Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura
Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 5:00 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Establishment of a Consular Office in Erbil, Iraq
Hayashi, Kyodo Press: An announcement was made about the establishment of a Consular Office in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq on January 1. This measure changes the provisional office to a Consular Office, and I understand it means permanent stationing of a head and others. Please explain the aim of strengthening operations in Erbil and your expectations for the role of this office.
Mr. Yasuhisa Kawamura, Foreign Press Secretary: Our establishment of a Consular Office in Erbil is based on our view that it could become a key base for securing our national interests, such as protection of Japanese nationals, and for enhancing our relationship with Iraq, including the Kurdistan area. The Kurdistan Region in Iraq has a self-government with broad autonomy, and the United States, European countries, Middle East countries, and others have Consulates-General or other missions there.
The establishment of a new base for Japan in the Kurdistan Region is expected to lead to building multi-faceted relations with Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. The Japanese Government will work toward further deepening our relations with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Japan-EU EPA and Japan-Philippines Summit Meeting
Su, China Economic Daily: I have two questions. The first is recent media reporting about EPA negotiations between Japan and the European Union. What are the focal areas in the negotiations? In addition, what is the time limit for reaching an agreement if one exists? The other one concerns discussion with the Philippines of missiles during the visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Philippines. The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated that he had not heard about this. What is the explanation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: Regarding the first question on the current state of the Japan-EU EPA negotiations, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Ms. Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commissioner for Trade, agreed in their telephone talk at the end of last year to promptly open negotiations this month with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle as soon as possible. Negotiations are proceeding continuously with telephone talks and other contacts at a variety of levels including chief negotiators and others. A meeting of chief negotiators was held in Brussels on January 17 as part of this effort. Areas with outstanding issues that still need to be resolved in order to reach an agreement in principle mainly include tariffs on goods, non-tariff measures, government procurement, services, investments, and geographical indications, or GI, and other intellectual property. Discussions are continuing in these areas. While specific plans for a ministerial meeting and other meetings have not been decided yet, we are earnestly moving forward with negotiations.
Regarding the second question on my view regarding media reports about whether the missile issue came up in the Japan-Philippines Summit Meeting, I have not been reported of any discussion of the missile issue at the meeting, as stated by the Chief Cabinet Secretary.
US President-elect Trump
Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: I have three questions related to the new US administration under Mr. Donald Trump taking office on January 20. It has been reported that the administration has a favorable stance toward Russia or that it is pro-Russia and anti-China. What is your view of the impact on Japan as it moves closer to Russia? Also, in the case of heightened tensions with China, I think it would be a concern for Japan if tensions become too high. What is your view of this situation? Finally, the issue of increasing Japan’s support for the costs for US Forces stationed in Japan was discussed during the presidential election campaign, but has not been heard recently. Yet there is a possibility of it emerging again. What is Japan’s view of this issue? These are my three questions.
Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: Regarding relations with Russia, the Japanese Government is closely monitoring developments in the US-Russia relationship. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on future policies of President-elect Trump because he has not officially become president yet. That said, Japan intends to maintain close communications with the incoming Trump administration in regard to Japan-Russia relations and management of our relationship with Russia.
Regarding the second question about relations with China and how developments in the relationship between China and the US might affect Japan and our response, at this time I would like to refrain from commenting on individual policies of the incoming US administration, such as the China policy and other concrete points at issue, just as I responded on the question about relations with Russia.
As a general view, however, Japan intends to continue to cooperate closely with the US on peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, particularly amid an increasingly severe security environment in the East Asia region. The importance of the Japan-US alliance is growing in this environment, and Japan aims to further deepen and advance the Japan-US alliance with the incoming Trump administration.
Finally, regarding the issue of support for the US Forces stationed in Japan, I would like to refrain at this point from speculating about the stance of the incoming Trump administration. As just mentioned, the Japanese Government retains its view that the Japan-US alliance has a vital role as a cornerstone of peace and prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region amid an increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. However, the Japan-US security arrangements are not a framework that exclusively benefits either Japan or the US, and Japan and the US should appropriately share the costs for the US Forces stationed in Japan. We perceive Japan is currently covering a suitable portion of the costs for the US Forces stationed in Japan based on the agreement between the two governments.
Geshi, Asahi Shimbun: I have a related question. Mr. Trump made two references to Japan at the recent press conference. The mentions were mainly economic and related to the trade deficit. Please explain your thoughts on this point.
Foreign Press Secretary Kawamura: While the media reported about the mention of the trade deficit at President-elect Trump’s press conference, I would like to refrain from commenting on statements by the President-elect at this point, similar to the above-mentioned cases. However, the Japanese Government believes that active trade and investment is the source of a vibrant economic relationship between Japan and the US, and it hopes to make progress with the incoming Trump administration on initiatives to further advance and deepen economic ties between our countries.