(* 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, May 10, 2011, 4:12 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Situation in North Korea
  2. Japan-US Relations
  3. Disclosure of Information related to Nuclear Power Plants
  4. Hague Convention
  5. Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement

1. Situation in North Korea

Deguchi, Kyodo News: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and German Prime Minister Merkel held a meeting yesterday. At that time, President Lee Myung-bak expressed that he is thinking of inviting North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-il to the Nuclear Security Summit scheduled for next year in South Korea if he agrees to the denuclearization of North Korea. Please tell us what you think about this proposal.

Minister: We have been saying  that North Korea should show its intension and concrete action to fulfill its commitments made in the past, including ones at the Six Party Talks. I do not think that North Korea has accomplished them at the present stage. At first, we would like to demand its intension and concrete action to fulfill its promise and make sure of them. In response to your question, therefore I do not think we can make any comments at this stage where North Korea's attitude has not been confirmed.

Deguchi, Kyodo News: President Lee Myung-bak's remarks yesterday were made on the premise that he will do so if Kim Jong-il agrees to the denuclearization of North Korea. Do you mean you cannot expect positive developments unless North Korea takes action toward denuclearization?

Minister: Denuclearization including uranium enrichment is one of the issues handled in the Six-Party Talks. We have been talking in the hope of realizing North Korea's denuclearization and finding a way to ascertain it. I think it is important to be able to ascertain such a situation.

Saito, Kyodo News: I have two questions related to this topic. One is about North Korea's sincere and concrete action as you mentioned. What action is the concrete action? What action by North Korea could clear the premise? In my understanding, the present administration and administrations in the past have aimed at the comprehensive solution of the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues, which, I believe, is Japan's consistent stance. My second question is whether this stance has been maintained or there is any possibility of reviewing this policy. Would you tell us your understanding to this?

Minister: We have been giving our views on the premise of holding the Six-Party Talks. We have recognized the importance of the Six-Party Talks in that respect. I have been reiterating the significance of the Six-Party Talks. I have been mentioning the necessity of holding the Six-Party Talks.
On the question of what would clear the way forward, to be frank, since we have to decide considering wide range of matters, it is not a kind of matter in which we can specifically itemize such things, from our side, at this juncture. We have to carefully observe what North Korea shows in their words and deeds, and I do not think that it is something we set a prearranged line in North Korea’s action.
As for your second question on the solution of the issues, you may understand that our stance has not been changed.

2. Japan-US Relations

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: You were discussing with key cabinet members including the Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary after the cabinet meeting today. Please tell us to what discussion you made on Japan-US relations in the future including so-called 2+2 and the Prime Minister's visit to the United States and what conclusion you reached on the schedule.

Minister: It is my basic policy to tell you promptly what I know when I can talk about it properly. Please understand that we are not ready to talk anything concretely at the moment and still we are making necessary arrangements.
To be honest, I had had little time to give the Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary, in particular, a report on my official trip to the United States. Today, I have given the report to them.
It is significant to hold the 2+2 Meeting, where the four key members will gather, prior to the Prime Minister's visit to the United States. In this respect, Japan and the United States have the same recognition. In the first place, however, it is difficult to adjust the schedules of the four key members. Frankly speaking, it was about one month after the earthquake when we started schedule adjustments, and, in fact, we have been still struggling with them. However, we have the same recognition that the schedules of the four members must be met somehow. Please understand that present situation of making adjustments is discussed.
As for the Prime Minister's visit to the United States, their schedules are getting much tighter filled with new tasks on a daily basis, as it takes more time, while the President as well as the Prime Minister has plenty of work on hand. Therefore, it is true that schedule adjustments are not easy. I think it is important to realize the meeting as soon as possible though.
I think the Prime Minister and the President will probably have a chance to meet together at the time of the G8 Meeting in France. The relationship and communication between Japan and the United States including the cooperation of the United States to Japan's post-quake operations have been going well. We have not reached the stage of making a concrete report.
Meanwhile, we received a report from Defense Minister Kitazawa on his official visit to Okinawa.

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: Some media reported that the Prime Minister's visit to the United States would be postponed to July or later. Does this mean that the Prime Minister's visit agreed to be scheduled for the first half of this year at the time of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting in last November will be postponed?

Minister: I saw the reports the same media, which mentioned remarks with quotation marks. I think the media should use quotation marks correctly. Frankly speaking, as I mentioned, it is not easy to make adjustments with consideration of Parliament and Diet sessions, which have been already decided for May and June for both sides. I mentioned that it is not easy, but still we are making adjustments to realize the meeting as early as possible. If you are referring to the same report and asking about my alleged remarks quoted, that is a little different from what I in fact mentioned.
Inada, NHK: I would like to ask you two questions related to the above. Minister repetitively said to us that the prime minister’s visit to the United States is quite difficult to arrange due to various events scheduled in May and June. Then, looking at the calendar, people may, of course, know that the said former half of this year for the visit will be consumed at the end of June. Since you regard it as an imperative business to hold a meeting, though difficult, do you intend to make such an arrangement late in June or in July, if under unavoidable circumstances? In addition, one of the reasons why there is such difficulty in that from an objective viewpoint may be the existence of the issue of relocating Futenma Air Station by 2014. Since it was pledged that the issue would be settled by May 28, do you believe that it must be realized?

Minister: With regard to your first question, I as a minister responsible for making adjustment on the schedule, so that without making any judgment, saying it is unavoidable, good, or bad, I should just focus on fulfilling schedule adjustment at the earliest possible date. As you mentioned, to limit your attention to the period since the APEC meeting last year, there occurred a truly unprecedented great earthquake on May 11, due to which, I should say, schedule adjustment and others had been actually restarted from scratch in a sense, as I mentioned earlier.  
With regard to the Futenma relocation issue, I understand that the basic policy for the target year of 2014 may have been officially determined by Minister  Nukaga in the former administration, though I need to check for accuracy. Strictly succeeding to the roadmap, we are going ahead with various related things. As you know well, there are a number of various issues to settle one by one. If I am asked whether everything is going ahead as was scheduled for the target year of 2014, I should say it is a fact that related actions are being deferred more and more. It is, however, of great importance to make efforts to settle the issues of reduction of burden, implementation of the roadmap, and Futenma relocation, with a predetermined target. We should, in principle, firmly establish a target while looking squarely at the reality. 

Saito, Kyodo News: We now heard from Minister that regarding the Prime Minister's visit to the United States or the 2+2 Meeting, there is an issue of schedule adjustment. Apart from the fact that such an adjustment is important, I would like to ask you whether you are ready to hold meetings to discuss substantial matters, including the issue of Futenma relocation, once schedules for meetings are in principle agreed upon.

Minister: The issue in Okinawa, which you referred to just now, is no easy one to solve, considering the current situation in Okinawa, and as such, I mentioned our view to this effect in the Diet session. In that sense, I would like you to understand it as far as possible. Regarding the target year of 2014, which you asked me right now, I sincerely wish to go ahead with the relocation of Futenma Air Station, and I think there are things to determine to proceed with the project and there are still things to be confirmed between Japan and the United States. We are now working on preparing necessary things for the next 2+2 Meeting based on the agreement last May, and we have also been engaged in sincerely asking Okinawan people to gain a deeper understanding of our policy, for example, through the visiting by Minister Kitazawa of Okinawa on May 7.
Since the specific date for the planned 2+2 Meeting has not been determined yet, we will continue making efforts for agreement on the schedule. Once the date is determined, it will be properly decided what will be the substantial contents of the meeting, which will be, of course, discussed before hand between Japan and the United States.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: According to the agreement reached in May last year, it is presumed that in consideration of the result of an expert conference, the construction of an alternative site for Futenma relocation, that is, adoption of either a V-shaped or an I-shaped structural plan will be determined. Can we understand that you are making adjustments with a view to putting forward the agenda in the coming 2+2 Meeting?

Minister: Though it is quite difficult for Okinawan people to accept our proposal, we are making efforts to gain their acceptance. I think I do not need to repetitively say that we are aiming at successful holding of the next 2+2 Meeting based on the agreement reached in last May. But we are still not in a position to say what items of things will be determined and what will be the final substance in the Meeting. 

Deguchi, Kyodo News: You said that at the stage where the schedule for holding the next 2+2 Meeting is not decided on, what items of things will be determined in the Meeting are not clear. I think what will be determined at any rate will have a great effect on Okinawan people’s lives. Before holding the Meeting, do you as a Minister have a willingness to visit Okinawa, and explain to and ask for understanding from related people in Okinawa?

Minister: We are scheduled to discuss, for example, what should be cooperative arrangements for setting up common strategic objectives and for deepening Japan-US alliance in a wide range of fields including cooperative countermeasures against natural calamities like this Great Earthquake. Certainly, there are some topics which we have already kept discussing to certain levels. One of them is the issue of realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa in which the issue of US Air Station in Okinawa is included. Personally, I think that my visit to Okinawa for explanation is one of the optional actions I can take as a member of the present Government. However, about what the whole Government has to say finally to Okinawan people and how, sufficient discussions should be made among all the Cabinet members, and then, I shall make a decision on what to do including what role I should play.

Inada, NHK: As regards the location of an alternative site to be discussed on May 28, we heard that determination of an alternative site will be placed on the agenda in the Meeting of May 28. However, hearing Minister’s earlier answer to this matter, I understand that though you are making preparations to realize that target, what items of things will be finally the ones to be determined are still unknown. Hearing your saying, it sounds like there may be yet another option that you will not necessarily have to decide on the location at the Meeting. What is your comment on this?

Minister: Since we are struggling to adjust the schedule for the next 2+2 Meeting of great importance, I think we should be sure to decide on important things. As you rightly mentioned, there are many things about which we have to talk fully with people concerned. After having had a good talk about them, we will finally be able to decide on what items of things will be determined in the next 2+2 Meeting. 

Deguchi, Kyodo News:  Can we understand that there is no way that the said matter will be determined at the coming 2+2 Meeting, without Okinawan people’s understanding? To be more strict, am I correct to understand that you will not step into decision-making at the 2+2 Meeting, until you gain their understanding?

Minister: I am determined to make every effort to seek for their understanding by all means.

3. Disclosure of Information related to Nuclear Power Plants

Onuki, Mainichi Newspaper: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs allegedly informed all the foreign countries’ embassies, etc. in advance of opening the double door between the turbine building and the reactor building on May 8. There had been some criticism against the fact that releasing of low-level contaminated water was notified at the last minute of or after the event in April. Can we understand that such remedial action was taken as the result of your internal reviews on provision of information to foreign countries inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Government?

Minister: It appears certain that your understanding of the situation is correct. About the releasing of low-level contaminated water, we reported of it at the Diet session. Regrettably, we could not be exempt from severe criticism against our explanations and others. Some remedial action was needed. Generally, as soon as people who deal with incidents at atomic power plants on the front lines become aware of the best possible method, it should be implemented as early as possible, which would enable going onto the next step earlier, ending in reduction of diffusion of radiation. On the other hand, we are always in direct contact with countries, and we received inquiries, for example, from local governments after publication of information, in which we, of course, received requests from some of them for prior notification. Putting into consideration the balance between increasing of the effect by quick implementation and sharing of information within a predetermined range of bodies, the procedure of publication of information was established to some extent. It was understood that some explanation to people concerned who should receive it some reasonable time in advance was needed, and then, publication of information to the general public and to foreign countries. This procedure was organized soon after receipt of criticism against notification of the releasing of low-level contaminated water, and has already been in use a sense as an established procedure. According to the procedure, earlier notification of the opening of double door was successfully made, I understand.

4. Hague Convention

Tanaka, Nishinippon Shimbun: I would like to ask you about the Hague Convention. In the morning media report today, the ruling came out in the civil trial in the United States involving the Hague Convention. Please let us have your idea as representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the pros and cons of the idea of accession to the Convention.

Minister: When I was State Secretary, I was responsible for working on the Hague Convention itself. In the process of tackling this issue, I not only consider it alone but also heard opinions from and exchanged ideas with, diverse kinds of people. Part of the Hague Convention deals, for example, with the case that a Japanese woman, married to an American man or a man of another country, came back to Japan with her child for one reason or another. In this case, she might have had no choice but to do so, but signing of the Hague Convention would make it impossible to protect that lady or the child, and if so, such a case must be avoided. Therefore, what needs to be done for protection purpose must be consideration. On the other hand, there were some people, not including me, who conducted interviews with many women to whom the above case was applicable. If placed under the reverse situation, a woman who came back with her child would make an inquiry. A relevant woman in fact said that “If my child is forcibly taken away, then there would be no legal method to regain him or her.” I thought to myself, “You are right. Such a thing would happen if under the new situation.” So, as I mentioned earlier, I have been struggling to seek for solutions to the problem of disadvantage that would happen to the existing situation with the conclusion of the Hague Convention. On the other hand, considering the international situation where a great number of people migrate to other countries and some of them get internationally married and some of their marriage relations collapse for one reason or another, I think Japan should finally follow the proposed international rule which defines the jurisdiction of the court for solutions in case of the collapse of marriage, and standing on that premise, I as the deputy minister used to be engaged in discussion with various walks of people to solve problems that might occur. I believe that our staff have continued to seek solutions to what extent problems will be solved while studying what concrete procedure Japan should take to be part of the international circle. Once solutions to might-be problems are found out, we will enter into the next step of making a resolution if the treaty should be concluded. I think we are still at the former stage.

With regard to the reported ruling today, in a sense, such a ruling came out in the legal context different from that of Japan. However, considering the number of member countries of the Convention, Japan should in principle follow the predetermined international rules, but at the same time, we should earlier establish measures to protect what should be protected. I understand that successors to my former post and the whole Government are actively working on them to that end.

5. Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement

Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: There occurred a robbery by a juvenile of a U.S. service member’s family in Okinawa. The U.S. military has not responded to a demand for the transfer of custody by the police which obtained an arrest warrant. In light of Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, please let us know your thoughts on this matter. And how are you as representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs going to treat the matter with the United States?

Minister: I am aware that you have referred to the incident which occurred on April 29. I understand that at present Japanese and U.S. authorities are making specific adjustments for questioning by a police investigator. I would like you to understand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is assisting in making adjustments from the standpoint of the Japanese Government. 

Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: What is your comment on whether that is in violation of U.S-Japan Status of Forces Agreement?

Minister: The very first thing to do is, I think, for both authorities to mutually and concretely set the stage for questioning by a police investigator. 

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