Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 12:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Comfort women issue

Saito, Kyodo News: I would like to ask about Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations and the wartime comfort women issue. Almost one month has passed since you confirmed the principle to finally resolve the comfort women issue with Mr. Yun Byung-se, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK, in Seoul, but are you aware, Minister, of whether or not over that period there has been progress of any kind between Japan and the ROK on fulfilling the agreement?

Also, the Japanese side will contribute 1 billion yen to a ROK foundation and the ROK will remove the statue of a girl, so the fact is that each side has a homework, but could you also give us a sense of the schedule for fulfilling the agreement in the future, and your sense of the schedule? Thank you.

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan: First, as a result of this agreement, we confirmed that the comfort women issue will be resolved finally and irreversibly, and I believe it will be important for the governments of both countries to responsibly implement this agreement.

And regarding developments since the agreement and up to today, for one thing, at the beginning of the year, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, and subsequently Japan and the ROK were able to pursue communication between their leaders and their foreign ministers very smoothly. In my view this too is one example of the progress in bilateral relations that has resulted from this agreement.

In any event, I believe the governments of both countries must continue making firm efforts to implement the agreement. And regarding implementing the content of the agreement, what was stated by the two countries’ foreign ministers at the joint press announcement on December 28 was what was agreed by the two governments. What the agreement all means is that the governments of both countries will implement this content, and while the specific schedule for that was not decided in some way, from here on we intend to make firm efforts and act sincerely and responsibly.

Saito, Kyodo News: You mentioned continuing to make efforts, but this is a topic and a story that the citizens of both countries have a strong interest in. The fact is that the content of the agreement is known, and I think there is considerable interest in when this will actually take proper shape, so I would like to venture to ask. If the upcoming schedule this year is considered, there is a Nuclear Security Summit at the end of March, and naturally because of the Diet schedule no concrete plans are set, but I think if the Summit is realized then there is a possibility that Ms. Park Geun-hye, President of the ROK, Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, and Mr. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, will attend. I would like to ask whether or not this Summit might present an appropriate opportunity as a finale, and also whether or not you have something in mind as an opportunity for such a finale. Also, this agreement on the comfort women issue was reached between you, Minister Kishida, and Minister Yun, and in terms of confirming the fulfillment of that agreement, I would like to ask whether or not you have a schedule in mind for meeting Minister Yun again to confirm it, and whether or not you have a schedule or a plan in mind. What is the outlook in that respect?

Minister Kishida: With regard to the relationship between Japan and the ROK, this year also I intend to firmly advance this bilateral relationship. And consequently I believe it is very important to pursue communication between the two countries’ leaders and foreign ministers. Yet, at the present point in time I am not considering holding some sort of meeting for confirming the implementation of the agreement.

Kamide, Freelance: Various issues may arise in the future. And in terms of how that will be verified, on the Japanese side, Mr. Yoshitaka Sakurada, former Senior Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, is triggering a backlash by stating that comfort women were merely doing a job. As you would expect this will also be an issue in terms of irreversibly resolving the issue. There has also been a variety of reactions from the ROK side, and former comfort women are currently visiting Japan.

If developments like these are dealt individually, including that if they are not positive, then it will amount to bringing up the issue again I think. I would like to ask what your thoughts are on some sort of measure to prevent the issue from being brought up again, and your views on what is occurring at the moment.

Minister Kishida: I am aware that various opinions exist regarding this comfort women issue and this agreement. Furthermore, I am also aware that various comments are being made. However, I think that the most important thing of all is for the governments of both countries to responsibly implement the agreement reached at the end of last year. Even if there are various opinions and comments, I believe it is important that sincere efforts to implement this agreement take place between the governments.

That is all I have to say for the time being.

Counter Terrorism Unit - Japan

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: It is almost two months since the launch of the Counter Terrorism Unit - Japan. Within the instructions for its launch, Minister, you emphasized that you firmly wanted it to report to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So with regards to its current operations, Minister, up to the present time, could you please tell us what sort of reporting the unit has been making and what is its current operational situation?

Minister Kishida: With regards to the Counter Terrorism Unit - Japan, since its launch, already the respective persons have visited the regions they are responsible for, and the Unit has begun activities. They are diligently conducting activities, including communicating with the various relevant parties and collecting intelligence.

I must refrain from clarifying the specific details of these activities as they pertain to intelligence, but recently a terrorist attack occurred in Jakarta, Indonesia. This sort of situation reminds me of the great importance of counter terrorism initiatives, and moreover within them of the importance of collecting intelligence.

So of course, while keeping this situation in mind, I think that the Counter Terrorism Unit - Japan must continue to work diligently, and I myself am keenly aware of its importance.

The G7 Japan 2016 Ise-Shima Summit

Yoshiura, Kyodo News: My question concerns the Ise-Shima Summit. In this Summit, I imagine that various issues will be discussed, such as the Middle East situation, counter terrorism, and economic support. I would like to ask if among them, are there any issues on the agenda that the Government of Japan particularly wishes to appeal to, in order to appeal for a Japanese-type approach to them?

Minister Kishida: I think that for Japan, this year will be a very important one to lead the international debate, as we are a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, as the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) will be held in Africa, and as we are the chair country of the Japan-China-ROK Summit Meeting. I consider that the Ise-Shima Summit Meeting will be a highlight of the year.

As the G7 chair country, I think Japan must firmly lead the debate on global issues toward achieving regional and global peace, stability, and prosperity. In terms of specific issues on the agenda, first the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held in April. At this meeting, I expect we will discuss various pressing international issues, including the Middle East, counter terrorism, and disarmament and non-proliferation, with a focus on diplomacy and security. In addition, as this meeting will be held in Japan, naturally I think Asian issues must be fully discussed and a positive message sent out. I want these discussions to be firmly led to the Ise-Shima Summit Meeting in May.

Whatever the case, as we are still at the preparatory stage and as it is a Summit Meeting, I cannot say definitively what specific issues will be discussed on the day. Given Japan’s leading position for the international debate this year, and also based on the discussions at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we will decide finally what will be discussed at the Summit.

Comments by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Trutnev

Takenaka, Reuters: I have one question on the Northern Territories. Yesterday, Mr. Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, commented at Davos on the Northern Territories, that as part of the development of the Far East, Russia wanted to conduct fishing and aquaculture operations together with Japanese companies and invited them to tender proposals. He stated that Russia was prepared to give priority to Japanese companies, but he also remarked to the effect that if no Japanese partner companies were found, they would seek partners from other countries. While I imagine you will be repeating previous statements, can I ask, what is Japan’s position with regards to this proposal?

Minister Kishida: I am aware of the comments you referred to. However, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to respond to each and every comment made by Russia’s ministers. But I do think we need to continue to pay attention to such comments.

But speaking in general terms, I think that the economic activities of companies and other organizations from third-party countries in the Northern Territories would be incompatible with Japan’s position on the Northern Territories issue and would not be acceptable to us. This is what I think, in general terms.

Looking at these comments on economic activities, I believe what is most important is to resolve the Northern Territories issue itself. The basic policy of the Government of Japan is to resolve the territorial issue of the Northern Territories and to conclude a peace treaty, and under this basic policy I believe we must continue to negotiate tenaciously with Russia. I intend to advance Japan-Russia relations this year.

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