(* 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 Koichiro Gemba

Date: Friday, September 2, 2011, 9:23 a.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Inaugural Greeting
  2. North Korean Issues
  3. Intelligence System
  4. Basic Diplomatic Policy
  5. Northern Territories Issue
  6. Territorial and Maritime Interests Issues
  7. Economic Diplomacy
  8. Nuclear Power Plant Export
  9. Japan-China Relations

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Inaugural Greeting

Minister Gemba: Good evening, everyone. I am glad to hold a press conference at the Kasumi Club for the first time.
I am Koichiro Gemba and I was appointed to serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would like to add a comment to what I mentioned at the Prime Minister's Office a while ago.
As I said a while ago, it all comes down to the fact that the purpose of diplomacy is the maximization of our national interests, and I think that it requires strategic thinking. I am not saying this just because I was the National Policy Minister. What we need is a strategic way of thinking. In other words, I think that the most important thing is rational thought.
First, we should have a correct understanding of the situation at hand. Then, we should define vital national interests that we must protect, and come up with a  rational combination of measures, applying this process across a range of policies.
Since the DPJ government came into office, I have been reiterating in the Diet and other places that there were some misunderstandings concerning initiatives by political leaders and the division of roles between political leaders and governmental officials in some ministries, though I am not referring to MOFA. I think that political leaders are responsible for taking the initiative in the formation of policies or the determination of an outline of policies while governmental officials are responsible for firmly supporting them from professional, technical, and neutral viewpoints. We should clarify the division of the roles played by them and take advantage of professional diplomats. As I said earlier, it is important to minimize risks in East Asia and maximize its opportunities for growth.
I quoted Confucius' words "Military, Food, and Confidence" a while ago. "Military" in this case refers to defense, or the diplomacy and security of Japan. "Food" refers to prosperity, for which there are various measures, such as the integrated reform of social security and taxes. As a matter of course, speaking of diplomacy, we have to attach importance to economic diplomacy, which the DPJ government has been promoting.
As we all know historically, Japan has adopted a variety of overseas cultures and technologies, adopted in Japanese styles, and established Japan brands, in a sense. In fact, I have had the National Policy Unit confidentially look into  Japan brands. I would like to inform you I have a very strong interest in the transmission of values and I would like to work together with the National Policy Unit and other agencies to disseminate  not only culture but also values that transcend the concept of Cool Japan.
My opening remarks were what I wanted to add to the media interview at the Prime Minister's Office  a while ago.

2. North Korean Issues

Inukai, Mainichi Newspapers: I would like to ask you about North Korea diplomacy. You talked at the Prime Minister’s Office about the prospects of the 6-party talks.  With Japan-North Korea talks on the one hand, North Korea has been strengthening its emphasis on dialogue, conducting North-South talks and US-North Korea talks in April and also conducting conferences with Chinese and Russian leaders. How is Japan going to conduct Japan-North Korea talks, or is Japan ready to hold them early for early settlement of the abduction problem and nuclear  problem?

Minister: Our basic policy on this issue basically may be considered unchanged from the previous policy of settling some day the unfortunate past and normalizing diplomatic relations. Needless to say, we have no intention of rejecting dialogue, nor is there any need to do so. The matter should be tackled through full cooperation among Japan, the U.S. and South Korea. As I said already, I believe there exist issues at the present moment for which North Korea itself has to take the first step in starting dialogue. I am planning to cope with the matter through sufficient deliberations with new state secretaries and parliamentary vice minister or within the ministry.

3. Intelligence System

Yoshioka, NHK: You talked at the beginning about the importance of having a correct understanding of the situation at hand. On your website, you also called for the  establishment of an intelligence system,  and you have pointed out in Diet deliberations that the present system is insufficient. You also proposed in the past establishment of a crisis management agency. After becoming the Minister for Foreign Affairs, are you still planning to strengthen the intelligence system? What specifically are you going to do?

Minister: You examined well the questions I have raised in the past. That was quite a while ago. I am still very aware of these issues. I don’t believe problems of information access delay, distribution, leakage, etc. have been improved sufficiently. Therefore,  intelligence functions including HUMINT (human intelligence) may need more serious thinking and at the same time some necessary measures.
When I was the Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council, I proposed study of this problem at diplomacy and security research council meetings. Interim reports have already been received. Specific contents of the intelligence function should be completely deliberated with party people and at the same time within the ministry and also with other ministries concerned. The Intelligence function does not concern the foreign affairs ministry alone. It also concerns the police and  crisis management by  the Prime Minister Office  itself. Information sharing is hard to attain as you know because of mutual institutional restrictions. As I said before, I think the intelligence function is very important not only to diplomacy but also to Japan as a whole in view of correct analysis of information recognition.
At the time of the Senkaku boat collision incident last fall, the problem of so-called information protection or  preservation  was discussed and I proposed aggressive pushing of the matter. I remember pointing the matter out at some committee meetings despite being in the opposition and, what’s more, a member of the Democratic Party. I am planning specifically to enhance the intelligence function drawing well-balanced conclusions in connection with the privacy issue, freedom of expression issue, etc. while getting sufficient understanding of the people.

4. Basic Diplomatic Policy

Nishigaki, Jiji Press: What instructions did you receive from the Prime Minister upon assuming the position of the Minister for Foreign Affairs? What instructions, requests, etc. if any did you make to foreign affairs ministry officers?

Minister: Incidentally, these are the instructions from the Prime Minister. These are delivered to me as I review all policies as the Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council. These are pretty general. These are  9 points including, for example, “Make efforts for effective outward information dispatch etc. on recovery and rehabilitation of Japan to realize globally open recovery.” I am from Fukushima as I mentioned already. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding in the world about radioactivity. We must get out correct information on this point at conferences and other forums. The Prime Minister said “There will be  no reconstruction of Japan without the reconstruction of Fukushima.” I think attaining exact results on such matters will lead to big enhancement of the sense of presence of the whole Japan.
Second, “Deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance in a form suitable to the 21st century and quickly push necessary measures in line with the Japan-U.S. agreement and in conjunction with Ministers concerned on the mitigation of military base burdens at Futenma and in Okinawa Prefecture.”
Third, “Seek cooperation and collaboration with neighboring countries like China, South Korea and Russia on the basis of the strong Japan-U.S. relations. Deepen relations with ASEAN, Australia, India, etc. to develop open networks.”
Fourth, “Grapple wholeheartedly with implementation of necessary measures for high-level EPA/FTA realization from the viewpoint of global growth incorporation and industrial hollowing prevention based on the fundamental policy concerning Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Determine the time of participation in TPP negotiations early after comprehensive examination.”
Fifth, “Grapple wholeheartedly with the settlement of various issues like nuclear disarmament, nuclear weapons elimination and U.N. peacekeeping activities under international cooperation toward the realization of world peace and prosperity.”
Sixth, “Make wholehearted efforts for settlement of issues regarding North Korea, namely its nuclear, missile and abduction issues.”
Seventh, “Provide recovery assistance to Afghanistan and aid to neighboring countries to eliminate  the threat of terrorism.”
Eighth, “Make every  effort to protect Japanese nationals and respond appropriately to  changes in the energy sector and other economic trends while striving to monitor and analyze  various international issues including the increasingly tense situations in the  Middle East and North Africa.”
Ninth, “Push whole-government measures against global warming in close collaboration  with the relevant ministers so that Japan can play a leading role internationally.”
These instructions which I have taken the liberty of reading in their entirely were delivered to me along with a particular request that points deemed in need of correction on Japan-U.S. and Japan-China relations should be dealt with steadily.

5. Northern Territories Issue

Aiuchi, Hokkaido Shimbun: A succession of Russian VIPs have visited the Northern Territories,  and social infrastructure has been developing rapidly there. How are you dealing with the Northern Territories problem?
Former Minister Maehara proposed mutual discussions on possible Japan-Russia joint economic activities on the four islands, and the Russian side agreed to the proposal. What do you think of the matter?

Minister: Needless to say, I think this is the biggest issue between Japan and Russia. There exist respective historical documents or various agreements. A so-called peace treaty must be concluded while firmly  settling the problem  of the sovereignty over Northern Territories. Historically speaking, the 1956 Japan-Russia joint declaration unfortunately failed to be a peace treaty because of the territories problem. As for how the matter should be pushed forward, I am planning to study well the proposal made by Former Minister Maehara and basically follow his idea.

6. Territorial and Maritime Interests Issues

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask you more comprehensively about  territorial issues Takeshima exists as an issue between Japan and South Korea as you know. From the standpoint of Japan, Senkaku may better be called Senkaku issue instead of a territory issue. Others are the gas field issue, the so-called maritime interests issue, etc. With what basic stance are you, Minister Gemba, going to deal with the tough negotiations over a series of territorial and maritime interests issues?
On another note, at the time he took office, Mr. Maehara adopted as his slogan “economic diplomacy.” Later, Mr. Matsumoto chose “Economic Diplomacy with Emphasis Attached to Post-quake Reconstruction.” What slogan will you choose? Tell us if you have any.

Minister: On the latter part of the question, I hope I will be given a little  time.
The world of sentiment governs a great deal of human relations even, for example, what it comes to policy deliberations between the governing party and opposition parties. On the contrary, diplomacy is, I think, a cool rigid world. Needless to say, I think talks concerning sovereignty in particular must be dealt with very carefully.
Our position, needless to say, is that no territorial dispute exists over the  Senkakus. Tenacious coping is all we can do as far as Takeshima and the Northern Territories are concerned. All the people present today including Vice-Minister Sasae agreed on thorough deliberation on the problem by people including me and the new state secretaries and parliamentary vice-ministers.

7. Economic Diplomacy

Noguchi, Nippon Television: Congratulations on your appointment as Foreign Minister. Earlier in your opening remarks you emphasized economic diplomacy, giving as an example promoting something that would transcend the “cool Japan” brand. What other specific vision do you have for economic diplomacy? For example, Former Minister Maehara called for the  establishment of a free trade system and securing of resources and energy. Are you planning to promote a similar “Gemba vision” based on 4 or 5 pillars?

Minister: I am planning to come up with something soon.
Economic diplomacy has various forms. As the National Policy Minister, I supervised new growth strategies as a whole. Though I was not in direct charge, so-called diplomats in charge, for example, were deployed at respective embassies etc. for promotion of package-type overseas infrastructure development as you know. If necessary, deploying such diplomats in charge may be an idea in the case of the issue of natural resources.
As I said already, I was responsible for putting together the master policy of Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The Liberal Democratic Party administration failed to agree on high-level economic partnership because no consensus could be obtained within their  party.  I think it’s a big success that we got a green light within our party for high-level bilateral economic partnership including at least Japan and Australia in November last year though TPP conclusion was not reached.
High-level economic partnership is now  slightly lagging because of the 3/11 disaster, the subsequent food scare and sentiment among those living in affected areas. A restart must be made somewhere. This requires careful steps to prevent baseless rumors from damaging the economy, and I will speak out on this issue at conferences.                  
As for agriculture itself, as the National Strategy Minister I was responsible for compiling a vision for a more aggressive pursuit of agriculture. What is important for  actual entry into the TPP is strategies for entering  high-level economic partnership while establishing firmly direct payment systems and other measures targeting the livestock industry, wheat, etc. I was the former Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council and former National Strategy Minister, and Mr. Maehara is now the Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council. Both of us will be working together closely to  realize high-level economic partnership in an ideal form. As you know, Japan, China and South Korea have moved up the joint research by one year. Japan-EU talks are also progressing. Japan-South Korea talks, unfortunately, are not progressing so well. Strategies and tactics including domestic measures must be formed appropriately to determine the starting point and best possible means to push forward high-level economic partnership. It can never be realized even if I as the Minister for Foreign Affairs speak out loudly simply advocating free trade. What is important is to gain the result. I think I need not necessarily start as a brilliant Minister for Foreign Affairs. I hope to establish a Gemba-style diplomacy while seriously listening to views of various people.

8. Nuclear Power Plant Export

Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: I understand you are the youngest post-war Minister for Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, there is already criticism that your diplomacy ability is unknown. What do you think Prime Minister Noda expected of you in appointing you as  Minister for Foreign Affairs?
I understand you have been steadfastly proposing nuclear power plant reduction. Are you following the policy of the former administration on the export of nuclear power plants?

Minister: Am I the youngest post-war Minister for Foreign Affairs? That’s the first time I’ve heard that.  Many people of course will think my abilities are an unknown quantity since I haven’t even served as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Therefore, I think what is important is to attain results. This may be said of the whole Noda administration. All they say is just go forward without worrying about appearances or getting our hands muddy.
I was the Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council for the entire one year and three months of the Kan administration with reshuffle after reshuffle. Beginning with a splash is one thing, but if you try to take on too many big policy challenges then you end up losing your focus. I therefore think a slow start might be better. I think what is important is gradually narrowing down policy focus and achieving results.
Nuclear power plant export policy is, as you say, what I put together  as the chairman of the “Energy and Environment Council”. On the policy of nuclear power plant reduction and the nuclear power plant export itself, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Environment Hosono and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry recently replied to a written question from Diet member Mr. Onodera. I was not involved in formulating that response. As I am now among the Ministers concerned, I will join the debate but basically we will have to follow the contents of the answer to that question.
This involves the intention of other countries. Basically, if another country thinks Japanese people will provide the highest-level nuclear technology despite such a disaster and have learned the lessons of that  disaster, then I think we will probably provide that technology. But I am not necessarily optimistic. What is important first of all will be to explain very carefully the situation of Japan to other countries that are potential partners. Then, if the other  country trusts Japanese people and wants to buy its technology, Japan will be ready to meet the intention.

9. Japan-China Relations

Tajima, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: In your interview at Prime Minister Office, you said that the Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests with China would be fulfilled on the  trade front and economy front in particular and that it would be very important to the peace and stability of the whole Asia Pacific area. What are the specific plans? In what field will the Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests with China be strengthened? The East China Sea gas field joint development comes to mind first. What are your ideas in this connection?

Minister: The East China Sea gas field problem notwithstanding, I talked about trade before. I used before the words “Japan-U.S. cornerstone and Japan-China entente.” “Entente” means trading in cooperation. China actually has grown so much economically and its sense of presence has also grown politically. We have to recognize that Japan, not the US alone or ASEAN alone, should incorporate the domestic demand of China for the purpose of its growth.
Therefore, like the so-called FTA among Japan, China and South Korea, I think it would be important how to build a foundation firmly while putting the utmost importance to the relations with the US.

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