Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 8:42 a.m.   Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Japan-Russia Relations

Reporter: I have a question about Japan-Russia relations. Yesterday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commented at the budget committee that Crimea would not be discussed in the territorial negotiations. My understanding is that Japan plans to separate Ukraine-related sanctions and territorial discussions. Yet the Japanese government has also been emphasizing collaboration with the G7 nations regarding Ukraine sanctions. Does it have the understanding of the US side regarding this approach?

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Japan is conducting detailed and various discussions with the United States, and it maintains communications on a regular basis. While I would like to refrain from going into the detailed discussions, Prime Minister Abe is promoting mutual understanding in a variety of ways, including discussions with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden. Japan intends to fully communicate its initiatives.

Reporter: I believe you reached an agreement at the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held last month in New York on Japan-Russia strategic dialogue and a visit to Russia by Mr. Shinsuke Sugiyama, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. Could you explain where things stand in arranging this schedule and give an update on the content that will be discussed at the meeting, including negotiations for a peace treaty and a cooperation plan with eight points?

Minister Kishida: Regarding the Japan-Russia strategic dialogue, this is something that I proposed at the recent Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, as you noted, and both sides agreed to hold the meeting. However, we are still working on an arrangement of the specific date and other matters at this point. We consider it to be a dialogue between Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Sugiyama and Mr. Vladimir Titov, First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. This dialogue will promote general understanding among Foreign Policy authorities, and I expect discussions on a variety of issues. Japan hopes to hold this dialogue in the near future.

Reporter: I think there are two channels for dialogue - Ambassador Chikahito Harada for Japan-Russia Relations and the senior official discussions. Please explain the roles and positioning of these two channels. Also, what implications does this meeting have as a step toward a visit by you to Russia?

Minister Kishida: As just mentioned, the strategic dialogue is between diplomatic officials, and I expect discussions on a variety of topics with a broad scope.

Ambassador Harada, on the other hand, will focus on peace treaty negotiations with narrower themes. I think these are the respective roles.

Regarding a Foreign Minister’s visit to Russia, I believe this is part of the preparations for a visit to Japan by President Vladimir Putin on December 15 as noted at the recent Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Thus, nothing has been decided yet on timing.

Japan-Republic of Korea Agreement

Reporter: Regarding the Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) agreement on comfort women, the Korean side is asking for Prime Minister Abe to send a letter of apology and Prime Minister Abe stated that he is not considering this at all. Some public opinion in the ROK is expressing anger at the Prime Minister’s response. There also seems to be signs for concern that the Government of ROK is starting to move the goal post again. How will the Government of Japan and you, as Foreign Minister, respond?

Minister Kishida: The Japan-ROK agreement is precisely what the Foreign Ministers of Japan and the ROK jointly announced in December 2015 – nothing more, nothing less. I believe it is most important for the two governments to carry out the agreement with sincerity.

Situation in Syria

Reporter: I have a question about the situation in Syria. The United States announced that it is halting discussions with Russia aimed at ceasing hostilities. What is the Government of Japan’s view? Also, while Japan is currently preparing for a visit by President Putin in December, has this decision affected the Japan-Russia negotiations?

Minister Kishida: I recently participated in a variety of meetings on Syria held during the United Nations General Assembly, where I emphasized that a ceasefire and provision of humanitarian access are the most important matters. I believe it is needed to continue calling for efforts by the international community to implement a ceasefire.

As to whether this might affect negotiations about the Northern Territories, both issues are important challenges. I’m not expecting discussion of this matter during negotiations on the Northern Territories or on a treaty of peace and friendship.