(* 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 19, 2012, 8:35 a.m.
Place: In the Diet

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Attendance at the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Rio+20)
  2. Questions concerning Japan-Russia Relations
  3. Questions concerning the submission of aerial radiation monitoring results by the United States
  4. Questions concerning the TPP
  5. Questions concerning the dispatch of Ospreys to Okinawa

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Attendance at the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: This evening I will depart to attend the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Rio de Janeiro, on behalf of the Prime Minister.
I am scheduled to make a speech as the representative of the Government of Japan on June 20, local time. I will announce initiatives consisting of the following three proposals: to spread “Future City Initiative” worldwide, to contribute to the global transition to a green economy, and to build resilient societies. While Japan faces a difficult situation given the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and economic situation, I hope to show the world how we are contributing to the international society by taking advantage of our strengths in the fields of the environment and disaster reduction.
In addition, we have a Japan Pavilion at Rio+20 that the public and private sectors have come together to create. On June 20, local time, I will host the “Japan Evening”, under the theme of “TOHOKU FORWARD,” to demonstrate the reconstruction and charm of Tohoku.
On June 21, I will attend an official side-event hosted by Japan on future cities. I would like to propose to host an international conference in Japan next year, and to discuss the promotion of international cooperation toward sustainable city development.

2. Questions concerning Japan-Russia Relations

Ikeda, Kyodo Press: A Japan-Russia Summit Meeting was held early this morning, Japan time, in Mexico. I heard that you reached an agreement on reactivating the discussions on the Northern Territories issue and on Foreign Minister’s visit to Russia in the near future. Could you tell us how you evaluate the summit meeting results, and how you are going to proceed from now on?

Minister Gemba: I have not yet received the official report  besides the summary of the meeting. The most important thing in the negotiation of the Northern Territories issue is to form a trusting relationship between the leaders. I think this summit meeting marked the first step toward building such a relationship. I heard that a positive atmosphere was created in the meeting. I was informed that Japan and Russia agreed to direct own country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs  to reactivate the discussions. Also I heard that my visit to Russia was discussed in the meeting. Considering these facts, I basically interpret the outcome as a definite kick-off.

Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: Regarding the Northern Territories issue, I think there is substantial disagreement in the positions of Japan and Russia. The gap between the two countries seems still large. Could you tell us the basic approach with which you are going to try to break the current stalemate?

Minister Gemba: The negotiation on the Northern Territories issue itself is our biggest concern and a very important issue; however, I think Japan and Russia do not achieve our full potential considering what we can do actually. As I have always said, the strategic environment has changed for both Japan and Russia, and it is becoming more important for the two countries to develop cooperative relations in every field. We should take such a situation into account, and at the same time, we should resolve our biggest concern, the Northern Territories issue. The issue of the attribution of the four islands should be solved, and then the conclusion of a peace treaty with Russia should follow it. I think it is important to promote these efforts all together.

3. Questions concerning the submission of aerial radiation monitoring results by the United States

Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: Regarding the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, it has become public t that a map of radiactive contamination provided by the United States was left unutilized for residents’ evacuation. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has admitted this fact and apologized. This problem, which might increase public distrust toward atomic energy, was revealed at a time when Japan is in the process of restarting nuclear power plants. What is your view on this issue?

Minister Gemba: I think I need to have a full grasp of the facts first, but as far as I understand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded the information provided by the United States. However, I think the issue is not whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took adequate actions.  I have to say that it is regrettable that the entire government could not make the most of the information.

Tosa, Asahi Shimbun: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has claimed that they requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urge the United States, the provider of the map of radioactive contamination, to publish the information. Could you tell us if it is true? If so, did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs address this matter to the United States upon such request?

Minister Gemba: As far as I know, we asked, or rather, made a request to the United States for permission to publish the data, and we were told that it would not be a problem. I understand that the message was conveyed to the related ministries.

4. Questions concerning the TPP

Ikegawa, NHK: In the Mexico-U.S. Summit Meeting, it was decided that Mexico will participate in the negotiation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) expectedly a long time ahead of Japan. What is your view on this matter?

Minister Gemba: As you mentioned, bilateral consultations between the United States and Mexico are almost completed, and moreover, I understand that the participation of Mexico has been approved by other participating countries. In the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting, Japan promised that it would make efforts to move things forward in terms of bilateral consultations with the United States. Therefore, I think Japan should promote the bilateral consultations further while working toward the achievement of domestic consensus to a certain degree. In this context, we need to consider the political situation of Japan, which is independent of the TPP issue. I personally think that the TPP constitutes a ground strategy. As we have now entered the final stage of discussions on the Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Taxation Systems, I think we should first come to a conclusion on this issue. After that, we can start working toward fully consolidating opinions on the TPP.

5. Questions concerning the dispatch of Ospreys to Okinawa

Shimada, NHK: Regarding the dispatch of Ospreys to Okinawa, a protest rally was held in Ginowan City recently. Could you tell us your view on this protest? In addition, I understand that you have requested to the United States to provide information on the cause of the accidents. If the United States is not able to provide such information soon, could the current deployment plan be delayed? Could you tell us what kind of stance the Government of Japan takes on this point?

Minister Gemba: I understand that the previous accidents caused various concerns over the deployment and a lot of anxiety about this matter. As you said, we made requests to the United States through every channel, and I understand that they take this situation very seriously. In any case, it is necessary for all the relevant ministers to share the information as soon as we receive it, and to explain it to the related local governments.

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