Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, May 9, 2014, 8:25 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
(1) 500 days in office; Acceptance of Arms Trade Treaty
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: Today is my 500th day in office. Thank you for your ongoing support.
At the Cabinet meeting a short time ago, it was decided to accept the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Today I will deposit a letter of acceptance for this treaty with the UN Headquarters in New York. This treaty is significant for establishing international standards to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons, along with preventing illegal trade and others. The Government of Japan intends to continue to perform a leading role in ensuring that the ATT enters into force promptly and is implemented effectively.
Collision incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: My question concerns the situation in the South China Sea. As a result of China’s oil drilling near the Paracel Islands, Chinese and Vietnamese vessels collided. I would like to ask how the Government of Japan perceives the situation. There are also issues between Japan and China in connection with the East China Sea and the Senkaku Islands. What is the Government of Japan’s perception and how does the Government of Japan intend to approach to China and Vietnam?
Minister Kishida: Where the collisions between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels are concerned, I am currently in the process of confirming the facts, but there are reports that a large number of vessels have been damaged and that casualties have occurred, so I am extremely concerned and paying close attention to the situation.
Tensions in the region have increased as a result of China unilaterally commencing excavation in an area of ocean with undefined borders, which I am deeply worried about. Furthermore, this situation can be viewed as one step in a series of unilateral and provocative maritime advances by China. I believe the Chinese side should elucidate the basis for and the details of its activities to the Vietnamese side and the international community.
The peace and stability of the South China Sea is a matter of concern of the international community. I believe this is a problem that should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. Furthermore, the relevant countries are moving to create a code of conduct in connection with the South China Sea, and I by all means want to call on the countries concerned to refrain from unilateral actions such as this that heighten tension, respect international law and behave with self-restraint.
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: I do not think it is possible to rule out a similar situation occurring in the East China Sea either, and I would like to ask what your thoughts are on that.
Minister Kishida: As I have stated repeatedly, with regard to the East China Sea and the Senkaku Islands, both historically and in light of international law the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory and are under the valid control of Japan. No issue of territorial sovereignty exists. This is the basic stance of the Government of Japan, as we have frequently said. I do not believe that this will change in the future either. Intrusions into territorial waters occur repeatedly around the Senkaku Islands as well. The Government of Japan by all means intends to continue to respond in a resolute and calm manner.
Right to collective self-defense
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: My question concerns the right to collective self-defense. As early as next week, the Government’s advisory panel will release its report. When it comes to the Government’s policy following that, under what format will the Government’s policy be decided and what sort of schedule will be followed?
Minister Kishida: Where the debate on the right to collective self-defense is concerned, I am aware that the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security will issue its final report as early as the week of May 12. After the final report is issued, the Government and the ruling parties will hold discussions. This plan is in line with what I have said. Discussions will be held in this way and if it is decided that changes in the constitutional interpretation are to occur, a Cabinet decision will be made. The discussions will proceed according to this arrangement, I believe. I understand that this plan does not have a deadline.
Torinari, Kyodo News: My question relates to the Senkaku Islands issue. Some are of the opinion that China is aiming to create the fait accompli of its territorial right to the islands by repeatedly and on a daily basis having its government vessels enter Japan’s territorial waters. Until now, the Government of Japan has responded with warnings or protests against China’s actions, but are there any other specific measures that can be taken?
Minister Kishida: In the area surrounding the Senkaku Islands, we must defend our territory, territorial waters and airspace. This has been the policy we have implemented up to the present time, and going forward also, I believe that we must maintain a resolute stance to deal with this situation. Also, freedom of the high seas and freedom of navigation are basic values of the international community that should be defended.
I believe in the importance of acting in accordance with such international law, and also the importance of urging China to act in accordance with the law as the whole international community. Therefore, I think it is also important that we firmly clarify the legal basis for our own actions, and that, going forward, we maintain our approach of compliance with international law.
Yamazaki, Fuji Television: My question is also about China. Prior to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the situation within China is that there has been a series of arrests of human rights activists. First, I would like to ask your opinion of this. Also, during the holiday period, Liberal Democratic Party Vice-President Masahiko Komura visited China and called for a Japan-China summit in conjunction with the upcoming APEC meeting. I would like to ask what the prospects are for this.
Minister Kishida: First, I am aware of the various reports on the moves being taken in China pertaining to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests on June 4. I believe that freedom, respect for basic human rights and the rule of law are all key components of universal values. Therefore, if the contents of these reports are true, I am afraid that we cannot help but feel concerned about the situation.
Regarding the visit of Diet members belonging to the Japan-China Parliamentarians’ Friendship League to China and the outlook for a summit meeting this fall, I understand that the former has led to meaningful discussions. I hope that in the future we should continuously hold these sorts of dialogues at various levels, and that they result in further dialogue at higher political levels. Any specific schedules have not yet been decided, but based on this policy, I believe that we should continue to firmly control our relationship, based on the starting point of mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests from a broad perspective.
Right to collective self-defense
Tokuhashi, NHK: Regarding the timing of a cabinet decision on the right to collective self-defense, you have remarked previously that it does not have a deadline, but with regards to the question of by what time you think it preferable that a decision be taken, can I ask you whether it will be connected to the review of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation scheduled for the end of the year?
Minister Kishida: I think that various elements are involved in this discussion. However, what is most important is that the discussion is carried out carefully, while obtaining the full understanding of the Japanese people. To this end, it is important that the discussion should be carried out carefully and firmly. Precisely for this reason, my understanding is that it does not have a deadline. Therefore, I don’t think it is appropriate at the current point in time to have it combined with another schedule.