Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 7 July 2011

  1. Decision of the International Olympic Committee on Pyeongchang
  2. Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta's Visit to Myanmar
  3. Mercosur Summit
  4. National Dialogue in Bahrain
  5. Japan-China Relations
  6. Russian Senior Official's Visit to Japan
  7. Japan-Central America Meetings
  8. New Program to Send Young Japanese English Teachers sent to the United States
  9. Second Meeting for the "Green Climate Fund"
  10. Independence of the Republic of South Sudan
  11. VIP visits
  12. Question Concerning the Visa Program for Chinese Tourists
  13. Question Concerning Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine's Visit to Tokyo
  14. Question concerning a Free Trade Agreement between China and Japan
  15. Question concerning the Senkaku Islands Issue
  16. Question concerning the Distribution of Information to Media about Foreign Visitors to Japan

  1. Decision of the International Olympic Committee on Pyeongchang
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

    Mr. Sobashima: First, we would like to congratulate the Republic of Korea on the decision made by the International Olympic Committee that the venue of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games be Pyeongchang.

  3. Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta's Visit to Myanmar
  4. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed a number of papers. The first paper is entitled "Visit by Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Kikuta to Myanmar". Last week, I already made an oral presentation, but now we have uploaded this record on our website. We have distributed it just for your information, and it has pictures, not only the information that I orally explained in written form. So I will skip explaining this first paper.

  5. Mercosur Summit
  6. Mr. Sobashima: The second paper is, "Speech by Mr. Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) Summit Meeting". Also, we distributed reference materials on the relationship between Japan and South American countries. We were not able to have this text last week, although the speech was delivered Wednesday, last week, in Paraguay. We now have the text.

    After the introduction part, we have the section "The Great East Japan Earthquake". Minister Matsumoto expressed the deepest gratitude to the Mercosur members and the other participating countries for the words of condolences and encouragement and the many relief supplies and funds they kindly donated to Japan. In the section about "Strengthening Economic Ties between Japan and Mercosur", he mentioned the new growth strategy of Japan for promoting economic partnerships with foreign countries. Last week, I explained the gist of the Report of the Reconstruction Design Council, which has a section related to international relations, and what they emphasize is open reconstruction – the reconstruction of Japan and the reconstruction of affected areas, open to the world. So, what the Minister said is consistent with what the Report of the Reconstruction Design Council proposed. In the last section, entitled, "Initiating Japan-Mercosur Dialog for Closer Economic Relations", he proposed launching a dialogue between Japan and Mercosur as a forum to seek possibilities to promote relations between Japan and Mercosur in the broad economic field, such as trade and investment. I will refrain from going into the details of reference materials.

  7. National Dialogue in Bahrain
  8. Mr. Sobashima: The next topic is about Bahrain. In the wake of the commencement of national dialogue in Bahrain on 2 July, a statement was issued by the Press Secretary on the next day. I will read this: "Japan closely observes the future progress of the national dialogue that started on Saturday, 2 July. Japan strongly hopes that the national dialogue will be participated in by a broad range of people, having transparency and freedom of speech secured, and that the reform of the country will progress substantially". This is the statement that we issued.

  9. Japan-China Relations
  10. Mr. Sobashima: Then about Japan-China relations. We have distributed the reference materials on the Japan-China relations, which include various information and figures, including these on economic fields. As you know, China and Japan are the second and third largest economies in the world. China is Japan's largest trading partner. For China, exports from China to the United States are the largest, but to Japan are the second largest, and imports from Japan are the largest. This demonstrates the importance of bilateral relations in economic fields.

    And against this background, Foreign Minister Matsumoto visited China from Sunday, 3 July, until Tuesday, 5 July. In fact, he had meetings last Monday, on 4 July. He participated in the Japan-China Foreign Minister's Meeting, which lasted for more than three hours, including a working lunch. He paid a courtesy call on Vice President Xi Jinping. He also had a meeting with State Councilor Dai Bingguo. In all of the meetings, Foreign Minister Matsumoto expressed the appreciation to China for the sympathy and support extended to Japan in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Minister Matsumoto and the Chinese leaders discussed bilateral relations, among other things. After the Foreign Minister's Meeting, Minister Matsumoto said in the interview with the Japanese media, he had very good discussions with his counterpart. The two foreign ministers agreed to maintain and promote high-level dialogues and visits and promote cultural and person-to-person exchanges, and thus promote the "Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests".

    He said that the two ministers discussed the cooperation in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as a follow-up to the agreement in the Summit Meeting between the two countries in May. In this context, Minister Matsumoto requested China further relaxation of regulations against Japanese agricultural and fishery products. As for a social security agreement, Minister Matsumoto hoped for the progress with the aim of eventual conclusion of the agreement, and Minister Yang Jiechi responded that he would see that the preparations would be made for this purpose.

    The issues discussed by the two foreign ministers included the prices of rare earths and maritime issues. Minister Matsumoto expressed a strong interest in view of the recent activities by China in the oceans. Minister Matsumoto proposed the commencement or resumption of the negotiation of a legally binding agreement on resources development in the East China Sea. He also proposed that the two countries should consider multifaceted crisis-management mechanisms. He also explained the Japan-United States Security Consultative Committee meetings (the so-called 2+2) and the two ministers discussed the issue of the Korean Peninsula. I would like to refrain from going into the details. As I explained earlier, the minister, himself, said, he was satisfied that he was able to have very useful discussions. A long, more than three hours, and useful discussion with his counterpart, among other meetings he had in China.

    Mr. Sobashima: In Japan, we had a visitor from China, Mr. Li Jianguo, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. He has been in Japan to participate in the exchange program between the House of Representatives of Japan and the National People's Congress of China, and he met Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano last Tuesday, on 5 July, among other programs he had.

    Mr. Sobashima: As you may be aware, we have started from this month the multiple entry visas for Chinese people who will be visiting Okinawa, among other places in Japan. Yesterday, we welcomed the first arrivals from China. We already issued the visas in Japan and we welcome the arrival of the first Chinese people who are utilizing the multiple entry visa.

  11. Russian Senior Official's Visit to Japan
  12. Mr. Sobashima: from Russia, we had Mr. Sergey Evgenievich Naryshkin, Chief of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. He paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Kan and he had a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano. He discussed the bilateral relationship between Japan and Russia.

  13. Japan-Central America Meetings
  14. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed a paper entitled "The Fourteenth Japan-Central America Forum for «Dialogue and Cooperation» and the Third Meeting of Japan-SICA Working Team for the Promotion of Cooperation and the Economic Exchange". Today, we are having the fourteenth meeting of the "Japan-Central America Forum for «Dialogue and Cooperation»" in this Ministry. This Vice-Ministerial meeting has been held, since 1995, alternately in Japan and in one of the Central American countries.

    Mr. Koro Bessho, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Masashi Mizukami, Director-General of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Bureau, will be participating from the Japanese side, and Vice-Ministers of the Central American countries will be participating to discuss the relationship between Japan and Central America and challenges the international society is facing.

    Also, we are having the Third Meeting of Japan-SICA (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana / Central American Integration System) Working Team for the Promotion of Cooperation and the Economic Exchange. This is at the expert level. Participants in this meeting will discuss various measures to strengthen the economic relationship between Japan and Central America.

  15. New Program to Send Young Japanese English Teachers sent to the United States
  16. Mr. Sobashima: We do not have a written material, but I would like to orally explain the new program that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) decided to start. As you know, on the occasion of the Yokohama APEC meeting, President Obama and Prime Minister Kan agreed to deepen and further develop the alliance between Japan and the United States, with three main pillars: security, economy, and cultural and person-to-person exchanges. As part of enhancing the person-to-person or cultural exchanges between the two countries, the government of Japan decided to send young Japanese teachers of the English language at junior high schools and senior high schools to the United States. 96 teachers will be visiting the United States from 22 July until January or February of next year, so about half a year program.

    You may be aware that we have the JET Program. We have English native speaker teachers teaching or assisting teaching at Japanese junior high and senior high schools. We now would like to sort of enhance the capacity of Japanese English teachers. Therefore, the purpose is for those young Japanese teachers of English to enhance their teaching capacities, by learning teaching methods in the United States, and also staying at the homes of host families. They are expected to enhance their communication capacity and teaching capacity in English. And for this purpose, we are having a sort of send-off ceremony for those young teachers today in the Ministry of Education. State Secretary Banno is participating, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  17. Second Meeting for the "Green Climate Fund"
  18. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed a paper entitled, "Climate Change: The Second Meeting of the Transitional Committee for the Design of «Green Climate Fund»". Japan and the United Nations University will co-host the second meeting of the Transitional Committee for the Design of the "Green Climate Fund" in Tokyo from 13 July to 14 July, with a view to serve combating the climate change issue. The first meeting was held in April in Mexico City.

    As you know, in the Cancun Agreement adopted at the 16th Session on the Conference of Parties of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the end of 2010, it was decided to establish the Green Climate Fund to provide assistance to developing countries. We are now planning to host the second meeting of the Transitional Committee. This Committee will be co-chaired by Mr. Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, the Minister of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico; Mr. Kjetil Lund, the State Secretary and Minister of Finance of Norway; and Mr. Trevor A. Manuel, the Minister in The Presidency for National Planning of South Africa.

    Representatives from 40 member countries of the Transitional Committee, including 15 developed countries and 25 developing countries, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, private sectors, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will attend the meeting with the aim of elaborating the institutional design of the "Green Climate Fund". Japan aims for the discussion at this meeting to contribute to reaching a consensus on the institutional design of the "Green Climate Fund" at the 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) to be held in Durban, South Africa at the end of this year.

  19. Independence of the Republic of South Sudan
  20. Mr. Sobashima: Finally, or almost finally, I would like to explain the actions taken by Japan in relation to the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. Last Tuesday, that is, 5 July, in the Cabinet meeting it was decided to recognize the Republic of South Sudan as a state, which is expected to formally achieve independence on 9 July. As a result of this decision, the Government plans to send Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kikuta to participate in the ceremony of independence on 9 July in Juba. Ms. Kikuta will be visiting the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan from 6 to 11 July.

  21. VIP visits
  22. Mr. Sobashima: As for the visits, from New Zealand, we have the Honorable Tim Groser, Minister of Trade and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations of New Zealand. He is visiting Japan from today, 7 July, until 12 July, that is Tuesday of next week. During his stay, he is expected to meet our minister, Foreign Minister Matsumoto, among other meetings and he is expected to discuss the relationship between Japan and New Zealand and also issues of common interest such as climate change.

    Thank you very much for your patience and I'd like to invite your questions now.

  23. Question Concerning the Visa Program for Chinese Tourists
  24. Q: I have a couple of questions first about the Okinawa issues. First of all you mentioned the visa program for Chinese tourists and that the first visas were issued yesterday. Could you explain in a little bit more detail what is new about the program, what are the terms of the visas from the visitors from China, and is this related to the proposals made by the Secretary General of the People's New Party, Mikio Shimoji, a couple of months ago?

    Mr. Sobashima: I'm sorry, but I'm not in a position to comment on the relationship with Mr. Shimoji's remarks and this program, but I would like to explain this program. This is the first multiple entry tourist visa that Japan has made available overseas. We have started this program from 1 July, and as we have issued the visas, we have the people who have these visas in Japan. The reason for this is that, of course, we would like to promote tourism. We welcome foreigners to come to Japan. Yes, if they come, that would contribute to the economy of Japan. They have economic activities. Also we hope that having these people in Japan will contribute to their deeper understanding of Japan. The reason why we made it a condition that visiting Okinawa should be part of their program is because we intend to promote the economy of Okinawa. That's why it's a condition. This is a multiple entry visa, and on the first entry their program should include a visit to Okinawa. We will check this. The objective is to contribute to inbound tourism for Japan and also the promotion of the tourism and economy in Okinawa, among other things. Thus we have decided, and we have started from this month. That's the explanation that I can offer at this moment.

  25. Question Concerning Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine's Visit to Tokyo
  26. Q: My second question regards the visit to Tokyo the day before yesterday by Nago Mayor, Susumu Inamine. My understanding is that your Vice-Minister Banno did meet with him the other day. Can you tell us anything about what happened at this meeting and also do you have any reaction to Mr. Inamine's comments to report, or has the Defense Ministry refused to meet him at all? Obviously, with the construction of the base at Henoko being planned by the US-Japan Agreement, it seems odd that the Ministries in Tokyo are not even meeting with local official who is most directly concerned.

    Mr. Sobashima: I'm sorry; I should first confirm what happened. I'm afraid I'm not able to satisfy your interest, at this time. But presuming that the meeting took place between the officials of this Ministry and the Nago City Mayor, we understand that our side should have explained the Government's position, and our side should have made efforts to have the understanding - At least we should try to get a deeper/better understanding of our position – by the Nagao City Mayor. Can I get back to you later? As for the position of the other Ministries, I'd like to refrain from commenting, particularly in response to what is reported in newspapers without ourselves having actually confirmed what is the case. Thank you for your understanding.

  27. Question concerning a Free Trade Agreement between China and Japan
  28. Q: A couple of questions about the China case. You mentioned in your comments that China and Japan are two of the most important trade partners in the world, in the world economy. In that context, what is the state of negotiations towards free trade agreement between those two very, very important economies in the world? Has there been any progress along these lines, any substantial movement or target date, anything looking forward towards free trade agreements and liberalization of trading agreements between Japan and China?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you for your question. At this moment there is no negotiation between Japan and China on a free trade agreement or economic partnership agreement. However, we have a joint study underway for Japan-China-ROK trilateral free trade agreement. On the occasion of the Japan-China-ROK summit in May, there was an agreement to accelerate the progress of this joint study, so that perhaps by the end of this year we will be able to conclude this study. That is acceleration of joint study on the trilateral FTA, but again this is a joint study process. Just for your information, between Japan and the Republic of Korea, the negotiation of an FTA, or EPA, is now suspended, and we hope for its early resumption – but that is the situation.

  29. Question concerning the Senkaku Islands Issue
  30. Q: My other China-related question is of course the most sensitive issue between the two countries recently, the Senkaku Islands issue. I understand that some fishing boats and some others from Ishigaki Island were recently somewhere around the Senkaku Islands, including a conservative political group. Does the Foreign Ministry have any comments or reactions to this sort of activity - fishing boats and political groups in the waters around the Senkaku Islands?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes, our comment is that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan, both historically and also in view of international law, and in fact we have effective control over the islands. Therefore, there is no international issue to be disputed on the Senkaku Islands. This issue was discussed in the recent Foreign Ministers meeting between Minister Matsumoto and Minister Yang Jiechi. Minister Matsumoto explained our position. The Chinese Minister also explained the Chinese position.

  31. Question concerning the Distribution of Information to Media about Foreign Visitors to Japan
  32. Q: My last question is about information about visitors from abroad to the Foreign Ministry from a media perspective. For example, whenever the Defense Ministry has a visitor from abroad, they tend to let the journalists know by email list so that if there's a visitor they're interested in, there's a chance for people to come and, for example, take film footage or to, as a pen reporter, come and record at least the first few minutes of a meeting before the reporters are hushed out. Does the Foreign Ministry have any plans to upgrade its distribution of information about visitors to the Foreign Ministry and to Foreign Ministry officials, even in Japanese language, before the visitors come so that we know what events we might be able to film or to hear the first few minutes of meetings?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. I'm not in a position to compare the services of our Ministry and the Defense Ministry, but certainly we would consider possible improvements. Currently we are distributing the information in English of the announced visits. Then if there are enquiries from foreign journalists, we would respond. However, some announcements of planned visits are not available in English. To what extent we will be able to provide information more, let us check consider. In this regard, if you have further advice, please let me know later. Was this your last question?

    Q: That was my last question.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you very much. If there are no further questions, thank you very much for coming.

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