Press Conference by Deputy Press Secretary Naoko Saiki
Thursday, May 23, 2013, 1:30 p.m.   Briefing Room No. 381 Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Deputy Press Secretary Ms. Naoko Saiki: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming. Let me begin by touching upon several issues before I take questions.

Tornado damage in Oklahoma

Ms. Saiki: First, on the tornado damage in Oklahoma. On May 21 (Japan Time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to President of the United States of America Barack Obama in the wake of the tremendous damage caused by a tornado that hit the State of Oklahoma in the afternoon on May 20 (local time). In his message, Prime Minister Abe expressed his condolences and sympathy for the victims and their families and also expressed his expectation towards President Obama’s leadership for early reconstruction. On the same day, Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida also sent a message of condolences to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Ms. Saiki: Second, on a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Myanmar. Prime Minister Abe will pay an official visit to Myanmar on May 24 to 26 if circumstances allow. The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a summit meeting with President Thein Sein. It will be the first time in 36 years that a Japanese Prime Minister visits Myanmar. We expect that this visit will further enhance the friendly relations between Japan and Myanmar that have been nurtured over a long time through Japan’s assistance to Myanmar’s efforts in democratization, national reconciliation, and economic and social reform.

East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue

Ms. Saiki: Third, on the East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue. The Second East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue was held in Tokyo on May 18.
Ministers and officials from the 18 countries of the East Asia Summit (EAS) and, as observers, representatives of the ADB, ESCAP, OECD, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, the World Bank, JICA, and JBIC attended the dialogue. The dialogue was co-chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and Senior Minister and Minister of the Environment of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Dr. Mok Mareth. The participants reaffirmed the importance and the need to achieve low carbon growth in the EAS region, the center of gravity of the world economy where impact of climate change is likely to be felt most severe because of the resource and the infrastructure constraints. The view was shared in the dialogue that it is indispensable to develop effective collaboration and cooperation between the central governments, local governments, and especially the private sector which has useful and effective technologies. The participants discussed concrete measures on promotion of public private partnership as well as enhanced use of these technologies. The dialogue’s attendants welcomed the establishment of “East Asia Knowledge Platform for Low Carbon Growth”. They shared the view that it is important to develop the platform as an open, multilayered flexible network in which various stakeholders share their knowledge, information, and experience related to low carbon growth, promote strategic research cooperation, and provide input into the policy making process. 

Launch of Japan’s Strategy on Global Health Diplomacy

Ms. Saiki: Fourth, on the launch of Japan’s Strategy on Global Health Diplomacy. At the Ministerial Meeting on Strategy relating Infrastructure Export and Economic Cooperation that took place on May 17 at the Prime Minister's Office, Minister Kishida proposed Japan’s Strategy on Global Health Diplomacy. The attending ministers agreed on the Strategy and confirmed that global health should be positioned as a priority for Japan's diplomacy and that relevant ministries and agencies as well as the private sector should work together to resolve global health issues, thereby further enhancing the trust placed by the international community in Japan.

Pacific Alliance

Ms. Saiki: Fifth, on the Pacific Alliance. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kenta Wakabayashi is attending the Summit and the Ministerial Meeting of the Pacific Alliance on behalf of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida respectively on May 23 and 22 in Colombia. As I stated on various occasions here and there on the Pacific Alliance, Japan attaches great importance to the relationship with the Alliance’s member countries, namely Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico, which adopt open trade policies and therefore Japan started to participate in this Alliance as an observer in January this year. Japan will further strengthen the relationship with the Alliance through these occasions.
As for the itinerary of Parliamentary Vice-Minister Wakabayashi, he is then going to visit Ecuador as Ambassador on Special Mission from the Government of Japan to attend the inauguration ceremony of the next PresidentRafael Correa Delgado of Ecuador to be held on May 24.
 
By the way, Japan is holding the second round of negotiations on an EPA between Japan and Colombia from Monday through Friday this week, May 20 to 24, in Cali, Colombia. I hope some of you are aware of the fact that Japan has already concluded Economic Partnership Agreements with the other three of the alliance members, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.
 
With these initial announcements, I would be happy to take questions.

Questions concerning the delegation from the city of Nago

Q: I guess I will start.
 
Ms. Saiki: Yes, please.
 
Q: I saw that a delegation from the city of Nago met with the Foreign Minister yesterday. Could you tell us who were the people who met with the Foreign Minister yesterday and what was the purpose of the meeting?
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question. To tell you the truth, I don’t have any data on that particular part of diplomacy taking place yesterday. I have to check and will get back to you with a response. Would it be okay? I will check with the Minister’s Office.
 
Q: There is one thing I want to confirm, first of all, in the process of your checking. My understanding is that the members who came and visited the Foreign Minister were the minority faction of the city council that supports the creation of the Henoko Plan. And I thought it was kind of unusual that members of the city council, representing a minority group within a city of 60,000 people are meeting with Foreign Minister or Defense Minister. So if you could, when you do confirm the facts, I would like to know what is the justification or purpose of that.
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the clarification you have just made. Yes, I promise that first I am going to confirm the fact and will get back to you.
 
Q: Thank you.
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you.

Questions concerning the intercontinental missile tests by the United States

Q: Regarding the intercontinental missile tests in the United States, I am just curious what is the official position of Japan regarding this test?
 
Ms. Saiki: Are you referring to the…
 
Q: They did tests of an intercontinental missile as they announced they wanted to do it in April I guess and then they prolonged it because of North Korea and then, yesterday they did tests.
 
Ms. Saiki: Right.
 
Q: I was just wondering what is the official position of Japan regarding these tests?
 
Ms. Saiki: We understand that the test was a part of the normal routine military tests of the United States’ authorities and as Japan is an ally of the United States, I believe generally speaking it is important for the United States to maintain and enhance its deterrent power through conducting necessary tests.
 
Q: Would you have been glad if they had postponed it again because Japan is at the moment engaging in some talks with North Korea and it would be helpful if the situation would stay more clam?
 
Ms. Saiki: I will decline to comment on the third country’s intention or activities, but the important thing is that with respect to North Korea, Japan, the United States, the ROK, and other countries concerned must continue to be united in sending a clear and coherent message to North Korea that North Korea must take a concrete and positive step forward to comply with all its obligations, including denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Questions concerning historical issues with China and the Republic of Korea

Q: I am curious about the historical issues we are seeing with Korea and China, particular war memory, the comfort women, and Unit 731. Is there anything new? Is Gaimusho doing anything new on this? Any kind of, if either official or unofficial talks with people particularly in Korea or China about resolving some of these issues that keep coming up over and over again. Is there anything new? How seriously do you take these things? Is this something that you see as disrupting relations between Japan and Korea, Japan and China, or is this business as usual?
 
Ms. Saiki: Let me make it clear that we have reiterated our feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for the suffering and damage caused during the Second World War. Prime Minister Abe himself, Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and other Cabinet members have been clearly stating that the entire position outlined by the previous administrations, specifically in the Murayama statement, the Koizumi statement and others, is continued by the Abe Cabinet. Japanese officials including myself have been making utmost efforts to convey this clear message and explain the basic position of the Japanese Government on the matter to China,  South Korea and other countries on the globe.
 
Q: Are there any direct conversations? I mean, do you call up your counterpart in Beijing or in Seoul and say, “Hey listen, we’re sorry about this, it keeps coming up.” Anything of that sort?
 
Ms. Saiki: I don’t think we use the word “sorry” because nothing wrong has taken place.
 
Q: I understand that.
 
Ms. Saiki: That being stated, we have tried to let them understand our position correctly. So in that respect, there have been close contacts and communication at various levels.
 
Q: Anything you can tell us about specifically that you’ve done? Have you contacted this person or that person?
 
Ms. Saiki: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to disclose each and every diplomatic interchange between Japan and other countries.

Questions concerning Prime Minister Abe’s Jet Photo

Q: Okay, this is probably more a question for Kantei than you, but last weekend with the jet fighter situation up in Tohoku with the Prime Minister sitting in a jet emblazoned with 731. You understand the issue, right?
 
Ms. Saiki: Sure. But as you see, that jet fighter is a member of the Blue Impulse acrobatic team. And the tsunami of March 11, 2011, all the Blue Impulse aircraft group was, so to speak, devastated. And very recently the Blue Impulse team has returned to the original base, where the Prime Minister visited. And it was quite natural for the Prime Minister to sit down in an aircraft to show his feelings of encouragement toward Self-Defense Forces personnel. Nothing particular was in his mind except this. The three digit number, 731, may have caused some people’s concerns, but I believe the Prime Minister Abe and his aides did not intend anything specific in terms of the recognition of history at all.
 
Q: Okay, I can buy that. But why didn’t somebody say anything? I mean, if you were there, if you were on his staff and you saw that aircraft, what would you do? They’ve got 8 or 12 airplanes in the Blue Impulse squadron altogether.
If you were going to see the Prime Minister sitting in that particular chair, wouldn’t you think that somebody on his staff would say, “Hey wait a minute.”? Wouldn’t you think they would be sensitive about the issue to say, “Hey wait a minute, you don’t want to be getting in an aircraft numbered 731. Let’s get a different one in here.”?
 
Q: Thank you for your comment. But I’m afraid I’m not in a position to answer the question because firstly I was not there, and secondly, I’m not going to respond to hypothetical questions.

Questions concerning Japan–India Civil Nuclear Cooperation

Q: I believe that I read that Japan is going to be restarting negotiations toward a civilian nuclear cooperation with India? What is the status of that?
 
Ms. Saiki: Yes, I’m aware of the report of that kind. The thing is that, in September 2008, the NSG, which stands for the Nuclear Suppliers Group, did approve the civil nuclear cooperation with India, as an exception, on the condition that India is going to respect the agreed “commitments and actions”. So, the decision was made in 2008. With that in mind, and considering other elements such as India’s continued request for civil nuclear cooperation of Japan, strengthening the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India, and coping with climate change or global warming, we have decided that it is meaningful and important for Japan to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India. We intend to continue negotiations with India on civil nuclear cooperation. And furthermore, in more general terms, we believe that it is Japan’s responsibility to share lessons learned from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident with the rest of the world, thereby making contribution to the improvement of nuclear safety in the international community. This is another very important reason behind why the Japanese Government intends to continue negotiations with India on civil nuclear cooperation.
 
Q: You say a host of important issues. But I think the main concern of a lot of people is that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that Japan especially, which has a certain historical and world status when it comes to nuclear issues, should not be giving a free pass to any country not to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and therefore, will potentially weaken the nuclear proliferation efforts globally. So, how is Japan going to respond to this criticism that it’s basically allowing business interests to triumph over the nuclear non-proliferation regime?
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you for the question, but it is not correct to describe the situation that business interests take precedence. The thing is that: the position of the Japanese Government with respect to the disarmament, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation has not changed at all. It remains just the same as before. Therefore, Japan on various occasions urges India to sign on to the NPT as well as the CTBT, so that the non-proliferation regime as well as the disarmament in the world will be advanced. We continue to talk with our counterpart with respect to the necessity to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and disarmament. So I don’t think there are any contradictions between what I stated two minutes ago and what I am saying right now.
 
Q: But you don’t believe that signing the NPT should be a pre-condition for this kind of bilateral cooperation?
 
Ms. Saiki: May I remind you of the fact that, as I explained to you a few minutes ago, in the year of 2008, the NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, did exceptionally approve the continuation of the cooperation with India on civil nuclear facilities and materials. We really expect that India adheres to the “commitments and actions”, which is the pre-condition of the continuation of the civil nuclear cooperation between NSG member countries and India.

Questions concerning Mr. Isao Iijima’s visit to North Korea

Q: I have a short question regarding Iijima’s journey to North Korea. Was the Gaimusho informed beforehand? Can you say that?
 
Ms. Saiki: Yes. Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida had been informed by the Chief Cabinet Secretary before Mr. Iijima visited North Korea.
 
Q: And in more general, I mean, if I think about Germany, we have the foreign ministry and the prime ministry --in Germany it’s called Kanzleramt-- and they both claim the foreign policy for themselves and try to do foreign policies. I guess you know that, and we have the same situation somehow in the United States (the State Department and the White House). But in the United States, the foreign ministry is much stronger than, I would say, in Germany. If you have these two points, Germany with a weaker foreign ministry and the United States with a quite strong foreign ministry, where would you put Japan in this scale?
 
Ms. Saiki: Japan is the third case. Namely, the Japanese Kantei and Ministry of Foreign Affairs always coordinate very closely. So, in Japan, one diplomacy or one external policy exists as a result of the close coordination and thus attained harmony between Kantei (the Prime Minister’s office) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
Ms. Saiki: Are there any other questions? Good. Thank you for coming.