Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 10:15 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening remarks

Ten-year business multiple-entry visas for Vietnam and India

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to share one item in my opening remarks. Since the inauguration of the Abe Government, the number of overseas visitors was 8.36 million people at the start, but it recorded 19.73 million people last year. This is significant growth. With the aim of achieving a further increase in overseas visitors to Japan, the Government plans to start easing visa regulations, such as extending the valid period of multiple-entry visas from a maximum of five years to a maximum of ten years for citizens of Vietnam and India coming to Japan for business purposes, as well as cultural and intellectual visitors from these countries, as of 15 February. This is the first time for Japan to introduce a visa that is valid for up to ten years.

We expect this measure to improve the convenience of business dealings with Vietnam and India and contribute to the promotion of Japan as a tourism-oriented country by increasing repeat visitors. This ends my initial comment.

Japan’s response to questions from the CEDAW

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will be holding a meeting in Geneva that will begin from 15 February. I think the CEDAW is conducting a survey on Japan and the Japanese Government recently sent a reply to the CEDAW that included content indicating that it could not find evidence of coerciveness. Could you explain the Government’s views in giving this reply?

Minister Kishida: Firstly, regarding the reply you noted, the CEDAW had previously been asking this question.

After the receiving of this question, the Foreign Ministers’ meeting between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the end of last year made an agreement on the comfort women issue. In light of this agreement, the government conducted necessary explanation based on our view to attach importance on carefully reviewing the current situation related to the comfort women issue and having the matter understood.

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: Related to this point, while the content of the response this time was not anything unusual in Japan, I think this was the first time to give this type of response to the CEDAW or other committees. Could you describe again the thinking behind the provision of this type of detailed explanation?

Minister Kishida: Once again, the reason for the Government’s provision of this type of reply was that we replied to the question that had been asked.

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: Does that mean that the Government had not given this type of reply in the past?

Minister Kishida: The CEDAW presented a question to Japan. As mentioned above, the Government responded to the question with the required explanation, which included a detailed explanation of the current situation and other relevant aspects. Regarding why the reply was given now and the nature of the reply, I would answer that because we were asked, the Government carefully replied to the question.

Cabinet approval rating

Reporter Kamide (Freelancer): I would like to ask a question even though it is not directly related to the Foreign Minister’s jurisdiction.

Opinion surveys implemented over the past few days by various newspapers show a rise in the Cabinet’s approval rating from the 40% range to 50%, and the gain was 8 percentage points in some cases, such as the Mainichi Shimbun survey.

What is your view of this outcome? Based on what I had been hearing, I had thought the rate would decline because of the result from the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the end of the year and the many questions surrounding Minister Amari, and I am asking this question since the rate actually improved. I hear that because the way in which Minister Amari’s conference’s was very effective and the fact that a weekly journal was the first to report the suspicions about Minister Amari, newspapers and other media sources have pulled back some and are not fully investigating the situation, even though there should be a full-fledged investigation of issues related to politics and money.

What are your thoughts on this point? Why do you think the Cabinet approval rating rose significantly despite the situation involving Minister Amari that would normally be a very major issue?

Minister Kishida: Various things have occurred from the end of last year through early this year as you mentioned. There have been various events and developments. The popular approval rating comes out as a number that factors in reactions to all of these developments, and therefore I think it is difficult to give a detailed explanation about the results as to which aspects were positive and which were negative. I believe that the opinion survey gives a number as the sum of reactions to the various developments.

While I welcome a higher Cabinet approval rating as a result of the assessment, the content contains various elements as I just noted, and it is important to carefully and calmly analyze the outcome. In any case, I intend to continue earnestly engaging with the National Diet, and I think the Cabinet also needs to calmly and carefully continue its activities.

Kamide, Freelance: Did you personally think the opinion survey’s result was unusual? I ask because when these types of issues arise they typically result in a decline. What are your thoughts about this?

Minister Kishida: I have been paying attention to the opinion survey value since the incident involving Minister Amari and related events.

However, I view the survey value as a reaction to various developments, including those besides the incident, from the end of last year and into this year, as mentioned earlier. I am taking the result calmly, and I think it is important to continue working with vigilance.

Ownership of the Senkaku Islands

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: The U.S. State Department released private emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It has become evident that some emails from around 2012 included content stating that Japan had told the U.S. side in relation to the Senkaku Islands that China would understand the need for national ownership. While the content suggests that the Japanese side underestimated China’s reaction, what are your thoughts about this?

Minister Kishida: I am aware of the point you mentioned from media and other sources. However, because it pertains to exchanges within the government of a third country and I am not in a position to comment on this point.

Cabinet decision on the acceptance of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Yamaguchi, Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun: I heard that the Cabinet accepted the Minamata Convention on Mercury at today’s Cabinet meeting. I think you engaged in diplomatic negotiations when you attended the diplomatic meeting held in Kumamoto in October 2013. How does Japan and the Foreign Ministry intend to address mercury-related measures in light of its own experience with Minamata disease?

Minister Kishida: As you noted, the Cabinet decided to accept the Minamata Convention on Mercury today. I also understand that the Government will officially deposit its instrument of acceptance for the Convention at the United Nations headquarters in New York on February 2 New York time and February 3 Japan time.

The Convention defines comprehensive regulations for reducing the risk of mercury affecting people’s health and the environment, and I recognize it is a very important Convention. The Convention has been named after Minamata and was adopted in Kumamoto, Japan. The Government intends to continue contributing to early effectuation and effective implementation of the Convention while cooperating with the international community.

North Korea

Kurihara, NHK: I ask this every time, but discussions regarding North Korea’s nuclear test are continuing at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). What is the Government’s understanding of the most recent situation, and alongside that, indications suggest that North Korea is readying a missile launch, but what is the Government’s understanding of the North Korean missile issue? Also, how do you intend to appeal to the relevant countries, including China? May I ask what the latest situation is?

Minister Kishida: Based on the Government’s belief that the UNSC resolution that is adopted on North Korea’s nuclear test should be a strongly-worded resolution, Japan is making efforts to stay in contact and communicate with the relevant countries. Yesterday also I held a telephone talk with Mr. Yun Byung-se, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK), and we shared the view that these efforts will continue.

At the present point in time, the content of the resolution to be adopted and the schedule for its adoption have not been decided yet, but I believe that it is extremely important to bring about the adoption of a powerful resolution as a result of careful coordination by the relevant countries . I intend to continue to strive to coordinate and communicate.

In regard to information on North Korea’s missile, Japan is continuing to gather and analyze information on this matter while coordinating with the relevant countries. However, regarding the specific details of the current situation, since it is an intelligence matter I must refrain from commenting on it in public. In any event, it is a major challenge involving the safety and the sense of peace of citizens, and I believe the Government as a whole intends to do its utmost to respond. We will make every possible effort in responding. That is all.

Ishigaki, Jiji Press: Regarding the resolution on North Korea, it will soon be one month since the nuclear test, but is there a generally shared awareness between Japan, the United States and the ROK in terms of a target or a goal for when the resolution will be adopted by?

Minister Kishida: Various exchanges and exchanges of views are taking place among the relevant countries in relation to the content of the UNSC resolution and the timing for its adoption. In particular, Japan, the United States and the ROK are communicating closely. However, at present the discussions are still taking place, and various exchanges are underway both at the UN and bilaterally also. I do not think it would be appropriate to reveal a specific deadline at the moment. There is a shared view that the resolution will be adopted as quickly as possible, and Japan by all means intends to continue making efforts.

The G7 Japan 2016 Ise-Shima Summit

Kawachi, Kyodo Press: In relation to the G7 Summit, there are reports that in the interests of holding a successful Ise-Shima Summit in May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tour G7 countries such as the United States and meet with the countries’ leaders. One question I have is what stage the schedule considerations for that trip are at. I would also like to ask how the Government views the necessity to strengthen communication between Prime Minister Abe and the G7 leaders for a successful summit.

Minister Kishida: This year Japan must fulfil a range of roles and shoulder considerable responsibility in the international community, including serving as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. The Ise-Shima Summit stands out within that, I believe. I think it is extremely important for Prime Minister Abe to seek to firmly communicate with the G7 countries’ leaders and undertake firm preparations in the run-up to this important Ise-Shima Summit. We intend to make various efforts in order to pursue communication, but no specific schedule has been decided yet for these overseas visits by Prime Minister Abe. We will make firm considerations, including in regard to what will be effective communication.

Declaration of a state of emergency over the Zika virus

Kurihara, NHK: My question concerns the Zika virus, which is currently prevalent in Central and South America. On February 1 European time, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of emergency. This disease could potentially reach Japan. What sort of countermeasures and other responses is the Government considering?

Minister Kishida: First, I am aware that the WHO declared a state of emergency on February 1. This year the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to be held in Brazil. It is envisaged that large numbers of athletes and tourists will visit Brazil and South America. In light of that situation, the Government of Japan views this state of emergency declaration seriously. In order to make all possible efforts, since January 15 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs too has been issuing and updating information on the infectious diseases that affect wide areas for countries and regions in Central and South America where the Zika virus is prevalent, including Brazil. In addition to this we are also providing information via our website and email, and issuing alerts. With the WHO now having declared a state of emergency, I believe we will have to further strengthen these efforts. I intend to continue to strengthen these responses while keeping a close eye on the developments.