(* 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: Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 5:49 p.m.
Place: MOFA Press Conference Room

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Attendance at UN General Assembly
    • (2) Courtesy Call from U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos
    • (3) Teleconference with Indonesian Foreign Minister
    • (4) Japan-Colombia Foreign Ministerial Meeting
  2. UN General Assembly
  3. Suspected North Korean Defectors on Fishing Boat
  4. East Asian Community
  5. Japan-U.S. Relations
  6. Ministers’ Interaction with Media
  7. Value-Oriented Diplomacy
  8. Change of Leaders in Major Countries
  9. Value-Oriented Diplomacy

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Attendance at UN General Assembly

Minister Gemba: The UN General Assembly will start in New York next week. This will be my first official overseas trip since I assumed the post of Foreign Minister. I will visit New York next week, meet leaders including foreign ministers from various countries, and explain Japan's steps toward reconstruction and unchanged resolution to contribute to the world. In any case, I would like to make proper preparations so that my attendance at the UN General Assembly will be a good start of the diplomacy of the new Japanese administration.

(2) Courtesy Call from U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos

Minister: I would like to make a brief report on the courtesy call that I received from U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos for about 40 minutes yesterday afternoon. I received his courtesy calls as well when I assumed the position of the DPJ Chair of the Policy Research Committee and the post of the Minister  for National Policy. I have once dined with him at the Ambassador's official residence. I also had a pleasant chat with the Ambassador and his wife at an APEC meeting in the past. This was the first meeting with him since I assumed the post of the Foreign Minister, when we confirmed our intentions to communicate with each other more closely than ever before. As I said, I have met him several times in the past. This time, we basically exchanged our views about the Japan-U.S. security, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, U.S. beef import issue, the issues of child custody , and cultural exchanges, and we confirmed that we will work together to deepen and develop the Japan-U.S. alliance.

(3) Teleconference with Indonesian Foreign Minister

Minister: As for the teleconference that I had with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Indonesia is the chair of ASEAN. I had the teleconference as I had wished to inform him that the Japanese Government attaches importance to Indonesia, which is the core of ASEAN. I expressed our appreciation for their assistance given during the 3.11 disaster as well. At the same time, we confirmed that both countries would steadily implement high-level talks, such as bilateral foreign ministerial strategic talks and ministerial economic talks, in order to deepen the strategic partnership between the both countries, and closely cooperate for the ASEAN-related Summit meetings in November including the EAS and the Japan-ASEAN Summit meeting, in particular.

(4) Japan-Colombia Foreign Ministerial Meeting

Minister: With regard to the Japan-Colombia foreign ministerial meeting held today. I omit what you have already been briefed on here. The meeting was held basically for the signing of the Japan-Colombia Investment Agreement, and also for the signing of  an agreement on cultural grant aid for a radio broadcast station. I recognize that Colombia is a very influential country in Latin America and important to Japan. We confirmed that we will give instructions to our own bureaucrats in order to advance joint research on Japan-Colombia EPA, in particular as soon as possible.

2. UN General Assembly

Yoshioka, NHK: There was a passage in today's policy speech by Prime Minister Noda which goes like this: "In order to cultivate assured bonds with each country in a multi-polar world, great strength of will be required to join together in resolving the challenges that the world faces in common." There are various global issues including nuclear safety, nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, climate change, MDGs, and support for democratization in the Middle East. Please tell us to the extent possible at this moment on what themes the Japanese Government is going to disseminate messages to the world.

Minister: I would like to answer your question to the extent possible at this moment. Japan has experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake this year, and we must convey the lessons that we learned. Transparency is extremely important to nuclear safety issues, and the Japanese Government must disclose information to the public and clearly state what we learned from such a disclosure of information. Besides, we must approach the General Assembly keeping in mind our continuous efforts toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, where I think we can say that Japan has been playing a leading role. Furthermore, our priorities include development issues, which will be centered on ODA issues. Although Japan has reduced the amount of its contribution, we think that we still sense developing countries' enhanced confidence in Japan, and as a matter of course, we must respond to their expectations continuously.
Japan must play a role in issues involving the Middle East, as you mentioned, as well as North Korea. Please understand that we are making final preparations on a speech articulating these matters and are working on coordinating them moving forward.
As you mentioned, there are global issues on the agenda but we also attach importance to bilateral talks as a means to build relationships of trust on a personal level.

3. Suspected North Korean Defectors on Fishing Boat

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question related to the suspected North Korean defectors. As we are already aware, Japan Coast Guard officials rescued nine such individuals off the Noto Peninsula, and it seems that they are being questioned at the moment. What commitment is MOFA going to take in this matter and how is MOFA going to deal with this matter in the future?

Minister: We were informed at an early stage by the Japan Coast Guard about the incident that Mr. Saito mentioned. I think that Japan Coast Guard officials are now making a factual investigation. First of all, the Immigration Control Act will apply at the discretion of the Minister of Justice, not the Minister for Foreign Affairs, after the investigation by Japan Coast Guard officials. In any case, I as Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as MOFA should act properly in close cooperation with Ministries and governmental agencies concerned.

Saito, Kyodo News: As we are already aware, the de facto leader of the nine people reportedly told Japan Coast Guard officials that they want to go to South Korea. Of course, the officials are not finished with identifying or screening them. However, I would like to hear the basic stance of the Japanese Government and MOFA. Please tell us whether the Japanese Government or MOFA is basically going to honor their wishes or not.

Minister: You said that they want to go to South Korea, but I am not yet aware of their exact intensions. It is important to grasp the facts correctly, or otherwise we will not be able make a proper judgment. There are various media reports and information, but I think it better not to take measures with prejudice at the present stage. In any case, we will take firm action when accurate information is obtained.

Saito, Kyodo News: Apart from this incident, how is the Noda Administration going to work on issues involving defectors from North Korea? How is the Administration going to treat such individuals or people whose human rights have been infringed in North Korea? Please tell us your basic stance.

Minister: Each case is different, and at the moment, I would like to say that we will confirm the facts of each case precisely and act appropriately.

4. East Asian Community

Tajima, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: I would like to ask you about the East Asian Community. Prime Minister Noda contributed an article to a monthly magazine that was published last week. In his article, he maintained that there is no need to set out a big vision, such as the establishment of the East Asian Community, at the current stage. The former Hatoyama Administration announced the concept of the East Asian Community. The present Prime Minister basically signaled that he intended to shelve this idea, and I would like to hear your opinion about this.

Minister: First, it goes without saying that East Asia is strategically very important to Japan. Originally we referred to this area as the Asia-Pacific region. I remember that I talked about minimizing risks in East Asia and maximizing opportunities for growth during my inaugural press conference as foreign minister. East Asia is extremely important.
The phrase “Asia-Pacific region” has a connotation of including the United States, while “East Asia” has a connotation of excluding it. That may be a problem. In any event, I think that building up regional cooperation on a function-by-function or stage-by-stage basis is important first of all.
I do not think that the definition of the East Asian Community has been clarified yet. I mentioned immediately after my assumption of office that it is important to build up a variety of regional cooperation frameworks in East Asia. I also mentioned at that time that diplomacy with steady achievements and without too much bombast is good. I presume that Prime Minister Noda and the rest of the administration have probably expressed these same thoughts. I do not think he would deny the idea outright.

5. Japan-U.S. Relations

Shimada, NHK: When you met U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos the other day, you mentioned that you look forward to meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I think you are making arrangements for a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministerial Meeting. There are various issues awaiting solution, such as the deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance, Futenma Air Station, and the TPP. What message related to these issues would you like to convey at your first Foreign Ministerial Meeting?

Minister: As I mentioned during the teleconference, the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's security diplomacy. I espouse this view, and it is the Prime Minister’s unshakeable policy. I think it is important for both countries to confirm this with each other. On that basis, it is important to advance each issue toward a solution as much as possible.

Sato, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: We understand that the meeting included talks about U.S. beef imports. Please share with us what concrete request was made or what you responded at that time.

Minister: With regard to your question, as it involves discussions with another country, frankly speaking I feel it would not be judicious to comment on the details. However, as you know it is true that the U.S. beef import issue is a long-pending matter.
Presently, domestic livestock farmers are in a very difficult situation due to problems such as cesium contamination. At the same time, there is a debate over the extent of scientific evidence of contamination. Against this backdrop, I think this is a very important issue requiring close coordination within the Government.
As these discussions involve another country, I will refrain from commenting on the back-and-forth.

Sato, Nihon Keizai Shimbun: Do you think it is highly probable that this topic will be taken up at the Summit Meeting or Foreign Ministerial Meeting in New York?

Minister: I still do not know. I am not sure what topics they have on their agenda.

6. Ministers’ Interaction with Media

Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: I understand that a warning was issued at today’s meeting of Cabinet members concerning Ministers' interaction with the media. Furthermore, DPJ Secretary General Koshiishi reiterated several times today the need to practice thorough information management. This issue may have been related to the recent resignation of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. What do you think about this issue?

Minister: We decided not to disclose to the public what was discussed at today's meeting. However, I am in favor of the disclosure of issues that have already been coordinated within in the Government.
It is true that information management is certainly important. However, it is a fact that the disclosure of information may obstruct the progress of matters in the course of political coordination. Therefore, especially if another party is involved, I think we should attach importance to information management given the implications for trust. I would like to do the same in the future as well.

Kamide, Freelance: This is a little different from the issue of information management, but I understand that Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura stated at his press conference today that DPJ Secretary General Koshiishi pointed out that the media's reporting stance might have been problematic in connection with the resignation of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. In a worse-case scenario this might lead to de facto restrictions on the press, which may in turn cause various problems. Today, I asked Mr. Edano about this, and he said that we do not have to worry about such problems, but I would like to ask your opinion taking into consideration of the atmosphere of the DPJ.

Minister: I am a person who would like to exchange frank views on as many occasions as possible in addition to this kind of formal press conference. At least I have been doing so until now, and I think I have been able to practice information management at the same time.
Regarding the resignation of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, I dare say that it was a very unfortunate situation. In his speech today, the Prime Minister quoted a certain high school student who said that the dream of the people of Fukushima is "to be born in Fukushima, grow up in Fukushima, and work in Fukushima. To get married in Fukushima, have children in Fukushima and bring up those children in Fukushima. To see our grandchildren in Fukushima, to see our great-grandchildren in Fukushima and to end our days in Fukushima." These are the real feelings of the people of Fukushima Prefecture. At the same time, what he wanted to say was that the people of Fukushima Prefecture do not want such remarks to lead to turmoil in politics or in the Diet. I want all of you here to understand that the people of Fukushima Prefecture want both politics and reconstruction to move forward without turmoil.

7. Value-Oriented Diplomacy

Mizuno, Kyodo News: As Minister you have emphasized the strengthening of relations with countries that share our values through bilateral talks. Former Prime Minister Abe also seemed to have pushed ahead with something called value-oriented diplomacy. Please share with us your vision or objective in strengthening relations with countries sharing common values.

Minister: As for the idea of transmitting values through our diplomacy, I have just proposed to officials in the Ministry to start discussion of it. It is now under discussion, including how we can achieve the transmission of such values while avoiding misunderstanding. I believe that it is a vitally important interest for Japan to protect at least what we call democratic values, especially in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.  

Therefore, we are now searching for appropriate methods of transmitting values including, for example, putting a stronger emphasis on human security, that is, respecting the dignity of every single person or allowing the expression of his or her abilities. What we should do is not simply impose our values but rather to share what are regarded as almost common values among the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Discussing how to achieve this will, I think, actually lead to the creation of stability among these countries. Please note that I have made the proposal in question with this aim and in this context.

8. Change of Leaders in Major Countries

Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: Changes in leadership will overlap in major countries next year, in 2012. They will occur in the United States, France, China, Korea, Russia and perhaps North Korea. As their leaders approach the end of their terms, such countries will be likely become inward-looking. Another possible trend is that these leaders will fan the flames of nationalism to gain popularity. In consideration of all this, how do you think Japan should respond? I think the time to prepare for these transitions is very short, by the end of the year in fact. How are these preparations going?

Minister: As you mentioned just now, 2012 will be the year for national elections in major countries, and I also think that there is a possibility that those countries will exhibit the trends to which you alluded. Therefore, what may be termed appropriate management or the like will be required. It will be different depending on the country and the issues in question.
I am always aware of this in my analysis and will remain mindful of these prospects while responding on a case-by-case basis.

9. Value-Oriented Diplomacy

Saito, Kyodo News: Let me return to the matter of value-oriented diplomacy. As you mentioned, there are many different opinions on this value-oriented diplomacy. Some express positive attitudes toward it, while others cast suspicions on it. What must be made clear here is whether countries that do not accept Western democracy as their own social systems -- such as Middle Eastern countries, North Korea, and China -- will be excluded or not under your approach to transmitting the messages of value-oriented diplomacy. I am not saying that exclusion itself is a bad thing. It can be a strategy. As for Prime Minister Noda’s Administration, are you planning on making a clear distinction between democratic countries and non-democratic ones, by strengthening cooperation with the former and undertaking strategic demarches with the latter?
Or in a different manner, do you intend to create a more open type of network with different countries, that is, to include non-democratic countries in a larger circle of democracy? Let us have your rough idea of a direction to go in this regard.

Minister: The former question about value-oriented diplomacy, which is a little different from yours, actually centers on sharing values with other countries. To speak from the viewpoint of sharing values, democratic values such as freedom are already almost established as universal values, and therefore, it is, I think, important to make use of them as rules.

On the other hand, to talk of the so-called transmission of the Japanese values as part of value-oriented diplomacy is a little different in nuance. If I am asked what is one of the unique values which Japan should make known to other countries, I would say, for example, that Japan has, as you know very well, a long history of adopting and adapting different cultures of different countries. For examples, when Chinese characters were introduced into Japan, the hiragana and katakana syllabaries were created out of them. And when Buddhism was introduced into Japan, a mixed form of Buddhism and Shintoism was created. Once guns arrived in Japan, several years later Japan had become the largest exporter of guns. Today we are a country proud of our technologies. How should we, for example, disseminate the historical image of Japan as an open and adaptable society and utilize it in actual diplomacy? There might be various approaches including those which we are now discussing.

On that note, today “Cool Japan” badges were passed out. This is an initiative in which I have been somewhat involved. However, I believe that we should be able to do something that goes beyond “Cool Japan.”

Back to Index