Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, August 1, 2017, 10:30 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Strengthening sanctions on North Korea
Reporter: I have a question about the issue of North Korea. Prime Minister Abe and President Trump held a telephone talk following North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile two days ago. They agreed that the international community, including China and Russia, should increase pressure on North Korea. However, when US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asserted to China at the United Nations that the time for dialogue has ended and that it is time to strengthen sanctions on North Korea, China strongly objected. Ambassador Haley also stated that an emergency meeting of the Security Council is pointless and the holding of such a meeting itself is meaningless. Please explain Japan’s thoughts about the US stance toward an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and what diplomatic efforts Japan will make to strengthen pressure on China.
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense: My understanding of the aforementioned comments by Ambassador Haley is that the United States intends to exert its utmost efforts to apply pressure on China. We take that these comments reflect this stance from the United States.
The comments also touched upon an emergency meeting of the UNSC, but, in any case, Japan intends to work towards the adoption of a new UNSC resolution that includes even stricter measures. We will coordinate closely with the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and other related countries to accomplish this.
Regarding the stance towards China, in the Japan-US Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk on July 29 and the Japan-US Summit Telephone Talk on July 31, we confirmed the importance of China’s role and agreed to work together to encourage the involvement of China.
I believe that we have to work together with the United States, the ROK, and other related countries in encouraging China to take responsible and constructive action. We intend to continue to urge China from this perspective.
Concrete actions to enhance defense capabilities against North Korea
Reporter: Prime Minister Abe and President Trump agreed that it is important to advance concrete actions to enhance the defense structure and capabilities as part of the response to North Korea. Please explain what concrete actions are under review by the Ministry of Defense.
Minister Kishida: Considering the severe security environment surrounding Japan, it is very important to enhance the deterrence as well as response capabilities of the Japan-US Alliance through effectively utilizing the Legislation for Peace and Security and the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation, and demonstrate Japan’s firm intention and capabilities towards regional stability. Based on this view, Japan has been engaging in joint exercises with two US air carriers in the Sea of Japan and just recently conducted joint exercises between US Air Force bombers and Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets. These joint exercises and other activities demonstrate the enhancement of the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-US Alliance as well as Japan’s firm resolve and strong capabilities.
Regarding your question about Japan’s response, I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on details about our specific responses at this kind of forum, as it would reveal our strategy for a potential response.
In any case, given the stance that I have just explained, my recognition is that we must continue to act with a great sense of urgency, maintain a high level of readiness and surveillance while cooperating with the countries concerned including the United States and the ROK, and endeavor to ensure the safety of the Japanese people.
China’s military strength
Reporter: China recently held a large-scale military parade on the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army. Please explain Japan’s reaction to seeing the latest weapons unveiled by China and its view of the current state of China’s military strength.
Minister Kishida: Japan obviously pays close attention to this type of parade by China and the nature of its military strength.
While I would like to refrain from disclosing our assessment, Japan maintains that it wants China to make a greater effort to explain matters in the security field with more transparency to related neighboring countries. I believe that explaining one’s own security capabilities with transparency fosters a trust-based relationship with nearby countries. Japan has long called on China and we will continue to make such requests.
East China Sea resource development issue
Reporter: I have a question about the development of gas fields in the East China Sea. Media reports state that China has built new drilling facilities in the East China Sea. Has the Japanese Government confirmed this? If it has, could you please share your views?
Minister Kishida: Japan continues to monitor developments in the East China Sea with keen interest. We are aware that China has placed a moveable drilling ship in waters on the Chinese side of the geographical median line in the East China Sea and is conducting some type of activity.
The Japan Coast Guard issued a navigation warning on July 28 with the aim of ensuring the safety of ships navigating in the nearby area. Furthermore, it is extremely regrettable that, despite repeated protests from the Japanese side, China continues its unilateral development in waters under an environment in which the maritime border between Japan and China in the East China Sea has not been finalized. Japan immediately lodged a protest to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels.
Whenever Japan has learned about related developments by the Chinese side, we have issued strong demand to China to halt unilateral actions to develop resources in the East China Sea and efforts to create faits accomplis. We will continue to do so. The Government of Japan will continue to proactively seek the prompt resumption of discussions based on the 2008 agreement on cooperation between Japan and China related to the development of natural resources in the East China Sea and the early implementation of the agreement.
Reporter: Did Japan lodge the protest yesterday or today?
Minister Kishida: Japan does not specify the exact timing and other details of such protests because these are diplomatic exchanges. I thus would like to refrain again this time from giving such details.
Joint appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense
Reporter: Regarding your joint appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense, I think you have cited that this joint appointment is not a problem and actually might have benefits. Nevertheless, some members of your party, including those who have previously served as Minister of Defense, suggest that it underestimates foreign policy and defense duties. It is now your fifth day in this capacity. Please explain whether you have seen any limitations.
Minister Kishida: As you noted, I have explained this view on multiple occasions in the past. If I may clarify once again, this is an extraordinary situation involving the resignation of the previous Minister of Defense. Japan also faced an emergency situation with North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile. Under these circumstances, I am currently devoting my utmost efforts to these duties with the resolve that Japan must not have any gaps or inadequacies in its national security preparations. Furthermore, it goes without saying that in this type of emergency situation, coordination across the Government, and particularly coordination by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, is very important. What I explained is that serving jointly as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense is not necessarily negative from the standpoint of facilitating smooth coordination. Nevertheless, the Government as a whole, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, must firmly address this type of extraordinary and emergency situation. Under these conditions, the National Security Council and other governmental organizations are working as one to respond to this situation in accordance with instructions from the Prime Minister. I have explained that there have not been any particular problems up to now in this context.
Regarding your question, I am currently responding to situations with a priority order and the flexibility to switch between my two roles in order to deal with the extraordinary situation of a resignation by the Minister of Defense and the emergency created by North Korea’s ballistic missile launch. Both defense and diplomacy have their own issues that need to be addressed over the longer term. My efforts are currently focused on addressing these extraordinary and emergency situations with a priority order and the flexibility to switch between my two roles. As to longer-term issues, I believe it is most appropriate for them to be handled by a dedicated Minister for Foreign Affairs and a dedicated Minister of Defense.
Simply declaring that something is appropriate or not without clearly distinguishing between the need to address extraordinary and emergency situations and the reality of dealing with longer-term issues is likely to result in a mistaken assessment and comprehension of the current situation. As I have just explained, it is important for the Government to carefully clarify the situation and determine what is most appropriate in the current situation.
Foreign policy issues
Reporter: The Prime Minister just commented in a meeting of the LDP Board that he intends to reshuffle the Cabinet on August 3. You have already served for a lengthy period of four years and seven months as Foreign Minister. What foreign policy issues do you think are still not sufficiently covered and remain unresolved even after four years and seven months?
Minister Kishida: Foreign policy is always ongoing and will continue to be that way in the future. This means that even though Japan has dealt with many issues that need to be addressed in diplomacy, it still has many that must be tackled in the future as well.
Whoever is appointed as Foreign Minister amid the existence of these various issues should address them with the fullest efforts. This is how the Government should function. Rather than commenting on what might be unresolved or sufficiently addressed from my individual standpoint as Foreign Minister, I think it is important for the Government to work as one, utilizing the people in the ruling coalition and their capabilities, to thoroughly deal with various issues, and continuously build on such efforts. I would thus like to refrain from commenting on what I might consider to be unresolved and so on.
Establishment of a task force on the Japan-ROK agreement
Reporter: The ROK Government created a taskforce to reassess the Japan-ROK agreement in 2015. I believe developments related to this deserve very close attention. Please explain your thoughts on the situation.
Minister Kishida: I am well aware of what you mentioned from media reports and other sources. In the Japan-ROK agreement from 2015, both sides confirmed that “[the comfort women] issue is resolved finally and irreversibly.” The international community and many countries have highly appreciated this confirmation. I thus think it is very important for the two countries to fully implement the agreement.
Japan has explained this view to the ROK side up to now and engaged it on this matter. We will persistently emphasize the importance of the Japan-ROK agreement and its implementation to the new ROK administration.
Joint appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense
Reporter: I think this is the first time for the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to jointly hold a press conference following a Cabinet meeting. It is somewhat confusing for us given our siloed mentality. Do you find it disorienting?
Minister Kishida: I have not distinguished between questions aimed at the Ministry of Defense question and those aimed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. My aim has been to answer the questions sincerely and to the best of my ability. This is not confusing to me. I intend to continue to fulfil my duties to the fullest of my abilities.