(* 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, November 20, 2012, 10:50 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations
  2. Unlawful entry into a citizen’s house by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa
  3. Dissolution of the Diet and the general election
  4. FTA among Japan, China and Korea
  5. TPP
  6. Japan-Russia relations
  7. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations
  8. Right to collective self-defense

1. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: At the intergovernmental consultations between Japan and North Korea held last week, the two sides discussed the abductions issue and decided to continue further consultations. Please tell us how you evaluate this outcome.

Minister Gemba: To put it simply, I do think that these were fruitful consultations. As I have always been saying, I believe that these consultations must be held not only once but on multiple occasions, so I would like to use the recent consultations as a steppingstone so that we will be able to hold the next consultations as early as possible.

Of course, I believe that we should never be optimistic about the situation. We must carefully proceed with this issue. However, I do believe that it was beneficial that at the consultations we succeeded in exchanging deep opinions regarding matters of mutual interest including the abductions issue.

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: You mentioned that you would like to have the next consultations as early as possible. What is your opinion on the timing of the next consultations?

Minister Gemba: At this stage I am not able to make any comments, but I do not think it will be so long until we have other consultations in the future.

2. Unlawful entry into a citizen’s house by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa

Hasegawa, Fuji TV:  A U.S. serviceman again entered a citizen’s house unlawfully  in the midst of a night curfew. This incident happened at the moment that possible measures are discussed to prevent the recurrence of crimes by U.S. servicemen. How do you take this situation? You have often referred to effective prevention measures, but are they really feasible? Rather, what kind of measures are in your mind, could you tell us about them in concrete terms?

Minister Gemba: The recent incident is truly regrettable. So, they have come to the conclusion that effective measures and security are necessary, and that thorough and detailed review is necessary to that end. That is why we have urged the night curfew to secure enough time to work on or consider possible recurrence prevention measures. However, if the curfew itself is not abided by, I now believe that we first need to establish effective measures that can be done immediately, though fundamental and detailed discussions such as noted before are necessary. I would like to give instructions this way.

3. Dissolution of the Diet and the general election

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: With regard to the general election of the House of Representatives, third forces are making active moves. Prime Minister Noda has criticized these as an unprincipled coalition. How do you see these moves?

Minister Gemba: I would like voters to make their decisions by looking carefully at each candidate’s position and view. I am also wondering what they are doing if they back many inexperienced candidates in the election. I hope that there will not be so many inexperienced candidates.

4. FTA among Japan, China and Korea

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: I understand that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among Japan, China and Korea is expected to be signed today. Could you tell us about its aim and the expectations of the Government of Japan in starting the negotiations?

Minister Gemba: Regarding the launch of negotiations on the FTA among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, we have been expecting an agreement since two weeks ago. Although I did not mention it earlier, as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda always says, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the FTA, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be promoted simultaneously. As the population decreases in Japan, there is no doubt that we cannot maintain the current living standard without incorporating the vitality of other countries, especially of Asia. As you may know, China is the largest trading partner of Japan, and I think the Republic of Korea is the third largest. From this point of view, I welcome the launch of FTA negotiations in the field of economy, where Japan, China and the Republic of Korea are interdependent.

In terms of Japan-China relations, as I have always said, we need to deal with the current situation in a calm manner from a broad perspective. It takes long time to solve issues related to sovereignty. I would like to review what we can do while maintaining Japan's basic stance. Promoting efforts in the fields where something to improve exists, such as the fields of economic, human and cultural exchanges is what I am thinking about. In that sense I greatly welcome the launch of FTA negotiations, even though I understand that China has its own aim.

5. TPP

Kamide, Freelance: Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it seems that a lot of members of political parties change their attitude toward the TPP depending on where they visit. For example, they seem to talk in a critical tone in agricultural regions, but in a more supportive tone in other regions, saying that the TPP will serve Japan's national interests. All parties are like that, including the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). I understand that even the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) too has some regions where it is difficult to express clear oppositions to the TPP, regrettably. Considering this situation, I think it may be very difficult to make the TPP a main issue in the election. What is your view on this point?

Minister Gemba: I am from an agricultural region in an agricultural prefecture that suffered the Great East Japan Earthquake, but my stance has been consistent. After all, as I mentioned earlier, if we want to maintain the current living standards, we have no choice but to incorporate the vitality of other countries. However, it is important to keep a balance between this kind of attempts, and the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries. I have my own ideas on how to achieve this balance, and I would like to make the utmost effort toward appealing to the public. As the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, I am not in a position to make comments on what needs to be protected in detail. Still, I think it is important to explain the necessity to keep a balance with the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries as well as concrete measures to achieve it. I think people engaged in agriculture would understand the importance.

6. Japan-Russia relations

Nogami, Asahi Shimbun: I think that First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov is visiting Japan and will be meeting with you. Could you tell us the importance of this meeting? In addition, is there any progress on the Prime Minister's visit to Russia, which was to be scheduled by the end of this year?

Minister Gemba: The Prime Minister's visit to Russia will depend on the result of the election. Whatever the government is formed, Japan and Russia share the same strategic interests. It is important to develop cooperative relations with Russia in every field while making progress on solving the issue of our greatest concern, the Northern Territories issue. Today's meeting will probably last about four hours. A large Russian delegation is visiting, and I am amazed to see how high their expectations are. It seems that the area of cooperation is expanding to various areas, especially in terms of the improvement of the trade and investment environment, such as Japanese companies' investment in Russia, and cooperation in the investment climate. I greatly welcome such improvement of the Japan-Russia relations this way.

7. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

Nogami, Asahi Shimbun: About the Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations you mentioned earlier, are you expecting that the next consultation will be held during the current administration of Japan without waiting for the result of the general election?
Minister Gemba: I would not say there is no possibility of that. I cannot say anything specific at the moment.

8. Right to collective self-defense

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: In relation to the general election, I would like to ask about the right to collective self-defense. The LDP and the Japan Restoration Party announced fairly radical statements on this issue. I understand that the current government has no policy to review this issue at the moment, but could you explain your view? In addition, what is the DPJ's approach to the right to collective self-defense, in preparation for the forthcoming general election?

Minister Gemba: This issue is currently under discussion within the DPJ. I have strong concerns about this issue.

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: Does it mean that the DPJ will announce a policy as a result of its internal discussion?

Minister Gemba: I wouldn't go so far as to say that.

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: You mean, it is possible the DPJ will not announce a policy on this issue?

Minister Gemba: I mean the party will discuss the issue and summarize the views.


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