ways of cooperation, have been specifically making great achievements. As to the dispatch of US experts, there are countries that adopted nuclear power generation  early and have utilized it widely. Japan being among them, and they have accumulated comparable knowledge. I believe that the technical expertise of Japan in combination with the knowledge and technology of the United States have been making a great effect on the control of the reactors.
With regard to your second question, a great disaster inflicts heavy damage on all sides. However, in East Asia, I think it is very important for Japan to show its firm presence in the East Asian region and play a leading role in pursuit of peace, stability, and prosperity of the region, and we must work firmly toward the goal. In that sense, we already started the Design Council in  Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, and I would like to talk about our determination, orientation, and progress at the meeting while transmitting the same to the international community, which is, I think, desirable to maintain a good balance in the East Asian region.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: I would like to ask a question about the cooperation of the United States to deal with the nuclear accident. Do you feel that the condition would have been worse without the cooperation of the United States? Furthermore, do you think that the cooperation of the United States will be indispensable in the future?

Minister: I can not comment on your hypothetical question about what would have happened if Japan responded to the disaster alone. I think it best to pull together the wisdom of expertise to deal with the accident of the Nuclear Power Plant. The United States have experience, knowledge, and technology. There was no reason why we should not work with the United States while receiving the cooperation of France as well. As a matter of course, the best method should be taken from excellent choices available in the World. Consequently, I think our choice with the world's best expertise has been playing a great role. In that sense, I think the cooperation of the United States was great and its continuous cooperation will be necessary.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I have a question about your meeting with US Secretary of State Clinton. You mentioned earlier that you would like to talk about the deepening of the Japan-US alliance and the relationship between Japan and United States. Specifically what do you want to discuss with the Secretary?

Minister: I mentioned that it would be very important to deepen our discussion about how we (the ministers) should contribute to the peace and stability of Asia and Pacific regions, though I do not think that we can quickly make conlusion about what the most desirable form of Japan-US cooperation in the future will be at the meeting.

4. Takeshima Issue

Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I would like to ask a question about the Takeshima issue. South Korea recently invited tenders for a marine science research station, and Hyundai has made the top bid for it. Please tell us what measures Japan took about it. Furthermore, please tell us your analysis of the background of South Korea's development of Takeshima. In the meantime, I heard that the South Korean Ambassador to Japan mentioned the relationship between the Takeshima issue and the textbook issue to some executives of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). What is your analysis of this?

Minister: We have obtained the information on the bidding of the marine science research station on Takeshima and Hyundai Engineering and Construction's top bid as well.
To our understanding, the scale and location of the marine science research station are not specified in the invitation to tender. In any case, from our consistent standpoint, we have been arguing that South Korea's arrangements over Takeshima are unacceptable. We have reiterated this in a number of opportunities to South Korea.
We have made queries to and lodged protests against the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Embassy of Japan in South Korea about the tender notice.
With regard to the LDP's story, an LDP assembly member introduced it at the Diet Committee today. The South Korean Ambassador reportedly said so according to the LDP assembly member. We cannot accept South Korea's arrangements over Takeshima. However, I would like to refrain from communicating by ssuming the intention of the South Korean government.

Saito, Kyodo News: I am aware of the announcement that Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sasae has once made a protest in this matter. I would like to confirm if you as Foreign Minister with or without the State Secretary and Deputy Minister ever expressed a formal protest or you intend to express a formal protest against the issue of the marine science research station in the future.

Minister: I do not think it has passed a long time since South Korea's arrangements including the construction of the marine science research station became an issue. I had an opportunity to have official talks with South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan, and I mentioned our standpoint over Takeshima. I have not mentioned anything directly to the South Korean side for the last one week. I am thinking of informing the South Korean side of our standpoint firmly and take appropriate actions in a timely manner for Japan.

5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

6. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Tourism

Kamide, Freelance: I asked a question about TPP last time. After that, you answered a similar question at the Diet. In fact, the main industry of the disaster-stricken areas awaiting recovery, such as that of Iwate Prefecture, is agriculture. The government attaches importance to agriculture as well, and the government's Headquarters on promoting the revitalization of the food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries was established, but its wrap-up procesws stopped in March. When I hear the remarks of the headquarters' members, the redistribution of income after the decline of agriculture seems to be a problem. How to use tax in a way that receives public consent is a problem awaiting solution. The people in the disaster-stricken area with the serious problems might be greatly shocked if you went there and told them that Japan would make TPP arrangements. With consideration of this, for example, I think it is difficult for Japan to push its way to TPP. I would like to reconfirm your understanding with consideration of what I mentioned.
There is another problem, there’s nothing we can do about it, now overseas tourists hesitate to visit any areas throughout Japan. Tourist economy has been falling accurately. I recently took a business trip to the Kansai area, where I could not find overseas tourists. It may be difficult to take countermeasures, but I would like to hear your opinion about this. Could you answer these two questions?

Minister: I would like to answer your second question first. This was discussed at the Diet as well today. It is alarming not only to me but also to Japan that the number of overseas tourists visiting Japan is decreasing.
I have been taking special care on the transmission of information. I receive various questions, the diplomatic corps in Tokyo and foreign media, at briefings and conferences. Frankly speaking, we find from such interactions that our messages have not been understood correctly. With consideration of this, I would like to make further improvement to make ourselves clearly understood.
There are various press reports. I am not saying that all press reports are free of misunderstandings. This week's report on the (upgrading in the) International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) is a good example. As far as I know, there were foreign media that reported the upgrading to seven by comparison of the case with that in Chernobyl in a comparatively calm tone, though it is a very serious fact. We would like to make efforts to disseminate facts correctly in the hope that the people of each country will understand the current situation of Japan correctly.
Foreign guests will visit Japan, and we would like to capture every opportunity to convey the current situation of Japan correctly. This is a mission assigned to us.
With reference to TPP, like I said the day before yesterday and today at the Diet, the contents of TPP are still under discussion, as you know. We have never said that we would enter a TPP agreement in order to destroy the agricultural industry of Japan.
We have been saying that we should make Japan a country open to foreign countries under its basic policy of economic partnership, on the basis that Japan gives firm support to agriculture. Based on this, I am saying that we should positively consider anything that contributes to Japan. If there is a chance, I would like to visit and explain our position about TPP. There is a question whether the people of the areas are ready to listen to the explanation right now. However, I would like to explain the current situation of Japan and that we are aiming at economic partnership that will be beneficial to Japan and its local areas if I have a chance.
In my understanding, it is still under discussion whether Japan should participate in TPP negotiations or not. As you are aware, the discussion includes various rules related to economy. There are opinions suggesting that Japan should participate in the discussion, which will be necessary for the rebuilding of Japan's economy. It is true that a comprehensive discussion is necessary, which should include where agriculture should be positioned, whether TPP will influence Japan's agriculture and what influence it will be, and whether we can take countermeasures if it influences Japan's agriculture.
The international community, however, is changing rapidly, and TPP negotiations are making progress. As I said in the Diet, the time will come when we must decide under certain conditions whether we should participate in the negotiations.

7. Foreign Media Reports Related to Great East Japan Earthquake

Fujii, Freelance: You said that many media cover news in a clam tone. On the other hand, Western media, such as CNN, report exaggerated news stating that damage was done not only in the eastern Japan but also in the rest of Japan. I wonder if you take hold of the contents of such media reports through the Japanese Embassy and diplomatic mission to each foreign country. Furthermore, I wonder if you have any countermeasures on your mind.
Associated with it, I heard that some Korean companies and Chinese companies are alleging that Japanese high-precision devices and equipment out of supply chains have a risk of radioactive contamination and giving reputation damage to them. Do you get hold of this kind of problem?

Minister: I do not intend to comment about the media of particular countries. However, I am aware that MOFA watches not only Japanese media but also overseas media through diplomatic missions to foreign countries, and requests corrections to untrue reports. I understand that some reports have been already corrected.
I am not sure about the extent of the reputation that you mentioned. However, we make a firm request for a correction whenever we find a false media report. Furthermore, we have been requested by the Chief Cabinet Secretary to reinforce our responses. If incorrect information should widely spread in the future, it would cause serious reputation damage. Therefore, I will make even better responses.

Fujii, Freelance: Let me confirm one thing. May I understand that you request a correction or make a protest whenever you find a media report that is obviously untrue?

Minister: We are doing that whenever we find a report that is different from the truth.

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