Press Conference by Deputy Press Secretary Naoko Saiki
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 1:35 p.m.   Briefing Room No. 381 Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Deputy Press Secretary Ms. Naoko Saiki:Good afternoon everybody. Let me begin by touching upon several topics before taking your questions.

First round of negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Ms. Saiki: First, on negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the so-called RCEP. The first round of negotiations for RCEP started in Brunei today on May 9, which will continue to be held until May 13. From the Japanese side, Mr. Yasushi Masaki, Deputy Director-General of the Economic Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives from other relevant ministries are attending the meeting. In this round of negotiations, the meetings of the Trade Negotiating Committee, in which senior officials will participate, and of working groups concerning issues such as Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Investment are scheduled to be held, and the scope and method of negotiations, among others, will be discussed.

First Japan-US Cyber Dialogue

Ms. Saiki: Second, on Japan-US Cyber Dialogue. Japan and the United States are holding the first Japan-US Cyber Dialogue in Tokyo today on May 9. The meeting will continue until tomorrow. The dialogue is hosted by Ambassador in charge of cyber policy Osamu Imai and attended by senior officials from the Government of Japan, including from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet Secretariat, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Defense; and the US Secretary of State’s Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Mr. Christopher Painter, leads the US Government interagency delegation, which includes representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense. The dialogue was launched on the basis of the agreement between the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of the United States reached in April last year, and through this dialogue, we aim at exchanging cyber threat information, cooperating on planning and efforts to protect critical infrastructure, and strengthening the cooperation on cyber areas including rule-making efforts in the international community.

Visit to Japan by President of the French Republic

Ms. Saiki: Third, on a visit to Japan by the French President. Mr. François Hollande, President of the French Republic, and Ms. Valérie Trierweiler will pay a State Visit to Japan from June 6 to June 8. During their stay in Japan, the President and Ms. Valérie Trierweiler will make a State Call on Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress will host a state banquet in honor of the President and Ms. Valérie Trierweiler. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a meeting with the President and host a lunch for him. The Government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit of the President and Ms. Valérie Trierweiler, which will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and France.

Visit to Japan by Sultan and Raja Isteri-Pengiran of Brunei Darussalam

Ms. Saiki: Fourth, on a visit to Japan by Sultan and Raja Isteri-Pengiran of Brunei Darussalam. From May 12 to 17, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Her Majesty Raja Isteri-Pengiran Anak Haja Saleha will visit Japan. They will meet Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan on May 13. On the same day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to hold a meeting with the Sultan to exchange opinions on bilateral relations, cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, and other topics. The visit is expected to further strengthen the amicable relations between Japan and Brunei Darussalam. In fact, Brunei serves as ASEAN Chair this year, and as 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, we really hope Their Majesties’ visit this time will lead to the enhancement of the Japan-ASEAN cooperative relationship.
With these initial announcements, I would be happy to take your questions.

Questions concerning the history issue

Q: Foreign Minister Kishida and also Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, I would say, back peddling a little bit regarding the history issue. Suga mentioned the Kono statement; he said it was never up to him that there should be a revision of the Kono statement. And Kishida strongly emphasized that during the Second World War period, Japan was an aggressor – I would paraphrase that. Both said that Prime Minister Abe is thinking the same. So I was just wondering since Abe brought that up why is not Abe himself saying that in public?

Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question, but if my memory serves me correctly, I believe that in one of the Diet sessions, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself stated clearly that in the past Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, in particular to those in Asian countries, and he continued to state that the Abe Cabinet takes the same stance as previous administrations. He specifically mentioned that the Japanese Government has expressed, on various occasions, its feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology to the suffering and damage caused during and before the Second World War. So I don’t think there are any discrepancies between the statement made by the Prime Minister himself and the statements you have just referred to, namely by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and by  Chief Cabinet Secretary  Yoshihide Suga.

Questions concerning preemptive strikes

Q: As you mentioned, Abe gave some announcement during the parliamentary debates during the last weeks and recently. I guess just one or two days ago, he referred that for Japan, deterrence is necessary and deterrence should be enhanced. He mentioned that it’s necessary to show other countries what will happen if they attack Japan. I was just wondering what we have to understand regarding this sentence. Will Japan really do preemptive strikes or what was the intention of explaining that in the Diet?
Ms. Saiki: By no means has Prime Minister Abe hinted that Japan would use force in a preemptive manner or engage in preemptive strikes. Japan is a nation fully committed to the rule of law, which does include the UN Charter, for instance, and the United Nations Charter clearly prohibits any country from resorting to use of force preemptively. The use of force is only allowed under the United Nations Charter by exercising the right of self-defense or under the sanction of the UN Security Council. So in short, I have nothing to add to or subtract from the statement made by the Prime Minister. What I would like to emphasize at this point in time is that Japan is not going to launch any preemptive strikes at all, but that as an independent sovereign state, it is only natural for Japan to try to maintain and enhance its deterring power in case of possible attacks or aggressions by other states.

Questions concerning the strengthening of Japan’s deterring power

Q: How can Japan strengthen its deterring power?
Ms. Saiki: Firstly, we will maintain and further increase our Self-Defense Forces’ capabilities to defend Japan’s land and people’s lives. Secondly, we will maintain and enhance the alliance with the United States, and thirdly, we will continue to cooperate with other members in the international community for peace and stability in the region and the globe. So, these three multi-layers, so to speak: Self-Defense Forces’ capabilities, the Japan-US Security Alliance, and the multilateral diplomatic efforts to secure a good environment. I think these three elements will be of critical importance in terms of strengthening our deterrence or securing our independence and sovereignty.

Questions concerning North Korean missiles

Q: During the crisis of North Korea and the missile crisis – hopefully the missiles are now away from the launch pad, but we are still not sure about that, but perhaps you know if they are away now from the launch pad. Has this already been confirmed by the Japanese Government?
Ms. Saiki: I am aware of press reports, but I am not in a position to confirm them.
Q: During this crisis regarding North Korea, the Defense Minister, Mr. Onodera mentioned that if North Korea is launching a missile against Japan, then Japan should think about the possibility to have the power to strike this missile before it is launched. That was his thinking at that time.
Ms. Saiki: I am not aware of that statement made by Defense Minister Onodera. When was it made?
Q: It was made at the end of March.
Ms. Saiki: I will have to check.
Q: It was a heated debate at that time of course, and there are many scholars who think about what is necessary to deter North Korea. I was just wondering if this debating is still going on in the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. Is there any task force or any group who is discussing what would be the best way to deal with the North Korean threat?
Ms. Saiki: Due to the nature of the issue, I will decline to make detailed comments, but I would like to state that first of all, with respect to the Korean Peninsula situation, the Japanese Government has been making utmost efforts to closely monitor the situation by collecting and analyzing pertinent information, and to be fully prepared for any contingencies. That is for sure. After all, that is the responsibility of the Japanese Government vis-à-vis its people.

Questions concerning comfort women

Q: If I may, regarding Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s mentioning of the Kono Statement: before Abe became Prime Minister, he said that there should be a scholarly debate about what has happened to the so-called “comfort women” issue, and I know that at that time there was the idea to have a regular meeting of specialists regarding this issue: how you should see this historical problem. Is something like that going on, or is this really no topic for any group of scientists to discuss?
Ms. Saiki: I don’t believe that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga mentioned that there would be a task force or a group of specialists or academic experts in order to let them discuss on a regular basis the so-called “comfort women” issue. I don’t believe so. What Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated was that with respect to the comfort women issue, the issue should not be politicized or be turned into a diplomatic issue. Rather, the government would like to have the issue be handled or discussed by experts. And furthermore, with respect to the comfort women issue, I would like to emphasize here that throughout history, women’s dignity and basic human rights have often been infringed upon during the many wars of the past. The Japanese Government places importance and is committed to doing its utmost to ensure that the 21st century is free from further violations of women’s dignity and basic human rights. For instance, one of the important issues dealt with in the Group of Eight Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last month in London, which Foreign Minister Kishida attended, is exactly the women’s or children’s rights in conflict. The Japanese Government is committed to making every effort to ensure that this century is free from further violations of women’s or children’s dignity and basic human rights.

Questions concerning the Japan-Taiwan Fishery Arrangement

Q: My question regards the Taiwan Fisheries Agreement. My understanding is that tomorrow it takes effect; however, the ground rules and how exactly it will operate hasn’t been decided or hasn’t been agreed between the two parties at this point. Could you just give me an update on what you know about the status of the Taiwan Fisheries Agreement? Of course, I understand that Taiwan is not recognized as a government and this is being done at a non-governmental level, but what is the Foreign Ministry’s understanding of the negotiations now?
Ms. Saiki: Okay, thank you very much for the question. Yes, you are quite right in saying that this fishery agreement has been concluded by the Japanese and Taiwanese private authorities, namely the Interchange Association of Japan and the Association of East Asian Relations, and not on a governmental basis. But of course, we have dispatched our government experts as observers to the previous negotiations leading up to the conclusion of the fishery agreement. And what I know today is that on May 7, two days ago, day before yesterday, there was the first meeting of the Japan-Taiwan Fishery Committee in Taipei. And I understand that the two parties will continue consultations as opinions of both sides have not concurred. This is the updated situation of the Japan-Taiwan Fishery Arrangement.
Q: But is my understanding correct that it takes effect from tomorrow, even though the ground rules haven’t been set?
Ms. Saiki: Well, I think on May 10 it is expected that the amendment of the relevant domestic laws and orders will come into effect. In any case, I understand that there will be further consultations between the Interchange Association of Japan and the Association of East Asian Relations on the matter.

Questions concerning People’s Daily article on Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa

Q: My second question is not really related. It’s that, as you’re probably aware in the last day or two, People’s Daily newspaper in China suggested that Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa Prefecture should be questioned. And perhaps even more significantly, when the person in your job in China was asked, “Does Japan wield sovereignty over Okinawa,” she deferred an answer. She didn’t answer clearly that whether or not Japan has ownership over Okinawa. I’d just like to give you a very easy question. What’s your reaction, the Foreign Ministry’s reaction, to Beijing’s decision to apparently question Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa?
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. Yes, we are aware of the press report and the response by the Chinese spokesperson. The clearest thing is that Okinawa is a part of Japan’s territory, and we cannot accept it by any means if China questions Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa. It would be completely incorrect and intolerable. And in fact, the Japanese Government has expressed its grave concern about the article in the People’s Daily to the Chinese authorities. We stated that if the article in the People’s Daily reflects the position of the Chinese Government, the Japanese Government objects it absolutely and seriously considers what we will do. In response to the protest by the Japanese Government, the Chinese authorities stated that the article had been written by two experts in their personal capacities. That’s the response given by the Chinese authorities.
Q: Have the Chinese authorities commented on the fact that their own spokesman wouldn’t confirm that Okinawa is owned by Japan? That seems to be more serious than the article written by the scholars. And in the response, is Japan considering a more serious diplomatic response if the Foreign Ministry of China does not publicly acknowledge that Okinawa belongs to Japan?
Ms. Saiki: The Governments of Japan and the PRC have engaged in some exchanges of opinions and views. However, I will refrain from getting into details because these interchanges are a part of diplomacy between the two governments. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into details and disclose them.
But, the first and the foremost thing is that, Okinawa is a part of Japan’s territory. There’s no doubt about that. I think the international community knows that; that is important.
Q:Thank you.

Questions concerning the visit of Prime Minister Abe to Russia

Q: Just a short follow up to the visit of Prime Minister Abe in Russia. They mentioned that the two Foreign Ministers should go on finding a strategy which suits both sides. I was just wondering, is there already a time table when the ministries will set up talks regarding this issue?
Ms. Saiki: No. No dates are fixed for a Foreign Minister’s meeting. However in London, there was a Foreign Minister’s meeting between Foreign Minister Kishida and his counterpart, where Mr. Kishida extended his invitation to Mr. Lavrov to come to Tokyo, because I think, it’s a turn for the Russian side to visit Japan. While no concrete dates or venues are fixed, we are hoping for holding a Foreign Minister’s meeting at a mutually convenient earliest time.

Questions concerning China’s closure of accounts of North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank

Q: According to some media reports, the Bank of China has closed accounts of North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. Do you have any comments on this?
Ms. Saiki: I’m not in a position to confirm the press reports you’ve just referred to. Having said that, the international community including China recognizes that it is critical for North Korea to fully and faithfully comply with its international obligations including the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. In that sense, the Japanese government will continue closely cooperate with China, the ROK, the US and other nations to urge North Korea to take concrete and positive steps forward towards denuclearization.
Q: Are you referring to the obligations of China?
Ms. Saiki: No, I am talking about the obligations of North Korea. Not of China.The international community has to continue sending a clear and strong signal to North Korea to abide by and respect all its – its meaning North Korean - international obligations including U.N. Security Council Resolutions such as 2094 and the Joint Statement by the Six-Party Talks, and so on and so forth. All the obligations are stipulated in U.N. Security Council Resolutions and other relevant documents. At the same time, of course, China, Japan and other countries on their own part are obliged to implement measures provided in the U.N. Security Council Resolutions to make North Korea observe its international obligations. In that respect, China has something to do; but, I guess China is not required specifically to close accounts of North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank.
Ms. Saiki: Are there no other questions? Then this concludes today’s conference. Thank you for coming.