Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, July 25, 2014, 11:02 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Foreign Minister Kishida’s official visit to Viet Nam
Minister Kishida: From Thursday, July 31 to Saturday, August 2, I will make an official visit to Viet Nam. In addition to holding meetings with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and other senior officials of the Government of Viet Nam, I am also scheduled to hold the sixth meeting of the Japan-Viet Nam Cooperation Committee, in which relevant ministries and agencies will also participate.
I have personally forged a variety of ties with Viet Nam by serving for many years as Secretary-General of the Viet Nam-Japan Parliamentary Friendship Association, head of the secretariat of the association and so on, but this will be my first visit to Viet Nam as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I hope to use this visit to advance concrete cooperation in a wide range of areas, including politics and security, beginning with strengthening ties in the area of maritime security, and the economy and people-to-people exchanges, in order to further strengthen the “Extensive Strategic Partnership” with Viet Nam.
Execution of a Japanese citizen convicted on drug smuggling in China
Watanabe, NHK: In China, a death sentence was carried out with regard to a Japanese citizen who attempted to smuggle stimulant drugs into Japan. What is your view on this matter?
Minister Kishida: According to a report by the Branch Office in Dalian, Consulate-General of Japan at Shenyang, on the morning of July 25 Japan time, notification was given from the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court to the Branch Office that a death sentence had been carried out with regard to a Japanese prisoner on that day.
I believe that the punishments for a variety of types of crimes in a country, no matter what they may be, are basically issues that fall under the category of domestic matters, and should be decided within the country based on the crime situation of that country and its criminal policies and so forth. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the public sentiment of Japan and the protection of Japanese citizens, we have informed the Chinese side that Japan holds a high level of interest regarding death sentences for Japanese citizens in China, including this most recent case.
Drug-related crimes are very serious not only for Japan but also the international community. I understand that many countries are imposing extremely harsh punishments with regard to such crimes including the death penalty. I intend to continue to carry out education so that the citizens of our country do not become associated with, or involved in such crimes in the future.
Malaysia Airlines crash and Russia’s response
Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask about the Malaysia Airlines plane and Russia’s response to it. Yesterday, Canada formally announced that it would be newly imposing additional sanctions against Russia. It has also been reported that moves have begun in earnest in the EU toward imposing additional sanctions. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Japan in the fall, in this context, will the Government of Japan go ahead with this visit as scheduled, and if so, what is the thinking behind doing so? Could I ask your recognition on this?
Minister Kishida: With regards to additional sanctions, I consider that Japan should respond appropriately based on the situation in East Ukraine and also moves of the U.S. and the EU, while also prioritizing coordination with G7. I believe that what comes first is uncovering the truth behind the Malaysia Airlines crash.
Next, regarding the visit to Japan of President Putin, an agreement was reached at the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting held in February of this year that President Putin would visit Japan in the fall of this year. The current situation is that subsequently, nothing more has been decided on this matter. That is all.
Foreign Minister Kishida’s official visit to Viet Nam
Ichinose, Kyodo News: My question concerns your trip to Viet Nam. It faces challenges in the area of maritime security, including a series of vessel collisions with China in spring this year in connection with a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Thus far Prime Minister Abe and Minister Kishida have discussed and expressed in various countries Japan’s basic policy of not tolerating attempts to change the status quo by coercion or intimidation, and this has been expressed in various ways. During your visit to Viet Nam, what kinds of exchanges of views on the maritime security front do you envisage, and what sort of outcomes are you expecting?
Minister Kishida: Where the concept of refusing to tolerate changes to the status quo by coercion or intimidation is concerned, I believe that Japan must share its views solidly in this regard with the international community in the future.
Regarding cooperation with Viet Nam in the area of maritime security, in the past we have carried out the necessary studies and discussions concerning the supply of patrol vessels, for example. In the latest visit, I hope to exchange views and so on on how to proceed with specific cooperation in relation to such points, too. I hope to exchange views frankly with the Vietnamese side, centering on those points and other areas.
Visit by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe to the Republic of Korea
Nakagawa, Yomiuri Shimbun: I would like to ask a question about Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe’s visit to the Republic of Korea and his courtesy call on President Park Geun-hye.
I am not sure if this meeting has already happened or is scheduled to happen, but regarding this matter, I get the impression that just recently a glimmer of light has started to shine through with regard to the currently deadlocked relations between Japan and the ROK. Taking into consideration this visit by Governor Masuzoe to the ROK, what is your outlook for any improvements in relations between Japan and the ROK in the future?
Minister Kishida: First of all, difficult problems exist between Japan and the ROK, so I think that it is especially important to work hard to closely communicate at a variety of levels. Based on this perspective, I believe that we should welcome Governor Masuzoe’s courtesy call on President Park Geun-hye. I expect that these two leaders will engage in a fruitful exchange of opinions. In the future, the Government of Japan intends to continue to make persistent efforts with a view to building future-oriented relations between Japan and the ROK that are multi-layered from a broad perspective.
Right of collective self-defense
Kamide, Freelance: Allow me to again ask a question concerning the right of collective self-defense. After the Cabinet Decision was made, I spoke to young people and found a change. I mean, at the same time as the Cabinet Decision, high-school students who will turn 18 this year received Self-Defense Forces recruiting material by email or snail mail from the SDF. This is also begun being discussed online. Young people fear that it could lead to conscription, and compared to the time of the Cabinet Decision, those concerns are being voiced more strongly.
In response to this, Prime Minister Abe says that conscription is not possible under the Constitution, but that rationale as a part of current common knowledge has been somewhat overturned. Mainstream citizens believe the right of collective self-defense will be exercised, and so where conscription is concerned, not all of the individuals are hastily assuming that just because it is not provided for in the Constitution does not mean it will not happen. And so, on what grounds is conscription not possible? Is it because there is no national service like in the so-called Meiji Constitution? Or is it because there are articles in Japan’s legislation that do not permit forced servitude? I would like to ask what your thoughts are in this regard, as Minister.
Minister Kishida: To begin with, where the recent Cabinet decision is concerned, we must develop a seamless legal basis for security in order to protect the lives and peaceful lifestyles of Japanese citizens. It was based on the awareness of this issue that the Cabinet decided the appropriate basic policies.
You asked about conscription, but as has been mentioned several times in responses to Diet committees and so on, conscription violates the Constitution of Japan, and the Government is not considering it in any way. We have explained this on several occasions. The Cabinet Decision was made regarding basic policies on the legal basis for security that is needed to protect the lives and peaceful lifestyles of Japanese citizens, and I find it highly questionable that based on that, discussions of conscription or violating the Constitution would suddenly emerge. In any case, I intend to explain thoroughly that no thought whatsoever is being given to conscription.
Malaysia Airlines crash and Russia’s response
Watanabe, NHK: I would also like to ask about the Malaysia Airlines flight crash.Up to the present time, the U.S. and Russia have each been releasing various information, and I think that in actuality, it is still not absolutely clear who shot down the plane. There has been a lot of discussion about Japan’s response to Russia and sanctions, but as the Government of Japan, it seems that in order to decide on such matters, it is first necessary to clearly establish the cause of the crash and who shot it down. Up to the present, does Japan have any information pertaining to this search for the truth, and if so, is it attempting to confirm it? Or is it exchanging information with related countries? Can you tell us what is taking place at the present time?
Minister Kishida: I consider that first of all, the international investigation team and other relevant parties must uncover the truth behind the crash, including identifying who was responsible. As was stated in the UN Security Council resolution, to achieve this, my understanding is that what is most important at the current time is to immediately provide the investigation with full and unrestricted access to the site, and also to refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site.
I am concerned that the separatist armed forces are preventing the investigation at the crash site from proceeding smoothly. In addition to strongly urging the cooperation of these forces, I consider that Russia must be requested to cooperate in the international investigation into the crash and to exercise its influence on these forces.
Japan is ready to cooperate with this investigation in order to uncover the truth. This is what I told Mr. Pavlo Klimkin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, in my telephone conversation with him yesterday. Currently, where the investigation is concerned, in the telephone talks, it was also mentioned that the Netherlands, which suffered the greatest loss of lives, is spearheading the investigation. Because of the necessity to align solidly with the investigation by the Netherlands, after the telephone talks I promptly contacted the Netherlands, and at present adjustments are being carried out regarding the investigation.
Situation in Gaza
Nishinaka, Freelance: My question is concerning the situation in Palestine. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on July 23 calling for an immediate cessation of Israeli military assaults throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The resolution also announced the formation of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the current situation in Gaza. However, the U.S. opposed the resolution and the Government of Japan abstained from voting together with European countries. My question is why the Government of Japan abstained from voting?
My other question is whether it is possible for the Government of Japan to more strongly urge the Government of Israel to stop its attack on Gaza, particularly from a humanitarian viewpoint, and to stop its attack on civilians, under the current urgent situation? Please answer these two questions.
Minister Kishida: First of all, the Government of Japan urges all the parties concerned to exercise their maximum restraint in order to end the vicious cycle of violence as early as possible. Moreover, we also demand refraining from use of excessive force to prevent harrowing casualties of innocent civilians, and achieving early ceasefire.
Regarding your question on the abstention of vote by the Japanese government, we abstained from voting based on an idea that we firstly need to fully understand the situation to consider our approaches to this issue. Anyway, we will fully understand the situation in the future and as I have mentioned, I think we need to clarify the ideas of the Government of Japan and announce them to the international community.