Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Sunday, July 5, 2015, 10:49 p.m. Minister’s Audience Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening remarks

On the inscription of the World Heritage List “The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List (decision at the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO)

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today (same date local time), at the 39th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, held in Bonn, Germany, a decision was made to inscribe on the World Heritage List “The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution,” which Japan nominated as a candidate for the list. To ensure the inscription, the Government of Japan has made coordination until the last moment. The government of Japan is very pleased about the decision for the inscription. I would like to welcome this decision with everyone involved in the process and would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations.

This property was highly valued as a series of heritage sites that played central roles in Japan’s industrialization of the heavy industries such as iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining, from the 1850s through 1910. I would like to pay my sincere tribute to the efforts by our ancestors who succeeded in achieving the first industrialization in the non-Western world through a process of trial and error. At the same time, I hope that the global role that this series of heritage sites played will be more widely appreciated worldwide through the decision made this time.

After the inscription was decided, Japan made a statement in order to reaffirm its position that Japan, as a responsible member of the World Heritage Committee, will sincerely address the recommendations by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The statement articulated the recognition that the Government of Japan has held hitherto. There is no change whatsoever to the position that the issues relating to property and claims between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), including the issue of requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula, have been settled completely and finally by the Claims Settlement and Economic Co-operation Agreement of 1965, which was concluded on the occasion of the normalization of the relationship between Japan and the ROK.

In this regard, through diplomatic exchanges, it is our understanding that the Government of ROK has no intention to utilize the statement by the representative of the Government of Japan in the context of the issue of claims between Japan and ROK. The expressions such as “forced to work” used in the statement by the representative of Japan do not mean “forced labor.”

We will continue to promote the appeal of Japan’s assets including “The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” in cooperation with other relevant ministries and agencies so that people around the world will understand their values as world heritages.

I know that there will be a press conference by departments in charge of this issue later, therefore please ask details of this issue in that press conference.

Question-and-answer session

Kojima, NHK: Originally, the discussions on the inscription should have taken place yesterday, but were extended by one day. Based on your remarks just now, Minister, I feel that the issues relating to claims and “forced to work” were the difficult parts. What was the content of exchanges between Japan and the ROK that took place until the last moment, and what do you think about your evaluation on the fact that the decision was extended by one day and relevant parties had to remain on location for the extra day?

Minister Kishida: First, it was extended for one day in a discussion involving other parties. It also pertains to an issue involving many people concerned. I think it was a result of the coordination that took place right up to the last moment. With regards to the specific details of these exchanges, administrative coordination, and working level coordination, these took place as diplomatic exchanges; therefore, I must refrain from revealing the details here. In any case, my understanding is that the coordination took place until the last moment in order to ensure the registration while involving other parties.

Sato, Yomiuri Shimbun: In terms of the issues relating to the Claims Agreement between Japan and the ROK, you stated that the ROK government will not utilize the statement in the future for diplomatic purposes. What are your grounds for this?

Minister Kishida: Regarding the point you raised, we confirmed it through the high-level diplomatic exchanges with the Government of the ROK.

Makita, Kyodo Press: Although the details have not been confirmed, what is your impression on the speech given by the ROK side after the inscription?

Minister Kishida: As I previously stated, I must refrain from revealing the details of diplomatic exchanges. Since the remarks by the ROK side were also coordinated in advance between Japan and the ROK, my impression is that, as such, there is no problem with the speech.

Fukai, TBS: Minister, you said that Japan and the ROK completely shared the views at the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting the other day. Against that background, can I ask for your current opinion on the fact that this issue got entangled in this way?

Minister Kishida: We had shared the view that Japan and the ROK would cooperate. However, at the working level, a variety of coordination had taken place. It involved negotiations with another party, and also many committee members were involved in the meeting. My recognition of our works conducted is that seeking the understanding of many related parties, carrying out the work carefully, and ensuring the inscription.

Kojima, NHK: My question concerns Japan-ROK relations. What impact do you think the fact that this issue got entangled in this way will have on them? Also, is it your understanding that the points agreed at the previous Foreign Ministers’ Meeting have been implemented?

Minister Kishida: You used the expression “entangled,” but as I previously stated, this was simply the result of coordination that took place until the last moment at working levels involving many another party, and we conducted the work carefully. As a result, the inscription was realized. I am very pleased about this outcome. Japan and the ROK both cooperated and the property nominated by Japan and the property nominated by the ROK were both inscribed this time. So my understanding is that this is an outcome to be welcomed by everyone involved and that we should all be pleased.

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