Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 7 April 2011

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Telephone conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and New Zealand
  3. Situation in Cote d'Ivoire
  4. VIP Visits
  5. Questions concerning bilateral relations with Australia

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

    Mr. Sobashima: First, on the present situation after the earthquake, we have distributed the paper entitled the "Great East Japan Earthquake." As I already explained earlier, we are updating this document every day. On the fourth page, under "Sympathies from countries and regions around the world," we mention the French President Mr. Sarkozy's visit to Japan. On 31 March he represented all G8 and G20 countries and offered the assistance and solidarity of the international community to Prime Minister Kan. The two leaders agreed that in the forthcoming G8 and G20 summits, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting, the issue of the safety of nuclear energy may be one of the main subjects. As for Foreign Ministers, Minister Matsumoto met his G8 counterparts, as well as the Foreign Ministers of China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on the occasion of the trilateral Foreign Ministers' meeting in Kyoto, and the former in Paris. In addition, although there is no reference in the paper yet, Minister Matsumoto received his German counterpart, Dr. Westerwelle, last Saturday. Again, the German Foreign Minister offered support as well as solidarity from Germany. We are all appreciative and grateful for such support and solidarity.

    In the next section, "Emergency assistance from overseas countries and regions," the number of 134 countries and territories, as well as 39 international organizations, remains the same. However we have been receiving additional goods and support in other forms from the same countries and organizations, and we are very grateful for that. On 4 April, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Takahashi visited Iwate Prefecture. Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta visited Fukushima Prefecture and Tochigi Prefecture, and Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga visited Miyagi Prefecture. They reported the results of their visits to Foreign Minister Matsumoto. One of the comments was that perhaps we should make more efforts in paying better attention so that the foreign assistance that we receive in Japan should be more effectively utilized

    Next is about "Ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations." As you may be aware, in his press conference on 1 April, Prime Minister Naoto Kan explained the three principles with respect to the efforts at the Fukushima nuclear power plants. "We have carried out work thus far based on three principles, and we will continue to do so," he said. "Our first principle is that we must prioritize the health and safety of the people in Japan. Our second principle is that we must implement risk management initiatives to such an extent that some in the public feel we are being too cautious. Our third principle is that we must conceive of every possible scenario and prepare response systems that can deal with each scenario should it occur. We are currently proceeding with work under these three principles." These are the principles that the Government has in dealing with the problems of the nuclear power plants.

    I would like to explain about the release of low level radiation water, conducted on 4 April. Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano explained that it was an emergency measure taken in order to avoid the leakage or pouring of high level contaminated water. This was done in accordance with the Japanese law. On that day, in addition to informing the IAEA, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we explained that this would take place, in the daily briefing for diplomatic missions. Later we sent a fax message to all diplomatic missions in Japan, explaining that a release of low level contaminated water would be happening on that day. However we have had reactions, particularly for neighboring countries, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary stated on 6 April that we should make further efforts to explain in more detail, particularly for neighboring countries, and also for the international community. On 4 April when they released the radioactive water, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) issued a press release, which said that the radioactive water being released is such water that, the effective affect of consumption every day of marine products from the nearby sea is estimated to be 0.6mSv, 1/4 of the 2.4mSv that a person would receive from nature, in a year. When Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said on 6 April, that he seriously take the comments that the Government should have been more careful and should have provided more detailed information to neighboring countries and also to the international community, he explained that comparing the low level contaminated water and highly contaminated water, the level of radiation of the former is only 1/200,000 of the latter. The level is that low. In any event, we, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government will make our best efforts to provide information to the international community as to what is happening in respect of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    Last week I mentioned that we are grateful for the international support, however we also have a concern, which is the excessive reaction in certain countries. We have a section on Page 7 of the distributed paper, entitled "Measures taken in response to other countries' restrictions on Japan's export products." Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, some countries and territories have taken measures to tighten restrictions on the import products from Japan, including imposing radiation related inspections of these products. By 31 March, at least 50 countries and territories had imposed some kind of restrictions. They range from radiation screening at customs and the requirement for an import certificate to import bans. In WTO meetings and on various other occasions we have been appealing to other countries and territories to monitor the situation in Japan calmly and refrain from overreaction, and refrain from imposing unreasonable import bans, as we, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Japan, intend to continue to provide relevant information with maximum transparency.

    We have distributed a map of activities of foreign teams, and this is the update about the measures taken in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake.

  3. Telephone conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and New Zealand
  4. The next paper we have distributed is about the telephone conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and New Zealand. Yesterday, Mr. Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, had a telephone conversation with the Hon. Mr. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. At the beginning of the conversation Foreign Minister Matsumoto expressed his gratitude to the Government of New Zealand for their various support, which resulted in the identification of all 28 Japanese who had been missing after the earthquake on the South Island of New Zealand, and their care and support for the families of the victims. He also expressed his appreciation for the progress in the investigation into the cause of collapse of the CTV building.

    In addition, Foreign Minister Matsumoto expressed his heartfelt gratitude for support received in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, such as dispatch of a search and rescue team from New Zealand and a donation.

    In response, Foreign Minister McCully expressed his gratitude for Japan's support on the occasion of the New Zealand earthquake, and offered his condolences for the victims of the earthquake in Japan. Foreign Minister McCully also expressed his hope for strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of disaster prevention and disaster countermeasures between Japan and New Zealand on the basis of the experience of both countries.

    Foreign Minister Matsumoto explained the support for victims of the disaster and displaced persons after the Great East Japan Earthquake and also about the measures taken at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and added that he would like to keep providing information quickly and accurately to the international society including New Zealand. He then expressed his determination that Japan, similarly to New Zealand, will follow a path of strong recovery from the disaster.

  5. Situation in Cote d'Ivoire
  6. Now I have an oral presentation of what happened in Cote d'Ivoire. You may be already aware that yesterday afternoon in Japan time, exactly speaking it was 4:20 pm, in Cote d'Ivoire, a number of soldiers who seem to be supporting Mr. Gbagbo intruded into the residence of the Ambassador of Japan in Cote d'Ivoire. Earlier today, it was 7:21 in the morning in Japan time, I think in Cote d'Ivoire it was 10:21 pm on 6 April, with the support of the French military and the United Nations, Ambassador Okamura as well as local staff and security personnel, in total 8 people, were rescued, and we were relieved to hear that.

  7. VIP Visits
  8. Mr. Sobashima: As for the visits, as the Press Secretary announced yesterday, Foreign Minister Matsumoto intends to visit Jakarta on the coming Saturday, if the Diet approval is forthcoming, as well as other formalities are completed, to attend the Japan-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting that day. We expect the Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake, including the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and the cooperation between Japan and ASEAN countries.

    Also, the coming Sunday, Mr. Héctor Timerman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, will be coming to Japan, and he is expected to meet Foreign Minister Matsumoto. Mr. Timerman intended to come to Japan to express condolences and sympathy to Japanese people, as well as to express the solidarity to Japan.

    So these are what I would like to explain to you, and I invite your questions.

  9. Questions concerning bilateral relations with Australia
  10. Q: Our Australian interest is bilateral relations between Australia and Japan, and we have some information from our Australian Government that our Prime Minister, Ms. Julia Gillard, is scheduled to come to visit Japan, but if you know anything about it and the purpose of the Australian visit I would like to hear what you know.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for the question. I am afraid what I can say officially at this moment is that if there is a decision we will make an announcement. I am afraid that this is what I can say at this point in time. But certainly we are appreciative of assistance and cooperation from Australia, as seen in the document we have distributed on page 5, Australia's C17 aircraft has been providing transportation assistance in Japan and urgently transported a special pump needed for cooling Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, among others. The Australian team was doing activities in Minami-Sanriku-cho in Miyagi Prefecture from 16-19 March, among other assistance that was provided, and we highly value the very important relationship with Australia. As for the VIP visits, what I can say at this moment is that if there is a decision we will make an announcement.

    Q: In relation with what you mentioned just now. One of the contributions from the Australian government is C17 aircraft providing transportation, and also a special pump needed for cooling Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. We were trying to follow up on how this has been used, or if this has been used at all. Do you know anything about this - if TEPCO is under training in how to use the pump, if you are able to explain, please?

    Mr. Sobashima: Again, I am afraid I am not able to respond to your question in a satisfactory manner. What we, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are doing, is sort of a mediator role for matching the needs and the offers - offers from the foreign countries including Australia, and needs in the affected areas, and perhaps also the needs of TEPCO. If a foreign Government has already offered something, certainly our Ministry is working on that, and we convey the information of the offer and doing the matching work. Australia's offers should be fully utilized. However, I am not in a position to explain what the detailed situation is. But again, generally speaking, we will make our best effort for matching the needs and the offers.

    Q: Another question, in terms of matching needs and offers, from the Australian viewpoint the Japanese government or TEPCO will need more energy resources, like LNG. Would you say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would also try and match TEPCO's needs in terms of energy resources?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. I think we have to distinguish the Government to Government relations and the relationship between the private sectors. If something which is business is the subject, perhaps TEPCO may wish to do it directly with either the Australian companies or other companies. If it is a kind of official offer then certainly the Government will be involved. But we have to distinguish between them. Generally speaking, if there is a need perhaps there may be the possibility of looking for the offer. But further than that I would like to refrain from commenting.

    Thank you very much for coming.

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