(* 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, May 20, 2011, 3:57 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
    • (2) US President Obama's Speech on Situations of Middle East and North Africa
    • (3) Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  2. Visit to Northern Territories Planned by South Korean National Assembly Members
  3. Realignment of US Forces in Japan
  4. Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
  6. Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  7. Response to Measures Related to Imports and Exports Taken by Countries and Regions after Nuclear Accident
  8. Parachute Descent Training of US Forces in Japan
  9. Cooperation with Foreign Countries in Nuclear Power

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

Minister Matsumoto: The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting will be held in Tokyo on May 21 and 22. Prior to the Summit meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will visit Sendai and Fukushima. They are to express their heartfelt sympathy to the people in the disaster-stricken areas with Prime Minister Kan, and we would like to express our gratitude to the warm consideration of both the leaders to encourage the people in the stricken area. Their visit will be greatly encouraging. Furthermore, their visit to Fukushima will become a good opportunity to provide proper information on safety to the world. As agreed at the Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in March, the Summit meeting will aim to put out a concrete outcome in nuclear safety and disaster management. Moreover, in response to the nuclear power plant accident, renewable energy, energy conservation, and improvement in energy efficiency as well as persistent nuclear safety will be extremely important themes at the Summit meeting. As a matter of course, the Summit meeting aims at the development of cooperation among the three countries  including investment agreement,  free trade agreement (FTA), and economic partnership, which will contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability of the region. Furthermore, we believe that the Summit meeting will be a significant opportunity for Japan to play a firm leading role and contribute to the post-quake reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas. Besides the Summit Meeting, we will hold bilateral meetings with China and South Korea.

(2) US President Obama's Speech on Situations of Middle East and North Africa

Minister: US President Obama made a speech on the Middle East and the North African region on May 19. We strongly support his policy of backing up the shift of the region toward political and economic reform and democratization. The speech presented a principle of negotiations for a  two-state solution regarding the peace of the Middle East, with the United States' intention of continuing all efforts to remedy the present situation. We strongly hope that the negotiation for a two-state solution will restart soon. Japan hopes to back up the self-reliant efforts of each country in the region toward a stable regime change and reforms in cooperation with the United States and the rest of the international community so that these countries will realize a democratic, peaceful and tolerant society and sustainably developing economy.

(3) Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Minister: Today, the Cabinet agreed to advance the government's preparations for the conclusion of the so-called Hague Convention and draft necessary legislation for its implementation. From the viewpoint of children’s welfare and with consideration of opinions that we received from each field, we have held seven vice-ministerial conferences, the results of which I confirmed at the ministerial conference of May 19. I understand that a handout on the contents of the Cabinet's decision has been delivered to you. As specified in the handout, a central bureau will be established in MOFA in accordance with the Convention. We would like to make a proper arrangement in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and other parties concerned for an appropriate implementation of the Convention and achieving maximum welfare of the children.

2. Visit to Northern Territories Planned by South Korean National Assembly Members

Sakai, Sankei Shimbun: As discussed in the Diet session today, South Korean National Assembly members are planning to visit the Northern Territories. You mentioned that you were making a fact check at that time. Have you confirmed the fact since then? I have one more question. Is Prime Minister Kan going to make a protest against it at the forthcoming Summit Meeting or bilateral meetings? Please let us hear your opinion.

Minister: We are making a fact check. If the report is true, it is regrettable to us, and we would take an appropriate action.

Nishida, Mainichi Newspapers: Does “the appropriate action” mean that you will request them not to visit or make a protest after their visit?

Minister: We are making a fact check.

3. Realignment of US Forces in Japan

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: I have a question about the relocation of Futenma Air Station. There have been various reports recently on what to do with the relocation time limit of 2014. Yesterday, Defense Minister Kitazawa answered in the Diet session that Japan and the United States should share the recognition that difficult matters are difficult after all and that a frank discussion on what to do may be possible in the 2+2 Meeting. What do you think of the Minister’s answer?

Minister: I have been mentioning my recognition of the present situation in the Diet. I think I should frankly admit that we are returning to the starting point. On the other hand, the Japan and US agreed on the year of 2014. After all, it is necessary to set a goal and continue working toward the attainment of the goal. In other words, it is essential to make plans and work in accomplishing them with good consideration of the present situation. What Minister Kitazawa mentioned is one idea if we take it as it is. In my opinion, however, the setting of a goal is important.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: You said, "It is necessary to continue working toward the attainment of the goal." Does it mean it is necessary to stick with the goal for 2014, or do you mean goal setting is in any case necessary regardless of whether the present goal should be reviewed and replaced with another goal?

Minister: I recognize that the target year 2014 is what we agreed on presently.

Ichihara, NHK: I think you are making adjustments in preparation for the forthcoming 2+2 Meeting. A document issued at the 2+2 Meeting of 2007 included a description about the realignment of US Forces in Japan. Do you intend to include the new time limit in a document that may be issued as a result of the 2+2 Meeting?

Minister: I am not sure about the new time limit. In any case, we will decide the schedule of the 2+2 Meeting as soon as possible. Then, keeping the agreement of May last year in mind, we are to discuss and finalize a common strategic objective and the realignment of US Forces in Japan at the 2+2 Meeting and issue a document.

Ichihara, NHK: Minister Kitazawa says difficult matters are difficult after all and a frank discussion on what to do may be possible in the 2+2 Meeting. Do you have an intension to discuss a new time limit that is not due in 2014 or put it into a document?

Minister: Presently, the goal in my mind is the attainment of what we agreed for 2014.

4. Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Sugiyama, Stars and Stripes: When are you going to submit convention approval and relevant draft bills to the Diet?

Minister: As I answered in the Diet today, I would like to submit them as soon as possible. You can find information on the draft bills in the reference that has been delivered to you today. MOFA will play a central administrative role while the Ministry of Justice will be in charge of setting and organizing entire procedures for the return of children. As for the procedures for the return of children, the Ministry of Justice must take steps to consult the Legislative Council, and not all the processes have been finalized at the present stage. Therefore, it is difficult to mention the concrete date of submitting the draft bills, but we would like to proceed as soon as possible according to our basic policy that has been already decided. Although I said, "as soon as possible," the draft bills will affect individual family and children concerned. Therefore, we would like to have necessary discussions and sincerely listen to opinions.

5. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

6. Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask a question about the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting.
The government has reiterated that reputational damage control will be one of the major themes. What kind of messages specifically are you going to convey to the leaders of China and South Korea this time?
What kind of roles do you expect to seek from the Summit Meeting for the prevention of reputational damage then? Could you give us your opinion as Foreign Minister?

Minister: We are going to have summit-level talks literally, thus entering into a decision-making level where accurate information will be provided, more appropriate arrangements will be made for the future, and leading to the relaxation of import restrictions. I think it will be a good opportunity that will enable us to make efforts to urge them to understand Japan's measures to secure safety and aim for the relaxation of additional or reinforced restrictions.
At the same time, the Summit Meeting will be as a milestone. As a matter of fact, we have been working at various levels, where some negotiations seem to be making progress. However, final decisions have not been reached. Through these meetings including the Summit Meeting, our negotiations will be finalized, thus leading to concrete relaxation measures. We hope that the Summit Meeting will accelerate such relaxation measures and would like to make efforts toward the realization of our objectives.

7. Response to Measures Related to Imports and Exports Taken by Countries and Regions after Nuclear Accident

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a related question. As you mentioned, China and South Korea are currently implementing their import restrictions on Japanese food imports while Japan has its own safety standards. Compared with Japan's safety standards, how do you see Chinese and South Korean standards although they may not be subject to evaluation or criticism? Could you explain this? This is my first question.
My second question is the significance of the Japan-China working-level meeting on nuclear safety. I would like to ask this as my second question.

Minister: In response to your first question, I should say that such restrictions are not imposed only by China and South Korea. While negotiating with them directly, I feel that conformity certification and procedures are complicated and cost- and time-consuming, which, rather than actual standards, are becoming de-facto restrictions in many cases. Therefore, I think it is an important factor to let them understand that food exports from Japan are thoroughly checked in Japan to ensure their safety. On the premise of this, how to relax such substantial hurdles is our action assignment, to which our negotiations will put importance. I think that a big point of successful negotiations not only with China and South Korea but also with other countries is how to single out such regions where complicated de-facto restrictions are imposed. Such matters have been discussed at working-level meetings, and as I mentioned, I hope that the Summit Meeting will become a good opportunity to accelerate such negotiations, finalize the negotiations, and return the results to contribute to the economy of both of the countries soon.
As for your second question related to nuclear power, I understand that experts visiting the nuclear accident site are having discussions. It is true that various matters occur on a daily basis to the site where they are conducting remedial work, which makes them very busy. Meanwhile, I think it is one of the best methods for them to have expert-level talks in the sense of encouraging the international community to understand Japan's arrangements. Therefore, we have asked the nuclear operating team to welcome the experts. In that sense, I think it is meaningful to have an opportunity where we can discuss and exchange opinions with Chinese experts. For example, it will disseminate information that Japan is making efforts toward the transparency of data and information through negotiations with experts in addition to information and data provided for the embassies located in Tokyo through MOFA.

8. Parachute Descent Training of US Forces in Japan

Mekaru, Okinawa Times: I heard that US military parachute descent training was conducted at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa today. Let me confirm if MOFA received reports on the training from the US side in advance.

Minister: I knew the US Forces' intension to conduct the training, but we did not receive a report in advance on the timing of the training. I think we need to make improvements for better communication in the future.

Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: The training was forced through while Senator Levin's proposal for a Kadena merger plan has been enraging the Okinawan community. I would like to ask what you think of this. I have another question. I understand that Japan and the United States agreed on parachute descent training, if conducted, should take place at Ie Jima Airfield in accordance with Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreement in 1996. Please tell us about your response in accordance with the agreement.

Minister: Basically, parachute decent training is to be conducted at Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield. It is the shared understanding of the Japanese and US governments that small-scale parachute decent training can be conducted at Kadena Air Base exceptionally if the use of Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield is difficult owing to the natural conditions. As I mentioned, we did not receive a report in advance on Today's training at Kadena. However, I received a report that training itself would be conducted. We do not think it is related to the Senator's report.

9. Cooperation with Foreign Countries in Nuclear Power

Kamide, Freelance: Minister of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Kaieda pointed out today that Japan needed new nuclear power diplomacy arrangements, which include precise explanations on safety to Vietnam and Turkey, for example. What kind of understandings do you have about this issue?

Minister: The verification of the accident this time has not been finished, and if I should say correctly, the same has not been started officially. I do not think I can give a conclusion unless we figure out what the problem was. On the other hand, from our experience in contacting a large number of officials overseas, it is true that they highly evaluate and have high expectations from  all or part of Japan's nuclear technology. Since this regrettable accident occurred, I think we have a greater responsibility to ensure safety. Therefore, I think that we must contribute to the strengthening of all aspects of nuclear safety. We would like to think of our future arrangements by seeing the developments of the case in the future.

Kamide, Freelance: Did you not receive any proactive approaches from the foreign countries?

Minister: Please pardon me for not answering individual cases. However, it is a fact that we have been receiving solicits for cooperation on nuclear power from foreign countries including several countries who are showing their positive requests or intensions for Japan's continuous cooperation.

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