Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 22 October 2009

  1. US Defense Secretary Gates' visit to Japan
  2. Afghan presidential election
  3. Visits to Japan by foreign dignitaries
  4. Japan through Diplomats' Eyes
  5. Questions concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada
  6. Question concerning the visit of Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands
  7. Follow-up questions concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada
  8. Questions concerning the upcoming ASEAN Summit Meeting
  9. Questions concerning US inclusion in the East Asian community concept
  10. Follow-up question concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada
  11. Questions concerning relaxing Japan's five peacekeeping operations principles

I. US Defense Secretary Gates' visit to Japan

Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura: Welcome and good afternoon. Let me start with the very recent updates.

First, on US Defense Secretary Mr. Gates' visit to Japan. On Tuesday evening, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met with US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. They agreed on the importance of the Japan-US alliance and its further development. Minister Okada said that he would further strengthen the alliance with the US so that it be sustainable over the next 30-50 years ahead.

On the issue of the realignment of the US Forces in Japan, Secretary Gates referred to the bilateral negotiation process of many years back, and said that the existing plan was the only viable option. Secretary Gates requested that the realignment should be implemented steadily in accordance with the Japan-US agreement, and that the ongoing review process of the past negotiations should reach a conclusion soon.

In reply, Minister Okada said that (a) we are revisiting the past process of how the existing plan had been reached, (b) he well recognized the existence of the Japan-US agreement concerning the plan, and (c) the political posture in Japan had seen changes in the sense that in the four electoral districts in Okinawa the candidates who were critical of the plan were all elected in the recent election for the House of Representatives. Minister Okada said that he would like to reach a conclusion as soon as practicable based upon the review exercise, but requested for understanding of the current difficult political situation in Japan.

On Afghan assistance Secretary Gates highly appreciated Japan's replenishment activities and expressed his expectation that Japan would implement strong assistance towards Afghanistan and Pakistan matching to Japan's international status while it was all up to Japanese decision. Minister Okada explained that the current environment was not one in which the government would submit a bill concerning the replenishment to the Diet in the upcoming extraordinary session. Minister Okada said Japan fully recognized the importance of the assistance to those two countries and explained that Japan was currently examining concrete programs by taking full advantage of Japan's expertise in such areas as agriculture and vocational training.

And, on the nuclear issue, Minister Okada said that Japan would like to closely consult with the United States. He referred to the ongoing investigations on the side of Japan concerning the so-called "secret deal" of the past Japan-US governments, which was referred to by the media. He said that this issue should be handled basically as a Japanese domestic issue.

On the issue of "no first use" of nuclear arms, what Minister Okada said was that currently the Government was examining this and the Minister said that he would like to discuss with the United States. In reply Secretary Gates said that both governments, Japan and the United States, shared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, but the Secretary also said the flexibility of deterrence is also necessary. On the issue of nuclear arms, the United States as well would like to discuss with the Japanese.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

II. Afghan presidential election

Mr. Kawamura: Second, on the Afghan presidential election. Japan welcomes the progress of the process with the finalization of the result announced by the Independent Election Commission on Tuesday, and acceptance of the result by both candidates, incumbent President Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. We expect that all parties concerned will conduct themselves in accordance with the law in the runoff process and that the runoff will take place in a fair and transparent manner.

Related Information (Press Release)

III. Visits to Japan by foreign dignitaries

Mr. Kawamura: Third, on incoming visits to Japan by foreign dignitaries. We welcome the prime ministers from the Netherlands and New Zealand.

From Saturday, the 24th to Tuesday, the 27th, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Jan Peter Balkenende will visit Japan.

During his stay in Japan, Prime Minister Balkenende will be received in audience by His Majesty the Emperor. Prime Minister Hatoyama is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Balkenende. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the trade relationship between Japan and the Netherlands.

And, from next Tuesday, the 27th to Sunday, November 1st, Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key will visit Japan. Prime Minister Key will also be received in audience by His Majesty the Emperor. And, Prime Minister Hatoyama and Prime Minister Key are also scheduled to hold a meeting.

Related Information (Press Release: Visit by Prime Minister of Netherlands)
Related Information (Press Release: Visit by Prime Minister of New Zealand)

IV. Japan through Diplomats' Eyes

Mr. Kawamura: And, fourth and last, on a cultural matter, from the 27th October through the 3rd November, the photographic exhibition by diplomats in Japan, called "Japan through Diplomats' Eyes 2009" will be held at Hills Café of the Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. This diplomats' photo exhibition celebrates its 12th anniversary this year. 58 diplomats stationed in Japan will exhibit their unique perspectives on Japan. This year's theme is "Colors of Japan". I would draw your attention that some diplomats have chosen a special theme of "Wabi-Sabi" and demonstrated their interpretation of the notion of Wabi-Sabi on photographs. I would recommend you to visit the exhibition if you have time.

That is all from me. Now, I would like to invite your questions.

V. Questions concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada

Q: I want to confirm the exchanges between Mr. Gates and Mr. Okada. You used the words that the current existing plan is the only viable one. Is that his exact English phrase?

Mr. Kawamura: Aside from the exact wording, this is the understanding from our side.

Q: I was listening to the briefing on Tuesday, and because it should have been in English I hoped it would be possible to put in a quote, but because it was a Japanese explanation I wanted to have some key phrases.

Mr. Kawamura: Let me double check with the division in charge. I will just mention that it is more appropriate for the Japanese side to be responsible for the words and phrases used by the Minister himself on the Japanese side. We are not in a position to confirm the exact wording of the counterpart Secretary. So on that limitation, I think our understanding is correct about what he said.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

VI. Question concerning the visit of Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands

Q: About the visit of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, according to the press guidance he is going to hold a press conference with Prime Minister Hatoyama, but is there any kind of specific announcement or joint statements to be issued?

Mr. Kawamura: It is a good question. Further details of the programme will come out later, so I will have a chance to tell you a more detailed programme at a later stage, including the joint press conference of the two prime ministers as well as the contents -- whether the declaration or statements will be issued or not.

Related Information (Press Release)

VII. Follow-up questions concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada

Q: Turning to Mr. Gates and Mr. Okada's exchanges, there was a report that Mr. Gates told Mr. Okada that Japan should reach a conclusion on the Futenma relocation issue before President Obama's expected visit to Japan in November. Could you confirm that?

Mr. Kawamura: Well, the very detail of the discussions between Mr. Gates and Mr. Okada is not available. We understand that Mr. Gates expressed his expectation that the issue be resolved as soon as possible, and Mr. Okada explained the Japanese situation and his thoughts about this issue. Mr. Okada's idea is that he would like to cope with the issue of the US Force's realignment on the basis of the ongoing review process of the past bilateral negotiations. He said he would respond in an appropriate manner.

Q: You said that you cannot speak about the details of the discussion, but is there any information that during talks between Mr. Gates and Japanese officials there was a discussion on the idea of an East Asian community?

Mr. Kawamura: To the best of my knowledge that was not the case.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)

VIII. Questions concerning the upcoming ASEAN Summit Meeting

Q: What about Prime Minister Hatoyama's visit to the ASEAN-related meetings. What would be the major purpose for Japan?

Mr. Kawamura: From the formality standpoint to the question, the official announcement about the delegation members of the Japanese Government to the upcoming ASEAN Summit meeting will come later, so on that premise, in general I would comment on the Japanese expectations for the upcoming summit meeting. This will be the 12th Japan-ASEAN summit meeting, therefore based upon the past collaborations and cooperation between the two sides, Japan will see the ASEAN's efforts directed toward the community formation. This was referred to at the Chief Cabinet Secretary's press conference this morning. Toward that goal, Japan would like to support it and make contribution for the formation of the ASEAN community. Japan would also like to discuss how this cooperation be implemented. In other issues, such as international economy, and international regional situations, the leaders are expected to discuss also on these themes and this will provide a good opportunity for Japan as well to engage itself with the ongoing exercises on the sidelines of the ASEAN.

Q: Do you expect Prime Minister Hatoyama to explain about his East Asian community concept?

Mr. Kawamura: Well, this point has been also referred to in the press conference by Mr. Hirano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, this morning. Quoting from what he said in the conference, there will be chances to discuss various issues and the East Asian community issue could be one of the items to be discussed.

Q: Focusing on the East Asian community issue?

Mr. Kawamura: .Yes, it might be on the issue of regional cooperation.

Related Information (Japan-ASEAN Relations)

IX. Questions concerning US inclusion in the East Asian community concept

Q: US Assistant Secretary Campbell has told the United States and selected US and Chinese media that the United States wants to be part of a key economic or security dialogue in Asian countries, which suggested that the United States should be part of the East Asian community which Prime Minister Hatoyama is advocating, and a US official told a US foreign affairs subcommittee that the United States thinks that APEC is the most important forum in Asia. Has the United States officially conveyed such an idea, that APEC is important or that the United States should be part of the concept in any forms of channels?

Mr. Kawamura: Aside from whether officially or unofficially the US side expressed its view concerning what you have just described, the important thing is, it is a fact that both Japan and the United States have been very cooperative partners for years in the context of the Asia-Pacific and economic and other political environments, and APEC has been one of the very useful forums in the past, so we have accumulated very productive cooperation and joint endeavors toward the goal of free trade and investment as a good example. So this is a kind of established view, that the two countries involvement in the context of the Asia-Pacific cooperation is very significant. Having said that, when it comes to the East Asian community concept, repeatedly Minister Okada mentioned that (a) it is a long-time goal of Japanese policy, (b) we will continue to discuss with the United States over the regional cooperation involving East Asia and the Pacific, and (c) we would start from the actual concrete areas of collaboration such as trade investment, finance, disaster prevention, infectious diseases prevention, and so forth, and we have seen regional collaboration practices in those areas. So we will continue to accumulate our efforts by keeping in mind the long-time goal of the East Asian community concept, while at the same time we have to continue dialogue with the United States.

Q: Do you think the United States is feeling at this point some kind of concern that what Mr. Okada has said that the United States would not be included in the community members? Although he said he would not exclude the United States, still the United States is having some kind of concern that it is being left out of the initiative?

Mr. Kawamura: We have very big channels with the United States. On each level of both governments we have daily communications, so we need to continue to discuss in an intense manner how both big powers of the Pacific see the future of East Asia or the regional cooperation. On that process we may discuss in detail.

X. Follow-up question concerning exchanges between Defense Secretary Gates and Minister Okada

Q: Returning to Mr. Gates and Mr. Okada, and their talks about the "no first use" nuclear attack doctrine, this was not an occasion where Japan is proposing to the United States to consider adopting such a policy?

Mr. Kawamura: The issue of the "no first use" of nuclear weapons has been being discussed within the Government, but he said that he would like to discuss it with the United States.

XI. Questions concerning relaxing Japan's five peacekeeping operations principles

Q: About Mr. Okada's speech at the Yomiuri International Economic Society lecture meeting, he said that he is willing to relax Japan's five peacekeeping operations principles. Is there any timeline? He said that he has ordered ministry officials to study about the issue, but has he set any timeline to issue a report or to issue the outcome of the study?

Mr. Kawamura: My understanding, again, is that in yesterday's context there are no specific dates of the submission of views given. We received the instruction that the review should start soon. But this is the instruction from the Minister, the highest commander of our organization, so it is natural that the officials of the Foreign Ministry should exercise this process as quickly as possible, in a kind of general requirement.

The minister's instruction to review the current PKO five principles came out from the recent changes surrounding the United Nations' PKO activities, namely the UN PKO activities in recent years have become larger in magnitude and more complex in terms of functions. It is indeed a big change, so we need to adapt ourselves better to the newly arriving situations surrounding PKOs. In that sense, our actions should be taken in an appropriate timing.

Q: Mr. Okada said as an example to enhance PKO activities in Sudan, but Japan is already sending people to Sudan. Is there any kind of official request from the United Nations that they lack people or they want Japan to play a larger role?

Mr. Kawamura: I need to check with our experts in charge. To the best of my knowledge that was not the case. A new element to be added is on the 19th, the United States Government issued its review of US policy over Sudan, and it draws attention of the UN community to the PKO activities in Sudan.

Q: Was the content to enhance...?

Mr. Kawamura: Our stance over Sudan has not changed, but we are concerned with the deteriorating security environment in Darfur. Japan would like to continue to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached between the North and South of Sudan.

Any other questions? Thank you very much for your attendance.

Related Information (UN PKO and other International Peace Cooperation)

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