(* 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: Friday, August 17, 2012, 0:26 p.m.
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topics:

  1. Opening Remarks
    • (1) Japan-Korea relations
  2. Japan-ROK relations
  3. The Senkaku Islands

1. Opening Remarks

(1) Japan-Korea relations

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba: Today, I would like to explain the measures the Government of Japan (GOJ) will take as a response to the landing on Takeshima by President Lee of the Republic of Korea (ROK). I had already mentioned this issue on August 11 and the Chief Cabinet Secretary also referred to it this morning.

First of all, in the coming days, the GOJ will propose, regarding dispute over Takeshima, to the ROK government to institute proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by a special agreement, and to request Conciliation based on the Exchange of Notes Concerning Settlement of Dispute between Japan and the ROK. As the ROK government advocates "Global Korea", if it believes it has justifiable territorial rights over Takeshima, it should accept the Japanese proposal. I would like to strongly request that to the ROK government.

Furthermore, Cabinet members related to the Takeshima issue will gather for a meeting soon to discuss our response, including how we can strengthen our readiness on this issue. We will also coordinate various mechanisms to support research in the private sector on the Takeshima issue and other activities to raise the awareness of Japanese citizens.

Let me clarify that our response to the landing on Takeshima by the ROK president is not limited to what I have just said. We will continue to review appropriate measures considering ROK response. While weighing actions taken by the ROK, we will make appropriate decisions on further measures.

I also called in Mr. Shin Kak-soo, ROK Ambassador to Japan, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a short while ago. I clearly told him about the response measures to be taken by the Japanese Government. In relation to President Lee's statement on the visit to the ROK by His Majesty The Emperor, I told him that because the GOJ had never taken up the subject of the visit to the ROK by His Majesty The Emperor with the ROK government, President Lee's statement was difficult to understand and quite regrettable, and that his continued unconstructive statements would not benefit his country at all.

Lastly, I told the ROK Ambassador that I was deeply worried about the current situation and that the ROK should rectify its acts and statements considering the broad Japan-Korea relations, and emphasized to him that they should take judicious and cautious approach.

2. Japan-ROK relations

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: When you met with Ambassador Shin, you mentioned that Japan will take this issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for intermediation. How did the Ambassador respond to what you said? Did he clearly reject the idea?

Minister Gemba: We have not yet offered our official note to the ROK Government, so the Ambassador mentioned how the ROK Government takes this issue as of now. I mentioned that the ROK should accept our proposal to institute proceedings before the ICJ by a special agreement, and strongly requested Conciliation based on the Exchange of notes constituting an agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea concerning the settlement of disputes. I just said that the Republic of Korea advocates “Global Korea.” The country rejected Japan’s similar requests twice in the past, in 1954 and 1962. Nearly 60 years have passed since then. I believe that the Republic of Korea joined the United Nations in the early 1990s. The United Nations (UN) emphasizes the importance of the rule of law. As an important member state of the UN, the Republic of Korea should confidently accept our request if the country claims territorial rights on Takeshima. That is what I will continue to request.

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: Around when will Japan officially offer the official proposal and submit the Exchange of notes to the Republic of Korea?

Minister Gemba: Let me repeat what I said, which is that we are working on the schedule, but I suppose the request will go out soon. Frankly speaking, preparing an official written complaint takes time. We are working so that we can get across our official intention to the Republic of Korea at the earliest timing.

Hasegawa, Fuji TV: You said that the Republic of Korea advocates “Global Korea” so they should accept this request from Japan. However, some experts say that the Republic of Korea is unlikely to accept this proposal. If the Republic of Korea rejects this proposal, how will Japan respond?

Minister Gemba: Talking about what future action Japan will take may adversely affect our strategy for the coming ICJ lawsuit. So I will refrain from mentioning it. The important thing is to make clear, appeal to the international society that this issue should be settled in a justifiable and peaceful manner.

Hanamura, TV Asahi: As an additional measure, do you plan to refuse to support the Republic of Korea’s attempt to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council?

Minister Gemba: We are reviewing additional measures from various aspects. I refrain from discussing them in concrete terms today. As I just said, what we have announced today are the measures for now. We will continue various reviews. There can be many options.

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: Japan proposed to take cases to the ICJ against the Republic of Korea twice in the past. The Republic of Korea rejected the two proposals, and Japan decided not to file a suit unilaterally with the ICJ. This time, do you exclude the possibility of filing a suit unilaterally? Or is there any possibility of doing so?

Minister Gemba: I cannot make any statement on this since it relates to our strategy for future legal actions, as I said a while ago.

Kikuchi, Nippon TV: Talking about territorial issues, Japan quickly closed the case with China. In contrast, Japan is taking a rather firm approach to the Republic of Korea. What is behind the different approaches?

Minister Gemba: I must say the two incidents involve different circumstances. First of all, the head of the state landed on our territory. To begin with, the context is different from each other. So I believe it is reasonable for us to take different approaches in each case. This also applies to the Northern Territories. We are under negotiation with Russia on this issue. The two leaders agree to work through a peace treaty. We should not take the same approach to different issues involving different contexts.

Higashioka, Asahi Shimbun: If the Republic of Korea agrees to file a suit with the ICJ, actual deliberations will start. In that case, how confident are you that Japan will win the case and prove that Takeshima is Japanese territory?

Minister Gemba: I am pretty sure that we will win, based on the historical facts and the conditions around the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. I believe that Japan’s claim will prevail.

Kato, Yomiuri Shimbun: What is the reason for the proposal to institute proceedings before the ICJ by a special agreement? Japan could have filed a case unilaterally with the ICJ.

Minister Gemba: For now, the right path is to institute proceedings before the ICJ by a special agreement as the initial course of action.

Ito, Yomiuri Shimbun: The Republic of Korea has been more forceful in their claims against Japan for the past week since the landing on Takeshima, including the President’s statement on a potential visit by His Majesty the Emperor to the Republic of Korea and another statement made on August 15. Has this affected the Japanese Government’s decision to take this case to the ICJ?

Minister Gemba: I gave a press conference on the day after President Lee landed on Takeshima. I began considering taking this case to ICJ at that time. Based on this belief, I have given my subsequent statements. Today, I lodged a formal protest against the ROK Ambassador and even conveyed to him that the Republic of Korea should rectify its acts and statements. The basic idea should be to respond to territorial issues in ways suitable for addressing territorial issues. However, we will also need to keep considering action commensurate with that of the Republic of Korea.

Yoshida, Nishi Nippon Shimbun: Concerning President Lee’s statement related to His Majesty, some in the opposition parties are calling for Japan to demand that the Republic of Korea apologize for the statement and withdraw it. However, the Japanese Government’s response has been limited to lodging a protest with the country.

Minister Gemba: As I said, today I told the Ambassador that the Republic of Korea should rectify its actions and statements.

3. The Senkaku Islands

Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: Today, people who landed on the Senkaku Islands were deported to China. How do you evaluate this response and what impact does it have on Japan-China relations?

Minister Gemba: Above all, we need to stand firm, and to deal with this incident based on domestic law. I was briefed on this, as a Cabinet meeting was held on this case today. This case is being treated as a violation of the Immigration Control Law. No Coast Guard officers were injured. Some parts of our Coast Guard ships were damaged when the ships approached and tried to block the group. This is what I confirmed repeatedly today. I suppose that our staff in the operation room of the Risk Management Office was monitoring the surveillance video. Based on these circumstances and repeated reports made to the Prime Minister, we have decided to handle this case in a calm manner based on domestic law. The Prime Minister is making a decision each time he receives a report on the unfolding situation. A meeting of Cabinet members related to this issue was held a while ago to allow all members to share information and confirm our strategy. I believe our response is appropriate this time.

Yokota, Mainichi Shimbun: Last time there was a situation involving the Senkaku Islands issue, Japan-China relations deteriorated greatly. Do you think you have minimized the negative impact triggered by this incident on Japan-China relations?

Minister Gemba: Yes, I believe so. It is important that each country take a calm approach. However, it is also critical for Japan to deal with the incident based on domestic law. In that sense, I believe our action is appropriate.

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