Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, May 20, 2016, 9:23 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Disappearance of a woman from Uruma City, Okinawa Prefecture
Reporter: Yesterday, you met with Ms. Caroline B. Kennedy, Ambassador of United States, regarding the incident that occurred in Uruma City, Okinawa Prefecture. Please explain the Government’s reaction to the incident again.
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am aware that the Okinawa Prefectural Police arrested the suspect Kenneth Franklin Shinzato on suspicion of abandoning a corpse at around 3:10pm on May 19. First, the occurrence of this brutal and atrocious incident due to the contemptible actions of an individual doing civilian work at US military installation against a young woman with a bright future is extremely regrettable. This is an inexcusable incident, and I feel indignant at the incident.
Late last night, the content I just described was communicated and a strong protest was lodged to Ambassador Kennedy by me, and to Lieutenant General John L. Dolan, Commander, United States Forces, Japan by Mr. Gen Nakatani, Minister of Defense. Furthermore, we strongly requested full cooperation in the investigation as well as enforcement of discipline and prevention of a reoccurrence.
Reporter: This is related. There have been a series of incidents involving U.S. military personnel, and this case is very serious with the possibilities of abandonment of a body and murder. Public opinion in Okinawa, meanwhile, is voicing dissatisfaction once again with the heavily skewed presence of U.S. troops, and some observers have cited a possible impact on the move to Henoko. Could you explain the potential impact?
Minister Kishida: Okinawa bears a large burden more than 70 years since the war ended, which should not remain as it is. I think the Government has a major responsibility to alleviate the burden. It remains committed to making its fullest efforts into alleviation of the burden in accordance with this policy by listening to the views of the Okinawa people and doing everything that it can.
Reporter: While not directly related to this case because the Okinawan Prefectural Police have custody of the individual, however, there is strong resistance, mainly among the people of Okinawa, to the current Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Is there anything that the Government might change from its previous position on this point?
Minister Kishida: This type of incident is not acceptable, and Japan lodged a strong protest with the U.S. side last night. We currently need to request a sincere response by the U.S. side. As mentioned earlier, we think it is most important initially to request specific responses in cooperation with the investigation, enforcement of order and discipline, and preventing reoccurrence.
Reporter: Did Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, make any comments about this incident at the Cabinet Meeting?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the content of the cabinet meeting, I will leave Mr. Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary, as well as the minutes of the meeting for clarification. I would like to refrain from discussing it.
Reporter: Mr. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America will be visiting Japan next week, and a Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting will take place. Will this incident be a topic of discussion?
Minister Kishida: I think you are asking whether this will be discussed at the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting. The timing and content of this meeting is still being coordinated, and nothing has been decided at this point. In any case, I believe Japan must request a sincere response from the U.S. side regarding this incident at various levels and opportunities.
Reporter: Did you set some type of deadline when making the request to Ambassador Kennedy in calling for measures to prevent reoccurrence yesterday?
Minister Kishida: I did not focus on a deadline and instead requested the quickest possible response that can be readily understood by Japan and addresses the feelings of the Okinawan people. I think as quickly as possible is the right way to request this action.
Reporter: Please explain your thoughts about any possible impact this incident may have on the Hiroshima visit by President Obama.
Minister Kishida: Japan sees President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima as a historic opportunity to pray for the atomic bombing victims and gather international momentum toward realization of a world without nuclear weapons. This has not changed at all. However, I believe it is vital for both Japan and the U.S. to continue making efforts for stable advancement of relations between the two countries.
Inauguration of Ms. Tsai Ing-wen as President of Taiwan
Reporter: Taiwan is holding the swearing in ceremony for its President today, and Ms. Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party will be assuming the position of President. What is the Government’s reaction to the launch of a new administration in Taiwan? Also, please explain if you have any expectations. Regarding Taiwan, some issues surfaced in the latter half of former President Mr. Ma Ying-jeou’s years such as the issues related to the Okinotorishima Islands and the comfort women issues. What are your expectations for responses in these areas?
Minister Kishida: First, I would like to congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration. Taiwan is an important partner and friend for Japan that shares fundamental values and with whom we have close economic ties and extensive human-level exchanges. The Government intends to maintain our working relationship with Taiwan on a non-governmental basis and promote further advances in cooperation and interaction in light of this stance. Japan plans to address various issues based on this view and policy.
Reporter: This goes back to a portion of the previous question. Do you expect a slight change in the attitude from the Taiwan side under President Tsai Ing-wen regarding the Okinotorishima Islands and comfort women issue?
Minister Kishida: Japan intends to improve mutual communication on various challenges in line with the policy that I just described.