(* 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, June 5, 2012, 9:57 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Questions concerning domestic affairs
  2. Questions concerning unlawful activities by the then First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo
  3. Additional questions concerning domestic affairs

1. Questions concerning domestic affairs

Shimada, NHK: The Second Reshuffled Noda Cabinet has just been inaugurated. What is your view on this reshuffle? In addition, regarding the appointment of Mr. Morimoto as Minister of Defense, there is an argument from both the ruling parties and the opposition parties that it is a matter for concern to appoint a person who is not a member of the Diet, from the viewpoint of civilian control over the military. What is your opinion on this point?

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: The reshuffle itself is based on the Prime Minister's decision, and I hope this will be an opportunity to move various discussions forward.

Regarding the appointment of Mr. Morimoto, as the Prime Minister himself said, he is an expert on security issues and that is why he has been appointed by the Prime Minister. I would like to work in full cooperation with him to move discussions on diplomacy and security forward.

The basic concept of civilian control over the military is that politics holds the ultimate supremacy over military control, and from this point of view, the final decision is always kept for the Prime Minister.  It is the Prime Minister who orders defense operations and security operations. Also the issues the Defense Minister orders such as anti-piracy activities and anti-ballistic missile measures should obtain the Prime Minister’s approval ultimately. In that sense, the Prime Minister always assumes the responsibility for final decisions.

What is important now is to look on the positive side, rather than criticizing the fact that Mr. Morimoto is from the private sector. We should look at how various policies on diplomacy and security issues can be carried out based on the common ground between the ruling and opposition parties.

2. Questions concerning unlawful activities by the then First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo

Kamide, Freelance: I believe that this has come up at previous press conferences as well, but on the issue related to the then First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, some are saying that certain mass media outlets were led to report on this story by public safety authorities. There are those pointing out that the media has made a great fuss about information from public safety authorities.

I would like to ask two questions at this moment in time. Do you understand this as a matter in which the First Secretary is suspected of being a spy? Is it alright to use such wording? I want to ask about this point first.

Minister Gemba: I do not have such a recognition of the matter at this moment in time. Which is to say, I have not received such information. At the current moment in time the most that can be said is that there was a violation of the Alien Registration Act.

Kamide, Freelance: The background to the reports this time – at least one thing may be said, though this is just a guess – is that this is about nothing else than the attempt to pave the way for the Act on Preservation of Secrets. Some are saying that the big fuss of this time might have been planned; that it has all been reported even though there is no evidence of spying activities clearly taking place. I was wondering if you have an opinion on this.

Minister Gemba: It is not something which I can comment on. As I have been saying from the beginning, from the perspectives of an Act on Preservation of Secrets, intelligence and so forth, I have had strong interest in all of this since before this incident. I think that we should move forward with debate on these matters.

3. Additional questions concerning domestic affairs

Kikuchi, Nippon Television: Regarding the appointment of Minister of Defense Morimoto, which was mentioned earlier, the Minister of Defense is in charge of the department that is responsible for national defense and managing an emergency situation for protecting the Japanese public. Some have been criticizing that a person who has not received a public approval through the election cannot take political responsibility as the Minister of Defense. I think there have been unwritten rules on such matters so that it has been the custom to appoint a politician for the position. How do you think appointing a private citizen will work in terms of taking political responsibility in emergency situations?

Minister Gemba: It is the Prime Minister who is responsible for final political decisions.

As I mentioned earlier, the Meiji Constitution is different from the present Constitution of Japan. In the former, the Prime Minister was the primus inter pares (first among equals). However, in the current constitution, the Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet, in the highest position. Therefore, basically the Minister of Defense needs to consult the Prime Minister to make things move forward, so in that sense, I don't think there is any particular problem. Rather, as I said earlier, I think it is more important to look on the positive side. The ruling and opposition parties can discuss diplomacy and security issues based on the common ground, ideally in a constructive manner, to make things move forward.

I am willing to work in full cooperation with Minister of Defense Morimoto, and I expect him to play a certain role in providing clear explanations to the people of Japan.

Kikuchi, Nippon Television: From the viewpoint that the Prime Minister makes the final decisions, it can be said that the responsibility of the Prime Minister is not limited to defense issues, as he is also responsible for the economy and finance. If we follow the logic that there is no problem with appointing a private citizen solely for defense scenarios because the final responsibility is with the Prime Minister, do you think this will or could as a result enormously increase the authority of the Prime Minister?

Minister Gemba: There have been many cases where a private citizen has been appointed as a Minister for Foreign Affairs. For example, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy use a parliamentary cabinet system like Japan, and there have been cases in which a private citizen was appointed as a Minister of Defense. This frequently happens under a presidential system. From this point of view, I think this issue should not be considered as a problem.

There have been many cases where a private citizen was appointed as a Minister for Foreign Affairs, but it is the Prime Minister who takes the final responsibility for decisions. As in the case of security, diplomacy is also strongly related to the security of Japan. In that sense, I think it is not appropriate to criticize the fact that Mr. Morimoto has been appointed as the Minister of Defense.

Hanamura, TV Asahi: I heard that Minister of Defense Morimoto said that he received messages of support from other ministers after the Cabinet meeting. Did you talk with him too?

Minister Gemba: Yes, I had a conversation with him yesterday and today, and I told him that we should communicate thoroughly and cooperate closely.

Kikuchi, Nippon Television: I may refer to the matter too persistently, but the Ministry of Defense is the primary ministry responsible for protecting the Japanese people, being in charge of defense and crisis management. Considering such important responsibilities, I wonder if it is appropriate to follow the logic that a private citizen can be appointed as the Minister of Defense simply because there were similar cases in other ministries.

Basically, the Ministry of Defense was upgraded from the Defense Agency based on the common recognition in the government that it is a pivotal ministry. In relation to this background, what do you think about appointing a person from the private sector?

Minister Gemba: I think the Minister for Foreign Affairs is also directly responsible for the security of the Japanese public.

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