Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 19 May 2011

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Guidelines for Policy Promotion
  3. Issues of the Northern Territories
  4. The Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  5. Prime Minister Kan's Trip Overseas
  6. Common Website relating to the Trilateral Summit Created by Three News Agencies of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea
  7. Question Concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  8. Question concerning the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  9. Question concerning the Issue of the Northern Territories
  10. Further Questions concerning the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  11. Question concerning Japan-Australia Relations

  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 Great East Japan Earthquake. We have distributed several papers. The first is the paper entitled, "Progress Status of Roadmap towards the Reconstruction from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" prepared by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). This paper is dated 17 May, that is last Tuesday, two days ago. As you know, on 14 April, TEPCO established a roadmap and this paper is a revision of the roadmap that was first announced one month ago. However, on the first page, you will notice there is no change to the basic policy, there is no change to the targets: Step 1, if achieved, radiation dose is in steady decline; and Step 2, release of radioactive materials is under control and radiation dose is being significantly held down. The target date for the completion of Step 1 is mid-July, and the target date for the completion of Step 2 is three to six months after the completion of Step 1, that is around January of next year at the latest.

    In the section entitled "Summary of progress made in the last one month and planned actions" TEPCO summarizes the basic challenges. They added countermeasures. In subsection 1, they said that the countermeasures increased from 63 to 76. Also, they added two new areas. Earlier they had three areas – cooling, mitigation, and monitoring and decontamination, now they added countermeasures against aftershocks and tsunami, and environment improvement. At my press conference on 21 April, I used the word "category" for the three things and I used the word "area" for the five things. But now as they use the word "area" for the comparatively larger groups, so I should use the same word, that is, area. So TEPCO added the areas of "countermeasures against aftershocks and tsunami" and also "life and work environment." As for the issues, the smaller groups, they added the groundwater issue in the mitigation area. As far as the areas and issues are concerned, they have now five areas and eight issues. In subsection 2, they explain a main problem of the reactors, that is, leakage. For example, in Unit 1, there is a leakage of the coolant water. As a result, they need to change the method how the reactor is cooled. So they have decided that they should prioritize the establishment of a circulating injection system instead of the earlier measure they envisioned. In subsection 3, they say that they are implementing several measures ahead of schedule. In subsection 4, they said that the accumulating water is increasing, so they need to address this issue. As I already mentioned, they added new areas of countermeasures for aftershocks and tsunami and also for life and work environment. I would like to refrain from going into the details about these. I presume you are already familiar with the gist of the new paper announced two days ago.

    Next, we have distributed the papers entitled, "Roadmap for Immediate Actions for the Verification of and Restoration from the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" and "Roadmap for Immediate Actions for Assistance of Nuclear Sufferers". These are the papers of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, that is, the Government. You will notice that, in the first paper, in the left column entitled "Targets in TEPCO's Roadmap Towards Restoration from the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" the first heading says "Government's Support and Confirmation of Safety." You have a list of the areas or issues. We have seven issues from "Cooling the Reactors" up to "Ensure the Safety of the Working Environment, and Improve Living Conditions and the Health Management". We have also right beneath that "Conduct Monitoring". Monitoring is one of TEPCO's five areas and eight issues. The things covered under the first heading "Government's Support and Confirmation of Safety", and the second one "Conduct Monitoring", correspond to TEPCO's eight issues. Of course, in addition to TEPCO's measures, the Government should take care of the sufferers. The Government is also responsible for international cooperation. Therefore, we have this section for international cooperation and other sections – "Investigation and Verification of the Accident", and others. Regarding the Roadmap for Immediate Actions for the Assistance of Nuclear Sufferers, we have actions, such as the Actions for the restoration from the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and actions related to the evacuation areas, deliberative evacuation areas, and evacuation prepared areas in case of an emergency. We have the section "Ensure the safety of sufferers" and "Secure employment and provide support for farms and industries", "Support the local municipalities in the affected areas", "Compensation to sufferers and affected businesses, etc." and "Actions to assist homecoming". These are the Government's measures which have been taken and are to be taken.

    Mr. Sobashima: In relation to "International Cooperation" and also to "Investigation and Verification of the Accident" there is a reference to the investigation by the Japanese government and IAEA. As announced by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, we will be receiving another team of IAEA from 24 May until 2 June. We will certainly cooperate with the IAEA team for their activities in preparation, we understand, for the IAEA Ministerial Meeting to be held from 20-24 June in Vienna. That's for the first two sets of documents related to the nuclear accident.

  3. Guidelines for Policy Promotion
  4. Mr. Sobashima: We didn't distribute a paper but on the same day, on the 17th, there was another decision, by the Government in a Cabinet meeting – that is a decision on guidelines for policy promotion.

    The Government decided on the guidelines for policy promotion. The first chapter is about the economic and financial management in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. We have decided on the basic policies for the time being, the short-term that is about three years and a mid-to-long term, beyond three years. The second chapter is about rebuilding Japan or the rebirth of Japan. There we cover basically two big areas, that is the integrated reform of social security and taxes, and then, the redesigning and re-fortifying or reinforcing of the national strategies for new growth. And here, we have a section for international economic relations dealing with economic partnerships, including TPP.

    After this Cabinet decision, Foreign Minister Matsumoto in his press conference here in this room on the same day, that is the 17th, said this: The policy promotion guidelines were decided by the Cabinet today. This means that the Cabinet will renew its efforts to address the challenges it has been facing since before the Great East Japan Earthquake in addition to its response to the current crisis. For both post-quake reconstruction open to the international community and the new growth strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to steadily deal with diplomatic issues, including the economic diplomacy. In our understanding, the maintenance of basic policies of comprehensive economic partnership was reconfirmed at the Cabinet meeting and we hope to advance each engagement steadily in accordance with the policies. So this is the announcement made by my minister after the Government decision.

  5. Issues of the Northern Territories
  6. Mr. Sobashima: Next, I'd like to refer to the visit by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister to the Northern Territories. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov and other senior officers of the Russian Government visited the Northern Territories on Sunday, 15 May. On the following day, 16 May, Foreign Minister Matsumoto called Ambassador Bely, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Japan, to his office, and he made a protest. He said that since the visit of President Medvedev in November last year, despite repeated requests from the Japanese side, Russian senior official had visited the Northern Territories. These visits are inconsistent with Japan's basic position and they have hurt the national sentiment of the Japanese people. Therefore, we regret this very much and we will request the Russian side not to repeat these visits. To this, Ambassador Bely explained the Russian position, the basic position of the Russian Federation.

  7. The Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  8. Mr. Sobashima: The next topic I'd like to explain is the Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting. We have distributed a paper "Japan to Host the Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting". This summit will take place on the coming weekend, that is Saturday, 21 and Sunday, 22 May in Tokyo. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and ROK President Lee Myung-bak will be coming to Japan. The coming meeting will be the fourth of the series of independent trilateral summit meetings and the objective of the trilateral summit is to further promote dialogue and cooperation among the three countries under the leadership of the leaders of three countries. We expect that in the trilateral summit trilateral cooperation and the issues of mutual interest – regional issues and international issues – will be discussed. And we expect particularly in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, disaster prevention and mitigation, as well as nuclear safety should be discussed, among others. This is about the trilateral summit.

  9. Prime Minister Kan's Trip Overseas
  10. Mr. Sobashima: Another topic is the Prime Minister's visit overseas. As announced yesterday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano, Prime Minister Kan will be visiting Europe from 24-27 May. He will officially visit France at the invitation of President Sarkozy and he will participate in the ceremonies to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the OECD. Then he will participate in the G8 Summit Meeting in Deauville, and finally in the Japan-EU Summit Meeting. In the OECD memorial ceremony, the Prime Minister plans to make a speech, including on his policy for reconstruction after the earthquake. In the G8 Summit Meeting to be held on 26-27 May, the G8 leaders are expected to discuss various issues, including the nuclear safety issue and such regional issues as the Middle East and North Africa, Prime Minister Kan intends to offer his thoughts on each policy. In the Japan-EU summit, certainly the leaders of Japan and the EU will discuss the relations between Japan and the EU, including the issue of a Japan-EU EPA. On these occasions, we are arranging bilateral meetings for Prime Minister Kan, but they are still at the arrangement stage.

  11. Common Website relating to the Trilateral Summit Created by Three News Agencies of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea
  12. Mr. Sobashima: Sorry, I should have mentioned the press release provided by Kyodo News earlier. We have already distributed it. On the occasion of the trilateral summit, the three news agencies of Japan, the Republic of Korea and China will host a common website in English, Chinese and Korean. This is the first attempt, and we hope you will visit this site.

    This is what I would like to share with you. Thank you for your patience, I invite your questions now.

  13. Question Concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  14. Q: This morning the relevant Cabinet ministers decided the Government policy that Japan will join the Hague Convention on child custody issues. Japan was for a long time under pressure to sign this convention. It seems Japan is finally moving toward abiding by international standards. What kinds of effects do you expect from Japan joining this convention, in resolving so many disputes involving cross-border parent-child abductions?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. I think I need to confirm that there has been such progress. We are waiting for the announcement of the decision. I am not able to confirm what you have referred to in the beginning. There should be an announcement if there has been a decision.

    Having said this, the Government has considered the issue very seriously, including in the meetings at the State Secretary-level chaired by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama. From January this year, at least seven times the State Secretaries have met. Also there were discussions at various levels. We intend to reach a conclusion on this issue as soon as possible. We understand that the ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), reached a conclusion. Based on that conclusion, I understand the Government has been making the final deliberation before its conclusion. We consider that the most important thing is to ensure the welfare of children. Of course parental rights are important, too, and we should take into account the father's views and the mother's views. For the purpose of sorting out the problems among fathers, mothers and children, we have this legally binding arrangement, the Hague Convention. What we aim in the final stage is to ensure the welfare of children. After the decision as to what to do with the Hague Convention by the Government, certainly we should aim to achieve this objective. For achieving the objective – well, I should be very careful because I haven't confirmed by myself - but if the decision is to conclude the Convention, perhaps there will be some domestic measures or domestic laws that should be taken or enacted to implement the Convention. Those efforts are necessary. Certainly the Government will make efforts in order to achieve this objective of ensuring the welfare of children.

  15. Question concerning the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  16. Q: I have one easy question and one hard question.

    The easy question has to do with the trilateral summit which is about to take place. I understand that all three leaders, or at least the Korean and the Chinese leaders, will be going up to the north to see the tsunami zone. Can you give us your feeling or impression of what the significance of having these foreign leaders or other foreign leaders go up to the zone to see it with their own eyes? Why is this becoming kind of a pilgrimage point for foreign leaders at this point?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you very much for the easy question. So far the only foreign head of state or government to have visited the affected areas is the Prime Minister of Australia, Prime Minister Gillard. We are very grateful to foreigners and foreign countries for the sympathy and support they have extended to Japan. The very fact that the leaders will be visiting the affected areas signifies the sympathy that these countries are extending to Japan.

    The reason why I said the question is easy is because I can simply quote what the Prime Minister said yesterday in his press conference when he was asked about the possible visit of the Chinese leader to the affected areas. He said that 'after the great earthquake China extended sympathy and offered assistance very quickly. President Hu Jintao himself visited the Embassy of Japan to sign the book of condolences. Therefore, we Japanese are very grateful to the Chinese. Heartfelt actions were taken by the Chinese side, and this time, the Chinese Premier will be visiting Japan. On this occasion it is planned that he will visit the affected areas in order to extend his sympathy to the people. I feel that by these actions, bonds of friendship which were deepened will be deepened further. I really feel that it will lead to the strengthening and deepening the bonds of friendship between Japan and China. Similarly between Japan and the Republic of Korea. Thus I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation. I understand this is a further step for enhancing the bilateral relationship between Japan and China'. This is my private translation from the record in Japanese.

  17. Question concerning the Issue of the Northern Territories
  18. Q: And my more difficult question has to do with the Northern Territories issue. I understand that Japan and Russia are in a dispute, although I guess that you do not actually acknowledge that there is a dispute over Japan’s claim on this. Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov, when he visited, he said, "Look, I am not visiting here to create a fight with anybody or create any trouble, we are coming because these areas are economically underdeveloped. We need to take a look at it and we need to figure out how to develop these regions and get them at least up to the level of mainland Siberia and other areas." So my question basically is this: understanding that Japan wants the four Northern Territory islands back, this being understood, why does it make a difference if Russian leaders visit these territories? Who cares? There are already Russians there, who cares if they are a farmer or a Prime Minister? Why is this something that hurts the feeling of Japan and becomes an issue where you would call in Ambassadors? Why not just ignore it?

    Mr. Sobashima: I am sorry to repeat what I already said. Even though you asked the question in that form, I need to repeat what I already said. The reason why we continue to protest is because the visit is inconsistent with the basic position of Japan and the visit will hurt the feelings of the Japanese people. So I am sorry, but I will only repeat what I have already said, even to that question of yours.

  19. Further Questions concerning the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting
  20. Q: I would like to ask about the trilateral summit meeting this coming weekend. What would you say is the main event or the topic of discussion this time? The main theme. I know everything is important, but if you could just point out one thing....

    Mr. Sobashima: The main theme is to further promote trilateral cooperation in various fields. And of course the leaders will discuss various issues that they feel interested in. Certainly we envisage, because of the earthquake, or because of the support extended by China and the Republic of Korea, the issue of disaster prevention and disaster mitigation, and the issue of the safety of nuclear power generation should be among those main issues of cooperation. Certainly Prime Minister Kan should explain and provide information once again at the leader’s level on what Japan has done and what Japan is doing. At the same time, he will speak of his determination to continue to provide information to the international community on what has happened, what Japan is doing. And in so doing, Japan will contribute to the international community for the safety of nuclear power. So this should be one of the main themes.

    As we have distributed the paper, I would like to refer to some of the issues that are likely to be taken up. I am referring to the paper entitled "Japan to Host the 4th Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting" on 13 May. In the first section, as I explained, in the second paragraph, the third line from the bottom, "cooperation on disaster management and nuclear safety", as already explained. In the second section, entitled "Trilateral Cooperation among Japan, China and ROK," the first sub-paragraph includes "concluding a trilateral investment treaty as soon as possible." This may be an issue to be discussed. And "progress of joint research on trilateral FTA by industry, government and academia of the three countries." In the next paragraph, the "establishment of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat" is mentioned, and we certainly hope for its early establishment as the agreement was already signed. On the next page, "Minister Matsumoto said" – of course, Minister Matsumoto is the Foreign Minister of the host country – so the host country’s Foreign Minister mentioned "the importance of further cooperation on food, resources, energy, environment and climate change" and also "promotion of exchanges and cooperation among universities of the three countries." So these should be the possible areas of cooperation in addition to what I mentioned, the issues of nuclear safety and disaster mitigation.

    Q: Sorry about my lack of knowledge if you have already mentioned this – I would like to know the background of this as to how this summit has been set up as to the place and timing. Has it been long decided that you would host the trilateral summit this time in Japan? Or was it somewhere else?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for asking. This trilateral summit started in a non-meeting format earlier. It was a non-independent format. On the occasion of ASEAN Summit Meetings the leaders of the three countries of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea were invited by the hosts of ASEAN+3 meetings. On the occasion of the ASEAN summit meetings, earlier, the leaders of the three countries had the occasion to meet for breakfast, for example. And earlier, we did not say these were meetings. We only said that the three leaders had breakfast together. Later we may have called those "meetings of the three leaders," but still, on the venue of the ASEAN host. It was, I think it was three years ago and I think it was when Mr. Aso was the Prime Minister of Japan that there was a decision to have an independent trilateral summit meeting. The first trilateral summit was held in Japan, and then the next year in China, and last year in the Republic of Korea. So we have had one round of rotation, and this is the first year of the second round, and thus we have returned to Japan.

    Q: Thank you. About the timing of this, it is about two months after the earthquake – is it because this is a good time for Japan to host a trilateral summit? Was it postponed?

    Mr. Sobashima: I have to check, but last year, the meeting occurred around May as well. It is kind of a convenient time for the three leaders. You will notice that it is only on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Even in May, because the Japanese Diet is in session, the Prime Minister may have difficulty if it is on a weekday. Therefore, the weekend was chosen, for the timing.

  21. Question concerning Japan-Australia Relations
  22. Q: I don’t think that I will get the exact answer at this briefing, but I would like to mention from the Australian media that we are still interested to know if there are any follow up actions being taken after Prime Minister Gillard’s visit last month. I understand that there was a bilateral summit meeting between Prime Minister Gillard and Prime Minister Kan. If there are any follow-up actions that have been taken by the Government, for example, resource cooperation or military cooperation or economic partnership issues – if there are any developments, we would love to know.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for the question. I think that my short answer should be yes, but I have to check the current situation to give you more details. Of course, the leaders, Prime Minister Gillard and Prime Minister Kan, agreed on various issues, and that follow-up actions should be taken. For example, you mentioned the dialogue on security issues and cooperation in various areas, particularly on energy. Another thing is on the EPA. Follow up action should have been taken. But I need to check and come back to you.

    If there are no other questions, thank you very much for coming. Thank you.

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