Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 9 June 2011

  1. 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  2. Report of the Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety
  3. Statement by the Press Secretary on conflicts in the Golan Heights
  4. Congratulatory message from Prime Minister Kan to Mr. Humala, President-elect of Peru
  5. Questions concerning the situation in Afghanistan

  1. 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome.

    Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed papers. First I would like to explain the 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting which was held on 6 and 7 June, in Hungary. Foreign Minister Matsumoto attended the meeting on the first day on 6 June. In addition, Japan was one of the coordinating participants, together with the host, Hungary, and the EU, and also the Lao People's Democratic Republic, who will be the host of the ASEM Summit, next year – so four coordinators including Japan.

    Foreign Minister Matsumoto had, on that occasion, bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of Hungary, the host, and also the foreign ministers of the so-called V4 countries, consisting of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. He also met the foreign ministers of Myanmar, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore. As I explained, he was one of the four coordinators. He attended, in his capacity as a coordinator, a joint press conference by the host and coordinators.

    We have distributed the Chairs' Statement of the 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting. On the second page we have a section entitled "Natural disasters". "Ministers conveyed their deepest condolences for the large-scale loss of life and devastating damage in several ASEM partner-countries as a result of natural disasters earlier this year and expressed their solidarity with the people affected. They reiterated that the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami's impact on the supply chains was a reminder of global deepened economic integration".

    Under "Nuclear safety" on the next page, on paragraph 11, "Ministers commended Japan's posture to share all relevant information and its explanation of the course of events and the measures taken regarding the recent events in Japan. Ministers also expressed their appreciation for the immediate response of the ASEM partners to the events, extending a helping hand and offering humanitarian aid. Ministers emphasized that it is essential to draw the lessons from this experience, rigorously review and where necessary further strengthen the safety of nuclear power plants".

    I will skip reading paragraph 12, except toward the end, on the fourth line from the bottom, it says, "Ministers shared the view that it is important for public policy responses to be based on solid scientific evidence, including in relation to goods and travel. In this regard, Ministers welcomed the convening of an ASEM Seminar on Nuclear Safety Issues".

    The topics discussed included energy security, in addition to nuclear safety; environmental issues, including climate change; food and water security; the global financial and economic crisis, reform of the international financial system; economic cooperation between Asia and Europe; regional interdependence; inclusive growth and poverty reduction – here we have reference to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and also the MDGs Follow-up Meeting held in Tokyo on 2 and 3 June, in paragraph 40. Other issues included multilateralism, UN reform and human rights; dialogue of cultures and civilizations; terrorism, piracy and transnational organized crime; nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; and regional issues, including the Middle East and North Africa, and the East Asia.

    On paragraph 78, it says "Ministers shared the view that the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is of utmost importance in Northeast Asia. They reaffirmed support for the diplomatic efforts made within the Six-Party Talks, aiming at comprehensively achieving the goals envisioned in the 2005 Joint Statement. Ministers expressed their concern about the DPRK's nuclear programs, particularly its claimed uranium enrichment program. In this context, Ministers emphasized the importance of full implementation of all relevant UNSC Resolutions, under which these nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs shall be abandoned in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. Ministers underlined the essential significance of sincere and constructive inter-Korean dialogue and stressed the importance of concrete actions to create an environment conducive to the resumption of Six-Party Talks. They also emphasized the importance of addressing the humanitarian concerns of the international community".

    I read this paragraph in full because Minister Matsumoto led the discussion on North Korea. That is why the views of Japan, endorsed by the participants, were reflected in this paragraph. There are also references to Libya, the Middle East Peace Process, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, among others.

    I already said that Minister Matsumoto contributed to the discussion on North Korea. As for energy, Minister Matsumoto explained the four pillars of Japan, particularly in respect of power generation - energy in respect of the provision of power. The first is nuclear energy. The second is fossil fuels. The third is renewable energy. Fourth is energy saving or energy efficiency. Minister Matsumoto expressed the intention of Japan to contribute in the field of disaster prevention areas in general, not only in nuclear safety.

    As for global issues, Minister Matsumoto explained the views of Japan, with respect to the UN Security Council reform, climate change, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and development assistance, including the issue of MDGs. This is about the 10th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

  3. Report of the Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety
  4. Mr. Sobashima: This I believe is a good introduction to the next item, that is, the report of the Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety – "The Accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations". This report was released last Tuesday, 7 June. If you have a look at the table of contents, after "Introduction" there are "Overview of Nuclear Safety Regulations and Other Regulatory Framework in Japan before the Accident"; "Disaster Damage by the Tohoku Region - Off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan"; "Occurrence and Progress of Accidents in Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations"; "Response to Nuclear Emergency"; "Discharge of Radioactive Materials to the Environment"; "Situation regarding Radiation Exposure"; "Cooperation with the International Community"; "Communication on the Accident"; "Efforts to Restore the Accident in future"; "Response at Other Nuclear Power Stations"; "Lessons Learned from the Accident So Far"; and "Conclusion".

    Skipping explaining the details of what each section is dealing with, I would simply like to explain the conclusion. We only distributed the structure of the report – the headings of the report – but if you have a look at the website of the Prime Minister's Office, you will have the full text of all sections of the whole report.

    I will read the main sentences of the conclusion part. It says "We are taking very seriously the fact that the accident, triggered by a natural disaster of an earthquake and a tsunami onslaught, became a severe accident due to such causes as losses of power and cooling functions, and that consistent preparation for severe accidents was insufficient. In light of the lessons learned from the accident, Japan has recognized that a fundamental revision of its nuclear safety preparedness and response is inevitable.

    As a part of this effort, Japan will promote the 'Plan to Enhance the Research on Nuclear Safety Infrastructure' while watching the status of the process of restoration form the accident. This plan is intended to promote, among other things, research to enhance preparedness and response against severe accidents through international cooperation, and to work to lead the results achieved for the improvement of global nuclear safety.

    Japan will update information on the accident and lessons learned from it in line with the future process of restoration from the accident and further investigation and will continue to provide such information and lessons learned to the IAEA as well as countries around the world.

    As operators, manufacturers and governmental agencies make a concerted effort to address the situation in Japan, it feels encouraged by the support received from many countries around the world to whom it expresses its deepest gratitude.

    We are prepared to confront much difficulty towards the restoration from the accident, and trust that we will be able to overcome this accident. To this end, we would sincerely appreciate continued support from the IAEA and countries around the world".

    So this is the conclusion and this is the report to be submitted to the IAEA Ministerial Conference. I think it is expected to commence on 20 June in Vienna. This is the second item.

  5. Statement by the Press Secretary on conflicts in the Golan Heights
  6. Mr. Sobashima: Third is the statement by the Press Secretary on conflicts in the Golan Heights issued last Monday.

    "The Government of Japan is deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries among the demonstrators that resulted from the gunfire of Israeli troops in their confrontation with the demonstrations of the Syrian residents in the Golan Heights, on Sunday, June 5. It offers its condolences to the victims and their families.

    The Government of Japan urges all parties involved to exercise restraint. Any actions intended to provoke violence should be avoided. The Government of Japan also stresses the importance of the continued smooth operations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in monitoring the disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces".

    This is the text of the statement by the Press Secretary on the conflicts in the Golan Heights.

  7. Congratulatory message from Prime Minister Kan to Mr. Humala, President-elect of Peru
  8. Mr. Sobashima: Finally we have distributed the press release of the congratulatory message from Prime Minister Kan to Mr. Humala, President-elect of Peru.

    On 7 June, that is last Tuesday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan sent a congratulatory message to Mr. Ollanta Humala, a presidential candidate of the Republic of Peru, given that the final voting for the presidential election held on Sunday, June 5, virtually ensured that he would be the next President.

    These are the topics I would like to share with you. Now I invite your questions.

  9. Questions concerning the situation in Afghanistan
  10. Q: I have a question about the situation in Afghanistan. In my opinion, the main problem in the country, as various other newspapers also mentioned, is that the Afghan people have no job opportunities. Is the international community thinking to make some arrangements in that country, so that the young people who have no jobs can go and join, and have a job opportunity so that they are isolated from these terrorist organizations and institutions in that country? Because since this problem started, the basic effect - why these people got their human strength - is that most of the people are jobless in that country. But I have not seen any mention of efforts by the international community to provide jobs, like some factories or some big projects where people can be employed and get jobs.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. Yes, what you have raised is a very important issue. As you know, Japan is committed to supporting Afghanistan and we are implementing this commitment. As you know, we have had international conferences to support Afghanistan. Maybe you referred to Afghanistan, because it was also discussed in the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting, and you might have already had a look at paragraph 88. The foreign ministers of ASEM discussed this issue. Your concern is well taken, and Japan will continue to support Afghanistan. Just for your information, I would like to explain what the ministers in ASEM discussed.

    On paragraph 88 they said that "Ministers highlighted their support for strengthening Afghanistan's stability and reconstruction in order to assure sustainable and long-term development. Ministers also recognized that no development is possible without sustainable institution-building that guarantees its citizens at least a basic level of security, governance, a functioning administration, justice and essential public services. In line with the relevant international principles based on mutual accountability, such as the importance of aid effectiveness, they urged partners to work in close cooperation with all donors to help establish stability in Afghanistan based on human rights and the rule of law".

    In the ASEM format, there was discussion about Afghanistan. Perhaps in other fora as well, there should be discussions. What you have raised is an important point for human resources development, particularly of the younger generations. We will bear in mind what you stated, and we will continue supporting Afghanistan. Thank you.

    Q: I have read most of this statement. There is some mention of neighboring countries, and in my opinion, Pakistan is one of the most important countries to join the international community to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, not only for Afghanistan, but for Pakistan as well. As you appreciate, technology is very much needed for intelligence personnel in Pakistan, and this question as well has been raised many times by the government of Pakistan. There are a lot of accidents occurring even within Pakistan, because of a lack of the latest equipment that can strengthen those security agencies. There have also sometimes been demands from the government of Pakistan and their organizations, but according to my information, there has not been mentionable help given to Pakistan concerning personnel who are engaged in protecting the lives of all the people and fighting terrorism and terrorists.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for your comment, rather than question. Yes, because of the security situation there, assistance to Afghanistan is not easy, as you pointed out. As for the interest in assisting Afghanistan, it is not only the neighboring countries and countries in Asia. I would like refer to the schedule of Foreign Minister Matsumoto in Hungary. I mentioned he had a meeting with the V4 foreign ministers. V4 means the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic. In the joint press statement issued on that occasion - I think I will be able to provide you later with the text itself - it said that "The Ministers (the Ministers of Japan and the four Eastern European countries) welcomed the fact that Japan and V4 member countries have been contributing together to the reconstruction and stability in Afghanistan in the framework of Japan-NATO/PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) cooperation. Possible future joint projects will be considered on an ad-hoc basis".

    I didn't mention this at the beginning, but Afghanistan was a topic discussed between Foreign Minister Matsumoto and the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. It is a concern of the international community, not only of the neighboring countries, but also countries in Europe, as well.

    Your comment is noted. Thank you very much.

    If you have no further questions, thank you very much for coming.

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