Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, July 15, 2016, 10:48 a.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening remarks

Incident of a truck crashing into a crowd in Nice, France

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: We understand that a large number of people were killed or injured in the incident in Nice, France. I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the people who lost their lives and to express my sympathies for the injured.

We understand that the French authorities are conducting an investigation into matters such as the background of the incident, including the possibility of terrorism. If this is an act of terrorism, it is totally unacceptable. We firmly condemn it.

No harm to Japanese nationals has been confirmed at this point in time, but our Consulate-General in Marseilles has established a liaison office in Nice and dispatched a consul there, and is in the process of collecting information, including any information concerning harm to Japanese nationals.

Our Embassy in France and Consulate-General in Marseilles raised awareness by email to the Japanese nationals staying there who have registered their information on the Overseas Travel Registration. Our Ministry also raised awareness by issuing Overseas Travel Safety Information on our Overseas Safety Home Page.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established an information and liaison office with Mr. Aiki Toshihiro, Deputy Director-General of the European Affairs Bureau, as its head and continues to work to collect information, and intends to all possible measures to protect Japanese nationals.

Incident of a truck crashing into a crowd in Nice, France

Kurihara, NHK: Regarding the incident in France, as the possibility of terrorism is being raised, is there anything being considered with regard to conveying some thoughts or issuing a message as the Japanese Government to the French Government, or from you to Foreign Minister Ayrault?

Minister Kishida: Currently, we understand that the French authorities are still investigating the incident. Thus, we believe that communicating closely with the French authorities and sharing information are important. I believe that we should keep an eye on the situation, and consider various responses if necessary. Under the current situation, we intend to take all possible measures to collect and analyze information.

The publication of the final report of the United Kingdom on the reexamination of the Iraq War

Kamide, freelance:> I would like to ask about the issue of the reexamination of the Iraq War. On July 6, in the United Kingdom, right during our House of Councillors election, an independent inquiry committee investigating the appropriateness of joining the war in 2003 when Mr. Tony Blair was prime minister issued a massive final report, which severely criticizes the United Kingdom’s participation in the Iraq War. I would like to hear your views about this. That is my first question.

In this connection, this issue has been pointed out many times, and the Foreign Ministry issued a four-page report in December 2012. Voices have been raised there has not been a proper examination, but Prime Minister Abe has consistently stated in the Diet and elsewhere that a reexamination will not be conducted. However, in light of this British report, there is a renewed voice for reexamination in Japan as well. In this regard, could you tell us about a reexamination by Japan, and if it is unnecessary, including the reason why.

Minister Kishida: It is my understanding, as you pointed out, that on July 6, if I remember correctly, right during the House of Councillors election, that the inquiry committee in the United Kingdom on the Iraq War issued its final report. Each country, including the United Kingdom, has conducted an examination of the Iraq War in various ways. That said, the objectives, or the subjects, or the methods of the respective examinations are varied. Furthermore, the United Kingdom participated in the use of force, while Japan provided only humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and logistical support. I think that it is inappropriate to put Japan in the same category with the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, as you pointed out, in 2012, in our country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted an examination with the purpose of investigating the policy determination process at the time and learning lessons from this and utilizing that in planning and implementing policies in the future. On this point, it is my belief, as Prime Minister Abe has said, that this examination was fully appropriate, and that there is no need for further investigation.

At the heart of the Iraq War in my view is the fact that having lost the trust of the international community by invading Kuwait, Iraq, which was in the position of proving on its own its destruction of its weapons of mass destruction through inspections, continued to violate the successive UN resolutions demanding the acceptance of inspections. It is my understanding that this is at the heart of the matter. It is my belief that the appropriateness of the decisions that Japan made regarding this Iraq War are not lost today in retrospect. It is my belief that there is no need to conduct a new investigation based on these thoughts among others.

Arbitration between the Philippines and China regarding the South China Sea

Li, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: The other day the arbitral award relating to the South China Sea was rendered. In the foreign minister’s statement, it has been stated that this arbitral award is legally binding and should be complied with. Does Japan support this arbitral award including the ruling on islands? Does Japan believe that the award is legally binding, including its interpretation of islands?

Minister Kishida: First, where this arbitral award is concerned, Japan attaches importance to it based on the notion of peaceful settlement based on international law and the rule of law. Furthermore, Japan believes the arbitral award is based on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute, and the parties in this case are required to comply with this award.

As I just explained, Japan views this final award as legally binding on the parties to the dispute.

Li, Hong Kong Phoenix TV: In other words, the Japanese side has maintained that Oki-no-Tori Shima Island is an island but Taiwan and China have insisted that it is not an island. Does Oki-no-Tori Shima Island possess an environment that can sustain human habitation and economic activity? Is this arbitration award not applicable?

Minister Kishida: To begin with, I do not believe there is a specific definition of what constitutes rocks. I believe there are various provisions, including UNCLOS Article 121, paragraph 3, but even in those provisions there is no definition of rocks. I do not think there is any definite interpretation of what constitutes rocks.

And in any event, this arbitration award is not an award that relates to the legal status of Oki-no-Tori-Shima Island or other islands. Based on UNCLOS this arbitral award is only legally binding on China and the Philippines, which are the parties to this case. And the Government of Japan’s position is that Oki-no-Tori Shima Island is an island that meets the criteria under UNCLOS.

Saito, Kyodo News: After this Arbitral Tribunal rendered its award, China expressed a position suggesting that it will not abide by the award. I realize that Japan has issued a message calling for compliance with the rule of law any number of times thus far. I would like to ask your views with regard to how Japan will encourage China and what sort of attitude Japan will adopt when appealing to China to respond to this Tribunal’s award going forward?

Minister Kishida: First, Japan believes that based on UNCLOS, this arbitral award is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute. In any event, the Government of Japan believes that peacefully resolving disputes based on international law is important. Japan strongly expects that the parties’ compliance with this award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea. Finding peaceful resolutions to the various interactions in the South China Sea is also of major interest to the international community as a whole, and we hope that firmly advocating the importance of the rule of law and the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes based on international law, while coordinating also with the international community, will lead to results.

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: Following this award, Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, is insisting that because four of the Arbitral Tribunal’s five Arbitrators were nominated by Mr. Shunji Yanai, then-President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the tribunal’s decision was influenced by Japan’s political agenda. How do you view this backlash from China, including the facts as to the selection of the arbitrators?

Minister Kishida: To begin with, I believe the appointments of the Arbitrators at this arbitration conform with the procedures prescribed by UNCLOS and there is no problem. I think China’s assertions are unfounded.

UNCLOS states that when the appointment of Arbitrators is not made by a party within a certain period after the notification of institution of arbitration proceedings, upon the request by the other party, the President of ITLOS shall make the necessary appointments. My understanding is that in this arbitration, because China chose not to appoint the Arbitrator in pursuance of UNCLOS, Mr. Yanai, then President of ITLOS, had to make the necessary appointments of the Arbitrators in accordance with the procedure under the Convention as I mentioned. I believe this matter was handled entirely in accordance with the procedures prescribed by UNCLOS, and there is no problem. I think the very act of making assertions and various objections to this matter is a challenge to the rule of law in the international community.

Ishigaki, Jiji Press: Relating to the arbitration, the fact is that the Arbitral Tribunal’s award stated that there is no legal basis for China’s nine-dash line map. Does Japan intend to utilize the tribunal court method for the issue of territorial sovereignty over Takeshima, for which there is likewise said to be no legal basis under international law?

Minister Kishida: Where the Takeshima issue is concerned, as Japan has always stated, it is conducting various examinations to resolve the dispute calmly and peacefully in accordance with international law. The Takeshima issue is not something that will be solved overnight, but Japan will continue to clearly convey to the Republic of Korea side that Japan will not accept what Japan cannot accept. Japan intends to respond in a calm and tenacious manner and based on a broad perspective.

In general terms, an arbitration court that is set up based on the UNCLOS has jurisdictional authority over disputes relating to the interpretation and application of the Convention, but the Convention does not set out provisions regarding assigning territorial rights. Consequently, I believe it is not envisaged that disputes over territorial rights themselves will be referred to these arbitral tribunals.

In any event, where this issue is concerned, Japan intends to continue to resolve disputes calmly and peacefully in accordance with international law.

Kobayashi, Asahi Shimbun: This is another question about Oki-no-Tori Shima Island. Earlier, you stated that you do not believe that there are specific definitions for islands and rocks. However, I think this award has for the first time presented certain criteria for what constitutes islands, based on whether or not they can sustain human habitation and economic activity of its own. I am aware that the award is only binding on China and the Philippines, but what is your appraisal of the standard presented in this award?

Minister Kishida: First, I do not believe that the award presented any criteria as you suggest. The only provision in UNCLOS Article 121, paragraph 3 is that rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or continental shelf. Japan believes Oki-no-Tori Shima Island is an island that meets the criteria under UNCLOS. Oki-no-Tori Shima Island has been under the valid control of Japan as an island since the notice of the Home Ministry in 1931 up to the present day. Furthermore, Japan has established its EEZ in the waters around the island. No objections to this practice of Japan had been raised by any country. Accordingly, Japan believes that the entitlement and the legal status of this island as an island have already been established.

Kobayashi, Asahi Shimbun: I believe that is what the UNCLOS says, but I think in this award the criteria used to determine what constitutes an island were whether or not human habitation and economic activity are possible. Do you mean that was not the criteria?

Minister Kishida: I do not believe that there is an established interpretation of what constitutes rocks. On the other hand, based on the reasons I just mentioned, Japan believes it has been established that Oki-no-Tori Shima Island is an island.

ASEAN Summit

Fujimori, Yomiuri Shimbun: On a related matter, concerning the award of the international tribunal on the South China Sea, you stated that you wish to collaborate with the international community to call on China to accept it. This month, ASEAN-related foreign ministers’ meetings are scheduled in Laos. How do you intend to utilize this forum? I believe that China will also participate in it. Do you intend to call on China directly?

Minister Kishida: At the ASEAN-related foreign ministers’ meetings, there have always been frank exchanges of views on a wide range of subjects. I do believe that it is possible for this most recent issue regarding the South China Sea to also be taken up in this exchange of views, but the meetings will take place in the future, and a variety of exchanges can be expected going forward. In any case, I believe that it is necessary to firmly assert, to emphasize the importance of the rule of law at sea and the importance of peaceful resolution based on international law.

Saito, Kyodo News: I have a related question regarding ASEAN that just came up. How do you intend to conduct the Japan-China dialogue there? Please tell us, including plans for a bilateral meeting.

Minister Kishida: There is nothing determined regarding the ASEAN-related foreign ministers’ meetings. However, as I have always stated, our stance is that the door to a dialogue is always open.

The appointment of the new Prime Minister May in the United Kingdom

Kurihara, NHK: To change the subject somewhat, the new British administration has been installed with Prime Minister May at the head, and the main secretaries, including Secretary of State Johnson, have been determined. Going forward, could you please tell us what your response is going forward, what you hope for from the new British administration or how you intend to promote the Japan-U.K. relationship as Foreign Minister?

Minister Kishida: After the new administration was established, Prime Minister Abe issued a letter of congratulations to Prime Minister May. I also issued a letter of congratulations to Secretary of State Johnson. We intend to further strengthen the Japan-U.K. relationship with the new May administration. At the same time, we intend to closely watch movements concerning the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union under the new May administration, and we would like to firmly conduct exchange of views with the British Government. That is my view.

Constitutional amendment

Abe, Asahi Shimbun: To change the subject, it is said that pro-amendment forces that aim at amending the Constitution reached two-thirds in this House of Councillors election. You stated in a meeting of the Kochikai in October last year that you would not consider amendment of Article 9 for the time being. At the time, you said “for the time being.” Does this opinion of yours remain unchanged now?

Minister Kishida: As Prime Minister Abe has said concerning the Constitution, it is our understanding that we will deepen the debate in the Diet going forward. In any case, the debate regarding the Constitution is to be determined article by article. For now, I would like to hope for the deepening of the debate under the firm understanding of the Japanese people. Regarding the statement that I made last year, my opinion remains unchanged.