Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 9:15 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Li, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: In January, you mentioned an interest in visiting China as early as this spring and improving relations between the two countries. Some media reports are saying that China has shown reluctance. Do you have any plan to visit China at this point? Also, if you cannot realize a visit to China, what impact do you think it might have on relations between Japan and China?
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: While my understanding is that Japan-China relations are moving toward overall improvement, various issues exist. I think it is important to continue dialogue. I hear that a group of Diet members from the House of Councillors is visiting China and held the first meeting of Japanese and Chinese parliamentarians in four years. Regarding my visit to China, I recall saying in a speech – it might have been on January 19 – that I was thinking about a visit to China in the spring. Spring has not arrived yet. Nothing has been decided at this point about a visit by myself to China. However, I still believe that it is important to continue dialogue at various levels.
Li, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: This is related. Is a media report that indicates that China disapproves incorrect?
Minister Kishida: Japan is interacting with China on a variety of levels, and I would like to refrain from commenting on specific cases. However, what I just said about the importance of dialogue stands, and Japan’s door for dialogue is always open.
Abe, Asahi Shimbun: This is related. You have been speaking about the importance of dialogue, but the situation of not even having a telephone talk with Mr. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, continues. Regarding the outlook for a visit to China, you just said that the outlook has not been established yet and, even though the Japanese side is talking in this way about an open door for dialogue, it is not happening and the situation is continuing. What is your analysis of the causes?
Minister Kishida: I am saying that the door for dialogue is open and that dialogue is taking place at a variety of levels. As I just mentioned the first meeting of Japanese and Chinese parliamentarians in four years, the interaction took place among parliamentarians. I know that dialogue is occurring in other areas and at other levels as well. I believe it is important to continue conducting dialogue at a variety of levels, on which Japan continues putting emphasis.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations
Ukai, TV Tokyo: An event related to the recovery of the Tohoku Region hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) scheduled to take place last weekend in Seoul’s Seongdong District was called off due to a request by the local government on the ROK side. While MOFA had been asking the ROK government to help in getting the local government to provide approval, the event ended up not taking place. Roughly two months have passed since the agreement on the comfort women issue at the end of last year, and I think you were talking about a new era for Japan-ROK relations. What is your view of the progress in Japan-ROK relations thus far in 2016, including your thoughts on this cancellation?
Minister Kishida: The agreement reached by Japan and the ROK on the comfort women issue in December 2015 was a very important, historical, and epoch-making agreement. Japan intends to faithfully implement the content of the agreement and seek ways of building a future-oriented relationship between the two countries and carry out such initiatives. However, various issues still exist between Japan and the ROK. The event you mentioned was related to import restrictions on food products. It is true that this and other issues exist. While Japan aims to advance the bilateral relationship with a future-oriented view, it is necessary to tenaciously and carefully address specific issues one by one. In any case, Japan is determined to move our important bilateral relationship and ties as neighboring countries forward via efforts by both countries.
Ukai, TV Tokyo: Do you feel that the cancellation could be a setback for attempts to move forward?
Minister Kishida: Specific issues and difficulties do exist. Nevertheless, I think it is vital to tenaciously and patiently address these issues one by one in the process of advancing the overall bilateral relationship.
Kurihara, NHK: This is related. In current relations with the ROK, there are situations such as cancellation of the event in Seoul and the ROK government’s reaction to Takeshima Day. What is your impression of the ROK side’s latest reaction to this type of event? While it occurs every year, how does it compare to a typical year in your view? What is the direction? Was the reaction softer than usual or do you see any evidence of a positive effort on the ROK side?
Minister Kishida: Concerning the reaction, I think you are asking about the ROK side’s reaction to the Takeshima Day event. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on each reaction.
I am aware that the ROK side issued a statement on the Takeshima Day event via a spokesman from the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Japan replied to the protest by stating that the ROK’s protest was not acceptable for Japan in light of the Japanese Government’s stance on the Takeshima issue.
Japan intends to continue pursuing a calm and peaceful solution to this issue based on laws.
I do not intend to comment on each reaction as mentioned before. That is all.
Mr. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China’s visit to the United States and United Nations Security Council resolution outlook
Odanaka, Mainichi Shimbun: This concerns something different. Minister Wang is visiting the United States from today and is scheduled to meet with Mr. John F. Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America. While consultations on a resolution with sanctions against North Korea are still continuing at the Security Council, some observers think final negotiations might take place at this meeting. What type of discussions are you expecting at the U.S.-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and if I may ask, what is your current outlook regarding a resolution on sanctions by the Security Council?
Minister Kishida: Related countries are currently engaged in a variety of interactions regarding a resolution on North Korea by the Security Council. I am aware that lively exchanges continue. As you mentioned, Minister Wang is visiting the United States as this is happening, and we are monitoring this development too.
Japan intends to continue making its utmost efforts for rapid adoption of a resolution that includes strong measures, while working with related countries as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. We shall continue to monitor developments.
Situation in Syria
Ishii, Jiji Press: The United States and Russia agreed to ceasefire conditions for the Syrian civil war, and are calling on the Assad Government and rebel groups to accept the ceasefire. What is your view of this initiative? Also, please explain how the Japanese Government might provide support?
Minister Kishida: Firstly, Japan welcomes the agreement you mentioned by the United States and Russia for a halt to hostile actions. We hope that all parties will abide by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 in light of this agreement.
Additionally, Japan intends to work closely with various countries, in particular on humanitarian assistance, which is our strength, and put efforts into the improvement and stabilization of the Syrian situation.
Futenma Air Station relocation
Sasaki, Independent Web Journal: I have a separate question on the base issue. A MOFA paper said to have spurred the decision by Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, Former Prime Minister of Japan, to abandon an effort to relocate Funtenma Air Station outside of Okinawa Prefecture in 2009, was revealed last year. This was a top-secret paper with an explanation from the U.S. side on the Futenma relocation issue that was presented to former Prime Minister Hatoyama by a MOFA official in April 2009. It states that the relocation site should be within 65 nautical miles, or about 120 kilometers, and this requirement is written in the U.S. military’s manual. The content rejected the Tokunoshima plan that former Prime Minister Hatoyama had been looking into at the time.
However, the U.S. Embassy has recently officially replied that the U.S. military’s manual does not include a requirement of 65 nautical miles. I think this would be a major issue if it is true. MOFA says that it is currently looking into this paper. I believe it is necessary to promptly clarify and confirm what happened, including whether the content is true, false, or some type of mistake. Can I ask for your opinion on this case?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the content of what you just mentioned, I am aware that in 2010 an explanation was made from the U.S. military that disruption of operations of the Marine Aircraft Group could arise if they were separated from the ground forces being given assistance or collaborated with by more than a certain distance and that it was known that the proposal for the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Tokunoshima faced many issues in light of this point. I also know that the U.S. military even now does not disclose specific details, such as distance, to the public because they pertain to operations.
This is my view on the content. As to the document you mentioned, I understand that the source is unknown and it has not been confirmed whether it is a government document prepared by MOFA.
What I just explained is where the situation stands.
Sasaki, Independent Web Journal: How about the prompt investigation?
Minister Kishida: I can confirm this point later because right now I do not have the specifics on how it is being handled.
Situation in Syria
Shimoe, Kyodo News: Regarding the assistance for Syria mentioned earlier, the supplemental budget just passed, but does the Government plan to review further measures in light of the prospect of Syria being a major theme at the Summit and your comment on humanitarian assistance as Japan’s main focus?
Minister Kishida: I believe various developments could still potentially occur in relation to the Syrian situation. Syria is currently facing a refugee problem with not only refugees outside of the country, but also a large number of displaced people in the country.
I think Japan’s humanitarian assistance can play a very important role in light of these situations. The Government believes it is extremely important to carry out its responsibility in the international community by continuing to firmly contribute to areas where it has strengths and areas particularly involving humanitarian assistance. It therefore must continue to review contributions where Japan is needed while carefully monitoring the situation.
Although the Government has not decided on specific additional contributions at this point, I think the stance that was just explained is important. My understanding is that Japan, in keeping with this approach, will cooperate with related countries in the international community and take actions to fulfill its responsibilities.
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Takita, Sankei Shimbun: The Asahi Shimbun has raised some questions about the reply on the comfort women issue given by Japan’s representative to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at the Committee’s meeting held last week. What is MOFA’s view of this action and how does it intend to respond?
Additionally, does the Government plan to explain the content presented by Mr. Shinsuke Sugiyama, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at various international meetings and other venues and otherwise make it known to the public, such as in the Q&A section on issues of history on MOFA’s home page?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the comments on behalf of Japan by Deputy Minister Sugiyama at the meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on February 16 that you mentioned, they were a reply to questions asked by the Committee. The content of our reply is what Japan has already been stating and explaining in various forums in the past. It did not include anything new, and I therefore do not see any problems with the comments.
The presentation just restated existing points because we received questions. I don’t think there will be any changes to the content because nothing has changed in its stance and the content itself.