(* 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: Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 4:10 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Japan-China relations
  2. U.S. Presidential Election and the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue, the Fourth Foreign Ministers’ Conference
  3. Japan-China relations
  4. Japan-Russia relations
  5. Japan-U.S. relations

1. Japan-China relations

Saito, Kyodo News: As you well know, Chinese maritime patrol ships have intruded into the Japanese territorial waters more than ten times. It has also been confirmed that as of yesterday, they have travelled in the contiguous zone for more than ten consecutive days. Firstly regarding these actions by Chinese ships, are you of the recognition that these conducts are threatening Japan’s national sovereignty? Further, since it has come this far, do you believe some kinds of measures, measures for prevention are necessary?
My second question: multiple Chinese media have reported that on October 30th, China’s State Oceanic Administration’s surveillance ships Haijian removed Japanese vessels. China’s state television has also reported so. There seems to be a huge response to these reports and I would like to confirm if there are such facts.
Finally, you have expressed your concern over contingencies up to this time and based on the current situation, do you presently recognize the possibility of an urgent situation occurring?

Minister Gemba:  Three questions were raised by Mr. Saito. On the second question, there are no such facts.
Answering to the first and third questions, since they are intruding into the territorial waters, I believe it is naturally a conduct threatening our sovereignty. We have called for self-restraint and lodged a protest on many occasions. In order to prevent any escalations, we’ll call for self-restraint on the Chinese side through diplomatic routes, and further, I believe the Japan Coast Guard will seek to enhance security measures accordingly.
As for contingencies, since I believe they should never occur and must be averted, we will steadily communicate through diplomatic channels so such situation will not occur. To this end, as I have repeatedly mentioned, including those both publicized and not, we are seeking various forms of communications.

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: Yesterday at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), there was a tense exchange of words on the issue of the Senkaku Islands between Prime Minister Noda and the Chinese side. How do you regard the fact that such exchanges of views over the Senkaku Islands broke out at an international conference?
Also, a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is coming up but do you believe the condition is ripe enough to hold a Japan-China summit meeting at the ASEAN meeting under these circumstances?

Minister Gemba: Firstly, as I recall explaining at previous press conferences, ASEM is the one and only international meeting connecting Asia and Europe. Especially, I believe its main themes are the global environment or global issues and most of all the global economy. Therefore, as the Government of Japan, we did not particularly nor intentionally raise that issue at such an international or multilateral meeting. Having said that, because there was an inappropriate comment from the Chinese side, Prime Minister Noda made a rebuttal statement.
On whether a Japan-China summit meeting can take place at the ASEAN meeting, as I have consistently said, there are differences in our positions, so it would take a certain amount of time and I do not believe the time will easily be ripe. Whatever the case, and whatever comments the Chinese side may make, our basic position is unshakable. We will maintain our basic position as we peacefully calm the situation down. All in all, Japan-China relations are an important, extremely significant bilateral relationship. We believe we must calmly make efforts to recover, or deepen our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests in the areas of economic, cultural and human exchanges from a broad perspective. I believe it is essential for both Japan and China to refrain from any words and actions which can rub the other country’s public sentiment the wrong way.

2. U.S. Presidential Election and the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue, the Fourth Foreign Ministers’ Conference

Oikawa, NHK: Firstly on the U.S. presidential election, President Barak Obama made his victory speech a while ago. Since some personnel changes are expected on the U.S. side in preparation for President Obama’s second term, as the responsible official for Japanese diplomacy, what moves and personnel changes are drawing your attention, and how do you hope to establish relations with the new Obama administration.
The second question is on a different issue, on the Foreign Ministers’ Conference of the “Central Asia plus Japan” you announced earlier. Along with interregional cooperation, do you intend to deal with regional affairs, for instance the issue of China regarding the Senkaku Islands?

Minister Gemba: Answering to your second question, whether we will deal with regional affairs at the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue meeting on Saturday, since there will be a working lunch, I believe the regional situation in East Asia will be discussed at that occasion.
On the question on the U.S. presidential election, first and foremost, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to President Obama. More than ever, the Obama administration has placed great emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, and has announced “A Shared Vision for the Future” with Prime Minister Noda. This statement affirms that both Japan and the U.S. will make full use of their capabilities in various areas not only security but also economic, cultural, and human exchanges to fulfill their roles and responsibilities. Since we are presently substantiating these efforts, I believe it is important to steadily substantiate these works.
In addition, especially in security terms, bearing the East Asian security environment in mind, I believe the significance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance is enhancing and increasing, and so I hope to develop our alliance. Specifically, as you are well aware, the Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee, so-called 2+2, states various efforts such as dynamic defense cooperation, joint surveillance, and joint and shared use of facilities. We must steadily materialize these initiatives. Including the issues of realignment of U.S. Forces Japan, return of land south of Kadena Air Base, and the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam, we will steadily conduct the realignment of U.S. forces in accordance with the planned schedule.
Speaking of human relations, there are in fact questions raised on how the relations with the Department of State will be. On that issue, in whatever case, Japan has had a relationship which I just explained with the U.S., and its importance will continue to enhance, meaning that the significance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance will increase. Since we must develop our alliance, I hope both authorities will coordinate both firmly and closely.  

3. Japan-China relations

Azumi, Freelance journalist: Earlier, you mentioned that you hope to develop Japan-China relations into a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. According to foreign media outlets, on October 4 upon his attendance to the ASEM meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao delayed his arrival at the Wattay International Airport for one and a half hours so that he would not coincide with Prime Minister Noda’s arrival. There are also reports that the two never looked directly at each other during the group photo. For Japan to deepen the Japan-China relation from the current status to a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, I would like to ask in which direction you hope to steer the wheel.

Minister Gemba: With regard to directions, what I have been mentioning is precisely the direction we are headed for. I believe your question is on the specific measures we will take and we are indeed communicating those specifics through our diplomatic channels. I cannot disclose the contents of the communication, but I would say that in accordance with the direction I just mentioned, I believe it is important for both Japan and China to communicate calmly, not rubbing each others’ public sentiment the wrong way.

Matsumoto, Jiji Press:  With regard to Japan-China relations, you just explained the outlook for a Japan-China summit meeting in Cambodia. What sense or outlook do you have for a Japan-China-South Korea summit meeting?

Minister Gemba: I cannot mention anything definite on this at this time. However, frankly speaking, I sense that it would not be a simple matter.

Nakai, Kyodo News: On ASEM, I believe Prime Minister Noda made a counterstatement but as for his tone, compared to the intense words by the Chinese side, it seemed much reserved. Talking of this tone of Japan’s counterstatements, I believe in some aspects Japan is avoiding playing along with China’s strong and intense words but will you explain the aim, purpose, means, strategy or concept of this?

Minister Gemba: As I have been saying, I believe it is important for both countries to avoid exasperating each others’ public sentiment as much as possible and Japan does and will continue to address the situation calmly and based on a broad perspective. On top of that, as I consistently mention, I believe it is important for us to address the situation based on respect for the order of the international community, and universal value on which rules will be established upon.
For that matter, on the earlier question on the U.S. presidential election, I believe it is essential for Japan and the U.S. to be monolithic in establishing order and rules for Asia-Pacific and the entire world. As Japan has paved the way for a nation of peace after World War II, we are determined to fulfill our role and responsibility as a responsible democratic nation.

Nakai, Kyodo News: With regard to rule-making, does China’s current move seem as though it is intending to establish a new set of rules?  How do you view China’s current attitude, move and its way of expansion and how do you assess them?

Minister Gemba: There are various things in my mind, but I do not believe it is an issue which should be mentioned in this kind of setting. I do not believe it is a line of argument which will be accepted in the international arena or the international community.

4. Japan-Russia relations

Ando, Hokkaido Shimbun: I would like to once again ask about former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s visit to Russia. There are some reports that he would meet with President Vladimir Putin within the month, according to some sources, on the 26th. How are the preparations for the meeting? In addition, the Chief Cabinet Secretary has mentioned that Mr. Mori’s visit will be made in a proper manner, with the Prime Minister’s letter as his Special Envoy. Will you explain the status of deliberations?

Minister Gemba: I believe this issue has consistently been unchanged. If you would track my comments, when it comes to diplomacy, there are no ruling and opposition parties, and I truly hope former Prime Minister Mori would capitalize on his personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin and contribute to our country. As we are making coordination, it is my hope that former Prime Minister Mori would surely visit Russia. With regard to the “proper manner,” I believe the manner in which the meeting will be practically most fruitful will be best.

5. Japan-U.S. relations

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: In relations to the presidential election, there were some comments on personnel affairs earlier and there are talks that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who has especially accomplished a great deal in Japan-U.S. relations, may be replaced. Although the U.S. emphasizes Asia, there are concerns that the DOS people who are knowledgeable about Japan are decreasing in numbers. As the Obama administration enters its second term, how do you intend to build a relationship of confidence?

Minister Gemba: As I mentioned earlier, it is true that there are talks concerning the position of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. I express my very deep respect for the achievements by Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Campbell and I regard them very highly. Having said that, I am not aware what personnel changes will be made. I cannot comment on any specific person here but whatever the changes will be and whoever joins the new administration, I’m ready to take all possible measures to ensure our full coordination with the U.S. and I have given instructions accordingly.

Toyama, Ryukyu Shimbun: With regard to the return of Futenma Air Station and relocation of U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa to Guam, under President Obama, there is the fact that budget for the relocation has been frozen, and we should take care of his relations with Congress. Do you believe the return of land south of Kadena Air Base as well as the relocation to Guam will proceed smoothly after his reelection? Will you comment on the impacts it will have on the issues of U.S. military base in Okinawa?

Minister Gemba: On that precise point, I hope to go forward according to the schedules we have thus planned. We are indeed putting our utmost efforts to put together the return of land south of Kadena Air Base. I do not believe there will be any impacts on these efforts, at least no negative impacts. Regarding the relocation to Guam, I have repeatedly discussed various issues such as the handling of Congress among others with all relevant authorities including Secretary Clinton and the Department of Defense, and I believe there will basically be no changes on this point also. 

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