Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 10:14 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Japan-Australia Bilateral Foreign Ministers’ meeting
As I announced at the last week’s press conference, today I am meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop while taking that as an opportunity to further strengthen the Japan-Australia bilateral relationship.
(2) Visit to Japan by UK Foreign Minister William Hague/Japan-UK Strategic Dialogue
In addition, tomorrow (on October 16), we will welcome UK Foreign Secretary William Hague as an invitee by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and conduct the 2nd Japan-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.
I have been establishing our relationship based on trust with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague through close communication – such as two meetings and four telephone conferences – on the situations in North Korea and Syria among others. In this Strategic Dialogue, I hope to promote the Minister’s deeper understanding on the security environment in East Asia and Abe administration’s security policy while establishing a common recognition on the direction of mutual security cooperation for the future.
Visit to Yasukuni Shrine on the occasion of the Annual Autumn Festival
Saito, Kyodo News: I have a question related to Yasukuni Shrine. In last week’s press conference, I remember that you did not make clear as to whether you will visit Yasukuni Shrine. Should you have any further comment at this stage, please provide us withit. That’s my first question.
Next, as being announced, former leader of the Kochi-kai faction Makoto Koga, as the chairman of the Nippon Izokukai (Japan War-Bereaved Families Association), has commented for several times on the separate enshrinement of the Class A war criminals. If you have any views on the discussion, I would like you to introduce it to us.
Foreign Minister Kishida: First of all, with regard to my action, as I have repeatedly mentioned, I, as the Foreign Minister of the Abe Cabinet, will act accordingly. This has been unchanged.
Furthermore, with regard to the discussion of the separate enshrinement, it is natural in any country to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for the nation. Standing on that premise, I am aware that there are various discussions, such as what you just pointed out. However, I must refrain from making any comments from my capacity on such point.
Former Prisoners of War (POWs) from the United States invited to Japan
Kikuchi, Asahi Shimbun:I have a question on American prisoners of war (POWs) scheduled later. A US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report points to the uncertainty over a possible continuation of the project to invite American POWs to Japan, as Prime Minister Abe has a view that would negate Japan’s history of aggression. What is your view to the meaning of the project and do you intend to continue the project from next year onward?
Foreign Minister Kishida: Firstly, I will check the CRS report as I have not known it. Secondly, with respect to the project, I have a recognition that it is very important in order to have an understanding on Japan’s response to the Second World War and our view toward our response.
I consider that projects to clearly present Japan’s stance and ideas, such as this one, will continue to be essential.
The “Minamata Convention on Mercury”
Kamiide, Freelance: Recently, the “Minamata Convention on Mercury” has been concluded, of which meeting you attended. Prime Minister Abe’s remark that Japan recovered from the issue has drawn strong criticisms from various sides.
For instance, Nikkei Shimbun’s editorial Shunju questions his remark that it lacks proper understanding as there remain different issues, in the same way as his recent statement on radiation control. Not only the editorial but also substantially many sources have been questioning his remark in contrast with the global recognition. What is your view as the Foreign Minister involving the matter?
Foreign Minister Kishida: In Prime Minister Abe’s address via video on the day, the word recovery was used. He meant that Japan had made miscellaneous efforts ever since the occurrence of Minamata Disease and continued to work hard in reducing the risks of mercury up to the present. He also meant that Minamata, and its locals, as environmentally advanced region, had striven until the present. That is what he tried to mention.
As a matter of fact, Prime Minister Abe expressed in his address that he extended his sincere condolences to all those who have lost their lives due to illnesses caused by mercury and that his heart also went to those who are still fighting these illnesses. I understand that the Prime Minister showed his recognition that our efforts on this issue need to continue and that the issue has yet to be solved.
In any event, in my view, the Government needs to continue to address the issue of Minamata Disease toward its solution.
Kamiide, Freelance: I understood. So, does that mean that you consider the criticisms to Prime Minister Abe inappropriate?
Foreign Minister Kishida: My understanding is that Prime Minister Abe’s intentions led to his remark, and that is how I hope related municipal officers to consider. I am having a stronger will that the Government needs to make constant effort toward resolving the issue of Minamata Disease.
Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
Fukuoka, Mainichi Shimbun: As you announced last week, regarding the Joint Statement against the use of nuclear weapons which is scheduled to appear as early as this week at the First Committee of the UN, given that Hiroshima is your electoral district, I would like to firstly ask whether or not you yourself had quite strong thoughts on this, and also, what kind of initiatives did you take?
Minister Kishida: With regard to the Joint Statement you mentioned, in terms of the recognition of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons stated in the statement, I have always believed that as the only country that has ever experienced atomic bombings in wartime, Japan will be in accordance with it.
Additionally, in relation to the harsh security environment Japan faces, there were processes of discussion with relevant countries on the wordings of this Joint Statement.
I myself met directly with the foreign ministers of various countries, beginning with New Zealand and Malaysia, which played central roles in issuing this Joint Statement, and explained our point of view and sought for their cooperation. Various efforts were made, including adjustments at the working level.
As a result of those adjustments with the relevant countries, the statement was amended and we reached the conclusion that Japan could support it. We regard this as a major step forward. We intend to continue further various efforts going forward, such as the issuance of this Joint Statement. In addition, next year the Government of Japan will hold the NPDI Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima. Bearing these diplomatic schedules in mind, we hope to provide strong leadership in the debate on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. I too intend to make persistent efforts toward the ultimate goal of realizing a World without Nuclear Weapons.
Watanabe, NHK: At the press conference it was announced that both the Government of Japan and yourself were able to support the statement, but with regard to specific amendments, it has become clear that wordings stating not to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances whatsoever, which had been the stumbling block for Japan, remains unchanged. As this stance is maintained, what was the most significant point ? I would like to ask what substance was significant in expressing your intention to sign and support the statement.
Minister Kishida: The Government of Japan’s response in endorsing this Joint Statement and the process leading up to that announcement are as I have described. However, with regard to the content and the specific wording, the Joint Statement itself is yet to be released. I would like to refrain from referring to and discussing the specific wording until the Joint Statement is officially released, since it also pertains to the other relevant countries.
Extraordinary Diet session
Mizuuchi, Sankei Shimbun: This autumn’s extraordinary Diet session will begin today, and there are a particularly large number of important foreign diplomacy-related items on the agenda of the extraordinary Diet session, such as the National Security Council (NSC) bill and the bill of preservation of secrets. What position will the Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopt at this extraordinary Diet session?
Minister Kishida: In addition to the bills you mentioned, there are 13 treaties and agreements on the agenda of this extraordinary Diet session. Each and every bill and treaty are of considerable importance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These numerous challenges must be debated in the Diet session, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must take every opportunity to make a thorough response. I intend to make every effort to ensure that this extraordinary Diet session will produce substantial results.
Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
Fujimura, Chugoku Shimbun: I have two questions in relation to the Joint Statement raised earlier.
Firstly, Japan as the country to have suffered atomic bombings, this statement which is the fourth statement, is the first Japan will endorse. What impact and effect do you believe this will have? Secondly, today for example you will have a meeting with the foreign minister of Australia, a country belonging to the same alliance and which is under the so to speak nuclear umbrella. Having supported the statement, does the Government of Japan intend to encourage other countries to endorse the statement also, by issuing an appeal of some sort to allies like Australia, for example?
Minister Kishida: To begin with, the fact that Japan, as the only country that has ever experienced atomic bombings in wartime, is endorsing this Joint Statement is significant, considering that Japan will continue to take the lead in the area of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. And I believe it will be necessary to continue to solidly explain Japan’s position to various countries and the relevant countries.
Based on both an accurate recognition of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and a level-headed recognition of the harsh security environment Japan faces, we will continue to explain the position that we must move forward realistically and tangibly on the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and continue to work toward the ultimate goal of realizing a World without Nuclear Weapons, while seeking cooperation from further countries.