Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 10:15 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Attendance at the TICAD V Ministerial Preparatory Meeting

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: From March 16 to March 17, I visited Ethiopia and attended the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) Ministerial Preparatory Meeting. As co-chair, I summarized the discussions on the proposed declaration and action plan for the TICAD V summit meeting in June, of which was agreed in principle. I also expressed the position of Japan on the fight against terrorism, and announced our support of US$550 million to realize the peace and stability in Africa. This support was highly commended by numerous African nations. Furthermore, I held meetings and conversations with foreign ministers and other ministerial level officials of approximately 15 countries, and requested cooperation toward TICAD V. I believe that together with Mr. Yutaka Kase, Chairman of the Keidanren Committee on Sub-Saharan Africa, we were able to give the participants a strong impression of our position of making an all-Japan contribution for Africa’s growth.

Results of verification of the Iraq war

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: Tomorrow will mark 10 years since the outbreak of the Iraq War. I would like to ask a question related to this. Last year, the administration under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) made public the results of verification of the Government’s response during the war. Do you have any intention of conducting this type of verification again? Please share the reasons behind your answer, too.

Minister Kishida: First of all, as of tomorrow, it will be exactly 10 years since March 20, 2003. I am aware that the previous administration carried out verification concerning the Iraq War. A summary of the result was publicized in December. Going forward, I firmly commit myself to tasks that help strengthen our diplomatic capability, such as improving information gathering, enhancing analytical capacity. I have heard that the previous administration did not intend to open the verification result from the beginning. It seems that similar verification processes are being carried out in various countries. At this point in time, neither the Government nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering further verifications.

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: Do you believe that there is a need for verification inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Minister Kishida: We are not thinking about doing new verification of the Iraq War again. However, I believe that we of course consistently carry out verifications related to the overall diplomacy of Japan.

Nikaido, Asahi Shimbun: Do you think it will be necessary to conduct verification related to the process in which the then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi supported the U.S. that had launched the Iraq War?

Minister Kishida: At this point in time, we are not considering any new verification.

Japan-China relations

Saito, Kyodo News: Former Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi has been appointed the new Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs. First, could you tell us your personal impression of Minister Wang?

Second, could you tell us if you have any plan to call for a Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting or telephone talks between the two?

Lastly, could you tell us if there is any possibility that you will make compromises with China in some way, concerning the confrontation of the two countries over the Senkaku Island issue in order to set a meeting with Minister Wang? I would like to know if there is any chance that Japan will meet China halfway or offer some kinds of compromises in order to enable the holding of a meeting. These are my three questions.

Minister Kishida: As for your first question, I personally met the new Foreign Minister while he was serving as the Chinese Ambassador to Tokyo. Given his previous experience in Japan, I believe that he possesses good insight about our country.

Concerning a possible Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the door is always open for dialogue with China. We are ready to communicate with the newly appointed Minister Wang Yi consistently.

You also asked if there is any possibility of compromising our position on the Senkaku Islands issue in order to hold a meeting. We will never concede our basic position on the Senkaku Islands. Our basic position would not be changed. However, I do believe that pursuing a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests from a broad perspective while ensuring that individual issues do not affect our overall relationship is a position that we must continue to value. I am determined to make every effort to have communications with this attitude.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Kamide, Freelance: I would like to ask a question regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). There has been heated debate in the Diet ever since the Prime Minister announced his intention to participate in TPP negotiations. However, there is one thing that troubles me, which is that the relevant Cabinet members have revealed negotiations are likely to be difficult in reality. It has also been said that if they discover that the TPP does not truly serve national interests, Japan may back out of negotiations. However, I wonder if we can really afford to withdraw from negotiations without damaging our international reputation. Given the signing of the U.S.-Japan Joint Statement [PDF], I believe that a withdrawal would have a significant impact on the Japan-U.S. Alliance. I don’t think that Japan should talk about the possibility of withdrawal indiscreetly, but could you share with us your personal view on this point?

Minister Kishida: I understand that the Prime Minister has concluded that participation in TPP negotiations is the best path to realize Japan’s national interest. I believe that this decision was made after considering national and public interests while the Prime Minister looked beyond Japan’s current situation and evaluating the economic and other implications. You mentioned withdrawal from negotiations, and I believe that the very fact that discussing the possibility of withdrawal indiscreetly when we are about to begin negotiations would damage national interests. Granted, negotiations are expected to be difficult and what we must do now is, however, to maintain our bargaining power at the negotiation table and make our best efforts for our national interests.

Kamide, Freelance: You seem to be against withdrawing from negotiations. However, in reality some ministers have expressed opposing views during the debate in the Diet. How do you explain this inconsistency?

Minister Kishida: I am saying that we should refrain from discussing things like this. We are required to maintain strong bargaining power, and we must have strong resolve. I believe that the other ministers feel the same way as I do on those points.

TPP and energy policy

Arai, NHK: I would like to ask you two questions. One is related to the TPP issue that you have just talked about. Bilateral consultations with the U.S. or other countries have not been concluded yet. When do you expect they will be? I understand that it is difficult for the Japanese government to determine that as it is a bilateral issue.

My other question relates to a wholly different issue. A ministerial meeting on reducing the cost of procuring liquid natural gas (LNG) and other fuels was held today after the Cabinet Meeting. Could you tell us if any decisions were made in that meeting?

Minister Kishida: First of all, concerning consultations with the U.S., after the declaration to participate in the TPP negotiations, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released a statement in which it welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s important announcement. The statement also said that the U.S. had been engaging with Japan in bilateral TPP consultations on issues of concern, and that important work remained to be done and that the U.S. looked forward to continuing these consultations. These two matters were included in the statement. As such, we will continue consultations so that we can obtain consent from the U.S. side as early as possible. Regarding your question about when the consultations will be concluded, since it has been decided that we will participate in TPP negotiations, it would benefit our national interests to participate at an early date. We are hoping that we can obtain consent from the U.S. as soon as possible. In order to achieve this, we need to continue promoting consultations in a thorough manner.

As for the other question regarding fuel costs, you mentioned that a discussion was held after the Cabinet Meeting, but it was actually held prior to it. I would like to ask that you please inquire with the Chief Cabinet Secretary for details on the discussion. I believe that with the recent weakening of the yen, reducing fuel procurement costs is an urgent issue for Japan. Given the circumstances, it may be necessary for both the public and private sectors to improve negotiation capabilities for Japan’s LNG procurement. The discussion was held based on such an understanding. Nothing specific was decided. From the viewpoint of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I pointed out the importance of developing resource diplomacy and further improving our negotiation capability by diversifying supply destinations. That is an overview of what was discussed.

Results of verification of the Iraq war and TPP

Watanabe, Hokkaido Shimbun: I would like to ask about two things. The first is related to the Iraq War. You mentioned that you do not have a plan to conduct verification, but in 2007, the Diet passed a resolution stating that verification would be carried out, including the one of the Government’s decision, when the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq was extended. What are your thoughts concerning consistency with regard to that resolution?

My second question is related to the TPP. Currently there is a talk on appointing a chief negotiator. Is there any desirable person for this position? Please share your thoughts on this point.

Minister Kishida: Regarding the details of the Diet resolution that you mentioned in your first question, I do not have any materials on hand at the moment. Please let me confirm that. I will answer the issue of consistency after I look into that.

Secondly, as for your question about a chief negotiator, the Government needs to prepare a strong negation team. We are sharing this understanding. We have not yet decided on whether we will be appointing a chief negotiator for the team or who would be suitable for that position. We are currently examining that. As for the type of person that might be appropriate, the entire Government, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should consider the matter. In any case, a decision will be made from now on.