(* 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, June 27, 2012, 5:40 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku
    • (2) Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan
    • (3) Strategy to Securing Resources
  2. Questions concerning the “seizure” of a fishing vessel, off the coast of Kunashiri Island
  3. Questions concerning Osprey deployment in Okinawa
  4. Question concerning G20
  5. Questions concerning the procurement of rare earths
  6. Question concerning classified information protection agreement
  7. Question concerning domestic politics (omitted)

1. Opening Remarks

(1) World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: On July 3 and 4, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others will host “World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku” in the three disaster affected prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima, including Sendai City. I would like to attend the conference and lead the discussion as the chair, as long as circumstances such as the situation of Diet sessions permit.
In this conference, representatives from more than 100 countries and international organizations will gather together in Tohoku. Besides Ms. Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UNDP, who will visit Japan as a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ministers are scheduled to attend from more than 30 countries, including New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
In this conference, we would like share with the international community the experiences and lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake and other disasters in the world. We wish to make appeals for the significance of mainstreaming disaster reduction in all aspects of government administration.
I hope that this conference in Tohoku, with high-level representation from all over the world, will contribute to the reconstruction of the disaster affected region. From the disaster affected region which has continued maximum efforts for reconstruction, we would like to send a strong message to the international community towards building a disaster-proof and resilient society.

(2) Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan

Minister Gemba: It is only a little over one week till the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan on July 8. President Karzai of Afghanistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, and other high-level representatives of various countries and organizations, as well as representatives of Afghan civic society are expected to attend this conference.
In the Tokyo Conference, toward the sustainable development of Afghanistan and to deliver a strategic message to confirm the mutual commitment of Afghanistan and the international community, Tokyo Declaration will be announced as an outcome document. Right now,  close discussion and coordination are being made with related countries and organizations.
I will be serving as the Joint Chair together with Foreign Minister Rassoul and Finance Minister Zakhilwal of Afghanistan, and would like to continue to work toward the success of this conference.

(3) Strategy to Securing Resources

Minister Gemba: In the 15th Package-type Infrastructure Overseas Development Related Ministers’ Meeting, which was held the Prime Minister’s office today, “the strategy to securing resources” was reported. As I told the other ministers in the meeting, securing resources is an urgent agenda to stabilize the post-earthquake national economy and Japanese people’s lives. We attach importance to this agenda in our foreign policy. We will build and strengthen comprehensive and mutually beneficial bilateral relations, and promote multilateral diplomacy while utilizing international frameworks.

2. Questions concerning the “seizure” of a fishing vessel, off the coast of Kunashiri Island

Takahashi, Hokkaido Shimbun: With regard to the case of seizure off the coast of Kunashiri in the Northern Territories, what facts have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs obtained? What responses are going to be taken?

Minister Gemba: The Chief Cabinet Secretary has already spoken about this subject, but I do have some information, so I would like to confirm the facts involved. This case occurred in the waters within the 12 nautical miles of the coastal area of Kunashiri Island, and Russian National Border Security Patrol vessel detected a vessel with two Japanese crew members. Right now, we are not able to confirm the nationality of this vessel. Since this boat escaped discarding the fishery product, this vessel has been seized on the suspicion of illegal trespassing of Russian “national border” and for the illegal fishing of sea cucumbers.
Needless to say, Japan’s legal position is that the four Northern Islands are inherent territories of Japan, so the 12 nautical miles waters within the four islands are territorial waters of Japan. Therefore, the enforcement conducted by Russian national border security authorities cannot be allowed. That is the legal position of Japan, and these are the circumstances under which this case has occurred. We are confirming the safety of the crew members. I understand that they are in good health conditions. I gave instructions to communicate with the Japanese crew members. We have been successfully making contact, and they are in good health conditions.
Ultimately, this has to do with the attribution of the four Northern Islands. But at least, we have confirmed their safety. We will ask for their return to Japan.

Takahashi, Hokkaido Shimbun: As you have stated, Minister, what about the future negotiations over the Northern Territories? What will be the impact of this seizure case on future negotiation regarding the Northern Territories?

Minister Gemba: Honestly speaking, in the past, there have been such instances. As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that this will have any major impact.

3. Questions concerning Osprey deployment in Okinawa

Mekari, Okinawa Times: Chief Cabinet Secretary told that you went to the Prime Minister’s office with Defense Minister Morimoto to provide a report to the Prime Minister. What information did you provide at this session? Did you talk about the future response?

Minister Gemba: As you mentioned, Prime Minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary, Defense Minister, and myself consulted each other on this subject. We have not drawn a conclusion at this point in time. But yesterday afternoon, Defense Minister Morimoto made an announcement. There was an accident in Morocco, and the reports of the investigation have been submitted, and it is my understanding that a thorough investigation has been made. But the information on Florida’s accident is initial data. I understand that this is an exceptional case. The United States has not made this kind of response to any other country but Japan. But under such circumstances, we want even more solid information pertaining to this accident. This is my view on this matter.
In this situation, we need to also consider our obligations under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty as well. Under such circumstances, the local community has concerns over the safety. Also in the mainland of Japan, all of the areas over which the Osprey may have flight training, the local communities have concerns, too. In order to dissipate such concerns over the safety, what will be the appropriate response to be taken? So, we are having consultations with the United States on this. This is the current situation which I have reported to and consulted. We have not yet drawn a conclusion, so I would like to refrain from sharing with you the substance of what we have told the U.S side.

Mekari, Okinawa Times: According to some press reporting, host nation notification by the U.S. Government was supposed to be made on June 29, but Japanese Government has decided to request the U.S. side to postpone making this notification. Have there been such discussions within the Japanese Government?

Minister Gemba: In general terms, we have had various discussions, but we have obligations under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Naturally, safety is of critical importance. But as you are aware, it is not that the operation has been suspended in the United States. So, in this situation, is there an appropriate way to gain the understanding of the local community? That is what we are discussing and what I would like to say.

4. Question concerning G20

Azumi, Freelance: I would like to ask about G20. Prime Minister Noda, on June 21, for the consumption tax bill which was passed on the other day, returned early from the G20. But then what was scheduled to be on the 21st had been deferred to the 26th. So I suppose it is maybe in hindsight, he could have had full participation at the G20. I understand that, on his behalf, you took part in the G20 (sic). But there is of course a difference in weight between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, especially in global terms. When you consider the significance of G20 as an international conference, I think it is increasing. What are your views on putting priority on domestic politics?
Also, President Hu Jintao of China took part in the G20. Within a short period of 24 hours, Prime Minister Noda had three official meetings and other meetings. But he had no meeting with President Hu Jintao. Before G20, at a press conference in China, the Chinese side clearly said that they were coordinating to set a meeting with President Obama, but they were not working to set a meeting with Prime Minister Noda. What are your views on this?

Minister Gemba: I want to be accurate about the facts involved. The conference I attended was Rio+20. Prime Minister Noda attended G20, and then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary attended G20 on behalf of the Prime Minister. As you have pointed out, it would have been better if Prime Minister Noda would have fully attended the entire conference of the G20 Summit and this was exactly what Prime Minister Noda himself had strongly desired. Having said that however, the integrated reform of social security system and tax system is approaching the final stages and there was also a meeting between the leaders of the political parties. Since I was attending the Rio+20 myself at that time, maybe my memory fails me. As a result, the bill was passed on June 26, but various situations had been expected. Of course I wanted Prime Minister Noda to attend the entire G20 Leaders Meeting, if possible. However, it was inevitable that he had to leave early. During Prime Minister Noda’s stay in Los Cabos, he took the opportunity to make as many statements as possible and therefore, the initial objective has been attained. Particularly, the focus is of course how to respond to the debt crisis in Europe and Japan has done what she should do, for example, the purchase of EFSF bonds and the reinforcing of the foundation of finance of the IMF. I think that how to work on countries who have not yet done what they should have done was the focal point of the G20 Summit. So on that note, I believe that Japan has made maximum contribution.
With which country and in what style we hold bilateral meetings depends on the case and the circumstances. Japanese side did not have any plan to have a Japan-China bilateral summit meeting in Los Cabos.

5. Questions concerning the procurement of rare earths

Ikegami, NHK: I heard that Japan, together with the United States and the EU will request the establishment of a panel to the WTO with regard to the issue of rare earths. What are the background and reasoning?

Minister Gemba: I believe this was already in process quite early on.

Ikegami, NHK: In other words, it is an official proceeding now.

Minister Gemba: I believe that transparency is going to be increasingly important in the future. In other words, one of Japan’s foreign policies is to take initiative in rule making in the Asia Pacific region. The WTO is one of the organizations which are in charge of global rule making.
Now all of us think that China must act as a responsible power. Within the WTO that represents such fair rule under very transparent procedure, decisions will be made. And concerned parties will comply with those decisions. I believe that instead of worsening the bilateral ties, this will lead to resolve these issues based on transparent procedure and also urge China to act as a responsible power.

Ikegami, NHK: I would like to ask an additional question. What is the significance of rare earths for Japanese manufacturing industry?

Minister Gemba: I think that the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry will be the more appropriate person to respond rather than myself as the Foreign Minister. Of course rare earths are scarce materials, and essential particularly for high-value added manufacturing industry of Japan.
If Japan procures rare earths from a small number of specific countries, that will raise concerns. So we have to try to diversify the source of import of rare earths and secure the supply at a low price and with stability. Furthermore, we have to consider alternatives to the rare earth. I am not an expert in this field so I will go no further in terms of detail. The Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry made a report including those points. It was not a detailed report but a strategy to secure the resources is being formulated. Therefore, from a broad perspective as a whole, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Minister for Foreign Affairs would like to strategically cooperate with Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in order to proceed with measures.

6. Question concerning classified information protection agreement

Matsumura, Asahi Shimbun: I have a question with regard to GSOMIA between Japan and Korea. The signing has been postponed.  According to press reports, the signing will be conducted soon, and the term “military” will be left out. What are the prospect and the significance of having this kind of an agreement on cooperation regarding military information between Japan and Korea?

Minister Gemba: To give you the conclusion, we are making coordination towards early signing. I think previously there were reports about this matter and I recall that I made some very cautionary remarks. Now I am not as cautious as I was then, but we are making coordination toward the early signing of the agreement. So that is what I would like to say.
I think I have commented on the significance of the agreement several times in the past. Between Japan and the Republic of Korea(ROK), there have been various issues of concern which goes without saying. However, when it comes to the interest pertaining to national security, I think both countries share this. So as far as this particular issue is concerned, aside from the issues of concern which lie between us, it is important that we make progress. In every opportunity of Japan-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting I repeatedly requested this and we have exchanged views. When there was a launch of the missile – or which they refer to as “satellite” – by North Korea, it was discussed and there were questions raised at the Diet. I do not say that without this agreement we will not be able to absolutely share information. However, if there is a classified information protection agreement, I think it will enable easier sharing of various confidential information including intelligence affairs more safely. I believe that this represents a very strong progress.

7. Question concerning domestic politics (omitted)

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