Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura
Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 4:13 p.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Terrorist attack and hostage incident in Bangladesh

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: The bodies of the deceased in the Dhaka hostage incident were returned to Japan yesterday, and it is my understanding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assigned one official to each of the families. Could you tell us what measures you will be taking for the families going forward?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: Regarding this incident in Dhaka, the feelings of the families are extremely important. We assigned an official to each family in order to provide as much support as we can in a manner that respects the feelings of the families. As for the specific measures to be taken going forward, we intend to communicate with the respective families and, based on that, make our responses.

Fujita, Fuji TV: On a related matter, there are some media reports that say that reinforcing and adding personnel to the Counter Terrorism Unit- Japan is being considered. Could you give us confirmation on this point?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: We received instructions from the Prime Minister to be fully prepared regarding counter-terrorism measures in Japan and abroad in light of this terrorist incident. In response, we intend to consider the matter in order to strengthen the specific system including the Counter Terrorism Unit – Japan that was established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year.

Regarding the specific content of the considerations, we will begin considerations but we are not at the stage to say specifically in what form it will take at this point in time and we intend to move forward in earnest.

We believe that it is necessary to reinforce the system in a manner that contributes to consular works since this is a matter of securing the safety of Japanese nationals abroad. I believe that the reinforcement of regional and language experts will be part of the considerations.

Fujita, Fuji TV: You said that you cannot say anything specific…

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: Something of the sort that I mentioned at the end can be considered as one direction, or area.

Fujita, Fuji TV: How about a sense of the scale? For example, it will be twice the number… There are about 30 members, right? How many will there be?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: We intend to consider the matter going forward.

Diplomatic Bluebook

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: The latest Diplomatic Bluebook has shown up in bookstores. I have been reviewing the content to learn some more and noticed that it uses a variety of expressions to explain Japan’s relationship with different countries. I have some points to clarify. For example, the Bluebook refers to the relationship between Russia and Japan as “a partner in the Asia-Pacific region.” Taiwan, meanwhile, is described as a “crucial partner with close people-to-people exchange and economic relations.” The text cites Russia as a “partner” and Taiwan as a “crucial partner.” Should I take this to mean that Japan places more emphasis on Taiwan and has a closer relationship in a comparison of Russia and Taiwan?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: The Diplomatic Bluebook is a report that covers situations from a variety of angles, such as countries, regions, and issues. It also presents thoughts about the direction of foreign policy with the respective countries. The idea of taking expressions regarding Country A and Country B and trying to judge which is more or less important is not appropriate because the Diplomatic Bluebook handles a very broad range of regions, countries, and policy items. It describes Japan’s relationships with respective countries with a substantial number of words and pages. These relationships have a long history. I believe the Bluebook selects appropriate expressions in light of depicting the relationship in an overall context. I would like you to understand that the Bluebook does not compare bilateral relationships but describes assessments and perceptions of the current state of Japan’s relationship with the respective countries.

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: With China, in particular, the expression is “one of the most important bilateral relationships.” It seems that use of the term “partner” would imply being closer to Japan. Are you saying there isn’t some type of ranking?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: My understanding is that expressions used in the Diplomatic Bluebook are not being presented with the intent of defining an order in or ranking of relationships with countries. As I just explained, various developments occur in all types of areas in Japan’s relationships with other countries, and the Bluebook selects expressions from the standpoint of making an overall assessment and describing the nature of relationships. The one phrasing that you noted about Japan’s bilateral relationship is just a single expression within a larger explanation, and a variety of aspects exists in the background. Furthermore, depending on the relationship with various issues, a number of variations could be used in descriptions, such as close ties or this type of issue is being discussed. I don’t think it appropriate to make comparisons by referring to just a single phrase that explains a bilateral relationship.

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: In the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) case, for example, the expression changed from last year’s “most important neighboring countries to each other” to this year’s “most important neighbor that shares strategic interests.” My sense is that the “shares strategic interests” portion strongly reflects movements over the past years, such as the agreement reached between Japan and the ROK. It seems as if the distance has narrowed in some respect, and the expression incorporates this content.

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: While this overlaps with some of what I explained before, Japan’s relationships with the various countries can change considerably over the period of one year. Various events occur, such as improvements or emergence of issues, and the assessment takes these into account. In the Japan-ROK relationship, the two countries reached an agreement on the comfort women issue at the end of last year. I think Japan and the ROK are currently deepening their cooperative relationships. The Bluebook’s description of the Japan-ROK relationship naturally factors in overall developments during the subject year. It offers a comprehensive assessment rather linking it directly to specific points or differences.

Terrorist attack and hostage incident in Bangladesh

Takita, Sankei Shimbun: On a matter related to the response to the Dhaka incident that was taken up in the beginning, does what you said mean that for the overall direction, that you soon be deciding to strengthen the overall system including Japanese nationals and businesses overseas, not necessarily a report, but you will be doing something like that again? Yesterday, your minister said that a countermeasures council would be launched and so on, but do you mean that a policy will be issued separately from that in the sense of strengthening consular activities?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: We received instructions from the Prime Minister, and there was also the announcement from our minister. We intend to go through the process of making arrangements and conducting consultations on their basis. The question had been about how we would go about strengthening the system including the Counter Terrorism Unit – Japan, so I answered that we intended to go forward with specific considerations, for example, one direction is to reinforce regional and language experts or strengthen the system in a way that contributes to consular works. I mean that we are considering what I just said, giving one example of a specific direction, or area, on the basis of the instructions from the Prime Minister and the instructions from our minister.

Japan-Russia Summit Meeting

Hosokawa, Hokkaido Shimbun: I have a question about the negotiations between Japan and Russia. The fact is that the first negotiations between senior officials in the run-up to a Summit Meeting in Vladivostok in September were held in June, but I would like to ask what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ views are with regard to any further preparations that will have to be made to the environment ahead of September.

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: I believe the meeting in Vladivostok that you are referring to is the Eastern Economic Forum. The Eastern Economic Forum was mentioned at the recent Japan-Russia Summit Meeting that was held in Sochi as well. However, at the present point it time, nothing has been decided with regard to holding a Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in Vladivostok. Speaking with that as a premise, based on the outcomes of the Japan-Russia Summit in Sochi, the relationship between Japan and Russia continues to be a relationship of mutual cooperation. That has not changed. At this point in time, no definite decisions are made about what sorts of discussions and meetings to hold at the forum scheduled to be held in Vladivostok in early September.

Hosokawa, Hokkaido Shimbun: Am I correct in understanding that negotiations between senior officials will take place again prior to that?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: In Vladivostok?

Hosokawa, Hokkaido Shimbun: I mean in the period up to Vladivostok.

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: At present, the types of discussions that will be held, and the timing, have not been specifically decided.

Detention of a Russian fishing vessel with Japanese nationals onboard

Hosokawa, Hokkaido Shimbun: There have been reports that a Russian vessel was seized in Kamchatka the other day, and that three Japanese nationals were onboard. They were subsequently released, but if MOFA is aware of the movements of these three individuals, including whether or not they returned to Japan, would you please discuss that?

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: I apologize, but I would like to look into this matter and report on it later.

Release of the final report of the United Kingdom’s Iraq Inquiry Committee

Maeda, Mainichi Shimbun: Today the United Kingdom released the final report of its inquiry into the Iraq War. I think the Japanese Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs released inquiry results in 2012. Some observers commented that the content was inadequate. Please explain if you have any views regarding the inquiry method and whether the Government might conduct another inquiry.

Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: I am aware that today, on July 6, it is planned to release a final report on the topic that you mentioned in the UK. Inquiries addressing the Iraq War have already been conducted in various formats by other countries too. A report is issued in the UK this time. Japan provided only humanitarian reconstruction assistance and logistics support in the Iraq War, and I do not think it is appropriate to discuss the UK’s report and the inquiry implemented by Japan as a direct comparison and on the same standing.

Additionally, I will mention Japan’s existing overall assessment and view again. The core of the Iraq War stemmed from Iraq’s loss of the trust in the international community with its invasion of Kuwait. Against this backdrop, Iraq had continually violated Security Council Resolutions that required unconditional acceptance of inspections while Iraq had the responsibility to prove the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction by cooperating with inspections. Japan has previously explained and disclosed that it thinks Iraq’s unwillingness to actively give evidence of the absence of weapons of mass destruction was at the heart of the Iraq War. The Government has not altered this stance now, and we think of the Government’s assessment, including its support for the international use of military force against Iraq, remains appropriate.