Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, June 7, 2013, 10:38 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Visit to New Zealand

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: If conditions allow, from tomorrow June 8 to June 10, I will visit New Zealand (Auckland). 

New Zealand is an important partner for Japan that shares basic values and promotes free trade. While in New Zealand, I will hold meetings with various dignitaries, including the Honorable Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to confirm our further advancement of cooperation on regional issues and economic partnerships including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Approval of observer status in the Arctic Council (AC)

Sugimoto, Sankei Shimbun: Please excuse me for my belated question but regarding the Arctic, Japan’s application for observer status in the Arctic Council (AC) has been approved. Please give us your view on the significance of this and the ways Japan will engage in the development of the Arctic Ocean going forward.  
Minister Kishida: On May 15, at the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the AC, held in Kiruna, Sweden, Japan was admitted as an observer in the AC. Japan has applied for observer status at the July 2009 meeting of the AC, so we welcome the approval of our application at this time. I believe that the granting of observer status will allow Japan to participate in the meetings of the AC on a more stable footing. We will cooperate with the AC member countries and indigenous peoples living in the Arctic Circle, and through our participation in Working Groups of the Council, we intend to contribute to the work of the Council in a more full-fledged way.
With regard to the Arctic Circle, with the ongoing melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean due to the impact of climate change, there is now a growing potential for the commercial use of shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean and the development of resources. On the other hand, the issue of impacts of these activities on the environment and on the lives of indigenous peoples living in the Arctic Circle has been pointed out. The changes regarding the Arctic are gaining considerable attention in the international community. As a maritime nation and a nation that weighs the global environment heavily, we hope to properly participate in the global discussion regarding the Arctic. The realization of Japan’s observer status will be a momentum to advance Japan’s initiatives for the Arctic Ocean.

Issue of the recognition of history

Kamide, Freelance: My question may touch upon matters you have already answered in your press conferences or the Diet, but I would like to ask about the comfort women issue at the UN and issues related to Japan’s recognition of history. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in an interview with a Japanese newspaper the other day, suggested that the international community is not yet convinced. Prior to this, there has been reports that the Committee against Torture, which was established based on a UN human rights convention, would issue a recommendation to Japan since political figures have repeatedly made remarks that are against the facts. Will you clarify the facts on this matter and if there is to be a recommendation to the Japanese Government, how will the Government address it and as the Foreign Minister, what are your own view and your response?

Minister Kishida: I am fully aware that there are a variety of discussions and opinions in the international community on the remarks made in Japan on this issue. Having said that, on the comfort women issue, I am deeply pained when thinking of the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. This feeling and the entire position outlined by previous cabinets is shared by the Abe Cabinet. If the position and the view of our country and our cabinet are not sufficiently understood in the international community, we must continue our efforts of giving clear explanations and must work to gain understandings. Even if there are various remarks, Japan’s position and view, our government’s position and view remain completely unchanged as I have just explained. We hope to make concrete efforts at diplomatic occasions and continue our clear explanations so as to earn understandings.
Kamide, Freelance: In relation to this issue, how do you regard the reports that a UN committee issued this sort of recommendation?
Minister Kishida: Our country experienced many wars in the 20th century and in the past, where women’s rights have been so often infringed upon. However, the Japanese Government has made consistent diplomatic efforts to make the 21st century a century committed to preventing any further violations of women’s rights. Our long-time diplomatic position and efforts since the end of the war must also be clearly understood, and on top of that, Japan’s position regarding the comfort women issue must be further explained going forward. I am dedicated to continually making these efforts.

U.S.-China summit meeting

Sakamoto, NHK: A two-day summit meeting between the U.S. and China will be held. What does the Japanese Government expect from this meeting and on what points do you place importance on? Some high-ranking official in Washington has mentioned that territorial disputes in the Pacific Ocean will also be on the agenda at the meeting, so most probably the issue of the Senkaku Islands will also be discussed. In what way do you take notice of the summit and what are your views?
Minister Kishida: First of all, regarding the U.S.-China summit meeting, from the perspective of regional and international peace and stability, I believe it to be favorable for the U.S. to enhance engagement with China. Based on this standpoint, I hope that this summit meeting will enable constructive discussions for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
I will refrain from prejudging or commenting on the exchanges between the U.S. and China, but since Japan is constantly in close contact with the U.S., it is our hope that the U.S. and China will conduct constructive discussions to realize peace and stability.

Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons

Fujimura, Chugoku Shimbun: Two months have passed since your proposal on Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons. What is the current status of the program?
Minister Kishida: At the last Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), I proposed the Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons program. Our existing program of Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons has been excellent, but given the aging of the victims of the atomic bombings, the proposal of the Youth Communicator was welcomed from the point of communicating the realities and their thoughts. Based on the various discussions at the NPDI Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, this idea of the Youth Communicators is currently developing specific program designing and appointments. I have directed my staff to expedite the works but have not yet received any report that specifics have been realized. I hope to once again confirm the status.

Situation in North Korea

Hirouchi, NHK: I would like to ask about the issue of North Korea. The North Korean side has proposed a dialogue to the Republic of Korea and the ROK has agreed to this. How do you view the North and South Koreas’ moves toward dialogue and will you once again explain what actions you will be requesting from the North Korean side?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the moves toward dialogue, I am aware that on June 6, the Government of the ROK proposed holding a ministerial-level meeting between the ROK and North Korea in Seoul on June 12 for the normalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the restarting of the Mount Kumgang sightseeing tours. In response to North Korea’s request consisting of four items including the holding of a meeting between the authorities, I understand that the ROK side suggested specific dates for the meeting. No specific details of the ministerial-level meeting are available as of this point, but the Japanese Government is watching the situation with great interest. If the dialogue is to be realized, we will welcome the move. Further, this dialogue and the moves by North and South Koreas must lead to North Korea’s denuclearization and the resolution of other outstanding issues. If the dialogue is a specific and sincere framework that leads to the resolution of various issues, we will welcome this. In any case, we will continue to address the matter through close coordination with the ROK, the U.S. and other related countries.

The Senkaku Islands

Yamagishi, Asahi Shimbun: This is in relation to the remarks made by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka during his visit to China. Former Diet member and former leader of your political faction Makoto Koga was also present at this meeting. Regarding the series of remarks by Mr. Nonaka, were there any talks between you and Mr. Koga, and were you briefed by him in any way?
Minister Kishida: Because I was present at yesterday’s general meeting of Kochi Kai, an LDP faction, where Mr. Koga, the former leader of the faction, introduced the remarks by Mr. Nonaka, I am obviously aware of the remarks. However, Mr. Koga’s intention was to explain his visit to China. Also, with regard to Mr. Nonaka’s remarks, this was made in his personal capacity, so I would like to refrain from commenting from the Government’s position.

In any case,the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law, and are under our valid control. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands. As such, in terms of “shelving” or “maintaining the status quo,” there is no issue to be shelved in the first place. This is the position of the Japanese Government and our stance remains unchanged.