(* 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, July 8, 2011, 4:32 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room
- Independence of South Sudan
- Countermeasures Against Harmful Rumors
- Reported Critical Condition of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin
- South China Sea Issue
- Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Visit to China
- Japan's Nuclear Policy
- Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
- Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
- Maritime Security Policy
- Deployment of Osprey in Okinawa
- North Korean IOC Members' Visit to Japan
1. Independence of South Sudan
Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun: I would like to ask a question about South Sudan. South Sudan will be independent tomorrow. At a recent cabinet meeting, Japan decided to give state recognition to South Sudan. Would you tell us what the government of Japan is thinking about the independence of South Sudan and what role Japan should play in supporting and stabilizing South Sudan from now on?
Minister: As you mentioned, the Republic of South Sudan is expected to be independent, and its independence ceremony will take place tomorrow on June 9. Japan will give state recognition tomorrow, and at the same time, diplomatic relations will be established. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Kikuta will attend the independence ceremony, and I think she is now on her way to Juba.
The Republic of South Sudan has made steady progress up to now in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. I heartily congratulate the people of South Sudan on its independence tomorrow. I would like to welcome the progress of the CPA process with the cooperation of Sudan as well. The international community has been working together with countries concerned to back up and promote the process. When I was State Secretary last autumn, I attended the United Nations Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Sudan. While providing support for entire Africa, Japan has been making arrangements on the stable transition of Sudan as well. We would like to consider concrete support in the future for the steady development of South Sudan after its independence and implement the same. Meanwhile, there remain some issues awaiting solution between Sudan and South Sudan. We would like to make further efforts in cooperation with the international community toward a solution of the issues through peaceful dialogues.
2. Countermeasures Against Harmful Rumors
Saito, Kyodo News: I overheard that MOFA will include expenditures for countermeasures against harmful rumors in the Second Supplementary Budget draft that is said to be submitted in mid-July. In this respect, please tell us whether you have any specific projects for countermeasures against harmful rumors in your mind and what effect you expect from the projects.
Minister: As for the Second Supplementary Budget, MOFA has requested approximately 1.5 billion yen to restore and strengthen Japan brands. For this, it is necessary to deepen the understanding of Japanese products in foreign countries that are taking so-called import control measures. This is an urgent matter. MOFA has been requesting the expenditures in order to implement such activities as early as possible. I would like to give a clear explanation in the process of budget drafting so that the expenditures will be approved. We are planning to restore and reinforce Japan brands through projects that transmit attractive local products and non-Japanese invitation programs to promote understanding to Japan. We would like to work on allocating the expenditures to advance such projects and programs.
Saito, Kyodo News: It has passed quite a few weeks since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. I wonder to what extent so-called harmful rumors has been suppressed in the international community and what the current level of harmful rumors sustained is. I would like to ask you of your frank opinion based on what you have seen and felt.
Minister: Unfortunately, the nuclear power plant accident still has not been at the stage of solution. Frankly speaking, we cannot completely deny certain concerns of overseas people. Meanwhile, Japan has been taking necessary measures including shipment bans mainly on agricultural products under certain standards established based on proper inspections and investigations. Furthermore, we have been taking firm measures prohibiting people from entering designated areas that have been established. We have been explaining the present situation of Japan to each country and asking them to understand the safety of products marketed in Japan. As for import control measures, we know that some exports are stopped as a result of substantial import bans, or, even without such direct control, because of complicated and time-consuming requirements involved. In view of the situation, we have been taking necessary measures to them. As for import restrictions or bans imposed by the United States and Brazil, for example, I directly negotiated with them, and certain good effects have been reported as a result, such as the reduction of the applicable areas. From the viewpoint of documentation, our measures for the substantial recovery of import and export trade have been successful as well, where we asked other countries to accept the current import and export documentation of Japan. Regrettably, however, we have not grasped the actual percentage of export recovery at the moment. It is difficult to estimate what would have been resulted if we had not taken any approaches. We think that our explanation made as much as possible has been producing the desired effect presently and we would like to continue making further efforts.
3. Reported Critical Condition of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: Since yesterday, there has been a series of domestic and overseas media reports stating that former Chinese President Jiang Zemin is in critical condition or has been dead. With this regard, did the government of Japan get any information or receive any contact from China? Meanwhile, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin is known as a so-called hardliner against Japan judging from the dispute over historical recognition. If he should pass away, what influence do you think his death will have on Japan-China relations and China's policy toward Japan, if any?
Minister: I am aware of the press reports, but I am not in a position to give a further comment on it. Moreover, in my standpoint, I can never say what would result if he should pass away. I know that there are various opinions about former Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Japan, where freedom of speech is guaranteed. On the other hand, he issued the Joint Declaration for Building a Partnership of Friendship and Cooperation for Peace and Development when he visited Japan. It will have passed 40 years next year since Japan established diplomatic relations with China, and I think we should objectively evaluate his efforts toward the development of the relations.
4. South China Sea Issue
Shimoe, Kyodo News: I would like to ask a question about the South China Sea issue. I remember that this issue was taken up at the recent Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting as well. China is maintaining the solution of the matter through a bilateral dialogue. How do you evaluate this? Furthermore, there is a debate that ASEAN's Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to be promoted as the Code of Conduct. What do you think of the bilateral dialogue and the Code of Conduct?
Minister: In our understanding, maritime safety and freedom of navigation are concerns of the international community, not limited to the theme at the Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting. The economies of the world are linked together. This is evident from the supply chain problem after the earthquake this time as well. The ocean plays a major role in connecting the economies of the world. In that sense, I have been reiterating that the ocean is an international concern. A condition that increases the tensions of the countries concerned is not desirable. I have been reiterating that an increase in the tensions result in a growing concern. There are limitations on what I can say about specific exchanges, but I have already told you here that we discussed what I have just mentioned in the Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
With regard to the promotion of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as the Code of Conduct, I understand that the talks between ASEAN and China over the matter have been making progress since the Declaration made in 2001 or 2002. It is desirable that the talks will make progress and the South China Sea will be in a stable condition. Therefore, I would like to say that it is desirable if the Code of Conduct can stabilize the situation.
5. Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Visit to China
Asaka, Freelance: I heard that Prime Minister Kan would visit China in October. How is MOFA making specific arrangements for this?
Furthermore, it is said on the street that Prime Minister Kan is going to resign. I think that the arrangements have been made on the premise that the present administration will last until October, which is three months ahead. However, there is another opinion that it would be a little bit impolite for the lame-duck Premier, who is said to resign soon, to take an official trip abroad. What do you think of this?
Minister: I have never seen any reports on his visit to China in October except for media reports.
Leaders of Japan and China have been visiting each other alternately on a biennial basis. It is Japan's turn to send its leader to China, which we have confirmed at the last Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting as well. We have only half a year left. Please understand that is the understanding of both Japan and China to make adjustments from now on.
6. Japan's Nuclear Policy
Inada, NHK: A stress check for the resumption of the nuclear power plant was suddenly announced yesterday. I understand that there was a huge perception gap between Prime Minister Kan and Minister for Trade and Industry Kaieda over the process and National Public Safety Commission Chairman Nakano presented candid advice at today's Ministerial Meeting.
What do you think of the discrepancy in opinion over such a major decision to set the direction of Japan's nuclear policy? Moreover, as expected, there is a strong opposition from regions where nuclear power plants are located. What do you think of this?
Minister: The matter is not under my jurisdiction. Therefore, I am not in the position to comment directly on the discrepancy, change, or nonconformity in opinion.
Having said that, from the viewpoint of a politician, it is true that the series of explanations connected together was not easy to understand for municipalities concerned as well as the parties concerned. I remember that there was a story that the Town Mayor of Genkai, who once agreed the resumption of the nuclear power plant, had to retract what he said. He was not satisfied with the explanation, which resulted in his retraction, and I think that we should seriously take this result.
As you mentioned, like other countries, Japan attaches importance to energy policies. Energy is quite an important factor in economic activities and people's daily lives in Japan as a developed country. It is undesirable if the explanations raised public suspicions about the fundamental part of the important factor or worried people. I think that we should make efforts toward the solution of the problem. I think that the Ministers in charge are making efforts and we would like to wait for a quick outcome.
Inada, NHK: You said that it is undesirable that the explanations over the energy policy raised public suspicions. What do you think caused the problem?
Minister: I do not know if the explanations raised public suspicions, but I think either the contents were not well organized or the explanations were inadequate though the contents were well organized. In any case, it is our job to convey what we think and have it clearly understood. As Mr. Inada said, a nuclear policy is a very important policy. I cannot evaluate that the policy has been well understood or taken with satisfaction. In my understanding, the parties concerned are making efforts toward the rectification of the situation as soon as possible.
7. Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
Domestic Political Situation (Omitted)
8. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Hashimoto, Kyodo News: I would like to ask about TPP
I understand that Minister Kaieda reported the White Paper on International Trade at today's Cabinet Meeting, which states that TPP to reinforce economic cooperation is necessary in order to overcome the Great East Japan Earthquake and revive the economy of Japan. Due to the recent series of political confusions, TPP has not been discussed in Japan at all. What do you think of the current situation?
Minister: In the basic policy for comprehensive economic partnership made last year, we expressed that the promotion of economic cooperation is necessary with consideration of the future of Japan. I think it has been the basic policy of promoting Japan's policies since then. Japan's ideal way of promoting policies summarized after the earthquake positively admits the necessity for economic cooperation. In that sense, I think that the White Paper on International Trade stipulates the consistent view of the government.
However, I should say that we have not been able to spare time for the issue of economic linkage for more than one to two months due to physical reasons. FTAAP and EPA Ministerial Meetings have been already resumed, and various relevant discussions have been started. I think we should accelerate the discussions from now on.
9. Maritime Security Policy
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: With regard to the previous question related to the South China Sea, you explained recently that you talked about the issue at the 2+2 Meeting in Washington DC on June 21. In short, you explained that there friction related to freedom of navigation is caused at the South China Sea and the East China Sea, where you referred to the South China Sea along with the East China Sea. Did you refer to the East China Sea expressly because you had last year's Senkaku incident in mind and, furthermore, Japan cannot be indifferent to the South China Sea issue as it may link to the security of Japan and East China Sea, where the Senkaku Islands are located?
Minister: I think that I talked in the context of freedom of navigation and maritime safety. Several countries are insisting various things though I will not mention the names of the countries. As far as I remember, I mentioned that we cannot help admitting that the situation is causing friction because a number of countries in different standpoints are exchanging views with one another.
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: For what reasons did you refer to the South China Sea in parallel with the East China Sea?
Minister: I referred to the South China Sea and the East China Sea in the context of freedom of navigation and maritime safety for the necessity of suppressing growing tensions.
Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: You mean you did not talk with last year's Senkaku incident or similar incidents kept in mind.
Minister: I did not mention any individual events. I remember that I talked in the context of freedom of navigation and maritime safety and for our concern over growing tensions.
10. Deployment of Osprey in Okinawa
Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: I have a question about the Osprey. Yesterday, the Ginowan City Council requested the government to oppose the deployment of the Osprey at Futenma Air Station. Is there any possibility that Japan will approach the United States to withdraw the Osprey deployment plan in the future because the local people feel the risk?
Minister: As for the Osprey, we are thinking of collecting solid information first, and provide the local people of the information.
We understand that the Osprey will replace the existing aging helicopter model. At the present stage, it is our standpoint to provide the local people with the information first and gain their understanding.
11. North Korean IOC Members' Visit to Japan
Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question related to the Olympics and IOC. I heard that the government of Japan is making arrangements to accept North Korean Committee members attending the OCA General Meeting. I would like to ask the progress of the arrangements, the situation of visa issuance, and your opinion on this case.
Minister: At the present stage, I hear that the OCA General Assembly will be held and many sports officials including IOC President Jacques Rogge will visit Japan. We would like to take appropriate action for the North Korean officials concerned at the stage of their formal application for visas.
As you are aware, Japan does not permit the entry of North Korean nationals unless there are exceptional circumstances. I would say that the interpretation of "exceptional circumstances" depends on the judgment of the Cabinet Secretariat. As long as the entry of people relevant to sports in and after principal banns in 2006, I understand that the government took the stance of not discriminating the entry of people just because they are from particular countries or regions and admitted the entry of the North Korean women's team for the East Asian Football Championship last February.
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