(* 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 22, 2011, 4:32 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room
- Opening Remarks
- (1) Cabinet Decision on First Supplementary Budget
- (2) Economic Diplomacy with Emphasis Attached to Post-quake Reconstruction
- (3) New MOFA Staff Members' Support to Disaster-stricken Areas
- (4) Reception of Medical Assistance Teams from Jordan and Thailand
- (5) Visit to Japan of Hon. Don Pomb Polye, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea
- International Infrastructure Export
- Reconstruction Diplomacy
- Japan-US Relations
- Takeshima Issue
- Domestic Political Situation (Omitted) and Overseas Travel Schedules
- ODA Budget Reduction
- Visit to Japan by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia
1. Opening Remarks
(1) Cabinet Decision on First Supplementary Budget
Minister Matsumoto: At today's Cabinet Meeting, the government decided on the estimate of the draft first supplementary budget for the immediate post-quake reconstruction of the areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake. While considering the financial resources, we reached an agreement to make a review of Japan's entire official development assistance (ODA) budget. Then we decided to reduce Japan's ODA-related budget by 50.1 billion yen, out of which 27.6 billion yen was under MOFA's jurisdiction and 22.5 billion yen was a financial contribution of the Loan Assistance Department of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance. We received a large number of opinions saying that Japan should not reduce the ODA-related budget at this moment that the international community is paying attention to Japan's post-quake arrangements. The decision was made in response to the strong request of the ruling party, but I understand that the reduction is made only for the current fiscal year. At the time of making this decision, we made it a principle to avoid as much as possible the direct influence of the reduction on the projects on the ground. On the basic condition that we should not reduce the budget for bilateral assistance, we came to a conclusion to make a temporary reduction of contribution to some international organizations. This does not mean that there is a priority order between bilateral assistance and assistance via international organizations. In the case of support through international organizations, contributions from Japan are once paid to each international organization. Then they are allocated to specific projects. We focused on the fact that there is a kind of buffer between Japan's contribution and projects on the ground. This will allow us to make ends meet. Please understand that we are giving consideration so that the reduction will not have an immediate impact on the implementation of the projects of each organization. Japan will continue playing an active role for the peace and stability of the international community while sincerely realizing Japan's international commitment already announced. This determination remains unchanged. Therefore, we would like to continue making efforts to allocate necessary funds while discerning the progress of post-quake reconstruction. The international community has a pile of issues awaiting solution. I understand that the international community continues to expect Japan to play a significant role in the solution of the issues. The reduction this time was a very difficult decision. With consideration of the current situation of Japan, however, we would like to seek for the understanding of all parties concerned to the reduction as a matter unavoidable.
(2) Economic Diplomacy with Emphasis Attached to Post-quake Reconstruction
Minister: We had not been able to hold intra-ministerial meetings as brainstorming sessions, so to speak, with the senior officials of MOFA for a while under time pressure since the occurrence of the earthquake disaster. Today, we were able to hold an intra-ministerial meeting, which also served as a meeting of the Headquarters in Promoting Economic Diplomacy. We discussed how we should advance Japan's economic diplomacy for post-quake reconstruction. The Diet passed the relevant resolution today, which has shown Japan's stance to walk in step with the international community. I believe that the government and the members of the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, will advance post-quake reconstruction under the overall concept of Japan as a country open to the world walking together with the international community. MOFA would like to proceed in this direction as well. We are thinking that MOFA should aim for future-oriented post-quake reconstruction, taking advantage of economic dynamism of other countries, and advance post-quake reconstruction with the voices of the disaster-stricken areas reflected on the development of economy while making use of overseas resources and knowledge. We have been advancing five-pillar economic diplomacy. We would like to continue the five-pillar economic diplomacy with new necessary factors added and make it contribute to post-quake reconstruction. As you are aware, one of the five pillars is the promotion of free trade and economic partnership. We would like to accept many more overseas people, goods and money than ever before to make use of overseas power, and expand Japan's power and deliver it overseas in return. Resources, energy, and food security are also pillars of Japan's economic diplomacy. As was expected, the securing of energy resources, in particular, has emerged as an urgent issue. I think we must play a significant role in terms of foreign policy. In terms of export packages of infrastructures, what should we export? I think Japan still has a large number of internationally useful technology, such as water and infrastructures as well as power plant including nuclear power plant. As for the safety of nuclear energy, in a broad sense, I believe that the investigation of accidents with contribution to improvements in safety and arrangements for improving safety falls under the category of the safety of nuclear energy. Japan's high technology was exemplified in the field of railroad transportation as well. For example, at the time of the earthquake this time, trains including Shinkansen bullet trains running at high speed safely came to a stop, which demonstrated Japan's high technology. We would like to expand Japan's power in such technical fields as well. Tourism is one of the themes of Japan's economic diplomacy. Japan had been expected to increase the number of visitors from overseas until recently. As you are aware, to our regret, the number of foreign tourists has been plummeting. We must make firm rearrangements in cooperation with relevant ministries. In fact, the number of visitors to Himeji, where I come from, is plummeting this spring because of the renovation of Himeji Castle. This has reminded me of the impact of tourists on economy. We would like to advance our efforts while confirming the importance of relevant arrangements. We have been mentioning the promotion of Japan Brand as the fifth pillar. How Japan should make an appeal for the safety and high quality of Japanese food and products is a very important issue awaiting solution. Today's brainstorming was carried out based on these ideas, when I gave instructions on the contents and methods of our strategic approach with an emphasis on MOFA's cooperation with the other ministries. As for Japan's effort to prevent unnecessary import restrictions and travel restrictions as issues that need immediate solution, I confirmed that we shared the idea in cooperation with other ministries with a strategic approach.
(3) New MOFA Staff Members' Support to Disaster-stricken Areas
Minister: We have staff members who newly joined MOFA this April. Under the cooperation of Iwate Prefecture, we have decided to dispatch them to the quake-stricken areas on a voluntary basis for support activities. We have already received reports from political appointees as well as our staff members who made official trips to the area that they still have a work force shortage. After our consideration, to be concrete, we have decided to dispatch 21 members in three groups on and after April 27, who will conduct support activities in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture. I understand that they will conduct specific activities under the direction of the local authorities on site. Above all, we hope that their dispatch will contribute to the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas. In addition, I hope that this opportunity will remind the new staff members of their standpoint as public servants for all the people of Japan. I believe that we can expect such effects if they wholeheartedly committed to supporting the affected areas.
(4) Reception of Medical Assistance Teams from Jordan and Thailand
Minister: As we already announced in our press release, Jordan and Thailand have decided to dispatch medical assistance teams to Fukushima Medical University. We have been making efforts to match the offers and needs of medical support, so we wholeheartedly welcome their arrival, which will be the start of a new project.
We have been informing the disaster-stricken areas through various channels that MOFA will relay the offer of medical assistance to the needs of the disaster-stricken areas. I understand that it originated from an inquiry of Fukushima Medical University and MOFA's response to the inquiry. We are very grateful that this kind of meaningful support from overseas is provided for the people in the disaster-stricken areas.
A team of four members including vascular surgeons specialized in thrombosis is expected to come from Jordan on Monday, April 25 while a pediatrician team of two members specialized in the prevention of children's infectious diseases is expected to come from Thailand on Saturday, May 7.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the cooperation of the Jordanian and Thai governments and expect that the teams will play significant roles.
(5) Visit to Japan of Hon. Don Pomb Polye, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea
Minister: Hon. Don Pomb Polye, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is expected to visit Japan from Saturday, April 23 to Wednesday, April 27.
I will hold a meeting with Minister Polye on April 26. I would like to express our gratitudeto the warm sympathy and a large sum of donations that Papua New Guinea has offered Japan in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake.
A large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, in which Japanese enterprises are participating, is currently going on in Papua New Guinea. I would like to exchange views with Minister Polye over our cooperation in the field of energy including the stable supply of LNG, with post-quake reconstruction of the disaster-stricken area in mind. I expect that his visit to Japan will strengthen the bilateral relationship in a broad range of fields including the fields of energy, investment, and economy.
2. International Infrastructure Export
Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: Let me confirm one point in your announcement about international promotion of infrastructure. Does your announcement mean that the Japanese government continues pushing and supporting nuclear power plant export in its efforts of promotion of infrastructure? Or is it possible for the government to put off pushing and supporting nuclear power plant export until there is some progress in the work of accident verification and safety verification?
Minister: Of course, we have to bear the responsibility on the safety and it is preferable in safety respect if we ship after complete verification on portions requiring verification etc. We the government and also private entities directly involved hope that complete verification is made on portions judged necessary. On the other hand, as you know, nuclear power plants including equipment and materials require varieties of cooperation in a broad range of fields. In this sense, we hope we can continue responding to expectations while listening to judgments of the government that plans and pushes the projects.
3. Reconstruction Diplomacy
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: I hear you spoke about the reconstruction diplomacy at the ministry’s internal meeting cum economic measures headquarters meeting for the first time today. In what shape and by when do you summarize future prospects and what do you think about its relationship to the Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake held by the government?
Minister: I’ve explained to you all the thinking behind this. What counts is its implementation. In view of the Design Council, it is yet to be known what the big reconstruction framework in the basic law in the future will be. If new directionality or reconstruction guidelines are shown, we think of incorporating and adding what diplomacy can be of help. In view of signaling positively that Japan’s economy is moving forward, I hope you will understand our today’s positioning where we have recognized tackling steadily through the whole MOFA the challenges we are coping at present like the tourist industry, import-related measures, and overseas travel restrictions.
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: Do you mean implementing policies one by one not in a collective manner or by creating some plans?
Minister: It does not mean that MOFA draws up plans separately.
Saito, Kyodo News: On nuclear power plant export. From what you have just said, I understand at present things will be coped with case by case after making sure of the other side’s intent or the circumstances on our side. I understand that the administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan have listed infrastructure export as a big pillar of their new growth strategies, with nuclear power plant export as one of the features. Is the Kan administration going to push debates in the future in the direction of maintaining the basic stances of nuclear power plant and infrastructure export as such big policies? I hope you will give me a clear-cut explanation about this point.
Minister: As I told you just now, I also have to push steadily the infrastructure package using Japan’s superior technological strengths in a broad sense of meaning. Very unfortunately, in a sense serious accidents actually occurred at the nuclear power plants. I know this because I was in private business but future business and new business will be very difficult to set up without good explanations about the accidents. Though we are still making efforts, I think the stage is nearing for certain levels of verification to be pushed forward. In view of such circumstances, we will have to make clear in the near future what is available for utilization and what is not. We will think about what to do while making things clear. I think such is the reality. As I told you, when I talk with people of countries with whom we are negotiating nuclear power plant partnership or cooperation, many of them think Japan still has useful superior technological strengths. Future verification will play a big role in the extent of their reliance on Japan in this respect.
4. Japan-US Relations
Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun: Defence Minister Kitazawa said that the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2 + 2) “should be held in late May” at the press conference after the Cabinet session today. Do you as Foreign Minister also think the meeting should be held at such date or much earlier or later? This is question No.1. I hear Minister Kitazawa is visiting Okinawa to talk with Governor Nakaima. after the Golden Week holidays. As Foreign Minister, are you thinking about visiting Okinawa before the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee to listen to various opinions and demands? This is question No.2.
Minister: On the first question, as I told you before, it is a common perception that the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee should be held before Prime Minister’s visit to the U.S. And I think it should be held as proposed. On the other hand, I remember the four Cabinet members actually gathered last time about 4 years ago. We at MOFA are in the position of adjusting the schedules. So I would like to avoid mentioning here a certain date is too early or another date is too late. But I unchangedly think it is preferable to hold the conference at a somewhat early date. In fact, when schedule adjustment etc. will be made may be a big point. So I have to say the matter is still under coordination.
On the second question, as I may have told you at a press conference before, I also hope to seize an opportunity to visit Okinawa and listen to views seriously while accommodating the convenience of the hosts. I may visit there before the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee with best possible adjustment though the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee schedule adjustment is no simple matter and diplomatic schedule offers have also already come in.
5. Takeshima Issue
Tajima, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: About the Takeshima issue, taken up at the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today, several South Korean National Assembly members seemed to have planned today to visit Takeshima and hold a special committee meeting there. The plan eventually fell into abeyance for reasons of bad weather. South Korea has raised hard-line stance recently including pushing plans to build a marine research base in the sea near Takeshima. What do you think about the issue?
Some of the members of the Liberal Democratic Party pointed out that it is important for you to lodge a protest concerning such problems. How are you going to deal with the issue?
Minister: One point is that a series of South Korean measures related to Takeshima are in conflict with Japan’s stance on Takeshima, and they are unacceptable. This stance is consistent. We maintain the stance.
I often receive questions about how I am going to deal with the issue in the future. It may be better for you to understand that I basically give instructions to deal with the issue thinking over the most effective methods, levels and routes for the purposes.
6. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted) and Overseas Travel Schedules
Inada, NHK: Chief Secretary and Secretariat Head Conferences of the ruling and opposition parties were held today, and I think the holding of Diet sessions during the Golden Week holidays has become almost certain. If so, it might have some effect on your overseas travel scheduled. What are prospects at the present stage and how are you going to spend the Golden Week holidays as Foreign Minister?
Minister: I will tell you first about the latter half part. I can not tell about the final schedule as we are not yet informed formally. Cases of sessions on holidays actually overlap with expected schedules including those sponsored by us. .
Anyway, overseas travel of Cabinet members require understanding of the Diet and conference purposes and other explanations are being conveyed to persons related to the Diet through formal and informal channels. I hope the Diet will approve it.
Hashimoto, Kyodo News: About diplomatic schedules during the Golden Week holidays. I hear the schedule includes, for example, meeting Secretary of State Clinton and attendance at the TICAD cabinet member follow-up meeting. From the viewpoint of reconstruction diplomacy, I think the visit is very important to signal a strong message of recovering Japan. Is the understanding obtainable from the ruling party’s top leaders?
Minister: I think the visit here of Secretary of State Clinton last week or last Sunday proved to be a message signaling vigorous endeavor of Japan in the international society. The visit of Prime Minister of Australia Gillard this week and her activities here will send a great message to Japan as well as the international society. In this sense, my expression of sincere gratitude to the U.S. as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and my talks there about future cooperation and reconstruction will be a chance to send messages to the world. Sponsoring the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation conferences may prove to be a message telling that Japan continues playing a big role in the international society. The TICAD Follow-Up Conference, held every year, is a process of long time buildup attracting global attention to Japan’s leadership in the problem of development of Africa. Annual sponsoring of the conference displays the fundamental strengths of Japan. Various other contemplated projects will all help the reconstruction of Japan. The problem is not whether all these projects are understood by all parties concerned but we are in the position to make efforts to have the projects understood by all parties.
7. ODA Budget Reduction
Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: About ODA budget. You told us about the part of reduction in MOFA budget. Please explain again about specific details of the reduction and whether it leads to non-implementation of international commitments. I hear reconstruction economy diplomacy was first taken up today at the department meeting. I think ODA budget reduction goes against it. How are you appealing reconstruction diplomacy to the international society?
Minister: About ODA budget, we are performing almost all of the pledged commitments over several years and necessary budget will be arranged. We understand there’s a consensus in the government that we faithfully honor our commitments, which shall be covered in the course of our future activities.
As for the specific fields of reduction, nearly all of the 27.6 billion yen will be slashed in the categories of contributions and assessed contributions. I understand Global AIDS Fund, for instance, is subject to the reduction. The reduction aims at avoiding immediate effect on the progress of projects at respective institutions. We know Japan so far has offered substantial contributions to the Global Fund. and approximately how much has been earmarked for this purpose in the main budget and supplementary budget last year. After all, we are aiming at fulfilling commitments by all means tiding over difficulties in the course of our future activities.
As for reconstruction diplomacy, reconstruction does not concern MOFA alone but concerns whole of Japan. Roughly speaking, I think reconstruction economy diplomacy in particular means that Japan’s economy still moves forward, already moves toward reconstruction with the efforts of all of you, and will move further forward not only restoring to the original state. I think it is our important role to convey this message.
As I was in private business, I understand well that the principle of market economy is competition. We shall be excluded and possibly drop off from competition if we fail to appeal that we steadily take part in competition. I think it is very important and meaningful that we strongly appeal we are taking part in the competition.
MOFA has very big channels including diplomatic establishments abroad in the international society. It is very important that we send these messages in total cooperation of the whole ministries.
Saito, Kyodo News: I hear a considerable amount of 15-something billion yen is slashed from the initial budget in contributions to the Global Fund. A reduction in the provision in the initial budget may be a substantial amount.
It seems to general public, 15-something billion yen is a substantial amount. Additionally, I understand the Global Fund was historically set up at Japan’s considerable initiatives at Okinawa Summit by former Prime Minister Mori and Japan has since tackled very positively with the project. People hardly understand this substantial 15-something billion yen has no unfavorable effect. Will you explain how the 15-something billion yen reduction is harmless with examples of specific projects?
Minister: As you pointed out, I think a considerable amount is going to be reduced this time and eventually the budget allotment will be put off for the Global Fund.
Japan actually has played considerable roles and contributed to the Global Fund. I hope it is understood that we responded in this way this time after looking seriously at the state of Global Fund activities, the state of its expenditure, and how much and when additional contributions will be required in the future.
The problem is when the Fund has fund demand on the fields and how much remains at the Fund while Japan pays the money to the Fund and the money actually goes out from the Fund to the spot.
As I told you, we contributed an amount beyond a certain level in the supplementary budget this year or at the end of last year. The amount is now on the way to disbursement. Putting off the additional contribution in the main budget seems to have no immediate detrimental effect on the future activities of the Fund.
8. Visit to Japan by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia
Yamamoto, Sekai Nippo: I received a fresh impression from the visit in Japan of Prime Minister Gillard that sent a big message to the world and that Prime Minister Gillard paid a courtesy call on Emperor and Empress yesterday along with her partner. Was there any debate or no debate at all over this circumstance?
Minister: Do you mean that Prime Minister Gillard visited Japan and acted together with what is called in Japan a de facto marriage partner?
Yamamoto, Sekai Nippo: Was there any negotiation or no negotiation at all over the fact that they met and had friendly talks with Emperor and Empress?
Minister: I think it depends on respective countries what legal system and what form shall apply to a life partner. We have not heard of any particular debate over the matter. We welcomed him as the partner to Prime Minister Gillard.
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