Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Monday, January 4, 2016, 10:22 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Aspirations for this year
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan: This is my first press conference of 2016. I hope to receive your ongoing support in this New Year. I would like to mention two things.
The first is aspirations for this year. I believe that this year, 2016, will be an important year for the diplomacy of Japan. Japan will serve the presidency for G7 for the first time in eight years. I myself will serve as chairperson at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in April. I think that this will be a big chance for Japan to play a leading role and at the same time to shoulder a great responsibility in the international community.
Japan will also chair this year’s Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, which was resumed last year for the first time in three and a half years. Regarding the relations with the Republic of Korea, a historical agreement was reached at the Japan-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting at the end of last year that finally and irreversibly resolved the issue of comfort women, which had been a major concern in Japan-ROK relations. In light of this agreement, I intend to move toward developing a new era of future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. I also intend to work hard in order to put relations with China, an important neighboring country, on track.
At the United Nations, this month Japan became a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for the first time in five years. This is the 11th time, which is the highest number of times of any country in the world. Through the Security Council, I intend to more proactively contribute to maintaining peace and security in the international community, so as to demonstrate that it is appropriate for Japan to become a permanent member.
The end of last year marked precisely three years since I became the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This year, with a renewed spirit, it is my intention to continue working hard and making my utmost efforts for Japanese diplomacy.
To all of the journalists, I am looking forward to working with you again this year.
(2) Japan-UK Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting
Minister Kishida: The other thing that I would like to mention is that the second Japan-UK Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting, the so called “2 + 2” meeting, will be held on January 8 in Tokyo. This will be the first such meeting to take place in Tokyo.
Japan and the United Kingdom are both major countries that are responsible for peace and stability in the international community, and are close security partners in Asia and Europe.
At this “2 + 2” meeting, which follows the first of these meetings held in London in January last year, I intend to engage in discussions related to measures against terrorism and the handling of regional situations, and affirm the strengthening of cooperation in security and defense.
On that same day, I will hold a Japan-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue with Mr. Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, the first such dialogue since August last year, and we are planning to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation in the international arena.
This concludes my remarks.
Fifth place in time served as foreign minister
Morifuji, Yomiuri Shimbun: As of tomorrow, your period of serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs will reach precisely 1,106 days, and I believe that this marks the fifth longest stretch of days for a Japanese foreign minister. Looking back on this period since your appointment, could you tell us what your thoughts are, including your self-assessment? Also, could you give us your views on the significance of serving as the Minister for Foreign Affairs for such a long period of time?
Minister Kishida: In response to the question regarding my time serving as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, a longer time is not necessarily better of course, and I believe that it is essential to look closely at what has been accomplished as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Nonetheless, as for my feelings on serving as the Minister for Foreign Affairs for more than three years, it seems that serving for a long time also has had some significance in terms of diplomacy.
In serving as the Minister for Foreign Affairs for more than three years, I have engaged in many foreign ministers’ meetings, with the foreign ministers from 104 countries. With the inclusion of the meetings with presidents, prime ministers, and other ministerial level officials, I have heard that I had over 580 meetings. Aside from these meetings, there have also been telephone meetings, as well as various types of meetings over meals, such as breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, and banquets. Based on developing many interpersonal relationships in this manner, I also feel that interpersonal relationships and personal connections are an important aspect of diplomacy.
I would like to work hard whilst placing an importance on the interpersonal relationships and personal connections that I have developed over the period of approximately three years.
Odanaka, Mainichi Shimbun: My question is about the comfort women issue in relation to the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that took place at the end of last year. Following the foreign ministers’ meeting, some reports suggested that the Japanese side’s interpretation is that the lump sum contribution of 1 billion yen to be made by the Japanese side as part of this agreement is contingent on the removal of the comfort women statue. Can you confirm whether this is true?
Minister Kishida: I believe you are asking whether or not there is a connection between the Japanese side’s contribution of approximately 1 billion yen to the foundation and the removal of the statue of the girl. I think this point was actually covered fully in the announcement made by myself, as Minister, and Mr. Yun Byung-se, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK), at the joint press conference on December 28. I believe that there is no more or less to it than that.
Kamide, Freelance: I have two brief questions relating to the foreign ministers’ meeting. At the meeting, Minister, you conveyed the feelings of regret of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This comfort women issue is an issue that is deeply linked to the so-called colonial occupation. My first question is whether the Prime Minister’s words of regret and remorse include regret and occupation regarding colonial occupation?
The other question is regarding the point of an irreversible resolution, which has been presented in the meeting. Looking at this point from the Japanese side, does that include efforts by politicians and the Japanese Government not to unnecessarily irritate the ROK side regarding various historical issues, such as making a visit to Yasukuni Shrine by Cabinet ministers? I would like to ask for your views on these two points.
Minister Kishida: Firstly, where the Prime Minister’s feelings of regret are concerned, I made a statement at a press conference on December 28. That was based on the feelings conventionally expressed by previous Cabinets, and the feelings expressed by Prime Minister Abe thus far, I believe.
And regarding the matter of the final and irreversible resolution, this is something that Minister Yun also acknowledged, but I too stated that I had confirmed this as the final and irreversible resolution. I believe it will be necessary for both sides to respond firmly, in line with the statement to that effect. It is my hope that both sides will respond firmly, in line with that intent.
Takeda, Asahi Shimbun: My question is related to the question asked earlier by Mr. Odanaka. At an informal press conference you held with Japanese journalists in Seoul, you stated your recognition that the comfort women statue would be appropriately relocated. However, in some respects, your statement also seems to be deviating from the content of the joint press conference. Could you please confirm once again as to what your recognition of this matter is?
Minister Kishida: Based on the exchanges between Japan and the ROK up to now as well as the comments made at the joint press conference, I have stated my recognition that the statue would be appropriately relocated. This understanding remains the same till now.
Takeda, Asahi Shimbun: Am I correct in taking that to mean that there has also been an agreement with the ROK side that it will appropriately relocate the statue?
Minister Kishida: As I stated, my recognition is that it will be appropriately relocated.
Abe, Asahi Shimbun: My question also relates to this point. I think there appears to be a slight variation between Japan and the ROK’s positions on relocating the comfort women statue. As you also said, this agreement is a final and irreversible agreement, and as such, it possesses an exceptional historical significance, I believe. Given that this agreement is so important, why was a record not kept in the form of a joint agreement document this time?
Minister Kishida: The comfort women issue is finally and irreversibly resolved as a result of this agreement between the Governments of Japan and the ROK. At the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on December 28 I carried out a face-to-face discussion with Minister Yun on this point, and secured a firm promise directly from the ROK Government.
Additionally, at the joint press announcement following the foreign ministers’ meeting, in front of television cameras and before the eyes of the citizens of both countries and the international community, Minister Yun strongly and clearly stated that. Furthermore, I would also like to emphasize that this agreement was confirmed between the leaders of the two countries.
Accordingly, the Government believes that it has obtained a clear, full and definite promise from the ROK Government that this is the final and irreversible resolution. That is all I have to say.
Efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council
Chijiiwa, TV Asahi: If I may change the topic, within the hopes you expressed in your opening remarks, towards its end you expressed the hope that this year Japan would demonstrate it was worthy of being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. I think that becoming a permanent member of the Security Council is also a major theme, and how do you think Japan should attempt to achieve it?
Minister Kishida: This year is the 71st year since the foundation of the United Nations. When we think of how greatly the times have changed over this period, I believe that it is necessary to thoroughly investigate and consider whether the United Nations is functioning sufficiently and on the form that the Security Council should take.
Moreover, many countries have a variety of different awareness of the problems within the current situation. Japan considers that reforms to the United Nations, particularly the form the Security Council should take, are necessary, and up to the present time we have taken the lead in this debate.
As this year marks the first time in five years that Japan will serve as a member of the Security Council, I think that Japan will make its best effort this year to work on the form to be taken by the United Nations. I consider that this year Japan will take resolute steps to address this issue.
Kurihara, NHK: This also concerns the recognition of Japan and the ROK regarding the comfort women issue discussed earlier. For example, in regard to the application to the inscription of documents relating to the comfort women issue in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Memory of the World, there have been comments made that appear to negate your recognition that the ROK side will not participate in this application. Given that the words, deeds and similar actions of the ROK side have now immediately begun to subtly deviate from your recognition in this way, in the future how do you intend to bridge the gaps through foreign ministers’ meetings and cooperation in the international arena?
Minister Kishida: I would like to refrain from commenting on detailed exchanges between Japan and the ROK, but my recognition is that, bearing in mind the intent of this agreement, the ROK side is not currently participating in the application to register documents in UNESCO’s Memory of the World that you mentioned. In any event, I believe that both countries will be required to make appropriate responses that take into account the intent of this agreement, which recognizes that it is the final and irreversible resolution. By all means, I hope that we will continue to make firm efforts and work together.
The South China Sea situation
Abe, Asahi Shimbun: Changing the topic to the South China Sea, China has announced that it conducted test flights using the runway constructed on the artificial island that it has built on reclaimed land in the Spratly Islands. You have commented, Minister, that China’s actions in the South China Sea up to the present time are an issue for the peace and stability of the region. Now, what is your reaction to the news of these test flights and how do you think Japan will respond?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the matter you referred to, I am aware that both the Vietnamese and Chinese Governments have made announcements. With regards to China’s recent actions that you mentioned, within the context of the competing claims of the relevant countries over the sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea, Japan has serious concerns about China’s unilateral actions to change the status quo and its attempts to further establish its claims as accomplished facts. I think China must refrain from such actions as they cannot contribute to a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
From the outset, we believe that taking unilateral actions that change the status quo and increase tensions by undertaking large-scale land reclamation or construction in the South China Sea is a matter for concern shared by the international community, and we think that the outcomes of such actions cannot be recognized as accepted facts. In order to keep open and protect the freedom of the seas, I consider it is important that the international community coordinates with each other, and that Japan continues to coordinate with the relevant countries.