Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 10:13 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Attendance at the ASEAN-related Ministers' Meetings

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: If circumstances allow, from June 29 to July 3, I will visit Brunei to attend the ASEAN-related ministers' meetings.

At the ministers' meetings, we are scheduled to discuss the strengthening of Japan-ASEAN cooperation on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, the state of ASEAN-centered regional cooperation, and regional and international situations. I will proactively communicate Japan's points of view as well as reaffirm the coordination between Japan and the participating nations.

Moreover, on this occasion, I am scheduled to hold bilateral foreign ministers' meetings.

(2) Relaxation of visa requirements for ASEAN nationals

Minister Kishida: With regard to the exemption of visa requirements for Thailand and Malaysian passport holders, issuance of multiple entry visas for short-term stay to nationals of Vietnam and the Philippines, and the extension of length of stay for holders of multiple entry visas for short-term stay for nationals of Indonesia, it has been decided that those arrangements will be implemented from July 1 as previously announced.

As a result of these arrangements, it is expected that increases in the number of tourists from the aforementioned countries and the enhancement of the ease of business transactions will lead to further development of exchanges between these countries and Japan.

Japan-China relations

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask a question related to the ASEAN-related ministers’ meetings. Mr. Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, is expected to attend the meetings. Do you have any plan to propose a Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting to Foreign Minister Wang side on this occasion?
Minister Kishida:As I have mentioned many times before, Japan’s door for dialogue is always open. However, concerning a Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting, nothing has been determined yet at this point in time.
Saito, Kyodo News: You have just mentioned that the door for dialogue is always open. I would like to ask you whether you have any intention of taking one step forward from the current position, proposing dialogue, i.e. calling for the holding of a bilateral meeting.
Minister Kishida:Communication between Japan and China is occurring at a variety of levels, which includes the possibility of holding a foreign ministers’ meeting. However, at this point in time, nothing has been determined concerning a potential Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting. That is the current status.
Saito, Kyodo News: You have pointed that nothing has been determined. Could you please explain why?
Minister Kishida:I think it is important to prepare the right circumstances for holding a Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting. We have not reached a conclusion to hold a meeting yet under the current conditions.

Act on preservation of secrets

Kamide, Freelance:It may be a little too early to ask you this, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his intention to submit a bill concerning the preservation of secrets in the extraordinary Diet session to be held this coming fall. The expression came after the decision to establish a Japanese National Security Council. When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power, the DPJ administration was also trying to submit a bill concerning the preservation of secrets. However, I am not aware of the specific details of that bill. This time as well, I do not know the details of the bill to be submitted. Under such circumstances, as you may know, organizations such as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association strongly oppose the bill, asserting that it would significantly endanger freedom of the press.
I believe the U.S. has strongly requested to promulgate regulations on the matter, while the Japanese Government has received those strong oppositions as I referred to. Could you tell us your opinions on this issue, as a foreign minister, including any details regarding the bill you may be aware of? ?
Minister Kishida: Concerning the issue you have just pointed out, I believe the Government must work as one while bearing in mind various suggestions and discussions on the matter. I believe the Government will be forming a policy on this issue in the future. That is all for now.
Kamide, Freelance:Many interested parties as well as the Japanese public may have concern in regard to the issue of freedom of speech. Could you tell us if you personally believe that sufficient attention must be paid to ensure freedom of the press or news gathering, or do you at least hope that this will be the case? Judging by your usual views, I surmise that you would likely put the brakes on the situation in which freedom of the press is threatened.
Minister Kishida: First of all, in general, freedom of the press is a very important concept. Specifically, as the Government, we intend to take appropriate measures. As a member of the Government I too intend to make efforts to this end.

Japan-North Korea negotiations

Yamagishi, Asahi Shimbun: My question is about the post by Prime Minister Abe on his Facebook page. Some time ago, Prime Minister Abe criticized Japan-North Korea negotiations for which Mr. Hitoshi Tanaka, a former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, was responsible. In his severe criticism, Prime Minister Abe said that Mr. Tanaka is “not qualified to talk about diplomacy.” In relation to this issue, Prime Minister criticized Mr. Tanaka for not having kept diplomatic records at the time. I would like to know how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs understands the factual situation concerning the issue. My first question is whether Mr. Tanaka kept diplomatic records or not.
Minister Kishida:I have learned about Mr. Tanaka’s remarks through the press and other sources. Prime Minister Abe was the then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and was in a position to well know the circumstances surrounding the negotiations. Therefore, I believe the post on his Facebook page was written based on his position at the time and in a responsible way.
However, the abductions issue is an important issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan and the lives of the Japanese people. Moreover, the issue has yet to be resolved. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, the Prime Minister is strongly determined to solve the issue under his own administration. However, the abductions issue remains unresolved and the Government is currently making efforts to find a solution to the issue. For the sake of national interest, I would like to refrain from commenting further on a public occasions like this.
Yamagishi, Asahi Shimbun: I may not have asked the question properly: Did Mr. Tanaka keep diplomatic records or not?
Minister Kishida: I don’t believe it is appropriate to discuss the issue on a public occasion, including the question you have just asked.

Abductions issue

Ohtani, NHK: It was disclosed that Mr. Roh Moo Hyun, then President of the Republic of Korea, was critical of the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the Summit Meeting between the ROK and North Korea that was held six years ago. He stated that he could not understand Japan’s assertion that abductees were still alive. Although this comment came six years ago, I would like to hear your thoughts on this kind of statement. Does the Government of Japan plan to make any response to that?
Minister Kishida: I am aware of the media reports on the matter. However, in terms of the statements themselves, I do not think the Government of Japan is in a position to make any comment.
If I may elaborate further, concerning the abductions of Japanese nationals, on numerous occasions the Government of Japan has explained its stance on the issue to the ROK and the other countries concerned, and also requested understandings and support from them. I believe that the ROK fully understands our position.
In any case, this is an important issue that concerns the sovereignty of Japan and the lives of the Japanese people. Therefore, I intend to address this issue in a steadfast manner under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who is strongly determined to solve this issue during his administration.

Court hearings on research whaling

Toda, Associated Press:My question is about Japan’s research whaling. Oral argument at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will start tomorrow. Although this topic was mentioned last week, I would like to once again hear Japan’s position on the matter. The judgment will not be made for a while, but I think there is a possibility that research whaling might be terminated. In order to prevent this, is Japan considering taking any kinds of approaches to Australia in the future?
Minister Kishida: First, public hearings in the case will take place at the ICJ in The Hague, Netherlands, from June 26 through July 16. In the proceedings, Japan intends to thoroughly emphasize the fact that Japan’s research whaling is legal scientific research carried out based on Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and similar treaties. We intend to make thorough efforts to address this matter so that Japan’s stance and way of thinking are understood. Japan will handle the case in accordance with international rules. I think at this stage it is difficult to predict the outcome, so I do not believe that it would be appropriate to comment about what will happen from now on.

Japan-North Korea relations

Saito, Kyodo News:North Korea is a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which will take place during the latter stages of the ASEAN-related meetings. There seems to be a probability that the Foreign Minister of North Korea will attend the meeting. Does Japan, which is doing its best to resolve the abductions issue, have any intention of using this forum to set up any type of dialogue with the North Korean side?
Minister Kishida: I am aware of the media reports that the Foreign Minister of North Korea will be attending the forum, but we have not yet confirmed who will actually be there. At the ARF, we intend to thoroughly exchange opinions regarding the regional situation and so forth. Since we have not confirmed whether North Korea will be attending the forum yet, we have not decided anything beyond the fact that we would like to thoroughly discuss the regional situation.
Saito, Kyodo News:I of course understand that the attendance of the North Korean delegation has not yet been confirmed, but in terms of basic preparations, is Japan ready to speak with North Korea on the abductions issue in the bilateral context?
Minister Kishida: Currently we have yet to confirm how we will address North Korea, as well as whether North Korea will be attending the forum, so at this point we have not made any decisions. Going forward we intend to keep a close eye on the situation regarding the ARF.

Court hearings on research whaling

Ozawa, Agence France-Presse:I would like to return to the issue of research whaling. Australia will likely assert that Japan’s “research whaling” is not simply scientific one but it may be a front for commercial whaling. Could you please explain the degree to which you think Japan’s claim that whaling is legal and purely scientific would be accepted?
Minister Kishida: Japan’s position is just as I explained earlier. We intend to thoroughly emphasize our way of thinking, and we will put forth our best effort at the hearings. Specifically, as for how we will explain our position, the Japanese delegation will thoroughly assert our stance at the hearing.