(* 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, April 4, 2012, 4:10 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Opening Remarks
- (1) By-elections in Myanmar
- (2) United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON)
- (3) Establishment of Space Policy Division
- Questions concerning Former Prime Minister Hatoyama’s visit to Iran
- Questions concerning Situation of Myanmar
- Questions concerning Situation of North Korea (“Satellite” Launch)
- Questions concerning Establishment of Space Policy Division
- Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
- Questions concerning Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
1. Opening Remarks
(1) By-elections in Myanmar
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: On April 1 in Myanmar, for 45 electoral districts of the upper and lower houses as well as local assemblies, by-elections were conducted. According to the official announcement of the Myanmar government, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has won seats in 43 districts out of 45 districts. Japan has been urging the Myanmarese Government to allow all the relevant parties including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in the political process. I welcome the realization of political participation by the relevant parties in this way, as significant progress in democratization of Myanmar. Japan would like to continuously extend support for the Myanmarese Government’s efforts toward further democratization, national reconciliation and economic reform.
(2) United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON)
Minister Gemba: The Japan-US Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, or CULCON in short, marks its 50th anniversary and the 25th joint meeting will be held on April 10 at the Mitsubishi Guest House in Tokyo.
CULCON is a meeting of eminent persons who have been playing important roles in the area of cultural and people to people exchange, which are important areas in terms of deepening the Japan-US Alliance. Since the establishment of the CULCON was decided by the joint statement by then Prime Minister Ikeda and President Kennedy, as Japan and the US both have encountered many challenges, CULCON has presented valuable recommendations for cultural and educational exchange.
At the joint meeting this time, we hope that we will be able to have a fruitful discussion under the theme of “investment in the future through education in the broadest sense for further deepening Japan-US relations”, against the backdrop of Japanese students increasingly becoming inward-looking. Twelve members of the CULCON will attend the meeting, including Mr. Minoru Makihara, the Advisor to Mitsubishi Corporation and Chair of Japanese side, Mr. Thierry Porte, the former CEO of the Shinsei Bank and Mr. Michael Green from the U.S. side.
Before the joint meeting there will be a reception to be held at the Iikura House on April 9. In the joint meeting of April 10, a joint statement will be adopted including policy recommendations.
(3) Establishment of Space Policy Division
Minister Gemba: With regard to the establishment of Space Policy Division, as I have already mentioned during my speech at the end of February, the significance of outer space in diplomacy and security is more and more increasing in recent years. Based on my instruction, Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering how it will have an active role in this matter. As a part of this effort, the Space Policy Division will be established in the Foreign Policy Bureau tomorrow. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mainly Space Policy Division, will more actively promote the creation of international norms, international cooperation on outer space, and implementation of the outer space policies as a part of security policy.
2. Questions concerning Former Prime Minister Hatoyama’s visit to Iran
Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: Former Prime Minister Hatoyama, from the end of this week, I believe, will be visiting Iran and will be meeting with Iranian government leaders as well as the religious leaders. What is your view on this? A person who is a former Prime Minister, even not as a special envoy of the Government of Japan, will go and have contacts and meetings with Iran at this timing. What may be your response?
Minister Gemba: Just today I have been informed of that. This visit is not based on the request from the Government of Japan, it is based on the personal judgment of former Prime Minister Hatoyama.I understand that it is part of his personal activities. The Japanese government thinks that it is important that we make approaches to Iran at appropriate level and timing. Including that, I am giving thorough consideration.
Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: Do you think the timing of former Japanese Prime Minister to visit Iran is appropriate?
Minister Gemba: I understand that he is to visit Iran on individual basis.
3. Questions concerning Situation of Myanmar
Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: About Myanmar, until today the ASEAN Summit Meeting is being held, and upon the result of the election in Myanmar, it is expected that the ASEAN will make decision for requesting the relaxation of the sanctions on Myanmar by the U.S. and European countries. So there will be increased investment as well as the development aid coming from the other countries into Myanmar. Many Japanese businesses are also willing to make investments into Myanmar, so what may be the response of the Japanese government, in terms of supporting overseas investment to Myanmar, as the situation has changed in Myanmar?
Minister Gemba: As I have been saying, as far as Myanmar is concerned, I have instructed to review Japan’s aid policy on Myanmar. Now, progress has being made in making it concrete. What is important in this process is, as discussed in my meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we have to make sure that the benefits reach poor people as well as minority groups in Myanmar. In addition, we have to think about economic development of Myanmar so that the entire people of Myanmar can feel that, with progress in democratization and national reconciliation, they can become more affluent. Based on this fundamental policy, we are embodying the review of Japan’s aid policy vis-à-vis Myanmar.
Kamide, freelance: In connection with Myanmar, 20 years ago I was actually interviewing the people concerned in Myanmar when there was a victory in the elections. Though the atmosphere was same then, the government stayed on. So with the latest victory in the elections, looking at the press coverage in the Western countries as well as in Japan, this must not really provide support to the military government. I think the focal point is that in three years time, whether general elections can take place in the proper manner. Having said that, I do have a sense of crisis and I am worried that they may take various countermeasures. With regard to the atmosphere, what has changed and what would be the guarantee? At this time, of course you will criticize while providing support. What is the crucial point in democratization in Myanmar? I think we have to be rigorous, because we are too lax, differently from constructive engagement in the past.
Minister Gemba: I do not have any direct knowledge of what happened at that time, but I share your view that the important thing would be the next general election. In that sense, it is important for Japan to work on the present administration of Myanmar in terms of the importance of the freedom of political activities, national reconciliation, reconciliation with the minority groups and the rule of law, while we provide the necessary assistance.
4. Questions concerning Situation of North Korea (“Satellite” Launch)
Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: I have two questions on the missile to be launched by North Korea. When North Korea launched a missile three years ago, then Prime Minister Aso and the Foreign Minister Nakasone requested resolution of the UN Security Council. As a result, a Chair’s statement was issued and it was evaluated by MOFA as a very strong message. Now, if a missile is launched by North Korea this time, will Japan request a resolution by the UN Security Council? Although Japan is not a member of the UN Security Council, what may be the response of the Japanese government this time?
Minister Gemba: I had just received two questions. I think they are the same question in substance. I believe that it is important to urge North Korea’s restraint on the launch of a missile, or the launch of “satellite” with technology of ballistic missiles. Having said that, however, we are considering measures to be taken, including in the UN Security Council, in case that such a missile is launched by North Korea. Without doubt the launch is a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. Based on that, though we cannot prejudge what will be the response from the UN Security Council at this juncture, some response will be necessary. So, first we should urge North Korea’s self-restraint, but in preparation, we have to closely cooperate with the countries concerned, particularly with the members of the UN Security Council.
Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: You mentioned that you will closely cooperate with the members of the UN Security Council, after the launch of a missile. This weekend there will be Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. So what will be the concrete result you expect coming out from the meeting this weekend immediately prior to the launch? What will you insist in the meeting?
Minister Gemba: I would like to refrain from saying something before the meeting. In any case, we should urge North Korea’s self-restraint, first and foremost. Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is an important occasion for Japan, China and the ROK to share the view including on the response in case that the launch is conducted. In the meeting, we will also discuss other important issues such as economic matters and cooperation on maritime affairs. I hope that we will be able to have fruitful discussion so that we will be able to have good results.
5. Questions concerning Establishment of Space Policy Division
Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: I would like to ask about the establishment of the Space Policy Division that you mentioned earlier. Could you give me more details on the division, such as its organization and functions? If the missiles are launched, what may be the response of the Space Policy Division?
Minister Gemba: Since this is working-level matter, I would like to ask the Press Division to distribute some information in writing. The Space Policy Division is not directly related to the expected launch of a “satellite” by the North Korea. But I hope that space policy in the context of security policy will be considered by the Space Policy Division Based on my experience as the Minister for Space Policy, I think that it will be an important task for Space Policy Division to strengthen cooperative relationship between Japan and the U.S., for example in monitoring the situation of space or in navigation satellite systems.
6. Questions concerning Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: Concerning the realignment of the US Forces in Japan, with regard to the cost for transfer of Marines to Guam, the United States is requesting Japan to increase budget. What is the status of progress? And I heard that, during Golden Week, the Japan-US Summit will take place, and by that time, concerning the cost with regard to relocation to Guam, do you expect that there will be an agreement between Japan and the U.S.?
Minister Gemba: At this moment in time, what I can say is that we are in the process of coordination. As I have remarked at the Diet, what is truly important is: as the security environment changes, in the Asia-Pacific Region, how should be the division of the roles and responsibilities between Japan and the United States? And furthermore, for the Marines, what would be desirable deployment of the troops? We are actively discussing such issues. I believe that I have to think about the issue of the cost from a comprehensive point of view. Some argues that the cost should be reduced because the number of Marines to be transferred to Guam is reduced. On the other hand, the number of Marines to be transferred from Okinawa to outside of Japan has not changed. Furthermore, if the authorized number of the Marines may have been increased, it may be that the number of the Marines actually to be transferred may be greater. But not from those point of view, we need to look from the overall picture. And the question would be: what should be the division of roles and responsibilities between Japan and the United States? To be more specific, what should be the division of roles and responsibilities between the Japanese Self Defense Forces and the U.S. Forces? Taking all these into consideration, I will have to make a political decision on this issue.
7. Questions concerning Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Yoshioka, NHK: I think that, before the Japan-China-Korea Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, bilateral foreign ministers’ meetings with Korea and China, respectively are scheduled to be held. There are many difficult issues, for example, the issue of ex-comfort women and the issue of Takeshima with Korea and the issue of gas field with China. What do you expect coming out of the two Foreign Ministers’ meeting, one with China and one with Korea?
Minister Gemba: With regard to the bilateral meetings, you might want to ask on what matter and to what degree we will discuss. Anyway, both countries are very important neighboring countries for Japan, so although our time is short, I would like to properly discuss respective agenda items with my counterparts. Of course we are still not at the stage of mentioning something concrete as yet.
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