Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 10:23 a.m.   Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Media report on a ballistic missile launch by North Korea

Chijiwa, TV Asahi: North Korea launched a ballistic missile. Please explain the information that you are aware of and the Government’s response.

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am aware of the news reported by the media that you mentioned. This type of ballistic missile launch repeatedly undertaken by North Korea is a serious provocation to the international community, including Japan, and is totally unacceptable. The Government must continue to urge North Korea to refrain from engaging in provocative actions and comply with relevant Security Council resolutions while cooperating with related countries. I believe it also needs to conduct information gathering and surveillance with sufficient vigilance in order to be ready for unexpected events and all potential circumstances.

Chijiwa, TV Asahi: This is a related question. Does Japan plan to lodge a protest with North Korea? Also, what is your analysis of the aim or purpose of this launch?

Minister Kishida: Japan is obviously constantly gathering and analyzing information on North Korea with keen interest. However, I should refrain from commenting on the content of our information gathering and analysis since it is related to our information collection capabilities. In any case, the Government intends to continue efforts with information gathering and analysis and surveillance.

Chijiwa, TV Asahi: What about the protest?

Minister Kishida: I do not have anything further to say and would like to refrain from getting into details.

G7 Ise-Shima Summit

Hirayama, Independent Web Journal: I have a question about the G7 Ise-Shima Summit that recently finished. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, used a four-page presentation at the Summit Meeting to explain his view that current global economic conditions resemble the situation prior to the Lehman Shock. Criticism of this view has stood out, particularly in overseas media. I heard that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prepared the four-page document presented by Prime Minister Abe. Do you personally ascribe to the same view as the Prime Minister that current economic conditions resemble the situation prior to the Lehman Shock? Also, please explain your thoughts, if any, about the criticism of this view by overseas media.

Minister Kishida: The Ise-Shima Summit held a session to discuss the global economy on May 26. At this session, I think Prime Minister Abe noted that the global economy has some bright spots, but is also facing a variety of downside risks. He used some reference data, which I believe is the material that you mentioned, to explain these risk signs. He subsequently explained to each G7 leaders that “it is necessary to strengthen efforts to deal with current economic conditions by enlisting all available policy measures at the suitable timing to avoid slipping into a new crisis.” The latter portion, “ We have strengthened the resilience of our economies in order to avoid falling into another crisis, and to this end, commit to reinforce our efforts to address the current economic situation by taking all appropriate policy responses in a timely manner,” is clearly stated in the G7 Communique, which is one of the Summit’s official documents. In other words, this means that not only Japan, but the other nations agreed with this portion.

I think giving this explanation and obtaining the agreement of the G7 nations was a result obtained from the session on the economy from May 26 as well as the entire G7 Summit. Prime Minister Abe offered this assessment based on a rational analysis amid a wide range of opinions regarding the current global economic situation, and the final documents obviously reflect a consensus among the G7 nations, not just Japan’s view. This was a result of the Summit. I believe that holding this discussion and reaching the consensus enabled the G7 nations to send an important message about the global economy.

Media report on a ballistic missile launch by North Korea

Yoshiura, Kyodo Press: I’d like to go back to North Korea’s missile launch. You mentioned you are aware of the media report. Has Japan confirmed anything that might constitute a threat to its security at this point? Also, North Korea has not halted its efforts to develop nuclear weapons and missiles whether or not it launched a missile this time. Please explain whether you think further sanctions are required in light of the results from sanctions taken thus far under Security Council resolutions.

Minister Kishida: While Japan is working on information gathering and analysis, it fundamentally does not discuss details because it exposes our information gathering capabilities. However, I have not come into contact with any information that shows the occurrence of a direct threat to the people of Japan.

As to your question about whether further sanctions or actions are needed, Japan adheres to principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action-for-action” in its dealing with North Korea aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution for nuclear weapon, missile development, abductions, and other issues. For the pressure part, the UN Security Council recently adopted a resolution with strong content. The United States, Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan also announced their own measures. We think it is important first to ensure that these measures are effective. The UN Security Council has formed a DPRK Sanctions Committee as well as a Special Panel. I believe it is vital to work through these frameworks to ensure that the measures are working effectively and having an impact on North Korea. This is the primary focus for now, and we should then be looking at North Korea’s response and whether even more effective actions are required. I think this is the appropriate order.

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima

Takeda, Asahi Shimbun: This is related to the visit by Mr. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, to Hiroshima the other day. I think it was a historical visit. Prime Minister Abe also gave a speech and stated that Japan is also seeking to realize a world without nuclear weapons. What type of initiatives is Japan planning in order to accelerate its effort to realize a world without nuclear weapons? Also, what stance will the Government of Japan take on the proposal calling for a start of negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at a UN working group in Geneva? Please explain your views on these two points.

Minister Kishida: Regarding the visit to Hiroshima by President Obama, I hope that it will send an important message that boosts international momentum for creating a world without nuclear weapons, along with the Hiroshima Declaration issued by the recent G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. As to Japan’s future initiatives, I think Japan needs to use this opportunity to revitalize momentum. The Hiroshima Declaration that I just mentioned has content agreed upon within the G7 framework that includes nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. Japan must encourage the international community to promote realistic and pragmatic measures based on this document.

Cooperation between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states is also essential to achieve results in the discussion at the working group that you cited. I believe it is important to utilize the Hiroshima Declaration, which obtained this level of agreement between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, as a basis for fostering an environment and atmosphere where the two sides can cooperate. I think playing such a role to that end is thenext step for Japan.

G7 Ise-Shima Summit

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: There have been some reports that China lodged a protest with the Japanese Embassy in Beijing over the mention of the South China Sea in the G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration. Could you please tell us what the facts are? Also, could you explain whether or not the Japanese side has rebutted this protest?

Minister Kishida: It is true that China’s views regarding the G7 Ise-Shima Summit were conveyed on May 27. We rebutted them appropriately by pointing out in detail the issues with the Chinese side’s views and then explaining the relevant section of the Leaders’ Declaration, as the consensus of the G7. At the regular press conferences held by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese side is expressing strong dissatisfaction on how the South China Sea issue was raised at the G7 Summit. However, the South China Sea issue is a concern that is shared by the international community, and I hope that the relevant countries, including China, will take the relevant section of the G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration seriously. That is all I have to say about the matter for the time being.

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: This is a related matter, but around the time of the G7, Mr. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China made remarks to the effect that the G7 is an anachronism and that essentially the G20 is the way of the times. What are your views on this?

Minister Kishida: The G20 also fulfills a role in its own way. However, I believe the G7 is a framework of major countries that share fundamental values, such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Given the uncertainty facing the international community, including economic uncertainty, I believe the significance and presence of this framework, as a framework of major countries that share fundamental values, is likely to continue to grow. The fact that the G7 is an extremely important framework will not change in the future, and actually, its importance is likely to increase. That is my recognition.

Comfort women issue (the establishment of a preparatory committee for setting up a foundation)

Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: A meeting of a preparatory committee for setting up a foundation will be held today, based on the Japan-ROK agreement. I have two questions about this. First, do you as Minister believe that matters will proceed smoothly from here on, including the establishment of the foundation next month? Second, could you once again explain your views regarding the idea that the contribution of 1 billion yen is contingent on the relocation of the statue in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul?

Minister Kishida: First, I am aware that a preparatory committee will be established to set up a foundation in the ROK. The Japan-ROK agreement at the end of last year states that the Government of the ROK will set up a foundation with the goal of supporting former comfort women. The establishment of the preparatory committee that you mentioned is one step in the preparations for setting up the foundation. That is my understanding. Where this agreement is concerned, I believe what is important for Japan and the ROK is to carry out their respective responsibilities, in line with the agreement.

You also mentioned preconditions and so forth, but the content stated at the joint press occasion by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries on December 28 last year is the Japan-ROK agreement in its entirety. I recognize that it is important for Japan and the ROK to respectively carry out their respective responsibilities with regard to that content.

G7 Ise-Shima Summit

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: My question concerns the Prime Minister’s remarks and the joint document at the Summit, which were discussed earlier. The Prime Minister is telling those around him that based on the current state of the global economy, the timing for increasing the consumption tax will be postponed two and a half years. As the leader of the Kōchikai faction, what is your recognition regarding postponing the tax increase, and how do you evaluate it?

Minister Kishida: Various discussions continue to take place with regard to the awareness of the global economy, the condition of the Japanese economy, the pros and cons of raising the consumption tax, and the timing of that. I understand that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will hold an overall meeting of the policy research council today to discuss these issues. There are a variety of discussions and it is a difficult decision, but I believe that as Prime Minister and as President of the ruling party, will make an ultimate decision. However, I certainly believe it is important for the relevant individuals to present a direction after carrying out constructive discussions. I intend to continue watching the discussions attentively.

Re-postponement of the consumption tax hike

Ukai, TV Tokyo: Completely in that connection, if possible, you said that you would like to pay attention to the discussions, but it is my understanding that the Kōchikai has declared its position as one that focuses on the economy. Could you give us your thoughts regarding the postponement of the consumption tax hike, as the head of the Kōchikai if that should be the case?

Minister Kishida: The debate regarding the consumption tax hike that you referred to is a debate that has been going on since the three-party agreement when we were in the opposition. The consumption tax was raised to 8% as the first step, and there has been a variety of developments in the economy in the meantime. The economy is alive, so I believe that how we make decisions about it, the situation and decisions change all the time. It is my understanding that it is very difficult to take the helm under such conditions.

It is also my understanding that it is a matter that must ultimately be determined firmly and responsibly based on solid discussions, but since this important decision is about to be made, the situation would only be further confused if the people involved say different things while the discussion is going on. It is my belief that the parties should discuss the matter from their respective positions aiming at a solid decision. At minimum, I believe that as the Foreign Minister, a member of the Cabinet, I should refrain from saying anything definitive at this point.

Rising the Cabinet approval rate

Morifuji, Yomiuri Shimbun: All the public opinion polls conducted by the media companies over the weekend show that the Cabinet approval rate is rising. It is said that of the President Obama’s Hiroshima visit and the Ise-Shima Summit had an impact on it. Please tell us your response to this, and how you see this affecting the House of Councilors election.

Minister Kishida: I have seen the various numbers from the companies regarding the Cabinet approval rate. On diplomacy in particular, many people in Japan in the polls positively evaluate the Ise-Shima Summit and President Obama’s Hiroshima visit. I am aware of this, and believe that this is very auspicious. I don’t have specific grounds regarding the extent to which this is pushing up the Cabinet approval rate as a whole, but I do think that this is something to be very much grateful for if it is helping to push up support as a whole. However, when it comes to the effect on the election, I believe that it is not a matter to be talked about easily. Rising support in the polls is to be welcomed, but there are many factors in an election. There is also time before the election day. Since the election results from the outcome of many interacting elements, it is my view that the Government and the ruling parties must continue to focus our energy in facing the election.

Case involving the possible detention of a Japanese journalist in Syria

Hirayama, Independent Web Journal: Concerning the disclosure of a new image of Mr. Junpei Yasuda, the journalist believed to be held in Syria, please tell us what you can disclose, if any, about the analysis of the image and the response of the Government, including negotiations with the other side.

Minister Kishida: First of all, concerning the case of Mr. Yasuda that you raised, I am certainly aware of the media reports. It goes without saying that the Government will do its utmost to respond, while continuing to utilize various networks of information with the understanding that securing the safety of Japanese nationals is our most important mission. However, given the nature of the matter, I believe that I should refrain from saying anything further in detail. We intend to continue to undertake this matter with our utmost efforts while considering the security of Mr. Yasuda himself. That is my view.