(* 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: Thursday, November 22, 2012, 11:30 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Campaign pledge announced by the Liberal Democratic Party
  2. Recurrence preventive measures against incidents and accidents by U.S. military personnel
  3. Myanmar
  4. Recurrence preventive measures against incidents and accidents by U.S. military personnel
  5. Relocation of the U.S. air station to Henoko
  6. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

1. Campaign pledge announced by the Liberal Democratic Party

Otani, NHK: The Liberal Democratic Party has announced its campaign pledge, referring to the right to collective self-defense and the positioning of the Self-Defense Forces as National Defense Forces as one of the main pillars of its policy on foreign affairs and national security. What is your take ?

Minister Gemba: I believe we need to go beyond partisan differences to work on foreign affairs and security issues. I have keen interest in the right to collective self-defense. I hope we can have candid discussions on this issue.

As for the positioning of the Self-Defense Forces, I think that the Democratic Party of Japan has taken a more systematic approach to discuss and develop a more appropriate defense mechanism through a dynamic defense force and the protection of the Nansei Shoto Islands than past administrations led by the Liberal Democratic Party. I hope future discussions on the Self-Defense Forces will be conducted based on this framework.

2. Recurrence preventive measures against incidents and accidents by U.S. military personnel

Mekaru, Okinawa Times: You just mentioned the CWT. Is this something you will create from scratch? Or will you restart the existing working team administered once in a while by the Okinawa Liaison Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Minister Gemba: I understand that the CWT has usually been held once a year in the past among working-level officials between the two countries. Based on the occurrence of the recent incidents, I think that it is necessary to hold a special meeting specifically on this issue.

Mekaru, Okinawa Times: Will the meeting be held in Okinawa?

Minister Gemba: I suppose so. We need to ask for feedback from the local residents in Okinawa.

3. Myanmar

Kamide, Freelance: On affairs in Myanmar, Mainichi Shimbun ran an exclusive interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. President Barak Obama has just visited Myanmar. It is said that the President of Myanmar is losing support in the country. I have also heard from other sources that some in the military government are not satisfied with the current state of affairs in which Ms. Suu Kyi is playing the driving role. How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs understand the situation? Do you take the current change as something regressive?

Minister Gemba: I have not read the interview and therefore cannot make any comments.

Kamide, Freelance: Ms. Suu Kyi said something like anyone could have done what the President has done, which lowered the approval rating for President Thein Sein. The paper reported that Ms. Suu Kyi had indicated her intention to run for President while President Thein Sein said that he would run for the second term in response to her statement. That has prompted criticism from the military government, leading to regressive movements in Myanmar. How do you see the situation?

Minister Gemba: I must tell you that I am not aware of the report. In any case, my basic stance is that I endorse the current initiatives worked on by Myanmar. Our stance is unchanged in that we will continue to support the democratization and national reconciliation of the country.

4. Recurrence preventive measures against incidents and accidents by U.S. military personnel

Miyashiro, Ryukyu Shimpo: Let me ask you about the meeting to discuss incidents and accidents triggered by U.S. military personnel in Okinawa. What will be the main objective of the meeting? Will you aim to obtain feedback from the U.S. side on measures to prevent similar incidents? Or will you take this opportunity to leverage obtained feedback and compile prevention measures? You also mentioned patrols conducted voluntarily by the U.S. military. How does the Japanese Government evaluate this initiative?

Minister Gemba: I have already commented on lifestyle guidance patrols in Naha City. As for the objective of the meeting, it covers both objectives. It provides opportunities for us to ask for feedback from the local citizens, so we will incorporate local opinions into our longtime discussion on how we should revise the liberty card program. This is our first objective. The other is that we should do what we can to take effective measures. We avail this opportunity to launch such measures. This is my stance and I have given my instructions based on this stance.

5. Relocation of the U.S. air station to Henoko

Nogami, Asahi Shimbun: There seems to be many ideas in the Japanese Government on the approval of land reclamation application in preparation for the relocation of the U.S. air station to Henoko. Could you tell us when the application will be made?

Minister Gemba: I think we are far from ready to determine any of those procedures at this point in time.

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: There are some reports that an application will be made to request land reclamation by the end of this year and that the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister will discuss this issue today. Is this the schedule you have in mind?

Minister Gemba: Naturally, we are working hard to revise the environmental impact assessment. However, we are not at all sure about when and how we will go through the subsequent process.

Matsumoto, Jiji Press: You met with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office a while ago. Did you discuss this issue?

Minister Gemba: No.

Matsumoto, Jiji Press: So you discussed something else?

Minister Gemba: That’s right.

6. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

Nogami, Asahi Shimbun: There are some reports that Japan and North Korea are trying to establish a joint committee to discuss the abductions issue. Could you tell us what the current status is?

Minister Gemba: As I always say, we should never try to predict Japan-North Korea affairs. This does not mean, however, that we will negotiate with North Korea without specifying our objectives at all. We should always remind ourselves that we should be cautious and take appropriate steps in dealing with North Korea.

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