Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Thursday, August 8, 2013, 10:32 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit

Foreign Minister Kishida: I have one announcement to make at the outset. At the Cabinet meeting held a while ago, it was decided to hold the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit from December 13th to 15th at the State Guest House, Akasaka Palace, which commemorates the 40th year of Japan-ASEAN friendship and cooperation. At this ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit, leaders are expected to discuss at the meeting the mid- and long-term visions to strengthen Japan-ASEAN relations and intend to make this an opportunity to further strengthen and expand Japan-ASEAN relations.

Senkaku Islands

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question about the Senkaku Islands. Four vessels from the China Coast Guard entered into Japanese territorial waters yesterday morning. And Japan has, or the Foreign Ministry has, lodged protests with the Chinese authorities. So what have been the Chinese side’s activities and the Japanese government’s response?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, Chinese government ships have frequently been intruding the Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands. But this time around, this is the longest ever navigation of Chinese government ships in this area. We, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have repeatedly lodged strong protest with China through diplomatic channels and called for the withdrawal of the ships from the area. And, based on the instruction I had given myself at 9:00 a.m. this morning, Mr. Junichi Ihara, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, MOFA, summoned Mr. Han Zhigiang, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, conveyed to him the strong indignation of Japan, lodged a strong protest once again, and called for the immediate withdrawal of the government ships of China from this area. That is the response we have made thus far.
Saito, Kyodo News: The Japanese government thus far has repeatedly made the protest to the Chinese side, and China does not seem to be listening to Japan’s protest, as you all know. Now, going forward, in order to prevent entry into Japanese territorial waters, do you believe that the Administration needs some further measures for prevention of intrusion? That’s my first question. And the second question. On the Chinese side, their public vessels, government vessels, are conducting patrols in the waters around the Senkaku Islands. And, the media is spreading the understanding that they are gradually coming to have control over these territorial waters. Is this true? What is your understanding?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Well, first of all, as for the Senkaku Islands, this is an inherent part of Japan’s territory, and intrusion by Chinese government ships into Japanese territorial waters have been observed frequently, which is truly regrettable. And any attempts to change the status quo by use of coercion or intimidation shall not be condoned or tolerated by the international community. As far as Japan is concerned, we will continuously respond to the situation calmly and firmly. So, the firm position of Japan must continue to be conveyed to the Chinese side, and as we have lodged our protest to China, they should seriously respond to that and accept that.
I am not in the position to comment on how China would take our protest or where the Chinese intention behind these intrusions lie. More than anything else, the fact that intrusion has been made to our territorial waters itself is a problem. We intend to continue all our efforts to thoroughly make this point to China.
Sakamoto, NHK News: A related question. At 9:00 a.m., Director-General Ihara summoned Minister Han Zhigiang. In most cases, protests have been lodged over the telephone, but why was the decision made this time around to summon the Minister to the Ministry? Could you please let us know the reason, to the extent you know, to the extent possible?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, in addition to the intrusions into Japanese territorial waters by the Chinese government ships that have been observed, the navigation of the ships is the longest ever this time around, which is truly regrettable. Since that has been the case, I issued the instruction, and based on that, Director-General Ihara had summoned Minister Han Zhigiang to MOFA. The substance of the conversation was, first of all, that Japan’s strong indignation was conveyed and we have lodged a strong protest and also called once again for the immediate withdrawal of all Chinese government ships from the area.
Saito, Kyodo News: A related question. How did the Chinese side respond to this? And related to my second question earlier, is Japanese valid control being eroded by the Chinese? There is such a concern that has been publicized in the media. Do you share that concern?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Well, first of all, with regard to the reaction of the Chinese side, I would refrain from saying anything in detail, but they have expressed their own position. That has been what we have been hearing from them. As I have not heard a report from Mr. Ihara yet, I will check on that. And on the ground, at sea or elsewhere, Japan, of course, has been making all its efforts to demonstrate its position in a calm and resolute manner.

Visit to the Yasukuni Shrine

Watanabe, Kyodo News: About a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, on Aug. 15, do you intend to make the visit?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Well, for myself, personally, as I have been saying this to you frequently in the past, as for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, I am a member of the Abe Cabinet and the Foreign Minister. From that position I will act appropriately.
Mori, Asahi Shimbun: In what way, whether you visit the shrine or not, whether it is going to be on Aug. 15 or other days, have you made up your mind?
Foreign Minister Kishida: With regard to the issue, I have my own firm position.
Mori, Asahi Shimbun: As Foreign Minister, does an appropriate action as the Foreign Minister mean that you will take action so as not to give an adverse impact on neighboring countries?
Foreign Minister Kishida: As I have said to you, I am a member of the Abe Cabinet and I am the Foreign Minister, and from that position I will act appropriately.
Mori, Asahi Shimbun: There are certain reports that the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister and four Cabinet members will not visit the Yasukuni Shrine and that has been communicated to the Chinese side. Can you tell us whether that is the fact? Or do you intend to communicate to the Chinese side that you do not intend to visit the shrine?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, I am aware of the press reports, but I am not aware of any such facts.

U.S.'s Participation in the Sochi Winter Olympics

Kamide, Freelance: A totally unrelated question. A leading media outlet in the U.S. is reporting concerning news. Next year, in Sochi, Russia, there will be the winter Olympic Games. And, according to that report, the U.S. may boycott the Olympic Games. On August 6, I saw this report. Bloomberg’s web version was reporting this. That title said that it would not be a good thing if the U.S. should boycott the Olympic Games. And as rationale, former CIA employee Snowden having been given temporary asylum by Russia and Russia’s support to Syria were mentioned. U.S. Olympic-related people have made comments to deny such rumors, but the fact that such a report was made could hint that there is such a move underway. Are you familiar with this case? Or through diplomatic channels, have you heard anything about this?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, with regard to that specific information, I have no knowledge of that. So, let me just check on that. But at any rate, this has to do with the position or the intention of other countries, namely the U.S., and I am not in the position to make any comment on that.

U.S. Forces' helicopter crash accident in Okinawa

Mizuuchi, Sankei Shimbun: Concerning the U.S. helicopter crash in Okinawa, today in Tokyo there are reports that a Director-General-level meeting between Japan and the U.S. will be held. In terms of operation of the aircraft, what will be discussed? How does Japan intend to address the issue?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Well, first of all, concerning the U.S. Air Force helicopter HH-60 crash accident, which occurred on Aug. 5 at Camp Hansen, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the crew member who had lost their life and to their family. On the other hand, it is quite regrettable that such an accident had occurred and on the same day, I asked Ambassador John Roos, American Ambassador to Japan, to investigate the cause, to have a prompt sharing of information and strongly asked for measures to be taken to prevent a recurrence, and for the time being, the suspension of flight operations of the same model of the crashed helicopter. And when I said that, Ambassador Roos said that the U.S. would seriously accept the regrets coming from the Japanese side and would work very hard to pursue the cause and was willing to provide us with the information. On Aug. 6, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture came, and with regard to this accident, requested for the suspension of the flight of the same model until the cause of the accident has been realized, and requested to review the cause, disclose the information quickly, take measures to prevent recurrences and work hard throughout toward the management of safety. So, on my part, I will continue to ask for utmost considerations to be made by the U.S. side on this matter, particularly in regard to safety, and, having listened carefully to the Governor’s view, I will make all-out efforts to reduce the impact on Okinawa.

Japan-ROK relations

Hiroshima, Asahi Shimbun: About Japan-ROK relations, shortly, one year will have passed since the former President Lee Myung-Bak landed on Takeshima. So that may be one juncture. Can you give us your thoughts about the fact that it has been one year since then? I have two more questions. Since that landing on Takeshima, Japan-ROK relations have deteriorated. How do you intend to improve the relations? And there was the Foreign Ministerial meeting between Japan and ROK last month. The next step may be a summit meeting between the leaders. Do you intend to expedite a summit meeting between Japan and South Korea?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, with regard to Japan-ROK relations, basically we share with them the basic values and interests, and they are our important neighbor, and for Japan, our bilateral relationship with ROK is very important. But there are some specific issues out there, we must advance our relations from a broad perspective in a future-oriented manner. Moreover, just the other day, in Brunei, we had a trilateral Foreign Ministers’ meeting between Japan, the U.S. and the ROK. And, following that meeting, we also had the foreign ministers’ meeting between Japan and the ROK. I, myself, met with the Vice Minister of the Foreign Ministry of the ROK, and also the Vice-Ministerial-level meetings between Japan and the ROK have taken place two times already. So those have been the efforts made thus far and we would like to make these efforts further so that dialogue on a higher level can be realized.
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