Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 21 July 2011

  1. Apples from Secretary Clinton to Minister Matsumoto Final Match of the Women's World Cup Football Championship
  2. The ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings
  3. Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Transition in Afghanistan
  4. Emergency Aid to Famine in the "Horn of Africa"
  5. Next Secretary-General of IMO
  6. Fourth Meeting of the Libya Contact Group
  7. Statement by the Press Secretary on Morocco's Constitutional Amendment
  8. Preparation for the Hague Convention on Child Custody
  9. Events and Visits
  10. Question Concerning the Middle East
  11. Question Concerning the Sale of Nuclear Technology
  12. Question Regarding Ministers' Participation
  13. Question Regarding North Korea's Participation
  14. Question Regarding the South China Sea
  15. Question Regarding "Friends of the Lower Mekong"
  16. Question Regarding the Chiang Mai Initiative
  17. Question Regarding Disaster Preparation

  1. Apples from Secretary Clinton to Minister Matsumoto Final Match of the Women's World Cup Football Championship
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

    Mr. Sobashima: After the final match of the women's World Cup football championship, Secretary Clinton sent Minister Matsumoto a message of congratulations and apples produced in New York, the constituency of the Secretary when she was a Senator. To this, Minister Matsumoto responded with deep appreciation and praise for the American team.

  3. The ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings
  4. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed several papers. I would like to cover them one by one. The first is the participation of Foreign Minister Matsumoto in the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' meetings. Minister Matsumoto is visiting Bali, Indonesia from yesterday until the weekend of this week to participate in a number of ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' meetings: the ASEAN PLUS THREE Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Consultation, the Friends of the Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting. Mr. Matsumoto intends to actively express Japan's views and confirm Japan's cooperation with the participating countries.

    We have distributed the tentative schedule of the minister and also some reference materials for the meetings. We have a chart of the relationship among the meetings: ASEAN, Mekong, EAS, and ARF.

    Then, we have a paper with the heading, "Points of the Meetings". On page two, the points are common for all the meetings: preparation for the Summit Meetings in November in Indonesia and discussion on regional affairs.

    On regional affairs, key issues include maritime security, North Korea, and Myanmar. As for regional cooperation, disaster management cooperation is one of the main topics, together with assisting the connectivity of the ASEAN members, and also cooperation for the Mekong region.

    As for the East Asia Summit, as you know, the United States and the Russian Federations are participating for the first time as official members of EAS, so the Foreign Ministers' meeting will prepare for the EAS Summit in November.

    This is the overall picture of the main points, and then we have the sheets for the points for each meeting.

    The nature of the ASEAN PLUS THREE Foreign Ministers' Meeting is to promote practical cooperation focusing on the economy.
    We envisage discussion to confirm the development of practical cooperation focusing on economic fields, such as development of the multilateralization of the Chiang Mai Initiative and discussion involving the ASEAN PLUS THREE Macro Economic Research Office. And, of course, we envisage discussion related to the earthquake disaster, as well as regional affairs.

    As for the ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting, certainly this should be the preparation for the Summit, but also this will be the follow-up of the Special ASEAN-Japan Ministers' Meeting held at the initiative of the Chair country, Indonesia, on 9 April, immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

    On the next page, we have the Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers' Meeting, and certainly cooperation between Japan and the Mekong countries is the main issue.

    As for the Friends of the Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting, this was launched by the initiative of the United States, and this will be the first ministerial meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong, and we envisage four areas: education, public health, the environment, and infrastructure for discussion by the participating ministers. For your information, we understand that, as I mentioned, the United States took the initiative of hosting this Ministerial Friends Meeting, and Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, European Union, and New Zealand will be participating.

    On the next page, we have the EAS Foreign Ministers' Consultation. The target of the meeting should be to confirm the region's common visions and rules, including security, and aim to develop EAS as a forum where the leaders discuss common challenges of the region, including the issue of maritime safety.

    Regarding the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) Ministerial Meeting, as we have a representative from North Korea, this should be the opportunity to send a direct message to North Korea. Also participating ministers may frankly discuss security issues, including the issue of the South China Sea, as well as cooperation on disaster relief.

    We have attached reference materials, particularly in the fields of Japan's cooperation to ASEAN and Mekong countries, but I will skip explaining these.

  5. Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Transition in Afghanistan
  6. Mr. Sobashima: We have also distributed the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on transition in Afghanistan. Japan welcomes the announcement that the transition from the International Security Assistance Force to the Government of Afghanistan has started on 17 July.

    The first phase of the transition at this moment is important as a first step for Afghanistan as a country to be responsible for its own security. Japan will continue to support the national building of Afghanistan under Afghan ownership in collaboration with the international community, including assistance to the Afghanistan National Security Forces and support for the reintegration.

  7. Emergency Aid to Famine in the "Horn of Africa"
  8. Mr. Sobashima: Next, we have a press release on the emergency grant aid in response to famine in the "Horn of Africa". On Friday, 15 July, in response to the serious famine caused by drought and other factors in the "Horn of Africa" in the East African region, the Government of Japan has decided to extend emergency grant aid of 5 million US dollars for food assistance in cooperation with the World Food Programme from a humanitarian point of view.

    This assistance will be provided as swift response to United nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for the assistance for the "Horn of Africa" made on 12 July, while also responding to the warm support Japan received from African countries in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

  9. Next Secretary-General of IMO
  10. Mr. Sobashima:  I now have oral presentations on IMO and also on Libya. Yesterday, Prime Minister Kan received Mr. Sekimizu, who was elected for the next Secretary-General of IMO. Prime Minister Kan congratulated him on his election as the next Secretary-General of IMO, and he hoped for his contribution to the organization. Mr. Sekimizu reported that he was elected in the election held in June, last month, and he was thankful for the support extended to him by the government of Japan. Prime Minister Kan said that Japan, as a maritime nation, expects the role played by IMO, including antipiracy measures and measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from ships. Mr. Sekimizu responded that he wished to tackle such challenges.

  11. Fourth Meeting of the Libya Contact Group
  12. Mr. Sobashima: On Libya, last Friday, 15 July, the fourth meeting of the Libya Contact Group was held in Istanbul, Turkey, and Turkey's foreign minister and the UAE's foreign ministers were the co-chairs of the meeting, with the participation of the Arab League, the European Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, NATO, United Nations, the OIC, and the African Union. About thirty countries, including Japan, participated. From Japan, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga led the delegation of Japan.

    From Libya, Mr. Jibril, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Libya Transitional National Council, participated. In the discussion, we understand, there were convergent views that the international community should keep pressuring the Qadhafi government. At the same time, the international community should support the role played by the United Nations for political solution of the situation. The many participants – in fact, I believe all participants – expressed strong political support to the Transitional National Council. In the chair's statement issued on the responsibility of the co-chairs, there was a reference that we should deal with the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya. Mr. Jibril, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Libya Transitional National Council, thanked the participating countries and the international community for the support, and, at the same time, requested cooperation in the field of financial resources to them. As for Japan, Mr. Tokunaga, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs explained that Japan decided to treat the Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people. He expressed the intention of Japan to contribute to the rebuilding of the nation in Libya, considering the strengthening of relations with the Transitional National Council.

    On that occasion, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga had bilateral meetings with Mr. Jibril, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, and Mr. Burt, Minister of the United Kingdom.

    For this meeting, Japan sent for the first time, a representative at the political level: Parliamentary Vice-Minister Tokunaga. As I explained, he stated that Japan regards the Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people, and he expressed Japan's intention to strengthen the relationship with the Transitional National Council. They asked Japan that it would consider what sort of contribution would be possible for it in the international community. This has been about Libya. 

  13. Statement by the Press Secretary on Morocco's Constitutional Amendment
  14. Mr. Sobashima: Next, we have distributed a paper on Morocco, which is a statement by the Press Secretary on the national referendum in the Kingdom of Morocco regarding a constitutional amendment. The Government of Japan welcomes the fact that, on Friday, 1 July, the national referendum on the constitutional amendment in the Kingdom of Morocco was implemented peacefully without particular turmoil and that the amendment of the constitution has been approved. The announcement by the authorities that the proposal to amend the constitution had been approved was made on Saturday, 16 July.

    Japan values this result as creating an opportunity for promoting the democratization in Morocco. Japan also expects the people of Morocco will facilitate efforts for building a framework in line with the new constitution, and hopes that Morocco will continue to contribute to regional stability as a stabilizer in the Middle-East and North Africa. Japan is determined to continuously support political reform and economic development in Morocco.

  15. Preparation for the Hague Convention on Child Custody
  16. Mr. Sobashima: Again, I have an oral presentation on the preparation by the Japanese Government for the Hague Convention on Parental Rights. Last week, I explained that a meeting of Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice had been held to discuss the Hague Convention, and on Monday, next week, the second meeting of the Legislative Council would be held.

    Last week, I said that in due course we expect the materials would be available on the website of the Ministry of Justice. In fact, they uploaded the summary record of the meeting last week, and also the reference materials, including the outline of the draft law to implement the convention. As I have just said, reference materials uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Justice include the outline of the draft domestic law for the consideration by the members of the Council. As I mentioned, while the legal procedures for the returning children in accordance with the Hague Convention are mainly the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our ministry, will have the Central Authority referred to in the Convention. As I said earlier if there is a development in our ministry, we will make an announcement. And, if there is such a development before my press conference next week, we will upload the material on the website of our ministry.

  17. Events and Visits
  18. Mr. Sobashima: As for the visits, in Japan we have a program of Japan-Republic of Korea Youth Exchange Program for football. From 22 Friday, this week, until 11 August, we will be receiving youth, in fact, boys, from various regions of the Republic of Korea, including Gwangju, Incheon, Seoul and Chungcheongbuk-do. The host local governments are Tokyo, Sendai City, Chiba Prefecture, Yokohama City, Yamanashi Prefecture, and Kobe City. The Japanese and Korean boys will form mixed teams and have competitions among the mixed teams. The Korean boys will stay at the Japanese homes and visit Japanese schools. There may also be occasions for meetings or playing with professional football players from both Japan and the Republic of Korea. 
    Also, as Great Gwangju City has a sister arrangement with Sendai City, the high school students of Gwangju City will be visiting Sendai and affected areas, for your information.

    Mr. Sobashima: We will have a UN Conference on Disarmament Affairs in Matsumoto City from 27-29 July. As announced earlier, we will be having an APEC-related meeting in Sendai from 1-3 August. We will also have a symposium with the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) in Sendai on 5 October.

    As for outgoing visits, I already explained that Foreign Minister Matsumoto is in Indonesia. State Secretary Takahashi was on his trip to Geneva to participate in the WTO meetings and should be participating now in the World Services Summit in Washington. So these are the topics and information that I'd like to share. Now I would invite your questions, please.

  19. Question Concerning the Middle East
  20. Q: Most of my questions will be on ASEAN, but before I turn to that, on the Middle East - this may be looking too far ahead, but in view of Japan's nuclear problems and the possibly the phasing down or even phasing out of nuclear power and the possible reliance more upon conventional fossil fuels, at least for a time, is this something likely to influence diplomacy in any way towards the Middle East or towards other oil-producing areas? Does this mean that Japan, for example, has to start thinking, perhaps in slightly fresh terms, about security of supply and therefore how this might impact diplomatic relations in some ways with those countries?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. My answer is yes, we will continue to pay attention and attach importance to countries producing energy resources. You are quite right that the government decided to review totally the present energy policy. However, the Prime Minister announced that we have four pillars in our energy policy. One is that we will continue to use fossil fuels, but we would like to consider the use of fossil fuels in a more environmentally friendly manner. While the Prime Minister recently indicated our future course, he mentioned earlier that as for nuclear energy, the safety of nuclear energy is very important, so ensuring the safety of nuclear energy should be the second pillar. The third pillar is renewable energy, or natural energy, so we intend to increase the share of natural energy or renewable energy. The fourth pillar is energy saving, energy efficiency. Recently the Prime Minister said that we intend to reduce reliance on nuclear energy, but it's a long process. Therefore, at the moment, we will continue to use nuclear energy while ensuring the safety of nuclear energy. At the same time, you're quite right, that we should have a stable supply of energy resources. In this regard, we continue to pay attention to resources to be provided by the Middle East – by Middle Eastern countries and other countries, perhaps including Australia. So you're quite right, we are aware of the importance of energy resources and we will continue, while as I explained at the beginning, we should consider the impact on the environment. We would consider using fossil fuels in a manner friendly to the environment.

  21. Question Concerning the Sale of Nuclear Technology
  22. Q: Just before we leave energy, Japan, certainly Tohoku/Fukushima, probably now, still, have quite an ambitious program for selling nuclear installations to various countries – Vietnam, Turkey, and so on. Are any of those countries coming back to you now and saying, "What's happening? Are you still behind this nuclear energy push or are you not?" I'm just not clear if there is any feedback from other countries, because they see Japan discussing possibly a revision of their nuclear strategy. Are they concerned that Japan is perhaps not as keen as was to help other countries to build nuclear plants.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. I'm not aware of specifics of the conversations between the officials of Japan and the countries you mentioned, but we understand that those countries who decided or who had the policy to develop nuclear energy are still interested in procuring equipment and Japan should be a candidate source of provision of equipment or infrastructure and therefore, certainly, to an inquiry we should be explaining to the countries that we are making further efforts to ensure safety. As you may be aware, recently we announced measures for ensuring the safety of nuclear plants in Japan, and we should be explaining what sort of efforts we are making to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities in Japan. I understand that Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano, and Foreign Minister Matsumoto, mentioned that while we will have a thorough review of our energy policy, as for international cooperation on nuclear energy, we first would like to check the wish of the other side. If other countries continue to be interested in having cooperation from Japan, then we would consider that as an important element.

    Q: So the Chief Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Minister Matsumoto both said that?

    Mr. Sobashima: I understand so. As you know, the both items, the stable supply of energy resources to Japan and the export of infrastructure overseas are part of Japan's economic diplomacy. The purpose of Japan's economic diplomacy is to contribute to the economic growth of Japan, in a sort of mutually dependant international relationship. We believe that Japan's technology will be useful for foreign countries, and certainly purchasing energy sources by Japan will provide incomes for the exporting countries. Therefore, we would like to continue to promote this economic diplomacy in an interdependent manner, currently particularly in the context of the reconstruction of Japan. As you may be aware, recently there was a report presented to the Prime Minister by Mr. Iokibe, the Chairman of the Reconstruction Design Council, and there is in the report a chapter on the reconstruction open to the world. We envisage the reconstruction process in interaction with the international community. So exports and imports are envisaged in the process of reconstruction.

  23. Question Regarding Ministers' Participation
  24. Q: Thank you. By the way, you stressed or you said that Foreign Minister Matsumoto will be participating actively, or something like that. Does that have any significance? I mean, is Japan going to try to be more, not exactly assertive, but trying harder than it normally does with respect to these views? Why did you say "actively"? Is there any significance to the use of that word?

    Mr. Sobashima: Well, first it's the negation of idea of the Minister maybe keeping silent or not saying anything when participating in a meeting. Secondly, currently we have Diet meetings. However, the Minister felt it important to participate in the ASEAN-related meetings: ASEAN PLUS THREE, Japan-ASEAN, Japan-Mekong, the EAS, and the ARF, for the purpose of promoting Japan's national interests and also to contribute to the international community. Otherwise, he should have been in Japan participating in the Diet meetings. It is a very important role for the Minister to participate in the Diet meetings, but because of the importance he felt, he is now participating, and therefore he should be participating actively. That is our understanding.

    Q: But it's not the first time that a Japanese Foreign Minister has participated?

    Mr. Sobashima: No, no.

  25. Question Regarding North Korea's Participation
  26. Q: OK. On the ARF meeting, North Korea was represented. Is that unusual? Is there normally a North Korean representative at these ARF meetings?

    Mr. Sobashima: Last year, too, the North Korean Foreign Minister participated, but only in the ARF. North Korea is not a member of ASEAN, not a member of ASEAN PLUS THREE, not a member of the EAS, but a member of the ARF.

    Q: Oh, it is a formal member is it?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes. So North Korea will be participating in the ARF. The Minister is coming for the sole main purpose of participating in the ARF, because North Korea is not a member of the EAS or others.

  27. Question Regarding the South China Sea
  28. Q: OK. It says that with regard to the South China Sea, frank discussions are to be expected. What in particular will Minister Matsumoto be pushing for, wanting to see, with regard to the South China Sea, at this meeting?

    Mr. Sobashima: Minister Matsumoto repeated on various occasions that Japan attaches importance to maritime safety because the seas connect regions and countries, and because Japan – well, he didn't specifically say this, but - because Japan depends on imports and exports, the sea is very important, and therefore the freedom of navigation and also security or safety at sea is very important. From this regard, ensuring the security in the seas is very important. So this is what he has been saying, and we have, as with the South China Sea, for example – there was a declaration by China and the ASEAN countries of 2002, and we understand that this time there was a meeting held between ASEAN and China at the senior official level already. We are particularly interested in the security of the sea adjacent to Japan. Therefore, from that perspective, we understand that Minister Matsumoto will be participating in the discussions.

    Q: If there is any threat to the South China Sea, it's perceived by some people to come from China, right? So isn't this something that Japan would discuss bilaterally with China, or is it something that has to be discussed in the context of the ARF?

    Mr. Sobashima: Well, at the ARF and perhaps others, the maritime issues may be discussed. At the outset I explained that Minister Matsumoto will be having bilateral meetings as well, so if both two Ministers have a common interest in these issues then it should be natural that discussion will be held in the bilateral meetings as well. However, you correctly pointed out that in the distributed paper it says that maritime security may be discussed not only in the ARF but also in the EAS as well.

    Q: Does Japan hope for any form of declaration to emerge either from the ARF or the EAS, binding language to respect the rights of other countries in the South China Sea?

    Mr. Sobashima: Let me put it in this way – we are certainly interested in what China and ASEAN countries will be doing, and therefore we would monitor the developments closely – the discussions between China and ASEAN countries. Also Japan will participate in the discussions, and Japan may be explaining the strong interest in the freedom of navigation and safety at sea. Further than that, I'd like to refrain from predicting what sort of discussion Minister Matsumoto will be having.

    Q: And of course the US will have a representative at the EAS and at the ARF, right?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes, the USA is also a member of the ARF.

    Q: And they will send State Secretary Clinton there as well?

    Mr. Sobashima: I presume so.

  29. Question Regarding "Friends of the Lower Mekong"
  30. Q: OK. With regard to "Friends of the Lower Mekong", the US initiative – when was that taken, when did that start?

    Mr. Sobashima: This will be the first meeting, and according to the tentative schedule, that meeting will take place on 22 July, Friday afternoon.

    Q: China is not a partner, right?

    Mr. Sobashima: It seems not.

  31. Question Regarding the Chiang Mai Initiative
  32. Q: OK. Something completely different. The Chiang Mai Initiative. Is there anything there that Japan is particularly hoping to see more of? I know that multilateralization is an element, but is there any specific development that Japan is hoping to see come out of that?

    Mr. Sobashima: Sorry, I'm not prepared to satisfy your interest on this particular issue. Certainly Japan will continue to assume the responsibility, but I'm not aware of the details of what you asked.

    Q: For example, the enlargement of the agreement, there's no particular agenda on that, enlarging the amount of money? At the moment I can't remember exactly how much it is.

    Mr. Sobashima: Because this is the ASEAN PLUS THREE Foreign Ministers' meeting not the Finance Ministers' meeting, perhaps even if there may be some sort of discussion, it may be of a general nature, not a specific nature.

  33. Question Regarding Disaster Preparation
  34. Q: OK. Finally, one on disaster preparation. Is there likely to be any new regional initiative on that? I'm not sure what there can be done to increase the existing levels of preparation, but in light of Fukushima and the earthquake and the tsunami and so on, are there any new initiatives expected?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes. I have to check and come back to you in detail, but there were already certain initiatives to be elaborated. For example, joint drills against disasters, rescue operations by the member states, et cetera, and systems for cooperation that were already being considered – and perhaps there may be some sort of enrichment of those ideas, but I have to check and get back to you. Is that OK?

    Q: OK, that's fine. Thank you very much.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you very much.

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