Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 8:42 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Yasukuni Shrine’s Annual Spring Festival
Watanabe, NHK: This morning Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshitaka Shindo visited Yasukuni Shrine. Additionally, the other day Prime Minister Abe donated a “masakaki” tree offering to the shrine. U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Japan, and I would like to ask if that will be affected. That is to say, in the past when Prime Minister Abe had visited Yasukuni Shrine, the U.S. side indicated its disappointment. The fact is that the situation has been repeated. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the points you raised, I am aware of the reports, but your question relates to a private conduct, and I do not believe it is a matter to make some remarks as a government official. You also asked about any connection to the visit to Japan by President Obama, but he will visit Japan as a state guest, and the Government of Japan views this as a highly important visit in terms of demonstrating the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance. We intend to make every preparation for the success of the visit.
Provocation by the North Korea during President Obama’s visit to Japan
Watanabe, NHK: There have been some reports of this in the press, and there is talk of various vehicle movements at nuclear facilities and related facilities in the North Korea, and of movements that seem to indicate something. How do you view this situation?
Minister Kishida: I am aware that there are reports of such movements, and we have always monitored moves by the North Korea relating to missile development and nuclear development with grave concern. We are striving to gather and analyze such information. However, where specific points are concerned, this is an intelligence-related issue and so I would like to refrain from commenting. In any event, I intend to continue to pay close attention to the matter.
Yamaguchi, Nikkei Shimbun: My question concerns North Korea. If the North Korea is to go ahead with a nuclear test, what impact would that have on the Japan-North Korea consultations that are currently continuing?
Minister Kishida: It is inappropriate to reply to a hypothetical question. I believe that it will be necessary to continue to pay close attention to developments in North Korea, and via Japan-North Korea government-level consultations I intend to encourage North Korea to take sincere and positive action regarding the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, and various other concerns.
Watanabe, NHK: As things stand currently, what is the schedule for the next Japan-North Korea consultations?
Minister Kishida: Where Japan-North Korea government-level consultations are concerned, there is naturally a shared understanding that the consultations will continue, but I have not received any report that adjustments to the specific schedule are completed as yet. My understanding is that the schedule is not yet confirmed.
Watanabe, NHK: My question concerns Russia. On consecutive days Russian military bomber aircraft have been flying in the vicinity of Japan. The Government of Japan expressed its concern about this, and a statement issued by Russia’s Ministry of Defence suggested that if relations with Japan improve, those concerns would be eliminated. This seems to be asking for sanctions imposed by Japan to be lifted, but what are your thoughts on that?
Minister Kishida: I am not in a position to say conclusively what the Russian side’s intentions or thoughts are, but the Government of Japan intends to continue to respond based on its polity of firmly protecting Japan’s territorial land, waters and airspace, and will continue to closely monitor various developments going forward.
Visit to Japan by President Barack Obama of the United States
Hayabuchi, Nippon Broadcasting System: U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Japan as a state-guest tomorrow. I would like to hear your views on this once again.
Minister Kishida: We will be welcoming a President of the U.S. to Japan as a state guest for the first time in 18 years. I hope that President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are keenly aware of the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, and that, based on this, they intend to thoroughly communicate with each other regarding bilateral relations between Japan and the U.S., the regional situation in the Asia-Pacific region, and cooperation between Japan and the U.S. regarding global matters. I hope that these two leaders will substantially affirm the trusting relationship between our countries. I also hope that this will be an opportunity to thoroughly show the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance both in and out of Japan.
Impoundment of a Mitsui O.S.K. Lines’ ship by a Chinese court
Yamamoto, Sankei Shimbun: My question is about the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines(MOL) incident. Yesterday, The Chinese side, from the standpoint that it does not fall under the war reparation in the so-called Japan-China Joint Communiqué, insists that the main issues pertaining to this matter should be discussed in the private sector. Can I ask if your understanding is different?
Minister Kishida: Whatever the case, my understanding is that MOL was looking to conduct negotiations with the plaintiff toward the possibility for out-of-court settlement . But despite this, a Chinese court suddenly ordered the ship’s impoundment, which the Government of Japan considers to be regrettable.
We are communicating this standpoint to China and, while staying in firm contact with M OL, we must consider how to respond in the future. These actions may result in a contraction of economic activity between Japan and China, which I consider to be a cause for concern.
Visit to Japan by President Barack Obama of the United States
Shimaya, Jiji Press: This question is regarding the visit to Japan by President Barack Obama. Some people call for him to go to the atomic bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it seems that this is not planned for this visit. How do you view this, and as Foreign Minister, will you request a visit to those cities ?
Minister Kishida: First of all, in general I believe that it would be meaningful for President Obama as well as other political leaders of the world to visit the atomic-bombed cities because this would help build international momentum for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. As for the specific schedule, I am not aware of any decision for such a visit this time, but generally speaking, my feeling is as I have just stated.