Press Conference by Deputy Press Secretary Naoko Saiki
Thursday, June 20, 2013, 2:15 p.m.   Briefing Room No. 381 Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Deputy Press Secretary Ms. Naoko Saiki: Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to start with several announcements before taking your questions.

Speech by President Barack Obama of the United States

Ms. Saiki: First, on a speech by President Barack Obama. During a speech in Berlin on June 19, President Barack Obama of the United States announced additional steps regarding nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In a speech in Prague four years ago, President Obama declared his aim of seeking the peace and security of “a world without nuclear weapons.” Japan welcomes that in the Berlin speech this time, he indicated that he would continue to take a proactive approach by stating to seek negotiations with Russia on the reduction of deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third and also the bold reductions of tactical nuclear weapons to make efforts towards the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and to host the Nuclear Security Summit in 2016.
Japan holds high expectations that this speech by President Obama will increase momentum of global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation involving other nuclear-weapon states. At the same time, the Government of Japan is encouraged by the statement that the United States can ensure the security of its allies and maintain a deterrent while making further reduction of nuclear weapons as announced this time. Japan will continue to ensure the deterrence of the Japan-US alliance for Japan and the region through close communication with the United States. Going forward, Japan will continue to strengthen collaboration with the international community, including the United States of course, with the aim of achieving “a world without nuclear weapons” and intends to lead initiatives for international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation through forums such as the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to be held in Hiroshima in April next year.

Announcement concerning the opening of a Qatar office by the Taliban

Ms. Saiki: Second, on the announcement concerning the opening of a Qatar office by the Taliban. On June 18 in Doha, Qatar, representatives of the Qatari Government and the Taliban announced that the Taliban will open a liaison office in Qatar. Reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban is one of the most important issues related to the stability and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Japan welcomes the opening of the Qatar office by the Taliban and expects that this will lead to an early start of reconciliation negotiations and a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Since 2001, Japan has implemented a total of approximately 4.8 billion US dollars of assistance to Afghanistan in the fields of socio-economic development and enhancement of security capability. Japan also hosted the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in July 2012, and has been thus far actively contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Japan will continue to support the reconciliation process led by Afghanistan. Moving forward, Japan will support Afghanistan and contribute to the stability and sustained development of the country in cooperation with the international community.

Japan-US-ROK trilateral working-level meeting on North Korean issues

Ms. Saiki: Third, on June 19 (local time) Japan-US-ROK trilateral working-level meeting on North Korean issues was held in Washington, D.C., the United States. The Japanese side was represented by Mr. Shinsuke Sugiyama, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau; the U.S. side by Ambassador Glyn Davies, Special Representative for North Korea Policy; and the ROK side by Mr. Cho Tae-yong, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs. The three countries reaffirmed the critical importance of the close cooperation among themselves. The participants also reaffirmed that North Korea must take concrete steps toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that in order to resolve the outstanding issues we need actions by North Korea, not its words. They agreed on the importance of the resolution of the abduction issue too.

New inscriptions on UNESCO Memory of the World Register

Ms. Saiki: Fourth, on new inscriptions on UNESCO Memory of the World Register. 54 new additions to the Memory of the World Register were approved on June 18 by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. Among them are Midokanpakuki, the original handwritten diary of Fujiwara no Michinaga, submitted by Japan, and materials related to the Keicho-era mission to Europe, submitted jointly by Japan and Spain. The Memory of the World Register now includes a total of 299 documents and document collections.

Second round of the negotiations on a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement and a Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement

Ms. Saiki: Fifth, on the second round of the negotiations on a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement and a Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement. The second round of the negotiations on a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement will be held in Tokyo from June 24 to July 3. The meeting will be attended by, on the Japanese side, Ambassador Jun Yokota, Special Representative of the Government of Japan in charge of Japan-EU negotiations, and representatives from relevant ministries. In addition, the second round of the negotiations on a Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement will be held in Brussels, Belgium, from July 3 to 5. The meeting will be attended by, on the Japanese side, Mr. Jun Yamada, Deputy Director General of the European Affairs Bureau, and the representatives from relevant ministries.

Visit to Japan by the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Ms. Saiki: Sixth, on a visit to Japan by the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil. Ms. Dilma Vana Rousseff, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, will pay an official working visit to Japan from June 26 to 28. During her stay in Japan, the President will make a State Call on His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, and Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress will host a Court Luncheon in honor of the President. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also hold a meeting with and host a dinner for the President. The Government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit of the President which will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and Brazil.
 
With these initial announcements, I would be happy to take questions.

Questions concerning dialogue between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the President of the PRC

Q: During the Parliamentary sessions, Prime Minister Abe referred that he is open to discussions on a highest level with the Chinese President any time. Is this something that he seeks for such a dialogue or is it just the statement he mentioned a few times that he is always open?

Ms. Saiki: Are you inquiring about something in relation to a statement made by the Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, in the UK yesterday, or are you referring to other things? I remember yesterday (local time), actually about 12 hours ago, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech in London, and in a following Q&A session he replied to a question by stating that the door for dialogue has always been open to China. I think this is a real intention of the Prime Minister, Mr. Abe. Given the fact that Japan and China share so many important things in common and the bilateral relationship between the two countries is very important, Prime Minister Abe himself really wishes to have direct communication to the President of the PRC. So, the statement reflects the genuine intention of the Prime Minister.

Questions concerning meetings between Japan and Russia over the territorial issue

Q: My question is: there have been a lot of reports recently about plans for bilateral meetings with Japan and Russia over the territorial issue, northern territories or Southern Kurils. Do you have anything to tell us about what is the schedule agreed so far of meetings between Japanese and Russian negotiators?
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you very much for the question. In Lough Erne, on the occasion of the Group of Eight Summit Meeting, Prime Minister Abe was able to hold a summit meeting with President Putin of the Russian Federation, where the two leaders agreed to have a foreign ministers’ meeting between Minister Kishida and Minister Lavrov here in Japan sometime in autumn. And we will be coordinating on a schedule for the next round of the vice-ministerial meeting before the foreign ministers’ meeting. The vice-ministerial meeting will be attended, on the Japanese side, by Deputy Minister Akitaka Saiki, and on the Russian side, Vice Minister Igor Morgulov. This is the agreed timeline at this moment.
 
Q: The vice ministers’ meeting? When will they meet?
 
Ms. Saiki: Before the foreign ministers’ meeting which I referred to; that is, sometime before autumn. No dates are fixed yet.
 
Q: Press reports say August.
 
Ms. Saiki: Yes, I am aware of the press reports to that effect. But no dates are fixed yet.
 
Q: Are they going to talk about the territorial issues?
 
Ms. Saiki: Yes, on the territorial issue. But other issues as well. Other important issues of mutual concern between Japan and the Russian Federation will be discussed. But definitely the territorial issue, namely the issue of the Northern Territories, will be included in the agenda. And, as I explained, we have agreed to have the next round of the vice-ministerial meeting sometime this year before the next foreign ministers’ meeting which is to take place sometime in autumn in Japan. This is what has been agreed.

Questions concerning the export of nuclear technologies

Q: One tougher question. About four or five days ago the Jiji Press Organization found a public opinion poll showing that about 58 percent of the public opposes the export of nuclear technologies at this time. But during his recent visit to Europe and I’ve also read in the coming visit of the Brazilian President, the export of Japanese nuclear technology is a major theme of what’s going on. And this week, as you probably already know, former Prime Minister Kan, in his blog, described the Prime Minister as a salesman for the nuclear village, and top representatives of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party called him “a merchant of death.” My question basically is, with so little domestic public support for the export of nuclear technologies, is it really a legitimate theme to put so high on the diplomatic agenda with so many countries at this time, before the domestic support has been firmed up for this kind of policy?
 
Ms. Saiki: I will not comment on the public opinion poll which you just referred to. What I would like to emphasize here is that the Japanese Government is of the view that it is the responsibility of Japan to share with the international community the lessons learned from the accident of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of 2011, and thereby contributing to the improvement of the safety and the security of nuclear facilities, nuclear materials, as well as nuclear technologies.
On that belief, we intend to continue negotiating with our partners including Brazil for instance in the area of cooperation of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
 
Q: So you don’t think that public support is a precondition?
 
Ms. Saiki: We believe that our policy has been supported by the people of Japan in the wake of the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. We must improve the security and safety of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy worldwide. And it is up to Japan to share the lessons learned with the international community. I think in that particular respect the policy of the Japanese Government on this issue is supported by the people. That is why the administration is pushing ahead in this area. But of course, depending on individual countries - Brazil or other countries - we will make a case by case decision or judgment, so to speak, as to the speed and the content of negotiations on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Follow-up questions concerning public support for the export of nuclear technologies

Q: Just one last follow-up on that. For us journalists who are looking to find where we can find that public support manifested, where we look to find the evidence that the public supports the policies, the evidence seems to point in the other direction that we can see.
 
Ms. Saiki: I appreciate that you pointed out the report of the public opinion poll by the Jiji Press; however, that is one of the many indications. So, I think we have to try to gather pertinent information as much as possible, as quickly as possible, so that the Government will be in the position to correctly judge the opinion of the Japanese people.
 
Q: Thank you very much for your comment.
 
Ms. Saiki: Thank you very much. If there are no more questions, I will conclude today’s conference. Thank you for coming.