Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 10:44 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Military exercise at Takeshima
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: My question concerns the Republic of Korea (ROK). Yesterday the ROK conducted a military exercise around Takeshima. I would like to ask for your frank view on this, and what impact you think it is likely to have on the realization of a Japan-China-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting and a summit meeting and a Japan-ROK summit meeting, for which expectation is growing.
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: To begin with, I am aware that a military-type exercise was carried out on November 24. I consider this exercise is unacceptable and is extremely regrettable in light of our position on the sovereignty of Takeshima. Strong protests have been lodged with the ROK side in both Seoul and Tokyo.
I believe we must continue to persistently deliver Japan’s position to the ROK side. Furthermore, I think that persistent responses are required regarding difficult issues between Japan and the ROK. However, Japan-ROK relations are important bilateral relations and I certainly want to continue to make an effort based on a broad perspective to create a future-oriented and multilayered relationship.
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: Do you think it will have an impact in any way on achieving Japan-China-ROK and Japan-ROK summit meetings?
Minister Kishida: We have always stated that dialogue is important for the very reason that difficult issues exist. Where Japan-China-ROK dialogues are concerned, their importance was confirmed in exchanges with the countries’ leaders at the APEC meetings and other events that took place recently. By all means, I hope there will be positive moves made toward holding them.
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: I understand that Director General-level talks between the foreign ministries of Japan and the ROK will also be held this week. Do you intend to once again go over the current circumstances regarding this exercise at those talks?
Minister Kishida: matters of interest to both sides have been taken and frank exchanges of views have been carried out in Director General-level talks up to now. At present details such as what issues will be taken up at the talks have not been confirmed, but I imagine that matters of interest to both sides will be broadly raised, as in the past.
Japan-North Korea relations
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: This question concerns North Korea. North Korea criticized Japan and the EU over the adoption of a resolution on North Korea’s human rights at the United Nations the other day. Currently negotiations between Japan and North Korea are continuing, but will this have an impact on those negotiations?
Minister Kishida: Japan has approached North Korea based on the principle of dialogue and pressure, and I think the recent UN resolution is likewise extremely important in terms of issuing a clear message to North Korea. Certainly I think that we must coordinate with the United States, the ROK, Russia, China and other relevant countries to press Director General-level talks North Korea to take positive action that solidly complies with successive UN resolutions and statements of the Six-Party Talks. I think by all means we must work on North Korea via various routes.
Yamaguchi, TV Tokyo: Just recently U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stepped down, and according to some reports the resignation can effectively be described as a dismissal. I would like to ask for your frank view on this, and what impact you think it will have on the adjustments to the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, which are continuing at present.
Minister Kishida: To begin with, I do not think I am in a position to comment on appointments within the U.S. government. However, the Japan-U.S. alliance is an extremely important relationship in terms of Japan’s diplomacy, and even aftera new Secretary of Defense is appointed I intend to strive to communicate solidly and continue to work earnestly in order to ensure that this important Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan-U.S. relationship is stable. Specific schedule of various events including the revision to the Japan-U.S. Guidelines are approaching, but I recognize the Japan-U.S. alliance as being very firm and stable.
Issue of the stolen Buddhist statues
Matsui, Asahi Shimbun: Yesterday, there was an incident of Buddhist statues being stolen on Tsushima and then soon found and a group of ROK men being arrested. There was an incident of a group from the ROK stealing Buddhist statues and taking them back to the ROK two years ago. How do you think the Government of Japan should respond to the ROK side regarding these thefts of Buddhist statues?
Minister Kishida: As you pointed out, I am aware that the criminals responsible for the theft were arrested. Previously there was also an incident of stealing Buddhist statutes two years ago. As you are aware, a trial is to take place within the ROK and the procedures for it are ongoing. At the current time, the situation is that the Buddhist statues have not been returned. Japan will continue to request an appropriate response from the ROK toward the return, as we have done up to the present time. I would like to use various opportunities to request the ROK to address the issue going forward.
Kurihara, NHK: I would like to ask about the Guidelines relating to the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who was mentioned earlier. The political situation in Japan is that the House has been dissolved and an election is coming, while in the United States, Secretary of Defense Hagel has resigned. In this context, what do you think are the prospects for the work for the review of the Guidelines, which was supposed to be done by the end of the year?
Minister Kishida: Currently, the work to review the Japan-U.S. Guidelines is proceeding based on the schedule confirmed between Japan and the U.S. at the “2+2” meeting. Specifically, the work is proceeding based on the schedule which is confirmed by the end of this year between Japan and the United States. At the current time, this has not changed and Japan and the United States will continue to make an effort. The Japan-U.S. Alliance is extremely important and I would like to work eagerly on this task.
Japan-North Korea relations
Nakagawa, Yomiuri Shimbun: My question pertains to North Korea’s criticism of Japan. Currently, the re-investigation of the abduction issue is underway and discussions are being held between Japan and North Korea. What effects do you think the criticism will have?
Minister Kishida: In terms of our approach to North Korea, we have put importance on both dialogue and pressure. We value dialogue with North Korea, such as for the investigation being conducted by the Special Investigation Committee. I believe our approach should continue to prioritize both dialogue and pressure in the future. I think that the United Nations’ resolution is important in the sense that it issues a clear message to North Korea.
Matsui, Asahi Shimbun: Currently, various political developments are underway in advance of the election for the House of Representatives, but there are some who are saying that this can cause a political vacuum and that no progress can be made with policies. There are also those who are of the opinion that this situation may delay the investigation of the abduction issue in North Korea. Can I ask your opinion on this?
Minister Kishida: It goes without saying that it is important to have a solid administration and political system when it comes to pursuing domestic politics, as well as diplomacy. Through this election, we will have an opportunity to listen to the voices of the Japanese people once again, which will give momentum to the Administration. I believe that this is extremely important from the perspectives of advancing diplomacy and a variety of domestic policies in the future. We should make this election meaningful and I hope that it serves to further stabilize and add momentum to Japan’s politics.