Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 11:07 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Improved implementation of the Status of U.S. Forces Agreement

Foreign Minister Kishida: At the outset, I would like to announce that Japan and the U.S. have agreed on another improved implementation of the Status of U.S. Forces Agreement . It has been decided to establish a new system where when a criminal case committed by a member of the U.S. forces is dealt by the U.S. side, the disposition of the case is notified to the Japanese side and informed to the victims. This system will enable us to notify the victims of the disposition regardless of whether there is the intervention of a court or not, updating the current notification procedure in which the Japanese side was only notified of the final disposition of the tried cases. The new system will be applied to all the offences to be committed after January 1, 2014.

(2) Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the “Minamata Convention on Mercury”

Foreign Minister Kishida: I am scheduled to visit Kumamoto City on October 10 to attend the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the “Minamata Convention on Mercury” and sign the Convention and the Final Act. This Convention aims at reducing the risks of mercury to human health and the environment. I am told that the attendees of this Conference will be approximately 800 people from around 140 countries and regions, including ministerial-level representatives from around 60 countries. I am planning to hold a Foreign Ministerial meeting with Uruguay and Zambia.

(3) Visit to Okinawa

Foreign Minister Kishida: As announced previously, I will be visiting Okinawa from today. I hope to hold a wide-ranged discussion with Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima. I will explain the outcomes of the recently held “2+2” Meeting, especially the ones that will mitigate the impact on Okinawa, such as increase of the training of MV-22 Osprey at locations outside Okinawa, a new framework for access to U.S. facilities and areas slated for return and the partial lifting of restrictions for a portion of the Hotel-Hotel training area. At the same time, I will discuss the multi-faceted relationship between the Government of Japan and Okinawa Prefecture, such as the improvement in the notification of criminal case dispositions that I mentioned at the outset, and the youth exchange project between Okinawa and the U.S. Further, in Okinawa, I am planning to exchange views with Lieutenant General John Wissler, Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa Area Coordinator, and also with the businesses community.

Improved implementation of the Status of U.S. Forces Agreement

Toiyama, Ryukyu Shimpo: Regarding SOFA’s notification system of criminal trials, Article XVII 6.(b) stipulates that the authorities of Japan and the US military authorities shall notify each other of the disposition of all cases where there are concurrent rights to exercise jurisdiction. As this rule already exists, what is the significance of this latest agreement?

I have two additional points. It has been often pointed out in responses to Diet deliberations that a significant number of cases has not been disposed. With the introduction of the new system, will Japan be given notification of the reasons for the cases that are not disposed? Furthermore, regarding the scope of the notification, it is provided that the substance of disciplinary measures by the US side will be disclosed to the extent of the agreement to non-disposition. Will there be contents which will not be disclosed?

Minister Kishida: First of all, in relation to SOFA, there was issue awareness about the implementation of the Agreement itself, and we have been aware of the need to establish a framework for the government of Japan to know all the dispositions by the US side and notify the results to the victims. Based on this awareness, Japan and the U.S. have reached a concrete agreement this time, and that is why I have made this announcement. Regarding your specific questions on its implementation, new basic principles are as announced, and the details will presumably be reconfirmed as the new system begins. If there are any details that are already concrete, they will be explained at the working level.

Mizuuchi, Sankei Shimbun: Regarding your visit to Okinawa, the decision of the reclamation permit of Henoko is looming. And Japan and the U.S. have again confirmed at the latest “2+2” Meetings that the current plan is the only possible solution and expressed strong and shared intention to move the plan forward. I would like to ask how you will explain this intention and gain understanding of the Governor of Okinawa. Furthermore, what impact do you think the recent agreement on improving the administration of SOFA will have on the reclamation?

Minister Kishida: Firstly, I intend to exchange views with the Governor on a broad range of topics, including what I previously mentioned. In this context, naturally the “2+2” will be a topic of discussion, and the issue of the implementation of SOFA will also be a key topic. Besides, a new agreement on youth exchanges between Okinawa and the U.S. was also concluded, and I am told that the Governor is highly motivated to encourage international exchanges. I hope to discuss how the Governor views the new youth exchanges. I plan to exchange views with the Governor on a variety of topics including them.

Regarding your question about the realignment of the U.S. forces in Japan, these are among major agenda items, and in that regard I intend to conduct a thorough exchange of views with the Governor, and hope to have a chance to discuss future developments.

Sakamoto, NHK: Regarding the agreement on improved implementation of SOFA, I would like to ask what you personally feel its significance is, and in the future what you believe can be expected through its implementation.

Minister Kishida: We have made ceaseless efforts to ensure the appropriate implementation of SOFA, and I believe continued efforts are required to go forward. This latest agreement on improved implementation of SOFA is one of the outcomes of these efforts. We must continue to carefully build on these efforts going. I strongly believe that ultimately these efforts must lead to mitigating the impact on the people of Okinawa. I hope these efforts will generate the understanding of Japan’s security policies and the understanding of the moves to realign U.S. forces in Japan. In any case, this is one of our ongoing efforts and we intend to continue our solid efforts as well.