Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 16 December 2010

  1. Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly
  2. COP 16
  3. Bali Democracy Forum
  4. Japan-Arab Economic Forum
  5. Dispatch of Election Observers to the Presidential Election of the Republic of Belarus
  6. Dispatch of a Japanese Referendum Observation Mission to Sudan
  7. Meeting between Foreign Minister Maehara and Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
  8. Visit by Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana to Guatemala
  9. Other Diplomatic Visits
  10. Questions concerning COP 16
  11. Question concerning the Joint Military Drills
  12. Questions concerning the possible dispatch of the Self Defense Forces to the Korean Peninsula

  1. Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today I have several topics to share with you before inviting your questions.

    Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed papers. The first paper is the text of the resolution entitled United Action towards the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Last week in New York, this draft resolution was adopted with 173 votes in favor, one in opposition and 11 abstentions. This resolution on nuclear disarmament had the largest co-sponsors, 90 cosponsors. This is the largest since we, Japan, submitted a resolution in 1994. We hope that follow up measures will be taken. This is the first item.

  3. COP 16
  4. Mr. Sobashima: The second, we don’t have the paper, but I would like to explain the evaluation of Japan on the outcome of COP 16 of the UNFCCC. As you know, from 29 November to 10 December COP 16 was held as well as CMP 6 of the Kyoto Protocol. From Japan, Environment Minister Mr. Matsumoto and other government officials participated. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana participated. The COP adopted various decisions the one that both developed and developing countries should submit their targets in relation to climate change and the UN Secretariat will compile these and the parties will take note of these targets. We understand that this decision will be the basis for the negotiations that we aim for, that is, a negotiation to establish one new comprehensive legal document of a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate, based on the Copenhagen Accord. There was also the decision to task AWGLCA to continue working toward COP 17, to be held in South Africa toward the end of next year. We still have to continue to work, but we appreciate that the decisions included the basis for the document that Japan aims at.

    Mr. Sobashima: Relating to this, yesterday, Wednesday the 15th, Prime Minister Kan made a phone conversation with Mexican President Calderon. The outline of the phone conversation between the two leaders is as follows. Prime Minister Kan extended his congratulations to the Mexican President for the adoption of the documents in COP 16 and he paid tribute to the leadership exercised by the Mexican President in this regard. President Calderon thanked Prime Minister Kan for his congratulatory remarks and appreciated the roles and contributions made by the Japanese delegation in COP 16. The two leaders agreed that the international community should aim for one new comprehensive legal document establishing a fair and effective framework in which all major economies participate and for this purpose, the two countries should continue cooperating with each other. So this is the gist of what the two leaders discussed over the phone yesterday.

  5. Bali Democracy Forum
  6. Mr. Sobashima: As for the Bali Democracy Forum, we have distributed the text of the speech by Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara at the third Bali Democracy Forum entitled "Democracy in Diversity – Building on Asia's Unique Strength", which was delivered on 9 December in Bali, Indonesia. I will draw your attention to some of the paragraphs. On the second page he refers to the fact that then Prime Minister Hatoyama was the Second Bali Democracy Forum's co-chair last year, together with the chair, President Yudhoyono. This year President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea (ROK) is co-chairing. Foreign Minister Maehara expressed his satisfaction for this handing over of the role of co-chair from Japan to the ROK.

    In the next section entitled the Economic Development, Regional Cooperation and Promotion of Peace and Stability in Asia, Foreign Minister Maehara mentioned three things as the keys to furthering democracy in Asia. He said that the first key is continued strong economic development. The second key is the promotion of regional cooperation. The third key is securing stability in the region. So these are the keys to furthering democracy in Asia. In respect to securing stability in the region, he referred to the expanding East Asia Summit. He also referred to the issue of the South China Sea. He said this: "We welcome the deliberations already underway between China and ASEAN, based on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. This has the potential to provide common rule for preventing conflicts. We expect this effort to contribute forward the peaceful resolution of the problem."

    Then he referred to the Korean Peninsula. He said that "North Korea's recent shelling on Yeonpyeong Island was an attack against Korean civilians. Japan strongly condemns this act and expresses its sincere condolences to the victims. Also Japan has a grave concern over the uranium enrichment program. We strongly condemn North Korea's act breaching the UN Security Council Resolutions, and we strongly urge North Korea to demonstrate their will to faithfully fulfill its commitments, including denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, with concrete action. On 6 December we reaffirmed this clear position at the Trilateral Foreign Ministers Meeting between Japan, the ROK and the United States. I wish to ask our Asian colleagues gathered here to join us in our call to North Korea." Foreign Minister Maehara asked participants in the Bali Democracy Forum to follow suit, to join Japan, ROK and the United States to urge North Korea to take positive actions.

    In the section entitled Japanese Support for the Bali Democracy Forum, in accordance with the proposals then Prime Minister Hatoyama made, Japan organized the Election Visits Program on the occasion of the House of Councilors election held last July. So we invited the countries participating in the Bali Democracy Forum to observe our elections. Japan also provided training for participants to learn about democracy and the Japanese electoral system then. This is what happened.

    Next is his new proposal. In April next year we will have the Tokyo Governor election. Therefore again he invited the participating countries to visit Japan to observe the Tokyo Governor election.

    He proposed another proposal. "Japan hereby proposes an election training program to take place once a year, here in Bali, to bring together participants from the Election Visits Program organized by Japan, to study practical matters related to electoral systems and procedures." So these are the concrete proposals made by Foreign Minister Maehara and he hoped for further development of democracy in this region. So this is about the Bali Democracy Forum. On the occasion of attending this forum he had meetings with his counterparts from Malaysia, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, and his counterpart in Indonesia, and paid a courtesy call to the Indonesian president, among other meetings he had in Bali.

  7. Japan-Arab Economic Forum
  8. Mr. Sobashima: Next is about the Japan-Arab Economic Forum. The second Japan-Arab economic forum was held in Tunis on 11 and 12 December and we have distributed the Tunisia Declaration that is the Joint Statement of the Second Meeting of the Japan-Arab Economic Forum for development of Japan-Arab economic relations. The first Japan-Arabic Economic Forum was held in Japan last year. So this is the second forum and the government of Tunisia kindly hosted this forum. For your information, from Japan, about 400 people, including the Foreign Minister and the METI Minister, participated, and from the Arab countries about 700 people participated, of course including the ministerial levels. So this is the declaration. This forum had various meetings including meetings on Cooperation in the field of Energy and Environment, Cooperation in the field of Human Resources Development, Education, Science and Technology, and Cooperation in the field of Investment, Tourism, Finance and Trade. During the forum, about 40 new projects were announced. So various projects between Japan and Arab countries were announced on this occasion and we welcome this. I will refrain from explaining the paragraphs, apart from the last paragraph, paragraph 20. It says "Both sides expressed appreciation for the arrangements and hospitality made by Tunisia as the host country, and for the cooperation by Japanese embassies in Arab countries and the Arab Diplomatic Corps in Japan. Both sides decided to hold the third meeting in Tokyo in 2012." So in 2012 we will have the third Japan-Arab Economic Forum.

    On the occasion of this forum, Foreign Minister Maehara had a meeting with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Amre Moussa. We have a Joint Press Statement here. Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the continued progress between Japan and Arab countries, including economic relations. Both sides recognized that the mutual understanding and collaboration in the area of culture should be further deepened. They agreed to hold a meeting of Japan and Arab intellectuals to discuss culture, cooperation and exchange between Japan and Arab countries. So preparations will be made to hold this as early as 2011, as early as next year. This is about the Joint Press Statement between Japan and the League of Arab States.

    We don't have the paper for this but, on this occasion, Foreign Minister Maehara also had a Round-table Meeting with Maghreb Ministers. The five Maghreb countries are Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. We had participants in the Japan-Arab Economic Forum at the ministerial level. Japan and Maghreb countries had a ministerial round-table meeting for the first time. The participants agreed that this round-table meeting was useful and agreed to hold a meeting in the same format again, in future.

    Foreign Minister Maehara had a meeting with his counterpart in Tunisia, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kamel Morjane. So this is about Japan-Arab Economic Forum.

  9. Dispatch of Election Observers to the Presidential Election of the Republic of Belarus
  10. Mr. Sobashima: We have other papers. One is on the dispatch of election observers to the presidential election of the Republic of Belarus. We have decided to dispatch election observers from our embassy in the Russian Federation and our embassy in Poland to the OSCE/ODIHR in order to support fair conduct of the presidential election of the Republic of Belarus, which is to take place on the coming Sunday, 19 December.

  11. Dispatch of a Japanese Referendum Observation Mission to Sudan
  12. Mr. Sobashima: The next paper is about the dispatch of a Japanese Referendum Observation Mission to Sudan. We have decided to dispatch a Japanese Referendum Observation Mission to Sudan to assist the conduct of a free and fair Referendum which is scheduled to be held from 9 January, 2011. The Observation Mission, consisting of 15 members, will be dispatched from the end of December this year to the middle of January next year. So this is about the papers.

  13. Meeting between Foreign Minister Maehara and Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
  14. Mr. Sobashima: I have additional oral explanations. The first is Foreign Minister Maehara's meeting yesterday with Mr. Tony Abbott Australian leader of the opposition. By the way, the opposition leader was invited as part of the Opinion Leader Invitation Program of Japan. Foreign Minister Maehara said that when he visited Australia as a member of the opposition party, he realized the importance of Australia and he felt that overcoming the difference of either the ruling or opposition party, the one should make efforts for the enhancement of the bilateral relationship between Japan and Australia. So this is what he felt as an opposition member, when he visited Australia.

    Opposition leader Mr. Abbott said he completely agreed with Mr. Maehara about this. Mr. Abbott said that Japan is a very important democratic country in the Asia-Pacific Region and he would like to make efforts for developing the bilateral relationship between the two countries, in economic fields, as well as security fields. As for the Japan-Australia EPA or FTA under negotiation, Mr. Abbott said that it is not easy, however the Australian side would like to overcome the difficulties to conclude the FTA/EPA with Japan. For this purpose he is ready to make his efforts.

    Foreign Minister Maehara said that on the occasion of his earlier visit to Australia there was an agreement between him and Trade Minister Emerson that the two countries should have a fresh start on the negotiations. Therefore Minister Maehara himself would also like to make his efforts for the early conclusion of the EPA. Minister Maehara also mentioned that because Japan has technologies for high-speed train and water projects, and other projects, he hopes that these technologies will be helpful in Australia. Foreign Minister Maehara also thanked Australia for the commitment made by the Australian government for the stable provision of rare earths, among others.

  15. Visit by Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana to Guatemala
  16. Mr. Sobashima: Another topic is the about the visit of Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana to Guatemala. He visited Guatemala from 12-14 December and he played a courtesy call on the President, Mr. Alvaro Colon Caballeros. He also had a meeting with Foreign Minister Roger Rodas Melgar. The courtesy call was a follow up to the Guatemalan President's visit to Japan, in October. Discussions were held on bilateral issues as well as the cooperation of the two countries in international fora. They agreed to have cooperation and coordination.

  17. Other Diplomatic Visits
  18. Mr. Sobashima: As for other visits, the IAEA Director-General Mr. Amano is in town now until 20 December. I already mentioned the Australian opposition leader. He will be staying until 17 December. We have the Director-General of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Mr. Ahmet Üzümcü, here in Japan, from yesterday, until 19 December. The President of Djibouti will be coming from 19-22 December.

    I mentioned Mr. Yamahana visited Guatemala. Earlier he was in Mexico to attend COP 16 meetings. He will be going to Trinidad and Tobago.

    State Secretary Banno is now in Australia. Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga is attending a Security Council Meeting on Iraq, on the 15th, New York Time. These are about the visits.

    Thank you for your patience and now I invited your questions.

  19. Questions concerning COP 16
  20. Q, ARD Radio: If I may I would like to stay with COP 16 for a moment. Bolivia announced that the country will go to the International Court of Justice to fight against the decision made in Cancun. What is the Japanese government thinking about that step?

    Mr. Sobashima: I personally don't know the details of what you have stated, so I have to check the reasons and what Bolivia is seeking. But as a general comment, what I can say is that Japan has consistently been seeking one legal document with the participation of all major economies. For this purpose we appreciate the decisions which include this. Of course, there may be some views expressed on various principles and various things including common but differentiated responsibilities. However we sincerely hope that all parties will seek this one international document, with the participation of all major economies. This is what we aim for, and we hope that all countries and economies will come on board on this.

    Q: Just a short follow-up. Is Japan thinking that consensus means that all member states of the United Nations have to say yes, have to agree or does consensus mean almost all countries have to say yes, like it happened in Cancun?

    Mr. Sobashima: Again because I don't have the facts and the precise information, I am not able to respond to your question. I should say that of course we hope for consensus, meaning the agreement by all parties who participated, but I said that we are aiming for participation of all major economies, including United States and China. The second best should be the participation of all major economies. Having said this, of course we should try to persuade those parties who have different views because this is for the sake of protecting our earth. The earth is the common heritage of mankind. I'm sorry. I'm not responding precisely to your question.

    Q: If I may just stay a little bit with COP 16, there were some newspaper reports and also one confirmed telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Cameron with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and there were mentioned several other telephone conversations to press Japan to make a deal possible in Cancun. Were there many telephone conversations with other heads of state and Prime Minister Kan during that time? Can you confirm that?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes, I can confirm that there were several telephone conversations made between Prime Minister Kan and other leaders. However I don't have at hand the list. That includes perhaps the UN Secretary General and other leaders. That's right. There were several telephone conversations, but I would like to reserve as to what purpose and what sort of discussions they made.

  21. Question concerning the Joint Military Drills
  22. Q: I would like to switch topic and ask again about the joint military drills. When Admiral Mullen the Joint-Chief of Staff from the United States was here, he proposed that there should be a joint military drill between South Korea, the United States and Japan. Japan was reluctant and said that this should be carefully considered. What obstacles does the Japanese government see against such a joint military drill?

    Mr. Sobashima: I'm sorry to dissatisfy you many times. On this issue I really have to check the statements you refer to. Not only the statements of the US side but also the statements of the Japanese side as well. The general position is that the joint exercises are conducted for the purpose of improving the defense capabilities of Japan. Who will be the participants will be considered on the merits of the purposes of the operations. As you know, we are not in a better position than the Ministry of Defense to explain the operational details. So I really need to first check the exact contents of the statement and then check the meaning of those statements. Otherwise it's very dangerous to comment generally without knowing what the points are, in those statements. So perhaps I dissatisfy you this time the greatest today.

  23. Questions concerning the possible dispatch of the Self Defense Forces to the Korean Peninsula
  24. Q: Prime Minister Kan mentioned, I think towards the families of the abductees, that there is a possibility or there is the need that the Self Defense Forces of Japan should go the Korean Peninsula in case of an emergency contingency and to rescue the Japanese citizens. Does that mean they should also go to North Korea in that case?

    Mr. Sobashima: What I would like to respond to the question you asked this time, is that we are aware of those kinds of reports, and it is true that there are various conversations underway between the governments of Japan and the ROK. The protection of Japanese nationals overseas is an important responsibility of the government of Japan. Therefore, the responsible branches of the Japanese government are making preparations according to needs, always doing the work for this purpose. And of course, the review should be made, particularly because after the shelling of Yeongpyeong Island the Prime Minister instructed the ministers to be prepared for any eventuality. What I can say is up to this. Further than that we would like to refrain from commenting. You mentioned more specific things. However, what we can respond is up to this.

    Q: And the talks between the Japanese government and the South Korean government are still ongoing regarding this issue?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes. What I said is that the two governments are discussing various issues. This is an ongoing process.

    I'm afraid that I have to wrap up now. Can I? Thank you very much for your understanding.

Back to Index