Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato
Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 4:30 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Rescheduling of the Sightseeing Pilot Tour on the Four Northern Islands
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. Can you tell us the current status of coordination regarding the experimental sightseeing tour, part of the joint economic activities on Etorofu Island and Kunashiri Island, which was postponed? Has the schedule been decided?
Mr. Ohtaka Masato, Press Secretary: As explained previously about the details of the tour, the Russian side said afterwards that they would like to re-coordinate the schedule. Currently, in cooperation with the people concerned, coordination is being conducted to implement the tour at an early timing as possible sometime after the end of this month. If there are any further decisions, I will share it with you all.
Collision Case Involving a North Korean Fishing Boat
Kyodo News, Onozuka: I would like to ask several questions regarding the case in which North Korea is requesting compensation from Japan for the sinking of one of its fishing boats. It is recognized that this case occurred within Japan’s EEZ, but is it true that there is a maritime area in Japan’s EEZ that overlaps with the area within 200 nautical miles of North Korea’s coastline, which North Korea claims as its own EEZ? If there is a possible overlapping maritime area, did the incident occur in such an area, or did it occur in what is solely Japan’s EEZ where North Korea’s interests do not extend?
Press Secretary Ohtaka: I do not intend to speak in detail about discussions concerning maritime areas today. In any event, although Japan is not in the position to answer about North Korea’s claims concerning maritime areas, our position is that the maritime area where this case occurred was within Japan’s EEZ.
Kyodo News, Onozuka: I would like to ask another question. The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated in a press conference that Japan issued a protest stating that the compensation request is not acceptable. What was the reason for deciding that the compensation request was not acceptable, and to issue a protest? Can you please explain the basis from the perspective of international law and Japanese domestic law?
Press Secretary Ohtaka: This case occurred in a backdrop where an extremely high number of foreign fishing boats are trying to enter Japan’s Yamatotai area, and Japan was warning the North Korean fishing boat to withdraw from the area. The reality is that the North Korean fishing boat sank because it hit the fishing patrol boat after making a sudden turn. Based on that fact, a protest was swiftly issued to North Korea through the embassy route in Beijing. In any event, Japan cannot accept North Korea’s announcement on October 12, and Japan is firmly conveying to North Korea its position regarding North Korea’s claims.
Kyodo News, Onozuka: Do you believe that there is a need for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to delimit the boundary of the EEZ through dialogue with North Korea in order to avoid conflicts and unexpected situations?
Press Secretary Ohtaka: Japan is not in the position to answer regarding North Korea’s claim. On the other hand, the reality is that the maritime area where this case happened was within Japan’s EEZ, and occurred because of the actions of the North Korean fishing boat. For this situation, I do not recognize that there is anything that must be resolved with North Korea requiring discussions.