Press Conference by the Press Secretary 4 October 1996

  1. Introduction to the Press Conference and announcements to the Press
    1. Senkaku lighthouse issue
    2. Recent decision made by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union regarding European participation in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)
    3. Middle East peace process
  2. Position of the Government of Japan on the Senkaku Islands
  3. Position of the Government of Japan on the North Korean submarine incident
  4. Japan-Russian Federation Consultations
  5. Private-sector fishing talks between organizations from Japan and Taiwan in Tokyo
  6. Possible election platform of a Japanese political party
  7. Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement and its relation to the Senkaku Islands
  8. Internet misinformation on the Senkaku Island issue

  1. Introduction to the Press Conference and announcements to the Press

    Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ken Shimanouchi: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the regular Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Conference. I have three announcements before I take your questions.

    1. Senkaku lighthouse Issue

      Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ken Shimanouchi: This morning, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yukihiko Ikeda made an announcement to the Press regarding the Senkaku lighthouse. I will give you a translation of what he said. "The construction of a lighthouse in the Senkakus does not reflect the intention or views of the Government of Japan. The Government of Japan has decided to suspend decision on the permission of the lighthouse. The issue concerning the lighthouse does not affect Japan's territorial rights. That is, the basis for Japan's territorial rights to the Senkaku Islands is in no way strengthened or weakened by the issue concerning the lighthouse. That is my first announcement.

    2. Recent decision made by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union regarding European participation in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)

      Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ken Shimanouchi: On 1 October (local time), the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union made a decision to give the European Commission the mandate to negotiate EU participation in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). The issue of development of nuclear weapons by North Korea is a major issue from the perspective of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and international security. Japan welcomes this decision by the EU as a manifestation of the positive stance of the EU regarding the resolution of this issue. In the days to come, consultations will be held between KEDO and the EU. It is our hope that the EU will be able to, as soon as possible, make contributions to KEDO commensurate with its international standing and responsibility. This is my second announcement.

    3. Middle East peace process

      Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ken Shimanouchi: My third announcement concerns the Middle East peace process. I will give you excerpts from the statement by Foreign Minister Ikeda issued on 3 October. "Japan welcomes the agreement reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the State of Israel and Chairman Yassir Arafat of the Palestinian Interim Self-Government in their meeting in Washington on 1-2 October to continue negotiations for the implementation of the existing Agreements on Interim Self- Rule. This outcome constitutes an important step in settling the situation brought on by the recent clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and bringing the peace process back on track. Japan appreciates the role played by the Government of the United States of America as a mediator to realize this Summit Meeting between the parties of this peace process under most difficult circumstances. Japan also hopes that the United States will continue its active engagement in advancing the peace process. Japan calls on the parties concerned to refrain from actions which would undermine progress in the peace process and to devote further efforts to creating mutual trust and forging a cooperative relationship. Japan hopes that the negotiations, which will soon be reconvened between both parties, will bring about quick results." On the basis of the positive results of Foreign Minister Ikeda's recent visit to the Middle East, Japan is now determined to play a more active role in helping to promote the peace process, including advancing the Palestinian track. Japan has so far extended US$220 million in assistance to the Palestinians. We intend to continue such assistance actively.

      Those are the announcements that I wanted to make, and I will be delighted to respond to any questions that you might have.

  2. Position of the Government of Japan on the Senkaku Islands

    Q: As you know, on 6 October, lots of people from Taiwan and Hong Kong are going to visit Senkaku Island on fishing boats. What is the Government of Japan's view on this issue?

    A: We are aware of the reports of a large number of people planning to head for the Senkaku Islands. I think you are well aware of the Japanese position regarding the Senkakus; it is an integral part of Japanese territory. We will approach this matter based on this position. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that these recent developments should not be allowed to adversely affect Japan's relationship with the People's Republic of China and other neighbors including Taiwan and Hong Kong. We believe it is important that everyone approach this matter calmly so as not to affect these good ties.

    Q: Do you define this as a security issue or an international issue? Based on the Japanese Constitution, what is the proper action the Japanese Government should take?

    A: I think I have already answered that question. I do not have any definition of this issue and I am at a loss for words, but the Japanese position is as I have described to you.

    Q: Back to the Senkaku Island issue. You just mentioned that the Japanese Government decided to suspend any decision on the permission of the lighthouse. Does the Japanese Government have any intention of dismantling the lighthouse?

    A: That is a separate issue. I think I have said this in past press conferences repeatedly. Japan is a country governed by law; we have a rule of law here in Japan. What the Government can do is limited.

    Q: I have mentioned in this press conference earlier a few weeks ago. The lighthouse was built without the permission of that landowner. So in a way, it is an illegal building there. Does the Japanese Government allow an illegal building there and ignore the anti-Japanese sentiments that are growing?

    A: I will have to repeat what I have said. On the question of whether or not there was permission from the landowner, what we do know is that there was no express objection by the landowner to the use of his property. In any case, the Government of Japan can only act in accordance with the law. There is a limit to what the Government of Japan can do. I think you want a more detailed explanation on the legal technicalities involved; but, I do not have the knowledge nor the background to give you an intelligent explanation on that aspect.

    Q: Then I have something you probably know.

    A: Let me give someone else a chance to ask a question. I will come back to you on that.

    Q: I will follow her question. Do you think now that you have suspended the decision, you may pass it years later? Now you have suspended the decision, but that means that you may pass the case years later?

    A: We just made this decision after consideration of the circumstances. I can say that the decision itself does not contain any specific time frame.

    Q: Is it fair to say that the decision has been temporarily suspended?

    A: I did not use the word "temporarily," I just said "suspended the decision." Our lawyers will kill me if I say "temporarily." This is a legal term and I have to be precise.

    Q: Then why did you make this decision to suspend at this crucial time? Do you think it will help reduce the tension between Hong Kong, China and Taiwan?

    A: Let me tell you why we have reached this decision. The Government made this decision as a result of an overall consideration of a number of factors such as the situation overseas and the consequent effect this might have on the safety of Japanese nationals, among other things. It is the result of an overall consideration.

    Q: As regards the Senkaku Islands, the Russian Maritime Guards have been shooting at the Japanese fishing boats trying to penetrate into the Russian waters nearby the Southern Kuriles. Is it possible that the Japanese maritime guards would shoot at the Taiwanese and Chinese boats trying to penetrate into the Japanese waters nearby the Senkaku Islands? One brief follow-up, did the participants of the Russia-Japanese Consultations touch on the Senkaku Islands in some form?

    A: I will answer your second question first. No, it was not discussed. With regard to your first question, no shots have ever been fired. It is a strong hope that everybody approaches this matter calmly so as not to effect our very good ties with our neighbors. That is our position.

  3. Position of the Government of Japan on the North Korean submarine incident

    Q: I would like to ask a question concerning the Korean Peninsula. Recently there has been a submarine incident of a North Korean submarine coming over to South Korea and there has been a lot of guerrillas active inside of South Korea. After that, the North Korean government issued a statement saying they were the side that should complain, and that they would retaliate for what South Korea did and also to the United States, if the United States helps South Korea. What is the Japanese position on that statement of North Korea?

    A: I think you are aware of the position that Japan has been taking regarding this issue. Our Chief Secretary made a statement a few days ago; let me summarize it. We consider it extremely deplorable that North Korea has caused such an incident. We call on North Korea to discontinue such actions. We also call on North Korea to approach this issue in a sincere manner -- that includes providing an explanation to the United Nations Security Council. With regard to the verbal threats by North Korea, we do not think these statements are helpful at all. They are not conducive to resolving the situation. We would like to call on North Korea once again to approach this matter with sincerity.

    Q: Under such a circumstance, one of the Korean Diplomats in Vladivostok has been killed. It is uncertain who did it, but there are reports coming out from Vladivostok that a North Korean terrorist might be involved in this. Is there any view by the Japanese Government on this incident?

    A: It is our understanding that this case is still under investigation by the Russian police. I would like to refrain from making any comments on this particular issue.

  4. The Japan-Russian Federation Consultations

    Q: Let me switch to the Japan-Russia relations since you just mentioned Russia. The consultations at the level of vice-foreign ministers has just finished in Tokyo. Could you inform us about the contents of the consultations and the decisions that were probably made?

    A: We are talking about two very long and highly substantive meetings. It will probably take an hour to give you a full readout of the meetings. I will try to be as concise as possible, because I think that many of your colleagues want to ask questions on other topics. Let me start with the Peace Treaty Working Group. The Meeting was held on 2 October. They discussed two aspects. One aspect was the territorial issue per se, and the other aspect was the creation of a better environment for resolving the territorial issue. In the latter category -- the creation of a better environment -- issues such as exchanges between former residents of the Northern Territories and the present residents of the Northern Territories, visits to graves and the establishment of a fishing framework to be applied to the waters around the Northern Territories were basically the issues discussed. Regarding the first aspect, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shunji Yanai basically said three things. He said it was necessary to deal with the solution of the territorial issue seriously, now that the presidential election in the Russian Federation is over and that democracy and a market economy are taking root in Russia. He also said that, as it is clearly stated in theTokyo Declaration, the central issue in the conclusion of a peace treaty is the resolution of the territorial issue, and that without resolving this issue we cannot achieve full normalization of the ties between the two countries. He reaffirmed this well known Japanese position and he also said that it was about time that we look at possible time frames for solving this territorial issue and not defer this issue to the future or to shelve this issue. At the same time, we would like to make efforts to improve the environment for solving the territorial issue. Let me be very brief about what Vice-minister Grigorii Borisovich Karasin of the Russian Federation said. He said that Russia also attaches importance to resolving a peace treaty with Japan, and that both sides should try to seek a solution that is mutually acceptable, and that this should be based on realities, and that we should strive to achieve an overall development of bilateral ties between Russia and Japan. He said that Russia would like to make efforts in accordance with the Tokyo Declaration; but, at the same time, it is Russia's position to create an environment that is conducive to the conclusion of a peace treaty through the solving of practical issues between the two countries. They also discussed other aspects, the creation of an environment for concluding a peace treaty, but it will take another 10- 15 minutes if I go into that. So, let me move on to the sub-cabinet level talks on bilateral relations held yesterday. Basically, they discussed bilateral issues and international issues. At the outset of the meeting, Vice- minister Karasin conveyed a message of thanks from President Boris Yelstin of the Russian Federation to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto for Prime Minister Hashimoto's message to President Yelstin. I think you are aware of the content of that message. In that message, Prime Minister Hashimoto wished the President a successful operation and a speedy recovery. They discussed economic issues. They both agreed that the two sides should both work for the development of economic ties between the two countries, based on the Economic Declaration signed at the time of President Yelstin's visit to Tokyo in 1993. They also agreed that the bilateral ties between the two countries had enormous potential and that it was important for both sides to try to further develop these economic ties. They also agreed on the importance of the role played by the intergovernmental committee on economic and trade matters between the two countries. They agreed that it was important that the momentum created by the first meeting held in March of this year should be maintained in order to hold the second round of this bilateral committee meeting. They also discussed issues relating to the follow-up of the March Economic Committee Meeting. From the Japanese side, we mentioned the activities of the Japan Centers in various places in Russia and also Japan's basic policy which attaches importance to the Russian Far East. The Russian side expressed appreciation for the Japanese position. On the defense aspect, both sides appreciated the fact that there were increasing exchanges in the areas of defense. They referred to the recent visit by the Director-General of the Defense Agency and the more recent visit by Japan's Maritime Self Defense Forces ship to Vladivostok. They agreed to hold consultations of the defense authorities of the two countries in preparation for an eventual visit by the Defense Minister of Russia to Japan. They discussed a number of other subjects, but I will brief you on that, if you are interested, later, after this press conference is over. They also discussed international issues. Let me just mention what subjects were discussed. They talked about the Korean Peninsula, China, the security dialogue in the Asia-Pacific, they talked about the Middle East, and Europe; they talked about nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation, terrorism and nuclear safety, among other things. Let me just mention briefly what was discussed regarding the Korean Peninsula, because I think that both you and Mr. Park might be interested. The Japanese side stated that the North Korean side has not approached the recent situation -- the submarine situation -- with sincerity. Our side mentioned the recent verbal threat by the North Korean side in this context. We said that this sort of action is not acceptable to the international community. The Russian perception of the situation was the same. With regard to the international conference regarding the Korean Peninsula, the Russian side said that it is important to expand the participation in the conference. He said that the Republic of Korea and North Korea must participate, but in addition to this, Russia, Japan, the United States and the United Nations should participate -- this format would be desirable. In response to this, the Japanese side said that in the future we believe it is important to have a forum in which Russia and Japan can participate. But, at the present stage, it is important that the two parties on the Korean Peninsula hold dialogue and that it is necessary to make efforts to have North Korea participate in this dialogue. From this perspective, Japan considers it important that the four party meeting should be realized as soon as possible. We support an early holding of this meeting. Both sides agreed that it is meaningful for Japan and Russia to continue comparing notes on the Korean Peninsula.

  5. Private-sector fishing talks between organizations from Japan and Taiwan in Tokyo

    Q: In the talks going on about fishing rights right now between Taiwanese representatives and Japanese representatives, what position is Japan taking in that, and what do they hope to accomplish?

    A: The talks are being held right now; they started sometime this morning. I do not know if they are finished or not. Probably, it will be better to ask somebody who has participated in the talks -- what was discussed. I do not think it is very useful for me to speculate on what might or might not be discussed. These are talks being held at the private-sector level, between private organizations on both sides. Last time, in the first round of talks held in early August, the Japanese side briefed the Taiwanese side on the events that led to the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by Japan and the establishment of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). And, we provided background information to the Taiwanese side on other matters. The Taiwanese side explained to the Japanese side the matters that were being considered in the context of the Law of the Sea Convention on the Taiwanese side. This time around, it is my understanding that both sides plan to explain to the other the relevant laws and regulations of each side and to exchange opinions and information on the current state of fishing activities on both sides. That is my understanding.

    Q: Is there going to be a treaty or something to solve the fishing problem in the future?

    A: I think you are referring to a question of a private- sector level fishing framework. Whether or not such an arrangement will be necessary will be decided on the basis of the outcome of the talks that are now going on between the two sides.

    Q: But, what is the Japanese Government's position? You must have a position on this, because Japan is surrounded by the sea?

    A: I have to remind you that these are talks being conducted at the private-sector level. We are not direct parties to these talks; I have to remind you of that. As I said, the Japanese side cannot take a position until it knows more of where both sides stand; they are discussing this matter right now -- fishery matters in these talks. As I said, we will be deciding if such a framework is necessary on the basis of the outcome of the talks that are taking place right now.

    Q: So, it means that so far the fishermen from Taiwan can operate as usual?

    A: I do not know; I am not an expert in that area. It would require somebody from the Fisheries Agency to respond to that question. I am very sorry, but I do not have an answer to that.

  6. Possible election platform of a Japanese political party

    Q: This is what happened Thursday. A Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman denounced Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, because they said they wanted to include this on their platform. The second thing is that Hong Kong politicians took their campaign to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing in protests, on their stance on the Senkaku issue. What is the Government's reaction to those incidents?

    A: You are talking about the election platform of a political party, and the Government has a policy of not commenting on the election platform of political parties. I think it is the same with most other governments. With regard to your second question, I myself have not seen any reports about a group of Hong Kong politicians visiting the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. I have not heard that.

    Q: It was just a small group, a small party of three people, one legislature and two other members of the so- called Social Mission for Democracy and the People's Livelihood.

    A: I have not heard that, so I cannot comment on that.

  7. The Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement and its relation to the Senkaku Islands

    Q: Back to the Senkaku issue. You said that you basically suspended the decision under consideration of the situation overseas, although you did not identify a certain aspect in Japanese sentiments? Also, under consideration of the Japanese security?

    A: The safety of Japanese nationals.

    Q: So, does it mean that this decision is made under diplomatic pressure, rather than under domestic law?

    A: As I said, this decision was reached as a result of overall considerations of a number of factors, including the elements I specifically mentioned to you.

    Q: Then I would like to know the stand of the Japanese position towards it, because you have this security alliance with the United States. Does the Senkaku issue apply to the Security Treaty alliance with the United States. Meaning, if any country like China, Taiwan or whatever, if they want to initiate any military action, do you think that the United States will support Japan?

    A: I would like to refrain from answering any hypothetical questions about the responses of U.S. military forces in specific cases. The case that you mentioned is highly hypothetical and I think it is highly implausible, and I do not think it would be helpful to answer that question.

    Q: But, based on the Japanese Constitution, Japan is not allowed to use force to settle any international issue or problems. If the Senkaku Islands is defined as an international issue, if any military conflict happens, what would you do?

    A: I have already answered that question. We do not answer hypothetical questions. As I said, that is a highly hypothetical, implausible situation. I think it is incumbent on everybody to keep that from happening.

    Q: Which means that you agree that this is an international issue?

    A: I said that I am not responding to hypothetical questions, such as the question you just asked.

    Q: It is not a hypothetical question.

    A: It is a highly hypothetical question, and in addition to that, I think it is highly implausible. I do not think it is helpful at all to Japan's international relations to answer that question. I apologize, but, I am not going to answer that question.

  8. Internet misinformation on the Senkaku Island issue

    Q: There has been a lot of protest in Hong Kong in relation to this, and as it also turns out, on the Internet there is a page with comments that people are following about the Senkaku Island situation. There is a lot of negative comments directed to Japan. In the middle of all this, there is one section that appears to be from the Prime Minister's Office issuing a warning against anyone who would approach the Island. Is the Prime Minister aware of this?

    A: Yes, I have heard about this. I think you are aware of the position taken by the Prime Minister's residence and that the Prime Minister's residence had nothing to do with this.

    Q: I am sorry, what was the statement?

    A: I did not bring it with me. I can show it to you later on. The Chief Cabinet Secretary completely denied this in his press conference yesterday. I think that it is in the Internet already. Are you linked up to the Internet?

    Q: In the office.

    A: The Prime Minister's Office has a home-page. I think you can find it there.

    Q: Then are you saying that it was something that was altered from that, or does the Government have any plans to do anything, to complain on this?

    A: We do not know who did it. What can we do. Thank you very much.

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