Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 8:38 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk

Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: From 7:30 am today for 15 minutes, I held a telephone talk with Mr. Rex Tillerson who took office as the Secretary of State of the United States.

First, I congratulated Secretary Tillerson on his assumption of the office of the Secretary of State. I underscored the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, a cornerstone of regional peace and prosperity, noting that the United States’ strong leadership was essential for global peace and prosperity in the 21st century. Secretary Tillerson expressed gratitude for the comments. We agreed to work together closely in making constant efforts to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and to hold a meeting in the near future.

Our discussion of regional situations included the Senkaku Islands. Secretary Tillerson stated that the Senkaku Islands are part of the territory under the administration of Japan and are within the scope that is covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and that the U.S. opposes any unilateral actions that attempt to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands. This position was expressed by Secretary Tillerson. It is encouraging that Secretary Tillerson expressed such a position following on from Secretary Mattis and both U.S. State and Defense authorities made this position clear, and I believe we had a good start, including this point.

We also agreed to refer to each other as “Fumio” and “Rex” going forward. Based on our discussions today, I came away with the impression that Secretary Tillerson is a very sincere person and fully understands the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the Asia-Pacific region.

(2) Joint Economic Activity Related Council

Minister Kishida: We have established the Joint Economic Activity Related Council, chaired by myself, consisting of representatives from the relevant ministries and agencies, with the aim of formulating concrete projects for joint economic activities on the Northern Islands, following on the decision at the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in December 2016 to start discussion on such activities. The first meeting will be held this evening.

The Government will make concerted and steady efforts with a sense of speed in order to deliver concrete outcomes.

Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk

Reporter: You just stated that an agreement was reached to hold a meeting in the near future. What is the status of the arrangements for a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Washington, D.C. on February 10? Also, in your telephone talk, was there any mention of what the two sides would like to discuss at the Summit Meeting on February 10?

Minister Kishida: We are still coordinating the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on February 10. My visit to the United States is also subject to approval from the Diet and the necessary procedures. Therefore, nothing has been decided yet. That’s where things stand.

We discussed expectations for the Summit Meeting ahead of the meeting. However, I would like to refrain from going into details.

Reporter: Is it correct to say that you are in the final stages of coordinating a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?

Minister Kishida: I would just say we are in the process of making the arrangements. As the Diet is currently in session, I myself cannot accompany the Prime Minister without the Diet’s approval. This and everything else is now being coordinated.

Japan-ROK Relations

Reporter: I have a question about the return of Japan’s ambassador to the Republic of Korea (ROK). It has almost been a full month since the ambassador’s temporary return to Japan, a lengthy period. Can you once again share your frank view of the situation and your outlook?

Minister Kishida: Regarding your question, a decision will be made by comprehensively reviewing and taking into account responses and various circumstances. In any case, we will continue to urge the ROK Government on the importance of the Japan-ROK agreement and its implementation. This is the current situation.

Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk

Reporter: Returning to the matter of Japan and the U.S., you have said an agreement was reached to arrange a meeting in the near future. A face-to-face meeting will be the first proper meeting between the two of you. What points will you want to confirm or emphasize at the meeting?

Minister Kishida: As I said earlier, I would like to have a meeting in the near future. I believe today’s telephone talk was held in a very good atmosphere. It will be extremely important for Secretary Tillerson and myself to maintain communications or hold talks in order to further deepen and develop the important Japan-U.S. Alliance. We must further consolidate the relationship of trust that is the basis for such important dialogue. Although we have had our first telephone talk, we have not yet met face-to-face. Therefore, I believe at our first meeting following the Secretary’s assumption of the office, it will be most important to build a firm relationship of trust and personal relationship to provide that foundation. After firmly building such foundation, I hope we can deal with specific issues one at a time.

Joint Economic Activity Related Council

Reporter: I have a question in relation to the Japan-Russia Council you announced earlier. Who will be the members of this Council? Secondly, you noted that considerations will be made with a sense of speed. There are prospects of the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia as well as various diplomatic schedules. Do you have any targets in mind as to by when you will finish making these considerations?

Minister Kishida: In terms of the members, I am the Chair, and Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia Seko is the Acting Chair. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nogami is the Deputy Chair. Then, Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat Yachi, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hasegawa, and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba will oversee the work. Representatives from relevant ministries and agencies such as the National Security Secretariat, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism are scheduled to attend today’s meeting.

In terms of the schedule, with regard to the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia that you noted, the Prime Minister would like to visit Russia as early as possible. The Prime Minister also plans to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in September. Discussion will take place with such political schedule in mind. In the immediate time frame, we will hold the first meeting today and various efforts will be made at the working level. Then we will think about the next meeting based on the progress of those efforts. This is how we would like to start.

Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk

Reporter: Was there any discussion about North Korea or the South China Sea issues in your telephone talk with Secretary Tillerson?

Minister Kishida: We exchanged views about regional situations. While we exchanged opinions on regional situations including North Korea, I would like to refrain from going into further detail. Our time was limited, but we did have such discussion.

Japan-ROK Relations

Reporter: I would like to ask a question about the comfort women issue. I presume it is very difficult for the Government to find the right timing for returning the ambassador to the ROK. What is your view in this regard?

Minister Kishida: I commented on this earlier. Nothing is yet decided. We will need to make a decision based on a comprehensive review. We will continue to closely follow the situation. We will persistently urge the ROK Government on this matter.

Reporter: Does that mean it is not particularly damaging from a diplomatic perspective if more than one month has passed? Even if the temporary return of the ambassador to Japan becomes extended?

Minister Kishida: We must make steady efforts to ensure the bilateral relationship will not be undermined. The issue concerning the ambassador’s return is as I have just already explained moments ago.

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