(* 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 24, 2011, 4:10 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Visit to Japan by the Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand
    • (2) Visit to Okinawa by Minister for Foreign Affairs Matsumoto
  2. Visit to Northern Territories Planned by South Korean National Assembly Members
  3. Northern Territories Issue
  4. New Nuclear Performance Test Conducted by the United States
  5. Visit to Okinawa
  6. Review of 1956 Japan-US Joint Committee Agreement
  7. Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement
  8. Killing of Osama bin Laden
  9. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to Japan by the Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand

Minister Matsumoto: The Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, will visit Japan from Thursday, May 26, to Saturday, May 28. I am going to hold talks and a working dinner with him on May 27.
I would like to talk with him about the earthquake in New Zealand and express our gratitude to New Zealand's cooperation and support in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake. Furthermore, I would like to exchange views on regional and international affairs including the relations between Japan and New Zealand and issues on the Pacific islands.
I would like to welcome his visit, which will promote the bilateral relations between Japan and New Zealand.

(2) Visit to Okinawa by Minister for Foreign Affairs Matsumoto

Minister: I will visit Okinawa on Saturday, May 28, and hold talks with Governor Nakaima of Okinawa. I would like to listen sincerely to the voices of Okinawan people, and express our determination to make every effort toward the alleviation of burdens on Okinawa.

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

Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask a question which is roughly divided into three points about the visit to the Northern Territories planned by South Korean National Assembly  members. There is a media report that they have already left Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Firstly, could you tell us whether the Japanese government has confirmed the facts? Secondly, what kind of measures,  a protest against the lawmakers for instance, are going to be taken by the Japanese government for their visit? Thirdly, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was held today in this regard. When a MOFA official was explaining the government's response there, the LDP's lawmaker Seiichi Eto criticized the MOFA's response and threw a glass of water at the MOFA official. In this respect, are you as Minister for Foreign Affairs going to take any action against the LDP or Mr. Eto? Would you please answer these three points?

Minister: First, at this stage, I have been reported that they took a plane from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Kunashiri Island.
Secondly, the Northern Territories are inherent territories of Japan. From the basic position of Japan, I do not think we can accept the Korean lawmakers' visit to the Northern Territories with  a Russian visa as if the Northern Territories were Russian territories, that is, a third country's people are subjected to the jurisdiction of Russia in the Northern Territories this time. The government cannot accept their visit, and we are thinking of making necessary representations to South Korea.
As for your third point, I have received a report a while ago that a glass of water was thrown at the MOFA official. We are members of the Diet, citadel of discourse. It is my regret to hear that physical power was exercised in that way. I cannot say exactly at the moment what action MOFA should take, but I am thinking of making representations to the LDP.

Oshima, Asahi Shimbun: You said that you were  thinking of making necessary representations to South Korea with regard to the lawmakers' visit to the Northern Territories. Does this mean you are going to make them to the South Korean government or to the lawmakers? May I ask you one more thing? Please tell me whether you requested them to cancel their plan.

Minister: If I speak in chronological order, the lawmakers had expressed their will prior to the foreign ministerial meeting held between Japan and South Korea on May 20. Therefore, I explained in the meeting that the realization of their visit would conflict with the standpoint of the Japanese government. With regard to your question about who we should make necessary representations to, there is no doubt we should make them to either the government or the lawmakers, and we are still making necessary arrangements.

Saito, Kyodo News: From what you mentioned, I understand that you pointed out the fact that a third country's people are subjected to the de-facto jurisdiction of Russia to enter the Northern Territories. As you are aware, the South Korean media repeatedly reported that these opposition lawmakers are strongly requesting the South Korean government's effective control of Takeshima, which they call Dokdo. Please tell us if their strong attitude over Takeshima will or should be taken into consideration when Japanese government takes some actions against them this time.

Minister: We do not think the Japanese government can accept a third country's people, especially those in the capacity of Korean lawmakers, to be subjected to the jurisdiction of Russia to enter the Northern Territories, which are inherent territories of Japan. The Takeshima issue is a different matter, for which we have been expressing the standpoint of Japan.

Saito, Kyodo News: You said that you are still making adjustments to finalize your arrangements. Is it correct to understand that you are questioning the appropriateness of the lawmakers as people of a third country visiting the Northern Territories and that the Takeshima issue should be separated as a different matter?

Minister: We would like to maintain our position and point out activities that are incompatible with our position. As far as we know, their activity this time is a visit to Kunashiri Island. We will make necessary communications.

Inada, NHK: I remember that you said at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the House of Councilors today that you made a request about this matter at the Japan-Korea foreign ministerial meeting based on the instructions of Prime Minister Kan. We had not been aware of the request after the foreign ministerial meeting. Please tell us what concrete instructions you received from the Prime Minister. Please also tell us why the matter was discussed at the foreign ministerial meeting prior to the Japan-China-ROK Summit Meeting, and not mentioned during the summit -level conference.

Minister: I mentioned the matter according to the instructions of the Prime Minister. As I said, I confirmed with the Prime Minister the Japanese government’s standpoint that it cannot overlook the South Korean lawmakers as a third country’s people subjected to the jurisdiction of Russia in the Northern Territories because it is inherent territories of Japan. Since it was necessary for the Japanese government to take an appropriate action, I expressed the standpoint of the government under my responsibility.
On the other hand, the Summit Meeting was a place to express the government's gratitude to the cooperation from China and South Korea in post-quake responses. Furthermore, it was a place for the Japanese government to confirm the reinforcement of further cooperation with them for the reconstruction of the quake-stricken areas, the trilateral cooperation of Japan, China, and South Korea in disaster prevention, nuclear safety, and environment preservation, and the bilateral cooperation between Japan and China and between Japan and South Korea in the future. In my understanding, the Summit Meeting was held to exchange views for the purpose of further developments.
Therefore, please understand that I expressed the government standpoint at the foreign ministerial meeting.

Inada, NHK: May I understand that the trilateral Summit Meeting or bilateral summit meeting were occasions where Prime Minister Kan expressed the Japanese government's gratitude for the post-quake cooperation and confirmation of further cooperation in the future and that the Japanese government decided that they were not  suitable places to mention the matter in question?

Minister: Opinions were exchanged according to the purpose of the conference. In the meantime, the Prime Minister and I shared the same recognition that the Korean lawmakers' visit to the Northern Territory was unacceptable to the Japanese government. That is the reason I represented the Japanese government and expressed its opinion.

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: You said you had explained at the Japan-ROK foreign ministerial meeting on May 20 that their visit conflicts with the Japanese government's standpoint. Please tell us whether you requested the South Korean government to take some appropriate measures to cancel the visit and whether there was any reactions from South Korea. Could you clarify these two points?

Minister: We consider that we conveyed the Japanese government's clear message that what Japanese government could not accept should not take place to the South Korean side. The South Korean side expressed that its government was not concerned with the lawmakers' visit, but please pardon me for not mentioning the further contents of the talks in detail.

Saito, Kyodo News: With regard to what you have mentioned, I would like to confirm whether you requested South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan to take some actions to prevent their visit after all. I have another question. As you said, the Korean government says that it has nothing to do with their visit. They are opposition lawmakers. Therefore, the South Korean media pointed out that President Lee Myung-bak also thought that it was troublesome.
This is certainly a domestic South Korean issue, but probably you collected various pieces of information on this matter in which you are interested. Please tell us what you think about this matter.

Minister: As a matter of course, the South Korean government has its own relations with the South Korean National Assembly, and as you said, they are opposition lawmakers. Mr. Oshima asked a while ago whether we should make a protest against the lawmakers or the government. Since we cannot admit the visit, it is necessary to say what is necessary to say to the South Korean government as our counterpart. That is why I spoke about the standpoint of the Japanese government to South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-Hwan.

3. Northern Territories Issue

Inukai, Mainichi Shimbun: In regard to Japan-Russia relations, the other day Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Ivanov visited  the Northern Territories of Japan. I heard afterward you had expressed displeasure to Ambassador  Bely. At the G8 summit does our Prime Minister also intend to express his displeasure to Russian Prime Minister or is it necessary for the Prime Minister  to do so? In addition, for the Great East Japan Earthquake Russian people supported Japanese in various fields and our friendly relations has developed since then. So how do you think the Japan-Russia relations should be built from now on?

Minister: About what will be discussed at the top-level meeting, it is not appropriate for me to refer to it at present. As for the visit to our Northern Territories by Russian Deputy Prime Minister, I consider that I lodged our protest over it to the ambassador on behalf of Japanese government.
 I deeply appreciate their help for the Earthquake, but as for the Northern Territories our standpoint has never changed. For developing the Japan-Russia relations it is important to solve the issues on the Northern Territories and to conclude the peace treaty, which seems to be essential for the future relations. Therefore I said that visit did not contribute to that.

Inukai, Mainichi Shimbun: From your account I understood that you had already lodged the protest and so it might not be needed to repeat the same at the summit-level meeting. But in this case the visit was conducted by a Russian leader and it is not the same as the visit to our territories by the Korean National Assembly members or the issues on Japan-Korea and Japan-China relations. What do you think about this argument?

Minister: As for the summit-level meeting of the two countries, I should not prejudge its content. I said that on behalf of Japanese government I had lodged our protest to the Russian ambassador.

4. New Nuclear Performance Test Conducted by the United States

Okada, Chugoku Shimbun: Recently it was reported that US had experimented the new type of nuclear weapon. So the mayor of the atomic bombsite sent a letter on his protest to the President and the surviving atomic bomb victims conducted a sit-in protest. I would like to ask you how you on behalf of the Japanese government see this experiment and whether you have a will to protest to the US Government.

Minister: We have welcomed the policy of reduction of nuclear weapons or denuclearization by the Obama administration. We consider the experiment which you referred to will  not fall in the case in relevant treaties and other frameworks  and since we need to decide our response after carefully examining what category the experiment falls, at this moment, we have no idea to protest against something which is not regarded as nuclear experiment under treaties and other regimes.

5. Visit to Okinawa

Hanamura, TV Asahi: In regard to your visit to Okinawa, Mr. Nakaima, the governor of Okinawa, has repeatedly declared the rejection of relocation of US base to  Henoko.
How do you intend to get the consent from him?

Minister: I recognize the severe situations surrounding the governor as well as people of Okinawa.
However the government would like to go forward according to the agreement of both governments in May, last year. Even if I meet the Governor  once, the matter of concern cannot be solved all at once. Since I assumed the post of foreign minister, I have not visited  Okinawa. So I will visit and listen to the Governor sincerely.

Ichihara, NHK: Last Monday, the task force for burden - relief of Okinawa was held. When you visit Okinawa, what determination do you plan to declare and with whom do you intend to see other than the governor?

Minister: I have a plan only to meet the governor and Lt. Gen. Glueck, Okinawa Area Coordinator of US, due to the limit of schedule. I wish I could speak to many people but on this visit I intend to have a meeting with the governor as the representative of Okinawa people and also to exchange opinions  with the Coordinator as the people in Okinawa pointed out  many problems with US Forces in Okinawa.

Matumura, Asahi Shimbun: As for various problems on US Forces, do you have some conclusions or proposals about the Status of Forces Agreement?

Minister: In the manifesto of the Democratic Party, we raised the revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, but the former Foreign Ministers first of all have strived to solve the individual and concrete issues when the incidents and accidents had occurred including the conditions related to the Agreement. Based on such experiences, I hope the direct talks with the Coordinator  this time may open up the possibility to find measures to solve each problem.
With regard to the revision of the Agreement the former ministers have attempted to get US government to recognize our intentions. However, frankly speaking, at the present stage we haven’t officially proposed to begin the negotiation for revision.

Inada, NHK: It will be just one year from the Japan-US agreement when you visit  Okinawa on Saturday. In the mean time, the governor as well as people of Okinawa have chosen the relocation of the US base to other prefectures or abroad through the general election which caused the advent of a new government. But the Henoko region was agreed as the place of relocation. The people of Okinawa have consistently maintained that there was no concrete explanation about the reasons for alteration. You, the Minister, may apologize to the governor for why the matter has lapsed into such situation. I ask you why the negotiation has fallen into arrears.

Minister: Although once we said about the deployment to other prefectures, the way for its realization could not been found as a result. Therefore we are obliged to ask for the agreement in May last year to the people of Okinawa. Kan Government has already expressed their apologies for such incurred situations. 
As for this matter I also cannot help excusing that we could not find out an approach for its realization. For your question about my awareness of the issues, I know as much about both of the discussions at yesterday’s and today’s task forces and announcement in the vicinity of the governor and others. I would like to strive to find what and how to explain full-heartedly in order to get apprehension of the Miyako people of Okinawa.

6. Review of 1956 Japan-US Joint Committee Agreement

Tsuruoka, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask you on the agreement about coverage of official affairs at the Japan-US joint committee of 1956. According to your responses to the questions in the Diet, there are some documents that are no longer enforced. Why does the US government not accept to review the agreement although former ministers of foreign affairs have tackled with it and conferred with US government for a long time?

Minister: I am afraid but I cannot talk about each matter of negotiation. As you say, many ministers have tackled with the problems and I would like to ask for the department  in charge to respond them proactively and to negotiate with US steadily since I took over the matters from the former minister.

7. Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement

Shodo, Ryukyu Shinpo: I would like to ask you about Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement. Okinawa prefectural police served warrant against an American boy for the robbery in Okinawa City on April 29. However I hear that the US Forces has never complied with it.  On the Agreement both parties have duty of mutual collaboration for investigation. As for this matter, have you sent in a complaint to the US Forces?

Minister: We recognize that the both parties collaborated in questioning  him. Whether warrant is served or not should be judged by investigators by themselves, and we do not comment on  the matter.

8. Killing of Osama bin Laden

Kamide, Freelance: I would like to confirm the fact which I heard  last week. As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, it was reported that Pakistan Government had accepted the fact beforehand, and so there are questions about it being corresponding to the infringement of sovereignty. And it is said that US Government maintained their legitimacy for their action based on the right of self-defense  under the Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. In this case US Government should report the affair to the Security Council. Japanese Government said that they did not comment on or evaluate the case. But can you tell me from the stand point of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Minister, what measures the US Government intends to take and what relation do they keep with the United Nations?

Minister: As I said to you last week, we are not in a position to evaluate the matter. In regard to the assertion of the US Government and the UN’s response for it, we will answer the inquiries about the suitable information if any.

Kamide, Freelance: Don’t you have any  information about it now?

Minister: I have no information to share with you.

9. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)

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