(* 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 30, 2012, 10:26 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN
  2. The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety
  3. Issues regarding the realignment of the U.S. Forces Japan
  4. Provision of funds for the U.S. to support its marine debris response efforts
  5. Measures to prevent recurrences of incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel
  6. Adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the Status of Palestine in the UN

1. Adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN

Kikuchi, Nippon Television: The UN has adopted a resolution to grant Palestine a non-member observer State status in the UN. How do you view this result and as the United States voted against, how will you further address this issue?

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: Japan voted in favor of this resolution and has made our Explanation of Vote (EOV). As you well know, Japan has long endorsed a two-State solution under which Israel and a future independent Palestinian State would co-exist side by side in peace. Japan voted in favor in this context and on this basis, in our EOV, there were requests to the Palestinian side from the Japanese side. Following the adoption of this historic resolution, we call on the Palestinian side to immediately resume direct negotiations with Israel. At the same time, we ask for prudence with respect to conduct, such as accession to international organizations, an action which might negatively affect the prospect for the resumption of negotiations.

With regard to our relations with the United States, as a matter of course, through our EOV among others, Japan has had close discussions with the United States, and we hope to continue our close consultations. Indeed, the matter must be discussed with the US as well as Arab countries for Japan to actively contribute to and support the Middle East peace process.

Oikawa, NHK: The casting of a vote in favor shows Japan’s position that this resolution would benefit the development of the peace process, but due to the adoption of this resolution, there may be a negative aspect such as a strong backlash from the Israeli side. How did the Government of Japan consider these issues in voting in favor?

Minister Gemba: As I mentioned earlier, our vote clearly includes both merits and demerits. As the US obviously collaborates and coordinates closely with Israel in particular, I believe a certain degree of role-sharing is acceptable. On the other hand, maintaining solid communication with the Arab side is also extremely important for Japan, and thus we made our decision by comprehensively considering these merits and demerits.

2. The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety

Kamide, Freelance: The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in co-sponsorship with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be held around the voting day of the coming elections. The schedule is tough, but we understand that you will be attending the conference. In relation to this conference, most sessions are difficult for freelance journalists to cover since the criteria for admissions are quite strict. Even reporters who have access to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been denied access if they are not affiliated with a member company of the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, the Japan Magazine Publishers Association and suchlike, and if they have not contributed a certain number of articles. As far as the nuclear power plant issue is concerned, many journalists working for independent Internet-based media have played a big role, but the current situation is that these journalists and those who write only books, not articles, cannot attend. This seems problematic from the viewpoint of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)’s party line on information disclosure. Since this is a one and only opportunity, I sincerely ask you to give the matter positive consideration.

Minister Gemba: The conference will be convened on the day preceding the voting day. Since I will serve as co-chair, although it will be during elections, I will attend for a full day. This is a very important conference on nuclear safety, and the fact that it will be held in Fukushima Prefecture is extremely meaningful. In a sense, the land of Fukushima has an aspect of providing the starting point for nuclear safety. I believe the greatest significance of the conference is that many relevant people will turn out in Fukushima and will give their thought on the importance of nuclear safety. Since I have not been fully briefed on the issue you just mentioned, I will look into it. I assume it is due to the arrangements of the venue, but I’ll confirm.

3. Issues regarding the realignment of the U.S. Forces Japan

Nakai, Kyodo News: I would like to ask about the relocation of the Futenma Air Station. At your Tuesday doorstepping interview, you did not use the term “relocation to Henoko” but rather expressed your will to find a solution by taking the security environment and the stance and conditions in Okinawa into consideration. Okinawa is strongly against constructing a Futnema replacement facility within Okinawa Prefecture and the situation surrounding relocation to Henoko remains extremely difficult. We believe your understanding of the situation is the same. As the House of Representatives election is coming near, we do not exactly know how the coming administration will be formed though, and also as the Obama Administration enters its second term, do you believe even by the slightest chance that a new solution that you have been promoting to avoid the Futenma Air Station from becoming a permanent base will be found during this transitional period?

Minister Gemba: On that point, I believe as you well know, both the Japanese and U.S. Governments are committed to Henoko.

Nakai, Kyodo News: In the coming Lower House elections, it does not seem as though there is a big difference on this point among political parties but what is it that reassures you that you should go on with the current solution under these circumstances?

Minister Gemba: We must precede with reducing the burden on Okinawa and at the same time we must work to earn understanding beyond partisan differences.

4. Provision of funds for the U.S. to support its marine debris response efforts

Oikawa, NHK: In relation to the marine debris washing ashore in the U.S., it is said that the Japanese government decided today to grant funds to the U.S. Government. How do you characterize these funds, i.e. will it compensate for maritime debris response costs or is it for something else? Further, will you explain the significance of providing these funds?

Minister Gemba: Based on the prospect that floating objects and debris could reach the U.S. and Canadian coasts as early as December, in careful consultation with our local embassies, general consulates and others, we came to believe that it is important for Japan to cooperate with the U.S. in some way and exhibit our cooperative attitude. That is how this arrangement was reached. Since I do not have papers with me at the moment, I hope you will hear from our working-level staff about the specific conditions of the funds.

5. Measures to prevent recurrences of incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel

Toiyama, Ryukyu Shimpo: The Cooperative Working Team Special Meeting to discuss measures to prevent a recurrence of incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel was held in Okinawa on November 28. Will you explain what was reported and whether the meeting contributed to recurrence prevention? Minister of Defense Satoshi Morimoto has said in press conferences that he hopes to implement collaborative patrols between the U.S. forces and the Okinawa Prefectural Police, but a Japan-U.S. Joint Committee agreement stipulates that when both the Japan and U.S. authorities are at the crime scene and make an arrest, the accused member shall be handed over to the U.S. side. Because of that, there have been widespread revolts and concerns regarding collaborative patrols in Okinawa. Will you give us your view on this issue and if there’s any outlook as to when measures to prevent a recurrence will be presented from the U.S. side, will you share that also?

Minister Gemba: As for the second issue, since it may be realized in numerous forms, and since as you mentioned the local people are against it, it seems unclear what form will be best. Having said that, I believe it is important to adopt the most effective measures that are satisfactory to the local people.

On your first question, in the Special Meeting, for instance the U.S. side proposed to implement a “Hotline Program” where bar, club, and restaurant owners and employees can notify the U.S. military if they observe active-duty U.S. military members in their establishments after 11pm. Cooperation from these owners and employees will be indispensable. If in fact these measures can be realized, I have a sense that the effectiveness will increase, but we must carefully discuss various matters with local food and drink establishments including whether such a cooperative framework is feasible. Whatever the case, since proposals were made from the U.S. side as well as the local residents, and such a special meeting may take place again, and also we are currently reviewing the liberty card program, the Government of Japan hopes to encourage those proposals to be reflected in the current review process of the liberty card program.

I cannot clearly say when a revision of the liberty card program will reach a conclusion. However, the fact that it is taking this much time is really telling. The curfew is in fact a very strict measure and the fact that unfortunately this has not been completely observed is a different issue, but exhaustive discussions continue. In that sense, I hope to spend some more time in order to achieve a reasonable conclusion. 

6. Adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the Status of Palestine in the UN

Kurashige, Asahi Shimbun: On Japan’s vote regarding the status of Palestine in the UN, generally speaking, Japan has referred to the U.S.’s voting behavior to a great degree in the past. In casting an opposite vote this time, what were your political decisions, what were the issues you placed the most emphasis on?

Minister Gemba: As I explained earlier, there are truly various merits and demerits. As you well know, for instance each European country addressed the issue in different ways. The fact that some countries abstained and others voted in favor shows that a certain degree of coordination and discussions both before and after the vote with the U.S. is possible. At the same time, considering Japan’s position in a comprehensive manner, I came to the conclusion that voting in favor is the right decision. I do not believe this will impact Japan-U.S. relations.


Back to Index