Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 29 March 2012
- 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
- Presidential Runoff Election in the Republic of Senegal
- Military Clashes in the Border Region Between Sudan and South Sudan
- Dispatch of Electoral Monitors for Legislature By-Election in Myanmar
- Summit Meetings and Foreign Ministers’ Meetings Taking Place Recently
- Question concerning the announcement of the Self Defense Forces' response to North Korea's launch of a missile
- Question concerning Japan's willingness and preparedness to discuss North Korea's missile launch at the United Nations Security Council
- Question concerning the launch of a North Korean rocket
- Questions concerning the exemption of sanctions on Iran
- Questions concerning the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul
- Questions concerning the inspection of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
1. 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
Deputy Press Secretary Ms. Naoko Saiki: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me begin with several announcements.
Ms. Saiki: First, on the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda attended the meeting on March 27. We have distributed some documents relating to it including the Seoul Communiqué and the full text of Prime Minister Noda's addresses in the morning session as well as in the lunch session. Representatives of 53 nations and four international organizations participated in the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, recognizing that nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security. They reaffirmed their shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and agreed that strong national measures and international cooperation are of critical importance to defeat nuclear terrorism. The meeting was action- oriented.
On Japan's part, we were able to share experience and lessons learned from the accident at TEPCO'S Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. For instance will you look at the paper titled "The Gist of the Interventions by Prime Minister of Japan - Seoul Nuclear Security Summit 27 March 2012"?
In his interventions, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda elaborated on a number of salient points. In paragraph two, reference is made to three lessons learned from the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: the importance of preparing for unanticipated risks; the necessity to master rapid response; and the necessity to always prepare for the worst case scenarios and make continued efforts toward securing nuclear safety. He was also able to send a very strong message regarding North Korea's plan to launch a missile. Will you please refer to the second page of the same paper? Paragraph three states that "North Korea's launch of a missile under the guise of 'a satellite', as recently announced, is against the non-proliferation efforts of the international community and violates relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch". Let me reiterate that the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, attended by a variety of representatives of a number of countries and international organizations, did produce a very substantive and fruitful outcome.
2. Presidential Runoff Election in the Republic of Senegal
Ms. Saiki: Second, on the presidential runoff election in the Republic of Senegal. On March 25 local time, the presidential runoff election was peacefully conducted in Senegal and on the same night, incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade acknowledged Mr. Macky Sall's victory and congratulated him. Japan sincerely welcomes this development and expects Senegal to continue making contributions toward the peace and prosperity of the West African region. For this Japan intends to extend as much support as it can for the efforts of the Senegalese Government under the new President.
3. Military Clashes in the Border Region Between Sudan and South Sudan
Ms. Saiki: Third, on military clashes in the border region between Sudan and South Sudan. Japan is deeply concerned about the military clashes in the border region of Sudan and South Sudan and escalation of tension between the two countries. Japan calls on both Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to make the maximum restraints and to continue their efforts to resolve the disputed issues not by military means but by peaceful means.
4. Dispatch of Electoral Monitors for Legislature By-Election in Myanmar
Ms. Saiki: Fourth, on dispatch of electoral monitors for legislature by-election in Myanmar. Upon invitation from the Government of Myanmar, Japan has decided to dispatch a total of three electoral monitors for the legislature by-election in Myanmar scheduled on Sunday April 1.
5. Summit Meetings and Foreign Ministers’ Meetings Taking Place Recently
Ms. Saiki: Fifth, I would like to briefly draw your attention to a few summit meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings taking place recently.
Yesterday, on March 28, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda held a Japan-Italy Summit meeting with Prime Minister Mario Monti. They discussed the European debt crisis and the fiscal consolidation and economic reform that Italy has been carrying out. They also discussed Japan-EU cooperation towards generating growth. In that context the two leaders agreed on the importance of the early launch of Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations. Furthermore, they exchanged views on North Korea and Iran and agreed that the two countries will work closely in dealing with these issues.
The next summit meeting I would like to make a brief explanation is about a Japan-Canada summit meeting. On March 25, Prime Minister Noda held a Japan-Canada summit meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, who was in Japan on an official working visit. They exchanged views on a wide range of issues facing the world and the Asia Pacific region, and stressed the need to expand cooperation between Japan and Canada in addressing the global challenges of today. Having reached consensus, the two sides announced a series of important developments, joint milestones and shared intentions, including the agreement on launching bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations to pave the way for substantial economic gains to both countries.
The next is regarding a summit meeting between Prime Minister Noda and Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of the State of Kuwait. On March 22, Prime Minister Noda met with Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait, who visited Japan as a state guest. They witnessed the signing of the Japan-Kuwait investment agreement and shared the view that the signing of the agreement would promise to bring greater momentum to investment between the two countries. They stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation in energy conservation and renewable energy sectors including integrated solar combined cycle power generation.
The next point is about Japan-Latvia Foreign Ministers’ meeting. On March 27, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs of the Republic of Latvia. Minister Gemba requested Latvia's cooperation toward opening negotiations on a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement promptly. With respect to the continuing EU's restrictions on import of foodstuffs from Japan, Foreign Minister Gemba also called for a rational response based on scientific data. Minister Rinkēvičs replied that he supports the Japan-EU EPA negotiations and that he understands Japan's concerns with respect to the reputational damages and thus will share those concerns with other foreign ministers in EU countries.
Another foreign ministers’ meeting held this week was a meeting between Foreign Minister Gemba and Foreign Minister John Baird of Canada and Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Ed Fast. On March 25, they met to discuss bilateral issues, regional issues and global challenges. Both sides welcomed progress in Japan-Canada security cooperation and they, meaning the three ministers, exchanged views on an announcement of the launching of a missile by North Korea and the Iranian nuclear issue. They shared the view that the close cooperation between Japan and Canada will continue to be critically important.
With these initial announcements, I would be happy to take questions from you.
6. Question concerning the announcement of the Self Defense Forces' response to North Korea's launch of a missile
Q: On North Korea if I may, there was the announcement that the Jieitai, the Self Defense Forces, have arrived now to shoot the rocket if necessary. Can you specify when it is necessary and does it mean the rocket or just debris which could fall on Japan's ground? Thank you.
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on Tuesday ordered the Self Defense Forces to prepare for the possible fall of a North Korean rocket, suspected to be a long range ballistic missile, on Japanese territory in mid-April. On your specific questions, the Self Defense Forces, upon receiving the instruction to be made by the Defense Minister on Friday this week, after the meeting of the Security Council of Japan, will be ready to intercept debris or the rocket itself if and when we assess the object, either debris or rocket, will hit Japan's territory or Japan's territorial waters in order to prevent people's lives and property in Japan from being risked.
Do you have any other questions?
Yes, go ahead.
7. Question concerning Japan's willingness and preparedness to discuss North Korea's missile launch at the United Nations Security Council
Q: Also regarding North Korea, Prime Minister Noda and also the whole Japanese Government stated several times now that they see the probable rocket launch as a violation of the UN Security Council resolution. Therefore I am just wondering … is Japan willing and prepared to bring this topic up to the UN Security Council?
Ms. Saiki: Thank you. Yes, it is true that the Japanese Government is of the view that the launch of a rocket or a missile or a satellite by North Korea in mid-April will constitute a violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. We believe that this view is strongly shared by our allies and partners including the United States, the Republic of Korea, and others. However, unfortunately Japan is not a member in the Security Council of the United Nations right now. So what we could do for instance is to draw Security Council members’ attention to the fact that the launch of a missile or a rocket or a satellite by North Korea will be in violation of the Security Council resolutions.
8. Question concerning the launch of a North Korean rocket
Q: Also regarding North Korea, when did Japan actually get the information that North Korea will launch a rocket? Did the Japanese Government get the information through the press, or did you have some information beforehand?
Ms. Saiki: If my memory serves me correctly, the DPRK did make an announcement that it would launch a rocket in mid-April. That is one piece of the relevant information that we got.
9. Questions concerning the exemption of sanctions on Iran
Q: What about exemption from sanctions on Iran? It was recently said that Japan and some EU countries will be exempted from the sanctions on Iran. Only a few countries have been exempted from sanctions.
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. Are you asking about the United States National Defense Authorization Act, which will impose particular sanctions on foreign banks that have commercial transactions with Iran? OK.
The US State Department has announced that Japan and 10 other European countries will be exempted from the application of the United States National Defense Authorization Act. We, the Japanese Government, did make a very close and intensive consultation with the United States authorities. We explained that, with respect to the importation of crude oil from Iran to Japan, the very clear and drastic reduction has been witnessed. For instance, over the past five years, Japan has reduced its importation of crude oil from Iran by 40%. We believe that this general trend will continue. So, we understand that the US Government has appreciated that Japan has reduced its importation of crude oil from Iran significantly. That is the reason of the US decision with respect to the exemption from the National Defense Authorization Act.
Q: From which countries do you think Japan will import crude oil after reducing the supply from Iran?
Ms. Saiki: It has to do with private sector business, so the Japanese Government cannot say a word definitively. But just for reference I would say that we have imported crude oil from Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia is the largest oil supplier to Japan - the UAE, and Qatar. Iran follows in the fourth place with about 9% of the total importation of crude oil by Japan. The fifth is Kuwait. Naturally we will continue to diversify oil import sources and also seek to diversify energy sources, not only crude oil, but also LNG and other energies such as renewable energy.
Q: Is there some connection between the recent visit of the Amir of Kuwait and the Iranian issue?
Ms. Saiki: Not necessarily. The Amir of the State of Kuwait was visiting Japan as a state guest. The plan had been made a long time ago. We were really pleased to have His Highness with us in Japan as a state guest to deepen and enhance the ties and friendly relations between the two countries.
10. Questions concerning the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul
Q: A question if I may, to the Seoul communiqué of the Security Summit in Seoul. There were some reports beforehand that there could be so called lead countries who take an active role in some fields. There was some information that Japan could, for example, be a lead country in the area of transportation of nuclear materials. If I look at this statement of Mr. Noda's intervention, the main points, there are just very short references regarding these transportations. Was this character of lead countries not part at the end which came out of this Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul? Was this concept of lead countries being put off the table?
Ms. Saiki: My understanding is that in regard to the concept of the lead country, on the basis of the basket treatment or basket efforts, to strengthen nuclear security, a certain decision was made in Seoul on the occasion of the Nuclear Security Summit, and you were right in saying that Japan is the lead country in the field of transportation. The United States, the Republic of Korea and some others have joined Japan in pursuing a future work, including drafting a plan of tightening national measures as well as international cooperation in the field of transportation of nuclear materials. That process has already started since the agreement was reached in the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Q: But it is not part….
Ms. Saiki: It is not part of the communiqué itself, but the communiqué is a communiqué, as we know. Other relating decisions or agreements have been reached even though they are not mentioned in the communiqué.
Q: Did Japan vote for putting this basket system, this system of lead countries into the final communiqué and the declaration, or was this never on the table?
Ms. Saiki: I was not in Seoul, so I have to check. But I feel that the concept of the lead country on the basis of the basket system has been welcomed by every participant and the transportation basket is one of the many other baskets. Do not think it is unusual or surprising that the reference to the lead country or the decision regarding the lead country has not been made in the Seoul communiqué, because the Seoul communiqué is to provide the basic idea or the framework, so to speak. That is my understanding, but if I am mistaken, I will let you know.
Are there any other questions?
11. Questions concerning the inspection of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
Q: Yes, in the same context, about the security of the nuclear plant. The Fukushima plant has been working for around 31 or 32 years. Is there any grant by private companies like TEPCO or other power plant manufacturing companies? What is the role of the Ministry of Science and Technology to check the power plants from time to time? Is there some procedure or practice in Japan to check these plants and who does it? Which ministry does it? Because 30 years without any checking or any inspection by the government side ….
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. There are two issues: one is nuclear security; the other is nuclear safety. I think your question rather concerns nuclear safety. Having said that, I would like to answer your question. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is owned, operated and controlled by a private company, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). However, TEPCO has been operating the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and other plants in accordance with the relevant laws stipulated in the Diet of Japan and subordinate regulations. First of all, TEPCO has to abide by the laws and rules. Second, the laws and rules do contain the checking mechanism on the part of the government. In addition to the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) does have the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). The NISA in METI has the responsibility to monitor the safety of nuclear plants. But, there is going to be a change in the government structure with respect to the jurisdiction over the maintenance of the safety of nuclear plants. A new agency will be established under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Q: Is this new agency to be established in the near future?
Ms. Saiki: Yes, very soon. In the next month, hopefully.
Q: At first I heard that it will be under the jurisdiction of the environmental ministry. Since when has it changed?
Ms. Saiki: You are right. I made a terrible mistake. I am sorry. The question specifically referred to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, so I very carelessly made a slip. The Ministry of the Environment will be the ministry under which the new agency will be established. Thank you very much for the clarification.
Q: Will other ministries also be involved, such as the Ministry of Science and Technology?
Ms. Saiki: Naturally cooperation and collaboration within the government will continue, so the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will take part in deliberations and discussions in an appropriate manner, but I believe the responsibility and all the administrative functions related to nuclear safety will be on the agency to be newly established under the Ministry of the Environment.
Thank you for coming. This concludes today's conference.
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