(* 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, August 8, 2012, 2:51 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education
  2. The Yasukuni Shrine
  3. Japan-North Korea Relations
  4. The Senkaku Islands
  5. The Takeshima issue
  6. Japan-North Korea relations
  7. The Senkaku Islands

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: There is one point from me. On the 10th and 11th of August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations University will co-host, with support of Nagasaki City and Nagasaki University, the Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education in Nagasaki City. Education on disarmament and non-proliferation is an indispensable societal basis to communicate the disaster caused by the use of nuclear weapons, across generations and borders. The NPDI, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative led by Japan, submitted Joint Working Papers to the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference held in May. Thus, Japan, the only country having experienced atomic bombing, has consistently exercised international leadership in this field. The Global Forum will have broad-based participation of experts, civil society, and the media to share the awareness on importance of education on disarmament and non-proliferation, and to discuss ways to promote partnership among various actors. I hope that the wish of people of Nagasaki and all of us that the tragedy of atomic bombing should never be repeated will spread to the whole world through the convening of the forum in Nagasaki City, the site. The Global Forum plans to utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter to transmit messages about education on disarmament and non-proliferation to people not physically participating in the forum.

That is all from me.

2. The Yasukuni Shrine

Saito, Kyodo News: As the 15th of August, the memorial day of the ending of the Second World War, approaches, I have two questions on the Yasukuni Shrine. My first question is, Minister Gemba, after you were appointed to be the Minister for Foreign Affairs, have you ever visited the Yasukuni Shrine for worship? Are you also planning to go to the Yasukuni Shrine this August for worship or not? Please answer while showing reasons.
My second question is, if you could give us your frank views, what is the meaning and relevance of the Yasukuni Shrine for you, Minister?

Minister Gemba: Regarding the question by Mr. Saito related to the Yasukuni Shrine, as a member of the Diet, sometimes I did visit the Yasukuni Shrine.  Naturally, I visited the shrine out of my wish to express my condolences on the souls of the people who lost their lives for peace.  While that is my thoughts, I understand that the Prime Minister and other Ministers are to refrain from officially visiting the shrine based on the comprehensive judgment and consideration of the Cabinet.

Saito: The official visit to the shrine should not be made by the members of the Cabinet. What is the reason behind? Once again, Minister, please explain to us your recognition.

Minister Gemba: Basically, it is a decision by the Noda Cabinet as a whole – or to be more precise – by the Prime Minister’s decision. I believe there is consideration for the neighboring countries, as well as for the feelings of the people.

3. Japan-North Korea Relations

Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: My question is on the retrieval of the remains of the war dead and the visit to graves in North Korea. It was announced yesterday that a meeting between the Japanese Red Cross and the North Korean Red Cross would be held in Beijing tomorrow. What is the assessment of the Minister on this? And for the future, do you think that these meetings will be leading to the solution of the abduction issue? Do you have this kind of expectation?

Minister Gemba: About the question by Mr. Higashioka on the issue of the remains of the war dead between the Red Cross Societies, basically,  that is the communication between the Red Cross Societies. On top of that, as I have mentioned before, regarding the retrieval of the remains, especially, there have been petitions for the visit to graves. I consider the issue to be an important humanitarian issue. From that perspective, I would like to take the exchange between the two Red Cross societies in a positive manner.
That being said, we will take appropriate actions regarding the various issues between Japan and North Korea including the abduction issue so that North Korea will deal with them in a positive manner.

If I may add a comment, my position has not changed from before. We cannot make any prior judgment about the outcome of the meeting. However, as long as the dialogue is conducted at an appropriate timing, by an appropriate method, and in an effective manner, it should take place.

4. The Senkaku Islands

Koyama, Freelance journalist: About the Senkaku Islands, there are two questions. While the position of the Japanese Government is that the Senkaku Islands are the inherent territory of Japan based upon the international law,  which particular principle of the international law are you referring to when the Japanese Government considers the Senkaku Islands to be the inherent territory of Japan?
The second question is, how many countries in the world  support the position of Japan in this regard? Could you give us two or three countries’ names as examples?

Minister Gemba: On the question of the Senkaku Islands, as posed by Mr. Koyama, in the light of historical facts and based upon international law, it is undoubtedly the case that the island is an inherent part of the territory of Japan. This is what the Japanese Government has continued to say, and there is no  issue regarding the sovereignty.

When it comes to the grounds behind our case, I believe that there are multiple points. For example, one point is  ‘the terra nullius’ - uninhabited lands - . In 1895, I believe, as I do not have relevant documents with me now, we confirmed that there was no trace of the islands having been under the control of the Qing Dynasty after conducting thorough research, and there is the fact that Japan incorporated the islands into the territory of Japan. Looking at the following various developments, it is the case undoubtedly.
Mr. Koyama also asked whether other countries are supporting Japan’s position or not.

 Conversely speaking, I think that there exist little countries which do not support our position, aside from the country which has its own assertion. Certainly, we often talk about the subject of Article V. When it comes to the subject of Article V, Article V is applied when it is under the administration, rather than the issue of territorial sovereignty. Even though the U.S. does not make any direct mention to the issue of territorial sovereignty, I understand that there has been the mention of this point by the United States in the course of history.

5. The Takeshima issue

Ikeda, Kyodo News: The other day, there were some reports about the diplomatic whitepaper which was published by Republic of Korea (ROK) in June. That whitepaper points out that Takeshima is an inherent territory of the ROK. Have you ever noticed such publication of the diplomatic document? According to the news reports, the Japanese Government has made no protest against it. Do you have any plans to make protest or is it true that you have made no protest? Also regarding Takeshima, the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the ROK has been illegally occupying Takeshima. Is that the position of Minister Gemba as well as the Noda administration?

Minister Gemba: When it comes to the description regarding Takeshima, according to researches we have done, sometimes we made protests against it while sometimes we didn’t.  It is from the era of the LDP administration onward. This time, we decided to make a protest, and therefore, it has now been filed.
On top of that, the position of Japan related to Takeshima has been consistent. I touched upon the issue of Takeshima in my speech on diplomacy. The speech makes my thoughts and the position of the Japanese Government  clearer.

6. Japan-North Korea relations

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: I would like to ask about the talks between the Red Cross Societies of Japan and North Korea. Earlier, Minister, you said that you would like to take this dialogue between the two Red Cross  positively. What specifically is the aspect or effect that you are looking forward to?
The next point is whether the negotiations between the Red Cross societies will lead to the handling of the remains between the Governments. While there are various issues such as the abduction as well as nuclear and missiles, would it be possible that the humanitarian issue would be separated to be negotiated on between the governments, depending on the outcome of the talks between the Red Cross societies?

Minister Gemba: First of all, I would like you to understand that it is about gathering of human remains and visits to graves from humanitarian point of view between the Red Cross Societies. As I have repeatedly stated that this is important from the humanitarian point of view, the development itself is positive. But, putting that aside, the abduction issue is an extremely important issue. It relates to sovereignty of Japan as well.
Therefore, my current strong thought is that we would like to appropriately deal with the issue so that North Korea will turn positive regarding various issues between Japan and North Korea including the abduction issue.

7. The Senkaku Islands

Koyama: Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognize that most of the countries in this world consider that the Government of Japan has sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands?

Minister Gemba: Can I check on that? Since our position is that there is no issue of territorial sovereignty, it is perhaps basically not about whether other countries support our position or not. But, since Mr. Koyama has raised this question, just to make sure, we would like to make a research to know if there are any countries which clearly announce such a position.

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