(* 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: Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 3:50 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Opening Remarks
- (1) Consultations between Japan and the US on the Application of National Defense Authorization Act
- (2) Visit to Japan by President Pinera of the Republic of Chile
- (3) Establishment of Secretariat of TICAD V
- (4) Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Festival
- Questions concerning Sanctions on Iran
- Questions concerning Situation in North Korea (Satellite Launch)
- Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
- Questions concerning Nuclear Security Summit
- Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
- Questions concerning Sanctions on Iran
- Questions concerning Domestic Politics
1. Opening Remarks
(1) Consultations between Japan and the US on the Application of National Defense Authorization Act
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: Concerning the Japan-U.S. consultations about the application of the National Defense Authorization Act, I think other ministers concerned have already commented on this. Japan shares the grave concerns of the international community including the U.S. concerning Iran’s nuclear issue, and, based on the approach of “dialogue” and “pressure”, we have been working together with the international community to apply effective “pressure”. At the same time, we have been making efforts through working on Iran based on traditional relationships toward a peaceful and diplomatic resolution. Concerning the consultation with the U.S. over the National Defense Authorization Act, we have been explaining that crude oil imports from Iran have declined by 40% in the past five years, from 500,000 BD to 320,000BD. We have been explaining to the U.S. that, even in the difficult time after the Great East Japan Earthquake, where the demand for fossil fuel for power generation has increased, this trend has been accelerated, and we expect substantial reduction in 2012. Through such consultations, we have been requesting the flexible application of the Act including the exceptional clause. On March 20 of U.S. time, we received the notice from the U.S. that it had decided to apply the exceptional clause of the Act to Japan.
(2) Visit to Japan by President Pinera of the Republic of Chile
Minister Gemba: From March 28 to March 30, President Pinera of the Republic of Chile and Mrs. Pinera will pay a working visit to Japan. Their visit will be the first time since they attended the Yokohama APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November 2010. During his stay, he will have a meeting with Prime Minister Noda on Thursday, March 29, and they will have an exchange of views about bilateral relations and cooperation in the international arena. Chile is also an earthquake-prone nation like Japan, and therefore, it is Japan’s partner country in terms of disaster management cooperation. The president will go to Minamisanriku town in Miyagi prefecture on Friday, March 30 to visit disaster-affected areas. Through the visit by President Pinera this time, it is expected that bilateral relations including the areas of economy and disaster prevention, as well as cooperative relations in the international arena will be further promoted.
(3) Establishment of Secretariat of TICAD V
Minister Gemba: As of today, we have appointed the Director-General for Sub-Saharan African Affairs, Sumio Kusaka as the Secretary General for the Secretariat of the TICAD V. The Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) will be held in Yokohama City from June 1 to June 3, 2013, and the Secretariat will be in charge of the logistics and operation, including press-related affairs, of the TICAD V and the preparatory meetings. Africa has been attracting the attention of Japanese companies as the next economic frontier after Asia. Strengthening of relationship with strongly growing Africa is a big opportunity for Japan, and we would like to make TICAD V a chance to raise the Japan-Africa relations to a new level and to bring about further growth of Japan.
(4) Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Festival
Minister Gemba: This year marks the centennial since Japan gifted cherry trees to the U.S., and to celebrate this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will hold the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Festival on March 31 at the Yebisu Garden Place. In this festival, the musical bands of Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Forces in Japan will hold a joint concert. Also, there will be a report by the Cherry Blossom Messengers, AKB48, who visited the U.S. to express gratitude for the assistance after the earthquake and disseminate the pop culture. There will also be a big chorus by 80 persons, including an artist Takako Shirai and the local elementary school children.
2. Questions concerning Sanctions on Iran
Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: You have been saying that concerning Iran, Japan takes a different approach compared with the U.S. and Europe. But, with the exemption of this Act, now for Iran, it would seem that Japan is now in lock step with the Western countries joining in these sanctions. So, how is Japan going to approach Iran?
Minister Gemba: Concerning the nuclear program of Iran, I think that international cooperation is of utmost importance. As I have been repeatedly saying, I believe that effective sanctions and dialogue at good timing are very important. Now, we are in the phase of applying sanctions, and the sanctions are taking a certain level of effect. In the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the end of last year, we had a deep discussion about how to make the sanctions effective. I believe that the approach by the Government of Japan as a whole, including ministers and ministries concerned as well as myself, has resulted in this decision. So, concerning your question what we do about Iran, I think that one of important things is timing. So, when we approach Iran, whether or not we have traditional friendly relations is an important factor. So, when the timing is right, I would like to consider effective approach on Iran.
Iwata, Dow Jones: Mr. Tembo, the president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ) said at his press conference started from 2 p.m. today that he welcomed that Japan is exempted from the list of countries subjected to sanctions. But, he also stated that there is the EU proposal on sanction with regard to insurance and unless there is a lifting of that measure, it won’t change the fact that we won’t be able to import crude oil. He hopes that the Government will make effort to resolve this issue. With regards to this aspect, Minister Gemba, are you having negotiations? Is there anything you can say at this point?
Minister Gemba: In a word, we are working on. As you mentioned, the EU has decided the ban of providing insurance and re-insurance for the transport of Iranian crude oil. I think it was the end of January. The details of the measure on this insurance and re-insurance are now under consideration. Depending on the content of the measure, it could affect the international crude oil market and the import of Iranian crude oil into Japan. For minimizing the effect, for example - I think it was on March 19 - I made a phone call to Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU. Various approaches are being made to the EU. At any rate, we are going to take all measures so that stable supply of crude oil into Japan will not be disrupted.
3. Questions concerning Situation in North Korea (Satellite Launch)
Noguchi, Nippon Television: Concerning North Korea’s announcement on missile or satellite launch, as of now, what is the status of your information collection and analysis? Next Monday and Tuesday, there’s going to be the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul. So, in that summit, there will be the leaders from various countries. Is there going to be some message coming out of that summit to demand North Korea to exercise self-restraint?
Minister Gemba: For one thing, the IMO has put out a circular, as you know. I would like to continue to encourage North Korea to exercise self-restraint, in cooperation with the U.S., South Korea, China, and Russia. Concerning the Nuclear Security Summit, whether or not there will be some message coming out of that, as of now, it has not been fixed yet. But, especially among the related countries, there is the concern that it could disrupt the peace and stability of the region. So I personally think that there is a possibility that this can be taken up as an important topic. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense is considering necessary measures, on the assumption that the object may fly into our territories or fall into our territories and based on the measures taken in 2009.
Yokota, Mainichi Newspaper: About the deployment of PAC-3, Vice Minister of Defense referred to main island of Okinawa and Ishigaki Island. and There is PAC-3 of the U.S. Forces being positioned in the Kadena base. Are you going to study the utilization of the PAC-3 there?
Minister Gemba: At any rate, as I said earlier, we will take all measures, and we will consider the best possible measure.
4. Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
Shimada, NHK: According to some news reports, in relation to the consultation between Japan and the U.S. about the realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan, for the five facilities south of Kadena, a consultative body will be established to make a plan for the return. Is that true? And if such a body is going to be established, what is the nature and the purpose of that body?
Minister Gemba: I would like to refrain from commenting on each and every individual reporting about the realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan. . In any case, I would like to make utmost effort to mitigate the impact on Okinawa as early as possible, on broad perspective.
5. Questions concerning Nuclear Security Summit
Yoshioka, NHK: Yesterday, President Lee Myung-bakmentioned in an interview that at the Nuclear Security Summit, he aimed for reaching an agreement that plutonium equivalent to 20,000 nuclear weapons and HEU will be reduced. To what extent Japan has considered on this matter? And if there will be such an agreement, then Japan will have an allocation, perhaps, of the reduction. How is the progress of coordination in Japan?
Minister Gemba: Mr. Yoshioka’s question is based on what President Lee Myung-bak has spoken. To be frank, I have not heard that such a study being made.
6. Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
Matsudo, Ryukyu Shimpo: About the return of the U.S. Forces facilities south of Kadena, can we understand that it was back to square one when it had been delinked from the issue of Futenma? Or, as you talk about reducing impact on Okinawa, does the U.S. share the view? Is the U.S. considering returning the five facilities south of Kadena first?
Minister Gemba: I am not sure what you mean by saying “back to square one”. If we do not de-link the package, and if we continue the stalemate, what will happen?
We may not even start to discuss the return of the five facilities south of Kadena. I am sure that by de-linking, we become able to have more concrete discussion on the return of the five facilities south of Kadena.
7. Questions concerning Sanctions on Iran
Tamura, Yomiuri Shimbun: You mentioned that we have to have effective sanctions realized. For the effective sanctions, how to deal with China and India is very important, as those countries are not cooperating with international community and continuing to buy crude oil from Iran. So, for more effective sanctions to be realized, what are you going to do in the future?
Minister Gemba: I totally agree with you. That is, we need to have a good exchange of views on this matter with China and India. Along with that, at the U.S.-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I had a discussion. As you said, international cooperation is necessary and sanctions are necessary. I think certain good effects are being seen. It has to become more effective. That perspective is important, and in order to do that, the next issue is what you said, I think. During this period of time, I have consistently held the same understanding of this matter.
8. Questions concerning Domestic Politics
Kamide, freelance: This is not related to foreign affairs, but a general topic. About a grand coalition that has been talked about in ministers’ press conferences. What is the significance of this kind of proposal, and, Minister, what is your personal view about this grand coalition? What is important in moving politics forward? Can you give us your views?
Minister Gemba: I believe that the head of the first and second parties can meet officially or unofficially. The important thing is that we reach consensus in politics. There are issues that have to be dealt with, and we haven’t been able to make decisions for such crucial issues, and that is leading to distrust to the existing political parties. So DPJ, of course, not just DPJ, but all the existing parties have to respond to the people’s calls and need to deal with issues, even difficult ones, to resolve them one by one. I think that it is important to show concrete results.
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