Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
[Note: The translations of the second and fourth questions in the question-and-answer section which were originally posed in English have been translated into English in this translation from the Japanese transcript. As such they may vary slightly from the phrasing used in the original English.]
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I should like to begin my remarks by extending my sincere thanks to all the Canadian people involved in the holding of the G8 and G20 summits here in Canada, and particularly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for all the efforts they have made. On my part, this is only the sixteenth day since I became Prime Minister, and it was in this hectic situation that I took part in the G8 and G20 summits. Fortunately, however, I had served as Minister of Finance since January. While these G8 and G20 summits were my first meetings to attend [as Prime Minister], I had attended meetings among Finance Ministers in Iqaluit also here in Canada in February and at the G20 held in Washington, DC. I felt that my activities while Minister of Finance served amply as preparation and I was able to enter into the discussions fairly smoothly. Economic issues are in principle to be discussed primarily at the G20, but with the situation in Europe very serious, detailed discussions took place at the G8 as well, in particular during lunch on the first day. I presented my ideas and views on the need to pursue economic growth and fiscal reconstruction in tandem, stemming from the New Growth Strategy and Fiscal Management Strategy which I had prepared in my capacity as Finance Minister and which were announced shortly after my government was launched. At the plenary session too, I feel that ultimately how each country would pursue economic growth and the rebuilding of public finances became the central issue in our overall discussion, although of course the weighting of these would differ among us to an extent, in accordance with the circumstances particular to each country. I consider myself to have successfully kicked off the overall discussions in that sense. This reconciling of growth and fiscal reconstruction also essentially became a central theme of the G20 meeting. Through Prime Minister Harper's strong leadership, the final G20 Summit Declaration indicates a path forward for fiscal reconstruction, and it also includes Japan's dual-faceted approach I mentioned earlier of a New Growth Strategy and a Fiscal Management Strategy. During the summit I presented a timeline and other aspects of Japan's fiscal reconstruction, and these were accepted in a positive manner and welcomed by other leaders.
To return to the G8, as for political and in particular security issues, I overviewed the situation regarding the incident of the sinking of the Republic of Korea patrol vessel, as Mr Harper, the Summit Chair, had asked me to lead off on this topic. In so doing I indicated that this sinking incident was the work of North Korea, and this had to be pointed out clearly. And in order to prevent the recurrence of such an incident, I called for a proper condemnation of what should be condemned. Mr [Dmitry] Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, was also present, but also thanks to the preparatory work by the sherpas and other officials, the positions of the leaders converged without any particular objections to my views, and the relevant part of the communique agreed. I consider it to be of great significance that the action by North Korea was condemned in a formal communique of the G8. As this issue is currently being debated also at the United Nations, there was agreement that each G8 member would work to have this outcome reflected in discussions at the United Nations as well.
In this connection as well as for other reasons, the bilaterals I had with other leaders were also very important. I have met President Hu Jintao of China a number of times over a period beginning a long time ago, but this was my first meeting with him in my capacity as Prime Minister. We each confirmed our fundamental thinking regarding our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests and also, as raised by the Chinese President, in accordance with four fundamental Japan-China-ROK tripartite documents. In addition, regarding North Korea issues, I introduced the discussions at the G8, saying that I hoped China would also adopt the a similar orientation, or indeed that, in thinking about what the future might hold on the matter, it was incumbent upon China to adopt such an orientation. Thus I feel that I duly raised the G8 position on North Korea also in bilateral meetings and that this position should be reflected adequately one way or another in the United Nations discussions now underway.
I also had bilateral summit meetings with Dr [Manmohan] Singh, Prime Minister of India, the Prime Minister of Viet Nam, and the President of Indonesia. Their countries, along with China of course, are emerging economies which continue to grow very rapidly. Each leader proposed deepening further their countries' cooperative relations with Japan. I, too, expressed eagerness in this regard, noting that there are many things that Japan has but these countries do not have and vice versa. The specific issues of high-speed railways and nuclear power stations were raised to a degree, and they will continue to be discussed in the future.
I met President Medvedev of Russia for the first time during this G8 summit. Former Prime Minister Hatoyama was extremely interested in Japan's relations with Russia, a fact which President Medvedev was also well aware of. I told the President that indeed I have inherited my predecessor's enthusiasm and hope to deepen our future relations. The response from President Medvedev, and Russia as a nation of Asia and the Pacific was also positive in this regard. In addition, I met President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea for first time as Prime Minister, although I had met him a number of times in the past. I also had the chance to talk to Prime Minister [David] Cameron of the United Kingdom.
After this press conference I am meeting President [Barack] Obama of the United States. We have already spoken informally a number of times but we will have our first formal summit meeting after this. While there are many topics to discuss, I would be pleased if we could confirm that there is a common orientation in the basic thinking between Japan and the US and between President Obama and myself, rather than focusing too much on individual topics. At the same time, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the two countries. Since I believe there is no change to the fact that the Japan-US alliance forms the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy, I also hope to discuss what kind of discussions we should conduct so as to further deepen our relations. I will end my remarks here.
(Additional words by the Prime Minister) I also held bilateral summits with Mr [Stephen] Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, Ms [Angela] Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Mr [Jose Manuel] Barroso, President of the European Commission, and just a while ago with Dr [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia.
(1) Mr Tsunoda, NHK
QUESTION: As you touched on earlier, at these summits you emphasised the need to reconcile fiscal reconstruction with economic growth. Your views on North Korea regarding the incident of the sinking of the ROK patrol vessel were also incorporated into the draft communique (sic). In this series of meetings, to what extend do you think you managed to lead the discussions? Also, I would like to ask how you intend to build on the G8 declaration to garner support at the UN Security Council regarding North Korea.
PRIME MINISTER: Before this summit began, Prime Minister Harper called to congratulate me on becoming Prime Minister. At that time, he explained his thoughts on the G8 and G20 and asked me how I felt. Given this initial discussion, and since my first meeting after arriving in Canada was with Prime Minister Harper, I felt that overall, the orientation of the Chair country and the issues that I brought up were well aligned. The biggest theme, as I mentioned earlier, was the fact that while each country must on the one hand move forward with fiscal reconstruction, on the other if we proceed with it too quickly growth would grind to a halt, or economic activity would become sluggish. I consider the reconciliation of these two to have been the biggest central issue at the G8 and G20 meetings, particularly in the area of economic and fiscal management. So apart from whether it is appropriate to say I "led" discussions, I stated my views firmly regarding the overall major direction [of the discussions] and I think they were used as points of reference by the other leaders.
As for the North Korean issue concerning the sinking of the ROK patrol vessel, as I also mentioned earlier, I had been asked by the Chair to lead off on this, and I obliged. At the beginning I was somewhat worried about the degree to which we would be able to reach firm agreement within the G8. An international investigation, undertaken by not only the ROK but other countries as well, has made clear North Korea's involvement in this incident. The fact that we agreed on a declaration clarifying this, I believe, indicates that all the G8 leaders have understood the situation, including the points I made in my explanation. I have been informed that the situation at the United Nations could develop in any direction, but I believe that an agreement of the kind reached this time at the G8 will certainly have a major impact at the UN Security Council. Japan will of course duly address this issue, but I expect the other countries to do likewise, as within the G8 the talk of making the right response to this matter arose not only from me but from other leaders as well.
QUESTION: Two issues attracted attention concerning this week's G20 discussions. The first was a bank tax, and the other was flexibility of the renminbi. What kinds of discussions were held on these topics, and what was Japan's stance on them?
PRIME MINISTER: While there had been a lot of discussion on a bank tax in the run-up, there was not that much during the summit itself. In various preliminary meetings, for the most part European nations had been relatively eager [on the idea], while Japan, the US and others were not especially in favour of this taking the form of a tax. Some leaders did make statements on this issue, but we did not enter into full-scale discussion on it, perhaps because these differences were known in advance.
Regarding the renminbi as well, China itself had indicated its intention to allow a certain degree of flexibility in the exchange rate. Japan, our Minister of Finance to be precise, had issued a statement welcoming this move, and the United States had also made a similar statement on this matter. At today's meeting we didn't have any discussions focused on the renminbi in particular. I think this was because we had already recognised that one hurdle had already been cleared.
QUESTION: My question in about the Japan-US summit meeting. As you indicated, you will have a bilateral meeting with President Obama after this. How will you touch on the issue of relocating [the US Marine Corps'] Futenma [Air Station], which has been the cause of strained Japan-US relations recently? Also, what results are you expecting from these discussions?
PRIME MINISTER: As I said earlier, this will be our first summit meeting, so I hope that through our discussions we can affirm common ground between President Obama's thinking and my own. It would be even better if in that process a relationship of trust on a personal level should also emerge. When we chatted informally, President Obama mentioned that in the speech he gave in Japan [last November] he had said that he was the first US president to hail from the Pacific, to which I said that I was listening directly to that speech at Suntory Hall and that part had left a great impression on me. Our countries both border the Pacific Ocean and Asia is a region with which they both have strong ties. The cooperation between our two nations in the Pacific?that is, the Japan-US alliance?has been useful not only for the security of Japan, but rather, for many other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well, serving as an international stabilising factor. I believe that it would be quite important if we were to reaffirm this view. As for the Futenma issue, I will decide how to refer to the issue on the spot, but I think that my stance on this matter has been sufficiently conveyed already. That is, I too will handle the matter fully in accordance with the Japan-US agreement reached during the time of the Hatoyama Cabinet at the end of May, while I will also be even more actively engaged than before in alleviating the burden borne by Okinawa. I have repeatedly stated this stance at the National Diet and elsewhere, so presumably it has already been conveyed to President Obama. However, I will decide on the spot how to touch on this matter.
QUESTION: Under the Hatoyama government, even as it was claimed that a more equal Japan-US relationship would be sought, Okinawa military base issues strained the bilateral relationship. How do you intend to repair Japan-US relations? Also, how could an equal relationship be achieved with the United States in the truest sense when US military bases remain in Japan?
PRIME MINISTER: In my policy speech to the Diet I spoke of a book called Heiwa no Daishou ("The Price of Peace"), authored by Professor Younosuke Nagai. During my university days I had read that book and afterwards I was fortunate enough to be taught directly by Professor Nagai. Foreign policy is not merely a matter of relations with other countries, but rather a question of what kind of country we Japanese want Japan to be. In the context of global society, what sort of nation [do we aspire to be]?as stated in the preamble to the Constitution, do we aspire to be a country that is respected? And what do we do to achieve this goal? I consider that to be the fundamental point. Likewise, nowhere in this concept of an equal partnership between Japan and the US is any thought given to whether the presence or absence of military bases defines whether we are equal or not equal. In some sense, in line with each country's own thinking and in accordance with various circumstances, Japan has actively allowed [US military bases] to be located within its territory, and if this was indeed an independent-minded decision then that is certainly an entirely reasonable possibility. I do not believe that the mere presence or absence of military bases determines unequivocally whether or not we are equal partners. As I said earlier, fifty years have passed since the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the two countries. It is not the case that based on this treaty Japan merely receives the support of the US, be that militarily or in the [broader] sense of national security. Japan and the US have in cooperation forged a foundation for the peace and security of Asia and the Pacific region. Regardless of whether or not that is manifest, this has been a substantially positive element for the countries of Asia and the Pacific. That is how I regard the matter. In that sense, I believe it is possible to regard Japan and the US as cooperating to make a major contribution to the peace and prosperity of Asia and the Pacific region.
Therefore, I do not consider the point you mentioned, i.e. the existence or absence of military bases, as having any direct bearing on whether or not we have an equal partnership.
As for our future direction, as we are holding our first summit meeting today, it is extremely important for us leaders to understand each other well. But in my view what is more vital still is how the peoples of our countries?or, in Japan's case, how the Japanese public understands, recognises, feels about, and thinks about its own, or Japan's own, actions. That is to say, are they something that [the Japanese public views] Japan is being forced to take reluctantly? No; instead, Japan should take action based on what it considers desirable, on how it believes it can contribute both to Japan and to countries of Asia and the Pacific, and furthermore, on what it can do for the sake of world peace. Considering this, as we seek to deepen the Japan-US alliance on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, I want us to pursue an approach under which the Japanese people hold thorough discussions among themselves and, based on the outcome, deepen the Japan-US alliance as well as contribute to the well-being of the Asia-Pacific region in a way that a large proportion of the Japanese people can readily accept. I do think that it will take a fair amount of time, but I do hope to engage in this matter from that standpoint.