(* 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 15, 2012, 1:58 a.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Remarks by ROK President Lee Myung-bak
  2. Japan-ROK relations
  3. Visits by two Cabinet members to Yasukuni Shrine
  4. Japan-ROK Relations
  5. The Senkaku Islands
  6. Japan-ROK Relations

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Remarks by ROK President Lee Myung-bak

Minister Gemba: When I was asked about the remark by President Lee Myung-bak concerning His Majesty The Emperor yesterday here, I myself had not confirmed the contents. So, I would like to say a brief word.
First of all, the Government of Japan has never taken up the issue of the visit to the ROK by His Majesty The Emperor with the Government of the ROK. Therefore, it is hard to understand the fact that President Lee Myung-bak made the remark yesterday, and it is extremely regrettable.

2. Japan-ROK relations

Furuya, Fuji Television: Regarding President Lee Myung-bak, he also mentioned today that, in relation to the issue of the so-called wartime comfort women, it was an act against universal values of mankind. What is your view on this?

Minister Gemba: I confirmed the contents of today’s remark as well. I understand that after he mentioned that Japan was a partner which shares values and that he would like to open the way to the future together, he took up the issue of the wartime comfort women. We have repeatedly explained the consistent position of the Government of Japan concerning this issue. Our position is that it is based on the issue of the claim right concerning Japan and the ROK as well as the economic cooperation agreement including the issue of the wartime comfort women. Aside from that, we have taken humanitarian measures.

Furuya, Fuji Television: Ever since his visit to Takeshima, it seems like President Lee is taking a firm anti-Japan stance. How do you evaluate the background to this, and his intentions?

Minister Gemba: I would like to refrain from commenting on the background and his intentions by guess from my public position. I will just say that we are at a moment in time when both Japan and the ROK need to act calmly. It will not help the ROK to not act in a calm way.

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: Just now you stated that the Japanese side has never taken up the visit to the ROK by His Majesty the Emperor, and you consider it regrettable that President Lee made such a remark despite the fact. What do you think about the request that His Majesty apologize?

Minister Gemba: The entire remark is difficult to understand, and that it is extremely regrettable. I said earlier, "first of all". I said that first of all we had never taken up the issue, and therefore. It is about the entire remark.

Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: Will you be lodging a protest through diplomatic channels about President Lee’s remark regarding His Majesty, or do you intend to seek an apology or retraction?

Minister Gemba: We have already lodged a protest through diplomatic channels.

3. Visits by two Cabinet members to Yasukuni Shrine

Inomoto, TBS: Two Cabinet members today visited Yasukuni Shrine. Please tell us how you take this action, and what you think the effects of it will be.

Minister Gemba: As I have said before in my press conference, I understand that the Noda Cabinet is unified in the position that we do not make official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. In that sense, these were private visits to the shrine, and as private matters, I do not think that the Government, including myself, is in a position to comment on them.

4. Japan-ROK Relations

Yokota, Mainichi Newspapers: You stated earlier that you lodged a protest to the ROK government via diplomatic channels. Has the Republic of Korea responded in any way?

Minister Gemba: To say it precisely, the Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau made a protest to the Ambassador of the ROK in Tokyo, and yesterday the Counsellor of the Embassy of Japan in the ROK submitted a protest to a Director of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I refrain from giving details on these exchanges.

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: Regarding the comfort women issue, I believe that the position of the Government including Prime Minister Noda was to try to explore ideas from a humanitarian point of view. Is there any change to the Government’s policy following the series of actions and remarks by ROK President Lee Myung-bak?

Minister Gemba: I understand that we have taken various humanitarian measures.

Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: After the visit by President Lee to Takeshima, it was announced that there has been consideration about filing a suit to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and about a new government organization. What kind of progress has been seen on these matters since then?

Minister Gemba: We are discussing them today as well.

Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: Do you expect that you will reach a decision and announce it soon?

Minister Gemba: We are considering such a plan as well.

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: With the Japan-ROK relations in this kind of state, we have reached a situation in which nationalism might be on the rise. What is the most important matter action which is required from the Japanese and ROK Governments now?

Minister Gemba: As I said a moment ago, this is a difficult matter and we must respond calmly to it. I do not think it will help the ROK to behave in such a way dares to fan nationalism.

Yoshida, Nishinippon Shimbun: And on the part of the Japanese Government?

Minister Gemba: Of course. But we are also forced to take necessary and reasonable measures. We will act with resolve.

5. The Senkaku Islands

Lee, Hong Kong Phoenix Television: This afternoon a ship from Hong Kong is drawing close to the Senkaku Islands with the intention to land. How does the Japanese Government take this matter?

Minister Gemba: Naturally, information collection is being done, centering on the Prime Minister’s Office, and each government ministry and agency are closely coordinating, watching and monitoring the situation. It goes without saying, but as this is the inherent territory of Japan, we will naturally be taking appropriate measures if necessary.

6. Japan-ROK Relations

Iwata, NHK: You stated that it will not help the ROK to not act calmly. Is it correct to understand that this means that there is the possibility that additional, enforceable measures will be taken moving forward?

Minister Gemba: It is just as I have been saying all the time.

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