(* 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, November 9, 2012, 9:45 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Japan-Russia relations
  2. TPP
  3. Japan-U.S. relations
  4. Crime committed by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa
  5. TPP
  6. Senkaku Islands

1. Japan-Russia relations

Kikuchi, Nippon Television: I would like to ask about the Japan-Russia summit meeting. Russia seems to have told the Japanese side that holding the meeting in December would be difficult. Will you tell us the status of coordination?

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: There have been numerous reports on this matter, but we are still coordinating the schedule of the meeting.

2. TPP

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: There are reports that Prime Minister Noda will dissolve the House of Representatives by announcing his position on the TPP. Do you think this kind of approach is actually possible in dissolving the Lower House?

Minister Gemba: It is up to Prime Minister Noda whether the House of Representatives will be dissolved or not, so I do not believe I am in a position to comment. As I have consistently said that Prime Minister Noda is a person who keeps his words.

With regard to the TPP, as you well know, the Japanese Government plans to promote the TPP in tandem with the Japan-China-South Korea FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. However, we have not yet determined the specific schedule in announcing our participation to the talks. But whatever the case may be, we are currently holding discussions for joining the talks. Even if we come to a determination to join the talks, we will still need a certain amount of time before wrapping up our discussions.

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: As the East Asia Summit will be held this month, I suppose you are coordinating the schedule for a possible Japan-U.S. summit meeting. It seems to be effective for the Prime Minister to take the opportunity and announce Japan’s participation to the TPP. What is your view?

Minister Gemba: As I have mentioned earlier and since this is a hypothetical question, which I do not have to answer to in the first place, but even in case Japan decides to join the negotiations for the TPP, we will naturally need to spend more time to sum up our discussions. I believe we will require a certain amount of time for that.

Ando, Hokkaido Shimbun: I believe all intraparty procedures have been finalized. So when you say that you will require a certain amount of time to sum up, what additional procedures are required?

Minister Gemba: We must sum up our discussions.

Ando, Hokkaido Shimbun: By that do you mean the discussions within the Cabinet?

Minister Gemba: We have been discussing with other countries how we will enter negotiations, and we have not yet obtained prior approvals from the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. So we must wrap up our discussions with those countries for confidence-building. In order to achieve this, I believe it will take some more time.

3. Japan-U.S. relations

Kamide, Freelance journalist: President Barak Obama has been re-elected in the U.S. and some lawmakers, including Mr. Shinzo Abe, President of the Liberal Democratic Party is claiming that it is the Democratic Party of Japan’s administrations that have been damaging the Japan-U.S. alliance. As President Obama begins his second term, I would like to ask, as a member of the Democratic Party of Japan or as the Foreign Minister, with regard to the Japan-U.S. alliance, what policy differences do you see in the current policy implemented by your party in comparison to the one by the Liberal Democratic Party, especially in terms of the Japan-U.S. alliance, aside from multiple differences in many separate issues such as the Osprey.

Minister Gemba: I think you are hoping I will mention what policy differences there are with regard to the Japan-U.S. alliance between the LDP and the DPJ, but I believe both parties value the Japan-U.S. alliance as a cornerstone of our bilateral relations and in that sense there are no differences exist.

The LDP often refers to what the then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stated, especially during his campaign. However, I believe our party has since rebuilt the Japan-U.S. alliance and in fact, we saw a Joint Statement made by the leaders of the two countries for the first time in six years, which confirmed that both countries will accomplish a shared vision and fulfill their roles and responsibilities by utilizing the full range of capabilities in each area.

As Japan faces the current global structural change, we are required to play an even greater role and deliver greater responsibilities than before. In that sense, our ultimate goal is to realize the shared vision between the two countries in a concrete manner and steadily implement the various initiatives in security in accordance with what was agreed upon at the 2+2, including the realignment of U.S. Forces.

However, we must take note that Japan-U.S. relations involve many aspects other than security, including the economic issues I just mentioned. I think the LDP is not necessarily positive about the TPP in which the U.S. participates, but we need to take a holistic approach to ensure that Japan remains prosperous through our future generations and that the Japan-U.S. relations continues to be rock-solid.

Kamide, Freelance journalist: So basically your basic position would be that there are no partisan differences in relation to diplomacy, as you have mentioned before?

Minister Gemba: That is my belief and I also believe it ought to be so.

4. Crime committed by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa

Miyashiro, Ryukyu Shimpo: In relation to the U.S. Forces Japan's curfew in the aftermath of the crime committed by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa, the USFJ headquarters stated yesterday that although the announcement and instructions of the curfew were given, they had not been checking or monitoring the nighttime activities of their personnel. I would like to ask if the Japanese Government is aware of this and also your response. Further, do you believe the U.S. side should monitor whether the curfew is observed?

Minister Gemba: Since I have not been briefed on the U.S. Forces’ statement yesterday, I will refrain from directly commenting in that regard. The curfew may be one case where the substances, which you pointed out are not properly observed, is the most important of all. People of Okinawa are very well aware of this situation and when I speak with them on the phone, they tell of the rules that are made but not completely observed. So we are presently communicating our concerns with the U.S. side. I hope to achieve the assurance of effectiveness including an appropriate and satisfactory revision of the Liberty Card program.

5. TPP

Fujita, Asahi Shimbun: When you mentioned that Prime Minister Noda is a person who keeps his words, were you referring to both the dissolution of the Lower House in the near future and the participation in the TPP?

Minister Gemba: I am basically referring to the dissolution of the Lower House.

6. Senkaku Islands

Ito, Yomiuri Shimbun: On November 11 two months will have passed since the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands. Chinese vessels are continually navigating close to the islands and the situation is likely to continue for the long term. On the other hand, Japan has also continued dialogues with China. How do you view the last two months?

Minister Gemba: Frankly speaking, we are faced with the situation with a tense feeling. We must definitely avoid any contingency. We are also required to solidly deliver our proper responsibility of protecting our territories and waters as a state, and at the same time, we both must maintain and enhance mutual communication and calmly contemplate what can be done based on a broad perspective. I expect we will be required to spend more time on this issue.

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