Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 8:35 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: As I stated in my foreign policy speech in January, I have explained that it is vital to articulate our position on the matter of the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Ambassador Takamizawa, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, and Director-General Aikawa of the Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department, attended and expressed Japan’s position at the high-level segment of the conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons held at the United Nations on March 27 (New York time).
Regarding the content of our statement, as I have explained on previous occasions, Japan’s fundamental position is to take concrete and practical measures steadily through cooperation between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states based on a clear recognition of the humanitarian aspects of nuclear weapons and an objective assessment of the severe security environment. Japan upholds five principles toward nuclear weapons and disarmament and non-proliferation based on this fundamental position. These are ensuring the transparency of nuclear weapons, promoting multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, addressing the matters of regional nuclear proliferation, including the situation in North Korea, raising awareness on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and encouraging visits to the cities which suffered from atomic bombings.
While this was the first meeting of the conference, no nuclear-weapon states actually attended yesterday’s meeting. Furthermore, it has become apparent that the conference does not conform with Japan’s position that I just explained. Japan concluded from these points that the way the conference is organized is not only inconducive as an effort to realize a world free of nuclear weapons, but may even have the adverse effect of deepening the divide between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.
The Japanese Government therefore decided after a sufficient and comprehensive review of various elements to attend yesterday’s high-level segment to articulate Japan’s position and then not participate in en suite negotiations. Japan intends to continue its efforts to realize a world free of nuclear weapons by making solid contributions to discussions that involve both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, such as the NPT, CTBT, FMCT, and G7, and advance discussions with the cooperation of both sides.
Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons
Reporter: Regarding the conference, at the outset, Japanese atomic bombing survivors expressed, with regard to the treaty to be negotiated, their wish not to repeat the tragedy of nuclear weapons. The Government’s position, meanwhile, is that it will not participate in the negotiations as you just explained. This seems to send totally different messages from Japan. Don’t you think that this is difficult for the international community to understand?
Minister Kishida: I do not agree with that at all. The Japanese Government has been and will continue to be consistent in its stance and message. It is strongly advocating a single stance and principle. The Government has dealt realistically with the situation based on this view. Our message is not wavering at all and will remain the same in the future. I think that taking concrete action is important. Japan will continue to take concrete and practical measures steadily.
Reporter: I have three related questions. One is the views of the people from regions that suffered atomic bombings, who had been hoping that Japan will participate and lead the negotiations on the basis that the negotiations offer a good opportunity to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet the opposite ended up happening. What are your thoughts on this point? Also, the realistic methods that you listed have not delivered visible results up to now and this makes it difficult to gain the understanding of non-nuclear-weapon states and countries seeking results. How does Japan intend to bridge this gap? Finally, the United States held a press conference on the same day. Please explain your views of this event and whether it had any impact on Japan’s decision.
Minister Kishida: I think the views of atomic bombing survivors are highly valuable and important. The Government has made a decision following a careful and thorough review of what should be done to achieve tangible results, taking into account these views. The Government and atomic bombing survivors share the major goal of seeking a world free of nuclear weapons. I think the Government needs to consider what steps it should take to realize this goal and then must proceed with these actions.
As to Japan’s future response, I believe the most realistic approach and shortest path to the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons is working patiently in frameworks that involve both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. This is precisely why Japan is trying its best to lead these efforts. For the CTBT, Japan is currently leading discussions as a coordinating country and co-chair. Regarding the FMCT, Japan was recently selected as a member country on the 25-country expert panel and hopes to engage in robust discussions. On the G7, Japan compiled the Hiroshima Declaration at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima as last year’s G7 chair. With respect to the NPDI, Japan is leading discussions as a founding member along with Australia. I am confident that Japan is leading discussions in these various frameworks. These initiatives and frameworks work precisely because they involve the cooperation of nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. Japan intends to continue its efforts while considering whether various initiatives contribute to discussions in these frameworks even without the cooperation of nuclear-weapon states.
While I am aware of the announcement by the United States, Japan decided its own action. Japan considered its own action after reviewing what is appropriate as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings in wartime. As for the United States, Japan intends to continue to call on them to act responsibly as a nuclear-weapon state toward the goal of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, with which Japan hopes to work together.
Reporter: Was there no option for Japan to continue to be part of the negotiating conference framework while working persistently to convince other States?
Minister Kishida: No nuclear-weapon states are participating. Japan is concerned that proceeding with discussions that lack the participation of nuclear-weapon states and only involve non-nuclear-weapon states could create a more decisive divide between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. Japan thus believes that concrete and practical measures with the cooperation of both sides are vital.
Reporter: Was there any impact from North Korea’s nuclear and missile issue on the decision?
Minister Kishida: As explained earlier, appropriate reaction to issues of regional nuclear proliferation, including North Korea, is one of Japan’s five principles. Our fundamental stance already incorporates the need for an objective assessment of the severe security environment. Japan comprehensively assessed various points based on such principles.
Reporter: Didn’t you mention interest in proactively participating in the negotiations in October 2016?
Minister Kishida: I am not sure about the exact language but Japan did attend the meeting. We participated and stated our position. However, we decided to not participate in the en suite negotiations of the conference.
Reporter: I think you were aware at that time of the prospect of nuclear-weapon states not participating. Have conditions changed much?
Minister Kishida: We gathered a variety of information right up until the conference. This became evident once the conference began. Japan clearly articulated its position and determined that Japan’s position was unlikely to be accepted by the conference. We confirmed this situation at the start of the conference and gave consideration to our response on the future negotiations.
State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Visits Taiwan
Reporter: China’s Foreign Ministry strongly protested a visit by the State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications to Taiwan. Apparently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged this visit. Is this true?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the visit by the State Minister that you mentioned, this was a visit by a State Minister in charge of Japan’s regional areas conducted with the aim of communicating the appeal of these areas. This does not violate the basic policy of Japan toward Taiwan clarified in 1972 of maintaining relations as a working relationship on a non-governmental basis.
Japan thinks the relationship between Japan and China is very important and hopes to advance Japan-China relations under the concept of a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests,” especially in light of the fact that this year is the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China and next year is the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.