Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 2:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Visit to Hungary and Ukraine
Foreign Minister Kishida: Good afternoon, I would like to make two announcements at the outset of today’s press conference. The first, from the 22nd to the 27th of August, I will be visiting Hungary and Ukraine. I would like to make this visit an occasion to strengthen our economic relations with these countries. In Hungary, there is the planned visit by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Japan, so we would like to discuss provision of assistance for more than 100 Japanese companies, and other economic relations as well as people-to-people exchange matters to strengthen bilateral relations. Hungary has the presidency of the Visegrad Group (V4). In June, there was the V4+Japan summit meeting. I would like to do some follow-up of that meeting.
As for Ukraine, it has high economic potential, as there is a lot of interest by Japanese businesses. I would like to do some consultation about improving the investment climate there. Japan and Ukraine share the nuclear power accident experience. I would like to see some progress in post-accident cooperation between Japan and Ukraine. Ukraine is situated between the EU and Russia. So, it is in a geopolitically important location. I would like to enter into discussions including East-Asian affairs as well as international affairs.
(2) Visit to Japan by President of Turkmenistan and Prime Minister of Mongolia
As for Mongolia, since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s March visit, there have been active exchanges of high-ranking officials between the two countries. I also had a meeting with Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold during his visit to Japan in June. With the visit by Prime Minister Altankhuyag, I hope to aim for enhanced relations between the two countries in areas such as politics, security and other areas.
Court decision of the retrial of “Requisition of Civilians from the Korean Peninsula”
Azumi, Freelance: The other day, the Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (NSSMC) matter during the war and pre-war periods was reported. The Japanese private company may be held responsible for their actions of more than sixty-eight years ago. Does the Japanese Government intend to influence the ROK Government?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Regarding this issue involving the NSSMC, this is a question of drafting a compensation plan for the requisition of civilians from the Korean Peninsula. Since the case is still pending, I would like to refrain from commenting on the issue.
With respect to such cases, as a general remark, I would say that we must keep in close contact with the NSSMC and other Japanese companies. Based on the consistent position that we have been holding, we should address the cases accordingly. We have made our position very clear and the position has not changed during the course of time. So based upon our strongly held position, we will approach the case acting in unison.
Azumi, Freelance: A follow-up question: You said that you would maintain the consistent position. Is it the position that all claims had been abandoned with the Treaty on Basic Relations of 1965? That is what I hope to confirm. In the case with the NSSMC, there are people who are said to have been conscripted into forced labor. They worked for the Japan Iron & Steel, former NSSMC. When this company was put together, a law was enacted and more than 80% of the company’s shares were held by the former Ministry of Finance. This is a Government-initiated company and these acts were conducted by this company. So, the Government’s responsibility may be all the more large. I think this is a case beyond the Treaty. What is your view?
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, regarding Japan’s position, as I have repeatedly explained, based on the two countries’ Agreement Concerning the Settlement of Problems in Regard to Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation, all issues have been resolved. There was a specific question on the NSSMC, but regarding the details, the case is still pending and it is not appropriate for the Government to make any concrete comments. So, I will refrain from making any comments.
Prime Minister Abe’s speech at the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead
Yamagishi, Asahi Shimbun: Related to relationship with neighboring countries, the other day, at the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, in the statement made by the Prime Minister, he did not make any references to Asian countries nor express remorse. China and the ROK are objecting to that. What’s your take on that? In preparing the statement by the Prime Minister, were you consulted beforehand?
Foreign Minister Kishida: On August 15, Prime Minister Abe delivered a speech. If you have read the speech, you can understand that our basic position to be humble to the past is clear. Not only in ceremonial speeches but throughout various opportunities, our Government must constantly express the recognition of history in an elaborate manner. As for the content of the speech, because it is a speech delivered by the Government, it is natural that the Government is responsible for the content of the speech. I’m aware of that.
Yamagishi, Asahi Shimbun: When you think of the overall responsibility, my question is whether you were aware beforehand.
Foreign Minister Kishida: In the process of deciding the speech, I am sure that I held a firm responsibility.
Watanabe, NHK: Regarding the Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-level meeting, I believe you’ve received various briefings on it. Since the Vice-Ministerial-level meeting and then a summit meeting at the G20 are scheduled, will you once again explain how you will address the Japan-Russia negotiations, in particular the resolution of the Northern Territories issue?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Yes. First of all, the other day, there was a Vice-Ministerial-level consultation held between the two countries. I am reported about that. Regarding the Northern Territories, for example, on such items as how to proceed with the negotiation for the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries and what theme to be debated, very frank exchange of views took place. That is the gist of the report I have received from the vice-ministerial-level meeting between the two countries.
Now, as for G20 and other opportunities for a summit meeting, first of all, regarding the upcoming G20, if conditions allow, Prime Minister Abe would like to be present at the G20 Summit and have a Japan-Russia summit meeting. September 5 will be the date around which we are coordinating various engagements.
Watanabe, NHK: Will you explain your enthusiasm toward further negotiations?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Regarding such issues existing between Japan and Russia, recently, at the summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin, frank exchange of opinion took place. On the issue of Northern Territories, restarting of this issue was confirmed. At the Foreign Ministerial and working level, we would like to accumulate our efforts, fully cognizant of the approaches taken by the two leaders. Fortunately, at various levels, communication between the two countries is being held. So, continuously through such forums, we would like to accumulate our efforts.
Fujikawa, TV Asahi: On the night of August 19, I understand that you had a meeting with ROK Ambassador Lee Byung-kee. Did you talk about any concrete schedule or make any proposals for a possible summit meeting between Japan and the ROK? What were the responses from the ROK side?
Foreign Minister Kishida: As you said, the other day I had the meeting with ROK Ambassador to Japan Lee Byung-kee. I had an opportunity to exchange views on the two countries’ challenges. Tough challenges do exist, but from the broad perspective, we would like to advance our bilateral relationship in a future-oriented manner. On the point of continuing steady communications, I believe both sides agreed. At various levels, we must have communication. In this context, communication is also important at the highest level of political leaders. Those were discussed on that occasion.
Going forward, there are various opportunities like international conferences. Also, this year, we will have the Japan-China-ROK trilateral summit, though it has not been held yet. The presidency now is held by the ROK. So, we would like to discuss what we can do about the possibility of the Japan-China-ROK trilateral summit meeting. In various opportunities, we would like to ensure high-level communication involving the leaders of countries concerned. As of now, however, there are no concrete timetables set. So, that’s the current situation.
Saito, Kyodo: I have another question on Japan-ROK relations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the following at the press conference of July 12: Between Japan and the ROK, there are no imminent issues, and communication is being conducted at the working-level. Are you aware of this remark, and is the policy stated by Chief Cabinet Secretary still upheld? I would like to know if the Government is upholding this basic position.
Foreign Minister Kishida: Of course, I am aware of Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s comment. He also said that we should have solid communication at the working-level. That is the essence of Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s comment. So, at the diplomatic front, various communications are pursued. With Ambassador Lee, I exchanged views. That is one of the examples. Mr. Junichi Ihara, Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, will be visiting the ROK. So, we will continue our efforts for various solid communications. In this context, I hope to accumulate efforts of communication, and at the same time, communication at a higher political level will also be important.
There are no imminent issues between the two countries. That is what the Chief Cabinet Secretary said. I am aware of that. I don’t know specifically when we will be able to have a high political-level communication or at what timing we will achieve that. To that end, we must never relax our efforts of accumulating communications. We are trying to go through various levels of communications.
Right to collective self-defense
Fujikawa, TV Asahi: I have a question about the interpretation of the right to collective self-defense. On his appointment as the judge of the Supreme Court, former Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau Tsuneyuki Yamamoto made remarks that changing the interpretation of the Constitution may be very difficult. What is your response to the fact that a judge of the Supreme Court made such a comment?
Foreign Minister Kishida: I am aware of the reported comment. Regarding the right to collective self-defense, we must note the ever-increasing tough security situation in East Asia. Bearing in mind the changes of international situations, we must maintain our peace and security. At the same time, we must be able to positively contribute to the peace and stability of this region as well as of the international community. We should be ever more positively contributing to the cause. From that viewpoint, we would proceed with our discussion and a review of this particular topic.
Of course, such a review should be conducted based on the international law and within the scope of what actions other nations are allowed to take. With respect to our Constitution, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Securityis discussing the matter. We would like to bear in mind the results of their review. We would like to study and further review how we can approach this issue going forward.