Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
Friday, August 24, 2012
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Since the start of this month, a series of incidents have taken place in the surrounding waters of Japan which concern the sovereignty of the nation. This is extremely regrettable. Japan cannot overlook such conducts.
The greatest responsibility of the nation is to protect peace and to ensure the safety of the people. It is to protect the sovereignty of Japan and to protect the territories and territorial waters of our homeland. As Prime Minister in charge of all governmental affairs, I am committed to fulfilling this crucial duty, both calmly and reassuringly with a resolute attitude, and with unwavering resolve.
Today, I would like to explain to the people directly my views on the fundamental policy which Japan should carry forward, while reflecting on the historical background and the measures Japan has taken to date. At the same time, I would like to reassure the people of Japan that the Government will continue to deal calmly with this range of incidents.
Let me first affirm that Japan is one of the world's preeminent maritime nations. Although Japan is the 61st largest country in the world by land area, if we take our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into account, Japan becomes the world's sixth largest country by virtue of the size of ocean that Japan manages. If ocean depth is also included in the calculation, Japan becomes the world's fourth largest country by "volume." What makes Japan such an expansive maritime nation is our over 6,800 remote islands, including Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands.
"To ensure the sovereignty over the remote islands which are the inherent territory of Japan" is none other than "to safeguard our maritime nation and Japan's massive frontier."
It is incumbent on us now to carefully examine the importance that such remote islands have for Japan, as well as to make "all Japan" efforts which cut across the barriers of ruling and opposition parties in order to assert what Japan ought to assert and to steadily pursue efforts which Japan ought to pursue.
Since the change of government, administrations led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) have taken a number of concrete actions based on the initiatives taken by previous administrations or which go beyond previous initiatives. Broadly speaking, three such actions can be identified.
The first is the stable protection and management of remote islands. Remote islands include uninhabited islands which have not necessarily been accurately surveyed or been given names. It is important that appropriate administrative measures and physical protection measures are steadily implemented. In May of last year and in March of this year, the Government gave names to 49 remote islands which are essential for marking the EEZ of Japan. It was at this time that names were given to four small islands of the Senkaku Islands.
The second is the bolstering of patrol arrangements in nearby waters. When I visited Okinawa in May, I observed a patrol vessel of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). I witnessed the pride of the JCG officers who risk their lives to protect the seas of Japan, including the Senkaku Islands.
An environment in which these "guardians of the sea" can execute their work smoothly must be maintained consistently. Equipment and personnel must continue to be increased and reinforced. In addition, there are legal challenges. Bills to revise laws have already passed the House of Representatives in order to enable JCG to respond swiftly for distant remote islands. I ask everyone for their cooperation in order to pass the bills by the end of the remaining Diet session.
I believe it is also important that the people of Japan see the actual circumstances in which JCG officers patrol our territories and territorial waters. In this light, the JCG's video recording of the recent incident involving the illegal landing of foreign nationals on the Senkaku Islands shall be disclosed, within the scope that this does not hinder future patrol activities and other activities in territorial waters.
The third concerns our efforts to communicate the legitimacy of Japan's position (on our territories and territorial waters) to the outside world. This April, a United Nations (UN) agency (the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf) recognized the extension of the continental shelf requested by Japan. Increasing the international community's awareness of this by way of an international organization is an extremely effective measure to underscore the legitimacy of Japan's assertions. Furthermore, the Japanese Government proposed to the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to institute proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the dispute over the sovereignty of Takeshima. This is one of the activities to obtain the understanding and support of the international community. Moving forward, I personally will make efforts to communicate the legitimacy of Japan's positions in and outside of Japan in order to safeguard the territories and territorial waters of Japan, not limited to Takeshima.
On August 10, ROK President Lee Myung-bak set foot on Takeshima. I expressed my regret at this incident at a press conference on the day when the relevant draft laws of the comprehensive reform were made into laws, and afterwards we lodged a protest through diplomatic channels.
There is no doubt about the fact that Takeshima is Japan's territory in light of the historical facts and based upon international law. During the early period of the Edo era, Takeshima was being utilized under the license from the Shogunate. Japan established the sovereignty by the mid 17th century at the latest. Later, we incorporated Takeshima into Shimane Prefecture by a Cabinet decision in 1905, reaffirming Japan's intention to claim the sovereignty.
The ROK side insists that it had established its effective control over Takeshima before Japan, but the wording of the documents the ROK refers to is ambiguous, and the ROK has no unequivocal proof that supports its argument.
After World War II, in the process of drafting the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the ROK requested that Japan renounce Takeshima, but the U.S. rejected the request. Notwithstanding these circumstances, after the War, the ROK unilaterally installed illegal "Syngman Rhee Line", and began illegally occupying Takeshima by force.
The issue of Takeshima should not be discussed in the context of "understanding of history"; it is the problem of whether ROK's act of unilateral occupation is consistent with "law and justice of the international community."
The ROK side may have its own case on Takeshima. By making its case on what one country believes as "justice" unilaterally, however, does not guarantee constructive discussions between two countries with different opinions.
The best way to deal with an international dispute is, in light of "law and justice" of the international community, to argue before the ICJ and bring it to a conclusion. The Government of Japan will continue to strenuously make the case to the ROK that settling this dispute based on international law stands to reason.
Also, in accordance with the intended meaning of the resolution presented by the Diet today, the Government of Japan intends to strengthen activities to send out information on the position of Japan on Takeshima abroad and review how to enhance the whole of government readiness regarding the Takeshima sovereignty issue.
Concerning the Senkaku Islands, the historical background and situation surrounding these islands differ from Takeshima, and so I cannot talk about them as if they were the same. However, there is no doubt that these islands are clearly an inherent territory of Japan. The big difference with the Senkaku Islands, is that there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved (over the Senkaku Islands).
After confirming that the Qing Dynasty of China was not in control of the islands, the Meiji Government of Japan incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japan's territory in 1895. China started claiming territorial sovereignty over the islands no earlier than the 1970s, when it was suggested that there was the possibility of there being oil reserves in the East China Sea.
There is no doubt that in light of historical facts and based upon international law, the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent territory of Japan. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan. In order to prevent the repetition of illegal landings on the islands, such as the landing that recently occurred, the Government will be exerting every effort to strengthen information gathering and be fully prepared through surveillance and guarding activities in the sea around the islands.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remark on the Northern Territories, which are also an inherent territory of Japan. The issue of the Northern Territories is an issue that concerns all Japanese people. It is not just a problem that concerns the sovereignty of Japan. It is also a humanitarian issue for the former residents of the territories, who are now already advancing in their years. Japan will move negotiations with Russia on this issue forward in a calm environment, based on the principles of law and justice.
It is my hope that the basic facts of these issues will be shared widely among the public.
In order to protect the national interests of Japan, I will assert what must be asserted, and steadily pursue efforts which Japan ought to pursue. Then again, an unnecessarily forceful and hard-line domestic debate and the unnecessary escalation of the situation will not benefit any country. More than anything, it is crucial that we take an approach to these issues based on the principles of law and justice and aim for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions. I believe that the spread of rule-based order in accordance with international law is an indispensable element of stability and prosperity not only for Japan, as a maritime nation, but also for the entire Asia-Pacific region.
As such, it is imperative that those involved in these issues take a comprehensive point of view on them, no matter the situation, and absolutely never lose their composure. To the wise citizens of our neighbor and important partner, the Republic of Korea, with whom we share values, I say that even if we differ in our assertions, we must both respond in a calm manner.
Words and actions that lack even basic diplomatic protocol only serve to hurt both of us, and they do not produce any constructive outcomes. We strongly hope for deep consideration and careful action from the ROK side. No matter the issue, Japan will seek resolutions based on the principles of law and justice. We will exert efforts for a calm response, and place value on diplomatic decency. I once again express our resolve toward making efforts together with our neighboring countries for the future of this region. With this, I end my opening statement.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, we would appreciate it if you could first state your name and affiliation. Mr. Ikeda, please.
REPORTER: I am Ikeda of Nishinippon Shimbun.
This question is in regards to the Takeshima issue and the personal letter that you sent to the President of the ROK. The ROK returned the letter, and yesterday when staff from the ROK Embassy visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they were turned away at the entrance. This response would seem to lack the calmness that you refer to and leaves Japan open to the same criticism which is currently expressed against the ROK. Is this not the case?
I have two more questions. Japan has asked the President of the ROK to apologize and withdraw his comments. Do you plan to consider a new response if he does not comply, such as terminating the currency swap agreement between Japan and the ROK or freezing the purchase of ROK bonds?
And now for my last question. What concrete measures have you considered to respond to these issues? Please answer these three questions.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Your first question concerned the letter that I wrote. Unfortunately, the letter returned in the mail today. The return of a letter between leaders is inconceivable in terms of diplomatic protocol and most regrettable.
You further asked about the response of Japan. I will not comment on this in detail. We are of the intention that we responded to the matter in a coherent and calm manner. I can explain this in more detail at a later time, but for now I will say that we responded in a coherent and calm manner and had no intention of taking any disrespectful action. I do not think that this is something I should comment on point by point.
In either case, I believe that my intended message has been conveyed. I believe that you have seen the ROK making comments, for instance, on the problem with the expression Takeshima. However, discussing whether letters have arrived or not, or returning these letters, is very unconstructive. Furthermore, it may even be pointed out that Japanese diplomacy lacks character, so I have no intention of resending the letter.
Your second question was with regard to the scenario in which the ROK President does not apologize or retract his comment. We hope to garner an appropriate response from the ROK side, so I would like to refrain from answering hypothetical questions at this point.
You also gave mention to various specific courses of action, but, here again, I do not believe it appropriate to give a specific or definitive response at this point.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, please. Mr. Fujita, please.
REPORTER: I am Fujita of NHK. I have two questions. My first question concerns the Senkaku Islands. Earlier you stated that the Government will exert every effort to prevent further landings through surveillance and guarding activities. What kinds of concrete measures would that involve? In relation to the patrol arrangements in nearby waters, is legal reform to allow the deployment of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) an option under consideration? Recently you reportedly met with Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, has there been any progress toward the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands? This is my first question.
My second question moves away from territorial issues. You used the expression "in the near term" in relation to the timing of the upcoming elections, causing much discussion within the ruling and opposition parties concerning the timing of the election. I fully understand that you are not in a position where you can make a definitive announcement on the timing of the dissolution, but I would like to ask if you have an approximate time frame for dissolution in mind.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Your first question seems to include a number of questions, so I am not sure that I will be able to cover everything. In relation to patrolling the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the strengthening of patrols will include enhancing the structure of security authorities, including the JCG, and enhancing equipment. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, legal reforms that will enable the JCG to swiftly respond to criminal activities occurring on remote islands have already passed through the House of Representatives, and it is my hope that we can have this bill enacted, at any cost, during the current Diet session.
You also pointed out the possibility of legal reforms in relation to the SDF. The police and the JCG are primarily responsible for ensuring safety within our territories. And, even under the current law, the SDF may be deployed to maintain public order in situations where it is difficult or impossible for the police and the JCG to control. This is what I meant by the comments I made in early July. There are many people who are currently making their positions heard over the debate on legal reform, but I believe that the way we ensure our territorial integrity should be scrutinized in a constant manner, and that it is natural and appropriate that there are various debates at various levels.
In relation to the meeting with Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, we have confirmed the details of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's plan to purchase the Senkaku Islands. Our basic approach is to continue to maintain and manage the islands peacefully and stably. In the interests of that, the Government is currently in contact with a number of parties of varying levels, and I am not able to elaborate any further at this stage.
Your second question was related to whether or not I had a specific time frame in mind for the dissolution of the House of Representatives. I do not believe, at this time, that it is appropriate to make a specific or definitive announcement of its timing or whether I have a time frame in mind, as you asked. I am aware that some media has reported that officials close to me, or even myself, have indicated a specific month; however these reports are completely baseless.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Sato, please.
REPORTER: I am Sato of Asahi Shimbun. My question concerns the Senkaku Islands. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has applied for a landing permit, and during the Governor's press conference earlier today he commented that he is expecting a reply in response to its landing permit application by the end of today. Could you please share with us how you as the Government will respond to this application? I would also like to ask how, at your meeting with the Governor, you explained the Government's policy to nationalize the islands and if you exchanged views with him on how the islands can be utilized after nationalization.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: We officially accepted the landing permit application from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government the day before yesterday. The Government has maintained a consistent policy that with the exception of government-related personnel, no person shall be permitted to land on the islands, and our decisions have been made in the interests of peacefully and stably maintaining and managing the islands, from the position of a so-called tenant. The application was accepted the day before yesterday and I believe that it sought permission for landing on August 29; therefore the Government will come to a decision on the matter before that date. I do not believe that I told the Governor that I would respond to the application by the end of today.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are already passed our scheduled time, so the next question will be the final question. Mr. Foster, please.
REPORTER: I am Foster, a reporter from Associated Press. I believe that earlier there was a question on a similar topic, but how do you think the recent issues between the two countries over the Takeshima issue have affected matters other than territorial issues, for instance economic relations and the currency swap agreement?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: With regard to the Takeshima issue, as I stated earlier, the Japanese Government proposed to the ROK Government to jointly institute proceedings before the ICJ. Our basic stance is that we will strive to seek a fair and peaceful solution based upon international law with both countries remaining calm. This is how we are approaching the territorial issues.
Regarding matters other than this, there has been a lot of talk, but we have not been actively seeking to determine what actions to take. However, regarding the currency swap agreement between Japan and the ROK, the agreement will expire in October. Therefore, how we proceed after the agreement's expiration is yet to be determined, as I stated during question time at the Diet today.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I would like to bring this press conference to a close. Thank you very much.