(* 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 27, 2012, 11:45 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations
  2. Measures to prevent reoccurrences of incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel and related persons
  3. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations
  4. Revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement
  5. Realignment of U.S. Forces Japan

1. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

Ohtani, NHK: Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced that Japan-North Korea Director-General-level consultations will be held in Beijing from December 5. Could you tell us your prospects for the progress that could be achieved by this consultation?

Minister Gemba: As I have mentioned from time to time, we need to hold consultations multiple times, once, twice, three times and more. It is important to deepen consultations on issues that are of mutual interest. I would like to promote consultations in a persistent and patient manner so that we can achieve certain results.

Nakai, Kyodo Press: Regarding Japan-North Korea consultations, I understand that in the first consultations it was agreed to continue negotiations on the abductions issue. The first consultations could be regarded as a new start in a sense. Do you recognize the second consultations as the opportunity to make certain progress, reach an agreement, or to prepare for an agreement? This question might be similar to the previous question, though.

Minister Gemba: We should not assume anything. As I have repeatedly mentioned, we should take cautious steps. However, needless to say, I expect the discussions on the matters of mutual concern to be deepened further in the second consultations compared to the first ones. For that purpose, we need to negotiate persistently to the end. I have given such instructions.

Nakai, Kyodo Press: Do you have any concrete prospects at the moment?

Minister Gemba: We should not assume anything.

2. Measures to prevent reoccurrences of incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel and related persons

Miyagi, Ryuku Shimpo: In relation to the incidents caused by U.S. servicemen, a meeting of the Cooperative Working Team (CWT) will be held tomorrow. What do you expect from this meeting, for example, do you see any possibilities to set up some effective reoccurrence prevention measures which you have frequently mentioned? In addition, I would like to ask if this meeting is presumed to close once and for all?

Minister Gemba: It all depends on the outcome of tomorrow's meeting. We have held a very detailed discussion with the U.S. side in response to the Japanese side’s request. Under the current circumstances, I understand that we need to start from whatever we can and take appropriate measures. I would like to carefully listen to the opinions of the people of Okinawa. Since a lot of technical issues exist at a practical level, I would like to promote further discussions on those issues in this meeting. The Government of Japan will address the issues fully.

Kamide, Freelance: Do you have any actual feeling that things can be or are in progress since the previous press conference?

Minister Gemba: With the strong instructions I have given recently, I understand that the U.S. side takes the issue very seriously. I would like to achieve effective reoccurrence prevention measures on such incidents so that the Japanese side can feel assured, by giving strong instructions.,

Kamide, Freelance: Do you have a practical plan for what you just referred to?

Minister Gemba: I am not able to comment at this time, since the meeting has not started yet.

3. Japan-North Korea intergovernmental consultations

Hanamura, TV Asahi: Going back to the topic of Japan-North Korea consultations, do you have any view or opinion on the point that the next consultations could be held before the general election in Japan?

Minister Gemba: Whether the consultation is held before or after the election is not relevant, as there are no ruling and opposition parties when it comes to diplomacy. I think any government should make its utmost effort to do whatever it can at present. I take account of the national interest of Japan as a whole, and I never take account of whether it has a positive or negative effect on the election. In any case, whatever the election may turn out, we simply need to promote negotiations for the benefit of the national interest of Japan.

4. Revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement

Yoshinaga, Mainichi Shimbun: In relation to the incidents caused by U.S. military personnel, there is a strong call for a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Okinawa. Just after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power in 2009 and also in its manifesto for the House of Councilors election in 2010, the DPJ stated that it would raise the issue of revising the SOFA. However, the issue has not been raised yet. What do you think about that? Also, could you tell us the reasons why the DPJ could not raise this issue?

Minister Gemba: I have repeatedly talked about this and so I think I do not have to tell you further, but as you may know, I have never completely rejected the possibility of doing so. We have achieved two major improvements concerning criminal cases. We consider realistic methods for the people of Okinawa, and we have taken more substantive actions.

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, I do not completely reject the possibility of a revision. We would take that step if that is the most effective way. However, as we have not reached such a conclusion and such an action could jeopardize the situation in a manner contrary to our expectations, we are proceeding on the issue while viewing the situation in a comprehensive manner.

5. Realignment of U.S. Forces Japan

Mekaru, Okinawa Times: I have heard that there is a move toward implementing the budget for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa to Guam, which has been frozen in the U.S. Congress. Could you tell us how you think about this progress? Also give us your opinion on what kind of influence the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps to Guam will bring to other policies, such as Futenma, although the issue is not packaged with the relocation anymore?

Minister Gemba: As you have mentioned, I have also requested the U.S. Secretary of Defense to implement the budget for relocation to Guam. In that sense, I am expecting that there will be a certain development concerning the implementation of the relocation budget. The issue of relocation and the issue of Futenma are no longer packaged together, as you have pointed out, however I think this has had a great impact. Futenma should not become a permanent base, and therefore we should continue our efforts toward avoiding the permanence of the base beyond difference of parties. I would like to find a solution, by taking all the factors, such as security requirements, and the stance and conditions of the people of Okinawa, into consideration.


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