(* 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 19, 2011, 6:21 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room
- Opening Remarks
- (1) Great East Japan Earthquake
- Collision Incident between Japan Coast Guard Patrol Vessels and a Chinese Fishing Trawler in Japanese Territorial Waters off the Senkaku Islands
- Diplomacy with Importance Attached to Post-quake Reconstruction
- Diplomatic Activities during the Golden Week Holidays
- Response to Post-quake Export and Import-related Measures of Each Country and Region
- Great East Japan Earthquake (Private-sector-based Support)
- Japan-US Relations
- Great East Japan Earthquake (Revenue Sources for Post-quake Reconstruction)
1. Opening Remarks
(1) Great East Japan Earthquake
Minister Matsumoto: The government published an advertisement (in foreign newspapers expressing gratitude for assistance to Japan) under the name of the Prime Minister the other day, when it passed just a month after the earthquake disaster. We made various approaches to the world's media through our overseas establishments, which resulted in the appearance of the same advertisement in 166 newspapers in 53 countries free of charge. We would like to continue transmitting information with the maximum transparency.
A large number of foreign embassies and international organizations temporarily evacuated have returned to Tokyo, and we expect the return of the rest, that is, four embassies. Taking every opportunity including this kind of press conference, we would like to continue our effort in this regard as much as possible, and ask for their cooperation.
2. Collision Incident between Japan Coast Guard Patrol Vessels and a Chinese Fishing Trawler in Japanese Territorial Waters off the Senkaku Islands
Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question regarding the collision incident between the Japanese patrol vessels and a Chinese fishing trawler that occurred last year and the resolution of the Naha Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution the other day over the incident. This resolution states that the prosecution of the Chinese captain, who already returned home, is fair and reasonable. I assume that Japanese prosecutors will take criminal proceedings against the captain and proceed with their investigation probably on a voluntary basis, and make a decision whether to prosecute the captain or not. If the Japanese prosecutors take criminal proceedings, one of the difficult points of the investigation would be how to approach the captain, who is now in China. In the meantime, the Chinese government asserts that the Senkaku Islands belong to China. I understand that this is a tough issue, the conclusion of which is not easily foreseeable. I would like to ask whether Japan is going to seek cooperation and support from China through a diplomatic channel in the investigation and various procedures.
Minister: I am aware of the resolution. I believe that the Japanese prosecutors will make a proper decision in accordance with the law based on the resolution. However, I would like to answer Mr. Saito's question that I am not in a position to voice an opinion about specific investigations and related matters.
Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I would like to confirm one thing. May I understand that MOFA is not thinking of any particular action, following the resolution of the Naha Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution? In addition, please tell us if there was any reaction of China in response to yesterday's resolution.
Minister: In accordance with the rule of law, the "ball" has been returned back to the Prosecutors' Office with the resolution of the Naha Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, so to speak. We are now at a stage where we are given to understand the fact that the resolution of the Naha Committee to return the "ball" has been made. Therefore, I mean I am not ready to voice an opinion. Furthermore, basically, I think I should have certain reservations about the specific investigation of each individual case.
As for the reaction from China, I do not think I have received any concrete reports.
3. Diplomacy with Importance Attached to Post-quake Reconstruction
Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I heard that you said at the Meeting of the Political-level Officials the other day that you would deploy diplomacy with importance attached to post-quake reconstruction. Firstly, could you repeat what you meant by diplomacy with importance attached to post-quake reconstruction? Secondly, I would like to know what kind of diplomacy you are going to deploy during the Golden Week, which will provide you with an opportunity to take official trips overseas though Diet deliberations are scheduled.
Minister: I remember that I have talked this soon after I came into office. I took over office from former Minister Maehara with the recognition of the importance of economic diplomacy from the viewpoint of the contribution of the same to the promotion of Japan's national power. The great earthquake occurred on March 11, which resulted in such a serious disaster. In making the future vision of post-quake reconstruction to proceed, there is an idea of not only restoring the disaster-stricken areas but also making them stronger, and I agree with the idea. I believed this will be pursued. In that sense, I think that the basic concept of economic diplomacy meets or satisfies such an idea of post-quake reconstruction, and I would like to add the viewpoint of contribution to post-quake reconstruction to our conventional economic diplomacy. As a matter of course, we would like to make economy-related arrangements, such as logistics and international trade arrangements, to contribute to post-quake reconstruction. These arrangements will include advice on import-related measures in search of relaxation. From the total viewpoint of reconstruction and with consideration of economic diplomacy to support the direction of reconstruction, I talked over the matter at the Meeting of the Political-level Officials, and asked them to make an effort together. While there are many opinions about economic cooperation and climate change, I believe that the concept of our diplomacy will serve national interests in the medium and long run, the usefulness of which has not been lost notwithstanding the earthquake disaster. I explained that we would like to discuss within MOFA how to advance the matter concretely by all means.
4. Diplomatic Activities during the Golden Week Holidays
Mukai, Yomiuri Shimbun: I think the Golden Week is a good opportunity to deploy your diplomacy. However, diet deliberations are scheduled. How are you going to allocate your time to them?
Minister: First of all, there is a major premise that I am in a position to go abroad with the consent of the Diet. By all means, however, I would like to visit foreign countries that are important to Japan. In that sense, the United States is Japan's important ally to which I should attach importance. As you know, the Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation is scheduled during the holiday-studded week, for which the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has been working actively, and we are expected to attend, as Japan is one of the organizers of the meeting. A follow-up meeting for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is expected on May 1 and 2. This is not an economy-related meeting but it is an important African-diplomacy meeting meaningful to Japan's economy. Furthermore, a meeting prior to the Japan-EU Summit, which I think very important to Japan's economy, is scheduled during the holiday-studded week. From the comprehensive viewpoint of national interests, I would like to make every effort to fulfill my duty as Foreign Minister.
5. Response to Post-quake Export and Import-related Measures of Each Country and Region
Inada, NHK: You referred to import-related regulations during your talk about diplomacy with importance attached to post-quake reconstruction. You have been saying that China, which is separated from Japan only by a narrow strip of water, is an important neighbor. A Commerce Department spokesperson of China recently said that China would not virtually change its food import regulations at the moment and that each country had been imposing certain regulations and China was no exception. How do you take this attitude of China, which is a neighboring country and a major power, and how are you going to work on the relaxation of its import regulations?
Minister: We have been actively providing information on actions we take, and data on the radioactive conditions of Japan along with the present situation of Japan. As you are aware, our attitude has resulted in the relaxation of entry limitations imposed on travelers to Japan by the United States and other countries, the lifting of restrictions on some Japanese imports, and the contraction of restrictive areas. In that sense, at the time of the last Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministerial Meeting, I requested China to make proper arrangements based on data. I would like to continue talking with China earnestly to gain its understanding.
Inada, NHK: It has already passed one month since the Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministerial Meeting was held. Do you think lack of something has resulted in China's attitude notwithstanding your approach for a month? Otherwise, do you have anything new on your mind to work out the matter in the future?
Minister: We are not in a position to evaluate the intention and decision of the Chinese side. I would like to explain the trend among Japan’s trading partners, namely the relaxation of entry limitations on travelers to Japan and the lifting or cancellation of restrictions on Japanese products, as I referred to a while ago. At the same time, I would like to explain the current situation of the Nuclear Power Plant and the radioactive conditions of Japan and obtain China's understanding. Japan and China have very big economic relations. In that sense, I do not think it is favorable to both sides to shrink their economy. As a matter of course, we must give top priority to the maintenance of safety. Therefore, I would like to talk to the Chinese side that we have been making sufficient arrangements to maintain the safety and make every effort to have the Chinese side understand our arrangements.
Saito, Kyodo News: I understand that in relation to the import ban imposed by Korea as well as China, there have been remarks that require that Japan always provide product exports with origin certificates, which, in other words means that there would be no problem if such origin certificates were provided.
I would like to know if the Japanese government could take full responsibility for the issuance of such certificates for all agricultural products, food products, and commercial products. If the Japanese government cannot do this, I wonder if there are alternative measures or ideas. I would like to ask these questions.
Minister: With regard to certificates of origin, we would like to have those markets trust our arrangements and confirm the safety of products already in the Japanese market first. It is the best if our arrangements are clearly understood by them before taking further measures. Then, as we are aware that some countries and regions have already requested the issuance of such certificates as an interim measure, I think that it is desirable to work with relevant ministries and local governments and do what is necessary promptly and properly. We are thinking that MOFA will give any cooperation possible in that direction.
6. Great East Japan Earthquake (Private-sector-based Support)
Yamamoto, Sekainippo: You mentioned that the Prime Minister's message was conveyed through the newspapers. I heard from an American acquaintance and others that US private rescue organizations have been in rescue operation in the disaster-stricken areas. I understand that MOFA's website introduces detailed information on aids from foreign governments and international organizations. Are you not thinking of introducing such private support activities from the United States and other countries as well?
Minister: That is a good question. We as members of the Japanese government really appreciate support from the overseas private sector, and we would like to transmit our thanks to them.
I am well aware of support from foreign governments and international organizations, because they offer such support to us directly. I have received some information and reports on private-based support but not all of them. I am aware that there are many private organizations providing very useful support, but I have not yet grasped exact details of these organizations to which we should express our thanks. Please understand that we expressed our thanks first to the countries, regions, and international organizations with their support confirmed by MOFA.
7. Japan-US Relations
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: US Secretary of State Clinton visited Japan over the weekend and I understand that you held talks with her. I believe you reached an agreement to advance public-private partnerships to take remedial measures for the quake disaster and nuclear accident. I would like to have your explanation about specific forms that you are going to shape from now on.
Minister: I understand that a close cooperation with the US side has been already going on for remedial measures for the quake disaster and nuclear accident. The Secretary of State and I reached an agreement to advance public-private partnerships toward post-quake reconstruction.
We still have to continue discussing the specific details of the partnerships. I would like to advance the partnerships positively and accomplish what we can do in sequence speedily, which I believe I mentioned in the last conference. While the partnerships include the private sector, business community, NGOs, and think tanks offering ideas and proposals as well as a variety of business-based specific activities, we would like to think of what governmental side support should be given as a matter of course.
There is one thing important we should keep in mind. As the US side pointed it out as well during the meeting, Japan's economy is not in a standstill but operating and it will further operate in the future, as we have been reiterating. The United States as Japan's ally expressed the same message this time, which will help Japan to express a powerful and positive message toward the reconstruction and revitalization of Japan's economy. Then, we would like to work toward the accomplishment of our goal with cooperation from the United States and the rest of the international community. I evaluate that the attitude shown by the United States to give cooperation and support to Japan this time turned a very significant and meaningful message to Japan.
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: I have a related question. You mentioned earlier that you would like to visit the United States subject to approval from the Diet, in which I believe that you expressed your intention of visiting the United States because the United States is an important country to Japan. If you can visit the United States with the consent of the Diet and meet the Secretary of State again, please tell us what you would like to talk about and appeal.
Minister: Japan-US relationship is very wide and multilayered. In the recent talks, our main subject was post-quake reconstruction and cooperation toward it. I would like to discuss a broad range of subjects including security. However, as a matter of course, there is no doubt that post-quake reconstruction is the top-priority subject of Japan and its government. We would like to exchange opinions about and confirm cooperation to post-quake reconstruction as well.
8. Great East Japan Earthquake (Revenue Sources for Post-quake Reconstruction)
Inada, NHK: You mentioned the post-quake reconstruction. The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated today that an increase in consumption tax is an option of securing reconstruction financial resources. On the other hand, there is an objection. That is, an increase in consumption tax will result in taking money out of disaster victims. What form do you think is the most desirable?
Minister Matsumoto: Post-quake construction involves great financial resources. How to raise funds is a very important subject.
When we think of reconstruction needs and in my knowledge of economic theory, it will be the most effective economically to proceed toward reconstruction with some sort of debt allowed. Meanwhile, the DPJ has taken over office with heavy financial deficit. It is true that finding a way to gain the confidence of the market is a key point of raising new funds.
I think there are various ideas to raise funds, such as a tax hike and activities to squeezing money. When I consider post-quake reconstruction that must start at once, I think from my standpoint that the maintenance of fund raising that will expand expenditures, rather than raising tax,is the most effective method.
Back to Index