Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 7 June 2012

  1. Japan-Armenia Summit Meeting
  2. Japan-Libya Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  3. Japan-Singapore Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  4. Japan-Kenya Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  5. Japan-Montenegro Foreign Ministers' Meeting
  6. Election of Dr. Tetsuro Urabe to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)
  7. Appointment of Dr. Yasushi Horikawa as Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)
  8. Questions concerning Ambassador Niwa's Statement on the Senkaku Islands
  9. Questions concerning the Idea of Buying the Islands

1. Japan-Armenia Summit Meeting

Deputy Press Secretary Ms. Naoko Saiki: Good afternoon. I would like to start by touching upon several topics.

Ms. Saiki: First, on a Japan-Armenia Summit Meeting.

President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan paid an official visit to Japan at the invitation of the Government of Japan from June 5 to 7, and held a Summit Meeting with Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihiko Noda. Following the Meeting, the two leaders signed a Joint Statement on the further deepening of friendship and partnership between Japan and the Republic of Armenia. In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In the Summit Meeting, on general relations between the two countries, Prime Minister Noda and President Sargsyan reaffirmed the friendly ties and mutual trust that exist between the two countries and shared the view that the two countries will continue to elevate friendship and partnership in such fields as politics, economy, and culture, to a higher stage. The two leaders further discussed cooperation in disaster prevention. In that context, Prime Minister Noda expressed his determination to share with the international community knowledge and lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The President of the Republic of Armenia expressed his intention to strive to improve the safety of the nuclear power plant in Armenia, taking advantage of knowledge gained and lessons learned from Japan.

In this regard, the Japanese side expressed its expectation for the participation of a Minister from Armenia in the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety to be held in December 2012. The Armenian side expressed its readiness to participate in the conference. The two leaders also discussed economic cooperation, bilateral economic relations, science and technology, cultural exchanges, and cooperation in international fora.

2. Japan-Libya Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Ms. Saiki: Second, on a Japan-Libya Foreign Ministers' Meeting. On June 6, Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba held a Foreign Ministers' Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya Ashour Saad Ben Khaial.

On the ongoing reconstruction efforts in Libya, Minister Gemba explained Japan's policy to continue to support Libya's nation building by making the best use of the expertise and technology Japan has accumulated. In response, Minister Ben Khaial expressed his gratitude for Japan's assistance since the end of the civil war. The two ministers agreed to launch preliminary talks on an investment agreement in order to improve the business environment. They also agreed that the two countries will initiate policy consultations at senior officials' level, and if possible, at Cabinet level, on a regular basis to strengthen bilateral relations.

3. Japan-Singapore Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Ms. Saiki: Third, on a Japan-Singapore Foreign Ministers' Meeting. On June 5, Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba held a Foreign Ministers' Meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law of the Republic of Singapore K. Shanmugam, who was visiting Japan.

On bilateral relations, the two foreign ministers agreed that the two countries will steadily implement policy dialogue aimed at further strengthening bilateral relations such as exchanges of opinion at various levels including Cabinet level and Vice-ministerial level, and discussions on maritime security.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba stated that Japan, as a co-host of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Seminar on Nuclear Safety that Singapore will be hosting this month, will do its utmost to help make the event a success. Minister Gemba also requested the cooperation of Singapore with regard to the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety that Japan will be holding in December. In response, Minister Shanmugam expressed his gratitude for Japan's assistance with the ASEM Seminar on Nuclear Safety, and stated that the Government of Singapore will support the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety.

They further discussed regional and international situations, and reaffirmed that the collaboration and the cooperation between the two countries in particular in the context of the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum will be of critical importance.

4. Japan-Kenya Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Ms. Saiki: Fourth, on a Japan-Kenya Foreign Ministers' Meeting. On June 5, Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya Samson K. Ongeri, who was visiting Japan.

They discussed various issues including the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku, to be hosted by the Government of Japan in July of this year, The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), and the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), to be held next June in Yokohama. The two ministers reaffirmed the importance of these upcoming meetings.

5. Japan-Montenegro Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Ms. Saiki: Fifth, on a Japan-Montenegro Foreign Minister's Meeting.

On June 4, Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba held a meeting and a working dinner to exchange opinions with First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro Milan Rocen on bilateral relations, cooperation in the international arena and international situations. Preceding the meeting, they signed a memorandum on cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro.

Both sides expressed in the memorandum that they intend to further strengthen bilateral relations in the fields of politics, economy, culture, science and education, and exchanges between people, as well as the development of new forms for promoting relations between Japan and Montenegro. Furthermore, indicative areas of cooperation are stipulated in the memorandum.

6. Election of Dr. Tetsuro Urabe to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)

Ms. Saiki: Sixth, on an election of Dr. Tetsuro Urabe in the election of members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

Today Japan time, or on June 6 U.S. Eastern Standard Time, an election of the members of the CLCS was held at the 22nd Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), convened at UN Headquarters in New York. Japan's candidate, Dr. Tetsuro Urabe, Professor of the Graduate School of Science in the University of Tokyo, was elected to the Commission.

As a maritime state, Japan is committed to promoting the international order of the law of the sea and has contributed to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf by coastal states by nominating a pre-eminent expert in the field for election as member of the CLCS.

7. Appointment of Dr. Yasushi Horikawa as Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)

Ms. Saiki: Seventh and last, on an appointment of Dr. Yasushi Horikawa as Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

On June 6, Dr. Yasushi Horikawa, Technical Counselor of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was appointed Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) at the 55th Session of the Committee held in Vienna. In fact, he is the first Japanese person to be given this position.

Dr. Horikawa's appointment as Chairman can be seen as part of Japan's personnel-related contributions to the activities of the UN in the field of space. Going forward, Japan intends to proactively make further contributions to the activities of COPUOS in concert with other member states.

Now I am prepared to answer whatever questions you may have. The floor is open for questions.

8. Questions concerning Ambassador Niwa's Statement on the Senkaku Islands

Q: As you know there was an interview in the Financial Times of Japan's Ambassador to Beijing saying that the Tokyo Government's plans to buy some of the Senkaku Islands could result in an extremely grave crisis. I would like to know what the Foreign Ministry's view is about this.

Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. I am aware of the report in the papers that you just referred to. However, I am not in a position to either confirm its content or make comments since I have not yet received the report from our embassy in Beijing on the matter. We are inquiring what actually Ambassador Niwa stated in the interview. Having said that, there is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are an inherent territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law. The Senkaku Islands indeed are under the valid control of Japan. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands. This is the basic position of the Japanese Government.

Q: Can I just try to confirm some of the things that have also been written here? It says that until now the Japanese Government's response has been simply for Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba to call for China and Japan to deal with this in a calm manner. Is that correct?

Ms. Saiki: No. The stance of the Japanese Government with respect to the Senkaku Islands is what I have just stated in response to your question. Namely, there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands. The Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory based on historical facts and in accordance with international law. Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba, I understand, in one of the press conferences he held, stated that the very good, positive relationship between Japan and the People's Republic of China -- mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests -- should not be hindered by individual cases. He, therefore, stated that the matter should be handled in a calm manner and from a broader perspective. But as far as the basic position of the Japanese Government with respect to the Senkaku Islands is concerned, it is clear that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of the Japanese territory.

Q: I am sorry for my ignorance but I also want to confirm one other thing. The article says that Japan bans landings on the Senkaku Islands. Is that correct?

Ms. Saiki: The thing is that the Government of Japan has rented some of the Senkaku Islands from the owner, and the owner wishes to maintain a peaceful environment surrounding the Senkaku Islands. So, on the basis of the owner's wish and in the exercise of its right as renter, the Japanese Government has decided not to allow any individuals except Government officials to land on the Senkaku Islands.

Q: So not any individuals can land ...

Ms. Saiki: Except that Government officials can land on the Senkaku Islands.

Q: So the Coast Guard, for example, would be able to land?

Ms. Saiki: Sure.

9. Questions concerning the Idea of Buying the Islands

Q: I have one more question about this. I was researching the new Minister of Defense, Mr. Morimoto, and I found out that before he was appointed Minister, he also advocated that the Government should buy the islands and should actually build something on them. Does there seem to be any kind of a clash with Government policy?

Ms. Saiki: First of all, I am not aware of what Mr. Morimoto had stated before his appointment as Minister of Defense. So, I am afraid I should not make any speculative comments on what he may have stated before his appointment.

Q: What is the central Government's position toward the idea of buying the Islands that it is now renting?

Ms. Saiki: The Japanese Government has been exploring every possible measure to ensure the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of the Senkaku Islands.

Q: How about buying the Islands?

Ms. Saiki: I guess what I am saying is that we do not rule out the possibility of purchasing the Islands, but obviously that is not the only option or measure in sight. Rather, the Government has been conducting thorough surveys and studies with a view to ensuring and enhancing the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of Japan's territory including the Senkaku Islands. After all, that is the responsibility of the Government.

Do you have any other questions?

Ms. Saiki: OK. Then this concludes today's conference. Thank you for coming.


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