Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, February 26, 2016, 9:18 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening remarks

Japan’s assistance for victims of the Zika virus and future responses

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: In light of the growing impact of the Zika virus, including the confirmation last night of an infected person in Japan, and the Olympic and Paralympic games taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this year, Japan decided today to provide emergency grant aid totaling one million US dollars to four agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

While cooperating with these agencies, Japan intends to give prompt assistance to information gathering efforts regarding infection, treatment for pregnant women, raising awareness to prevent the infection, the improvement of water and sanitary conditions, and other activities in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Japan expects efforts to control and end the spread of the infection in the affected areas through this international assistance to also contribute to preventing its further entry into Japan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has already issued alerts to Japanese residents and travelers in the Latin American and the Caribbean region, and intends to once again encourage pregnant women and women with plans to become pregnant to avoid travel in this region as much as possible in light of the recent occurrence of infection. MOFA has also decided to implement the three following measures from the perspective of supplying more detailed information and alerts.

The first is to hold a health and safety lecture by experts on the Zika virus in Brazil in mid-March for Japanese people living abroad.

The second is to issue alerts at a briefing in Japan in early March for people involved in the Rio Olympic and Paralympic games.

The third is to distribute leaflets prepared by the Quarantine Office at prefectural passport centers as a part of efforts to prevent its spread to Japan.

MOFA plans to continue making firm responses while cooperating with the related ministries and agencies.

Futenma Air Station relocation issue

Ukai, TV Tokyo: I would like to ask about the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station used by U.S. troops in Okinawa Prefecture. Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, recently commented at a U.S. congressional hearing that the completion of the base at Camp Schwab at Henoko as a replacement for the Futenma Air Station would occur in 2025. I believe that the Japanese Government, meanwhile, is aiming for the return of the Futenma Air Station in 2022. Now I would like to ask three questions. Has the policy of aiming for a return in 2022 changed, was there any discussion of the situation when you met recently with Commander Harris, and finally, if 2025 is not accurate, does MOFA intend to request a correction from the U.S. side, the U.S. Government, or the U.S. military?

Minister Kishida: I am aware of the comments that you have mentioned. Regarding the U.S. military reorganization, the process is moving forward while consluting with the U.S. side, and the Japan side has expressed its strong resolve to steadily implement the plan. Regarding the comments, as for the construction relating to the relocation to Henoko, the land reclamation work only just began in October 2015. This is not the stage at which to specifically discuss a delay.

As to whether this was discussed in my meeting with Commander Harris the other day, there was no mention or exchange regarding this content. At any rate, Japan has not changed its view regarding the point you raised, and we intend to continue close communication with the U.S. side.

Open-ended working group on the progress of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations

Kamide, Freelance: I’d like to change the topic. The United Nations Disarmament Working Group held a meeting in Geneva recently, and I have a question relating to this. Ambassador Sano, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, attended and made comments during an absence by the countries with nuclear weapons. Ambassador Sano expressed a cautious stance, saying that it would be premature, and later expressed to the media after a press conference that Japan aims to be a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear countries. I have two questions. Regarding Japan’s position, I think many people are hoping for nuclear disarmament, and I would imagine that the Foreign Minister also feels strongly this way, considering your deep ties to Hiroshima.

While it is very difficult to say, what do you consider to be the major point in making progress in nuclear disarmament negotiations, and what is your outlook? I would also like to ask if you personally are determined to serve as a bridge.

The other question pertains to the background of the negotiations. I think Japan’s cautious stance toward an immediate start of negotiations aimed at a legal ban appears to stem from the Japan-U.S. Alliance being at the center of Japan’s diplomacy. In other words, the biggest reason for this approach is consideration for the United States. Is this correct? Please address these two points.

Minister Kishida: First, regarding the open-ended working group on the progress of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and its discussions, Japan is participating in it based on our belief in the importance of steadily building realistic and practical blocks with the cooperation of nuclear and non-nuclear countries.

As for the content of the working group, I understand that the themes are broader than simply legal measures, and also include the transparency of nuclear disarmament and the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. The legal measures, meanwhile, also include the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), and address various issues. Japan fair, balanced, and constructive discussions will be held, and hopes to make meaningful contributions.

Regarding the second part of your question, I once again strongly feel the need for cooperation among nuclear and non-nuclear countries in order to achieve a world without nuclear weapons after the experience that Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which is held once every five years, failed to issue a final document at the conference last year. I believe it is important to steadily advance realistic and practical measures in order to obtain cooperation among nuclear and non-nuclear countries. This might seem to be the long way around at first, but it is actually a shorter route, in my view. From this standpoint, regarding a legal ban of nuclear weapons, I think cooperative relations are not ready at this point for a start to negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Japan intends to encourage cooperation among nuclear and non-nuclear countries in order to achieve the specific results I just mentioned, and to firmly contribute to the facilitation of specific progress that leads to results. This is my view.

Kamide, Freelance: Does the Japan-U.S. Alliance have any impact on this stance?

Foreign Minister Kishida: I consider this issue by emphasizing the points I have just mentioned. We need to consider whether cooperative relations are ready between nuclear and non-nuclear countries, and then determine what responses and initiatives to take in order to produce results while keeping this point in mind.

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Azumi, Freelance: I would like to ask about the Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which held meetings in Geneva in mid-February.

Regarding the comfort women issue, I heard that the documents and materials submitted by the Japanese Government on this topic were much simpler than those initially prepared. It is being said that the reason for this approach is constraint under the agreement not to criticize each other at the United Nations and other international venues as one of the four items of the agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Please explain whether this is true or not.

Additionally, the explanation given so far is that Mr. Sugiyama, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan would orally explain any content not covered by the materials. But I believe the content is very important. My understanding is that documents submitted to the United Nations are immediately uploaded to the United Nations web site. The oral content explaining the Japanese Government’s position, however, was only spoken I believe it could be prepared as an English-language document and uploaded to MOFA’s web site or handled in some other way, however, nothing has been done yet. Please explain why Japan does not clarify its position in such manner.

Minister Kishida: Firstly, regarding the process of preparing the submitted documents, the Government normally does not explain the type of processes for formulating a final document, and I will refrain from addressing this point. At any rate, even if various events take place prior to the submission of the documents, the final documents would be produced based on such developments, and I think this is natural.

As for spoken exchanges at the Committee meeting, the interaction occurred in the form of replying to questions asked by the Committee. Since it is not possible to know what questions will be asked until the actual meeting takes place, replies are given on the spot. Regarding the manner in which the interaction is recorded, I think this is a decision for the Committee side, because interaction occursat the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Draft resolution at the UN Security Council

Morifuji, Yomiuri Shimbun: I would like to ask about the resolution being considered by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). I believe the United States submitted a draft UNSC resolution in the early hours this morning Japan time. While it contains tough measures not seen in the past, such as a ban on supplying jet fuel to North Korea, please explain your view of the draft UNSC resolution and your thoughts about why it took so much time, as roughly two months have passed since the nuclear test on January 6.

Minister Kishida: Regarding the draft resolution, the UNSC convened an unofficial meeting in the early hours this morning (February 26) and I understand that final consultations are still proceeding. While it is difficult to predict the adoption timing because of the ongoing consultations, Japan intends to continue contributing to the discussions. Japan also hopes to contribute to the adoption of a resolution with strong content.

I would like to refrain from discussing the specific items contained in the resolution. However, my understanding is that it includes an appreciable extent of Japan’s assertions.

As to the reason for the delay, Japan has stated that the resolution should contain clear and strong content and that it is important for the resolution to send a clear message to North Korea. From this perspective, I believe the resolution comes as the result of coordination and discussions among related countries at the UNSC as far as they could.

In any case, Japan hopes that the resolution will be adopted as soon as possible.

Kurihara, NHK: This is related to the draft UNSC resolution. While you mentioned that it is still difficult to predict the timing of adoption, your comments also noted that the draft contains a substantial portion of Japan’s views. I realize it has not been adopted yet. However, is the current draft fairly satisfactory to Japan? Can you explain your impression?

Minister Kishida: It would not be appropriate to make any comments on the specific content at this point because consultations for the adoption are still continuing. That being the case I would like to refrain from mentioning specific content for individual items as the Government of Japan.

The comments I made demonstrate my impression that the draft contains a substantial portion of Japan’s views.

Ishigaki, Jiji Tsushin: My question is also related to that topic. The adoption of the UNSC resolution is one thing, but there is another thing to consider, such as how the Japanese Government intends to call on North Korea to eliminate its nuclear capabilities. In the ROK, some are suggesting the holding of Five-Party Talks excluding North Korea. What is Japan’s view of the path to denuclearization?

Minister Kishida: Regarding the path forward, Japan recently announced its own sanctions. The ROK announced its own measures too. The United States also passed a law covering its own sanctions. Additionally, the last-minute coordination and consultations are currently taking place at the UNSC to secure adoption of a resolution with strong content.

It is important to closely watch how North Korea responds to the content of the resolution. Then I think it is necessary to discuss specific subsequent responses and move ahead with strategies, while cooperating with related countries.

In any case, I believe it is important for Japan to cooperate with related countries to encourage constructive actions toward denuclearization by North Korea. For now, Japan will closely monitor North Korea’s response and reaction to announced measures and a UNSC resolution.

Japan-Australia-India Vice-Ministerial Consultation

Kawachi, Kyodo News: I’d like to change the topic. I believe Japan, Australia, and India are conducting a Vice-Ministerial Consultation today, or actually right now. What are your thoughts on the importance of improving cooperation among the three countries?

Also, please explain your view of the strategic significance of cooperation and coordination among the three countries.

Minister Kishida: First, I believe cooperation among Japan, Australia, and India, as countries spanning the Indian and Pacific Oceans, contributes greatly to the peace and security of the region. Based on this view, I hope to further deepen coordination among the three countries.

On this point, the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting took place on, I believe, the 15th of this month, and I recall that the two sides shared the view at the meeting to promote cooperation among Japan, Australia, and India.

I believe today is the second Japan-Australia-India Vice-Ministerial Consultation, and I hope that there is a meaningful exchange of opinions.

Futenma Air Station relocation issue

Sasaki, Independent Web Journal: With respect to the issue of relocating Futenma Air Station, at the press conference on Tuesday I asked about the matter of the MOFA paper that has been pointed out by former Prime Minister Hatoyama. At that press conference you indicated that in 2010 the U.S. military had explained that moving the base further than a certain distance would hinder operations, and that this highlighted the problems with the Tokunoshima proposal.

Could you please confirm the details about this explanation from the U.S. military, and particularly whether it was conducted verbally, in writing, or both?

And one more point, former Member of the House of Representatives Hiroshi Kawauchi, who has been examining this issue together with former Prime Minister Hatoyama, says that confirming through official diplomatic channels, MOFA’s North American Affairs Bureau, he has received an official response that the existence of such a manual, that is, of a manual specifying 65 nautical miles, cannot be confirmed. Could you please confirm the details in this regard, since it is MOFA that confirmed this?

Minister Kishida: First, regarding your question about the standard, it is my understanding that the actual situation is that the U.S. military does not reveal such standards externally. Therefore, with respect to your point, regarding whether the information was relayed in writing or verbally, when I answered your question last time I was probably referring to the U.S. military position, so I’m afraid I don’t know whether it was in writing or verbally, but in any case our understanding is that the U.S. military has not revealed this specific standard, or even whether there is or is not such a standard. I believe this is also how I responded last time.

Sasaki, Independent Web Journal: Regarding this issue, Mr. Kawauchi sought confirmation of the existence of such a manual through MOFA channels and says the response was that they were unable to confirm. I was hoping you might be able to provide additional details.

Minister Kishida: My understanding of unable to confirm means that they were unable to provide confirmation because the information has not been revealed.