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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan Following His Visit to the United States

24 September 2010

MODERATOR: We will now start the press conference by His Excellency, Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan. At the outset, there will be remarks by the Prime Minister and then we will conduct a question and answer session. Prime Minister, please.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: A while ago, I delivered my speech at the general debate of the UN General Assembly. It has been only about a week following conclusion of the election for the Democratic Party President. I have reshuffled the Cabinet and built a totally fresh party executive lineup. I came here having set up that firm arrangement.

During my visit to New York, I expressed Japan's basic stance, especially with regard to the achievement of MDGs, which is the main theme of the UN General Assembly at present. I clarified Japan's position at the UN and wanted to appeal this point to the international community. This was my first objective for my visit this time.

The other objective is to have a meeting with President Barack Obama. This is my second meeting with him, so to have that meeting and follow up on the first meeting we had, which managed to establish, to some extent, our personal trust with each other, we have managed to further nurture that mutual trust and we were able to engage in an even broader exchange of view with him.

I attended the MDG summit as well as the Security Council summit and also attended a high-level meeting for the development of small island developing states. Then, as I said, I delivered my speech at the General Assembly. In Japan, I have been stressing the philosophy of building a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum. I stated that this philosophy and the philosophy of the international community trying to achieve the MDGs have something in common with each other, and therefore Japan shall contribute to that achievement. We need to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in the world by 2015. This is amongst the MDGs and this year happens to be a very important milestone year towards the MDG achievement. Of the eight development goals, the progress on two goals, that is health and education, seem to be lacking most seriously. This is a situation I cannot overlook as one who served as minister of health and welfare, and also from the viewpoint of my basic philosophy of building a society where human suffering is reduced to a minimum. At this MDG summit meeting, I advocated an assistance model covering both areas and also stated the "Kan commitment" that will provide US$5 billion over five years starting in 2011 in the area of health covering maternal and child health as well as the three major infectious diseases, and providing US$3.5 billion over the same five years period in the education area to provide a high quality education environment. Many countries and people concerned expressed their welcome as well as their appreciation for Japan's assistance. I felt the high levels of expectations they have towards Japan. I believe improving healthcare and education is a truly worthwhile investment for the future of humankind and Japan, attaching importance to human security, will actively promote assistance in these areas.

With regards to assistance for small island states, at the high-level meeting on SIDS, I spoke that we shall forcefully support these countries that are vulnerable to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Also, in the general debate, I spoke to the preservation of biodiversity and I appealed to the gathering that there is a need to launch a new action in order to stop the rapid loss of biodiversity. Japan shall exercise leadership to mobilize new actions in this regard as the chair of the COP10 convention on biodiversity that will be held next month in Nagoya under the theme of "Living in Harmony with Nature." Minister of the Environment, Mr. Matsumoto, is with me here, and will be at the center of all those endeavors.

Also, on security and UN reform, in my general debate speech, I expressed my overall thinking. I expressed our determination to stand at the forefront of global efforts to realize a world without nuclear weapons. The Foreign Ministers' Meeting of Non-Nuclear Weapon States, which was co-organized by Foreign Minister Maehara together with Foreign Minister Rudd of Australia, is a manifestation of such determination.

At the Security Council summit, I explained Japan's view with regard to the realization of a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum from the vantage point of achieving true peace. I stressed the importance of making efforts to engage in peace building in tandem with peace keeping from the early stages of peace keeping in areas of conflict. I referred to Japan's numerous endeavors and experiences of cooperation including the one in Cambodia. For the Security Council to be able to play its role in maintaining world peace and security, the Security Council itself must attain adequate legitimacy by reflecting the realities of the international community of the 21st century. Japan, as a country that has been contributing to international peace without possessing nuclear weapons, I believe is well-suited to play a role as a permanent member of the Security Council. I also stressed that together with other counties, Japan shall strive towards an early realization of Security Council reform.

I also had bilateral meetings with leaders of several countries. Especially with President Obama of the United States, this was my second meeting with him since our meeting in June. President Obama stated that Japan-US relations are important not just in the bilateral context, but for the stability of the Asia-Pacific, and for the peace and prosperity of the world; and that he wishes to further deepen our alliance so that it will be appropriate in the 21st century context. I also confirmed that the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy because this is the infrastructure not only for the Asia Pacific region but also for global peace and stability. I also stated that we shall develop the three pillars of our alliance, namely security, the economy, and culture and people to people exchanges. I stated to him that I should like to further develop our alliance by growing these three pillars, and the President said in response that he saw eye-to-eye and also agreed that Japan and the US together should play a joint role through close coordination in tackling regional and global challenges. My sense is that mutual trust has further deepened. I also had meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as Minister Joseph Deiss, the President of the 65th UN General Assembly, and also with the leaders of Mongolia and Tajikistan; and was able to have a very useful exchange of views.

Following this trip, on the first of October, the extraordinary session of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, is scheduled. I would like to front-load the implementation of the new growth strategy and work on stimulus and economic measures in a full-fledged manner while trying to obtain the understanding from the opposition party members. I am convinced that doing so will be our response to the mandate given by the people to my administration. This will also be the way for Japan to contribute to the prosperity of the world. This autumn, we have a full plate of diplomatic schedules, such as COP10, APEC, another Japan-US summit meeting during President Obama's visit to Japan. Following this UN-centered activity in New York, I would like to tie this in to the series of diplomatic activities this autumn and continue to make my efforts. These are my opening remarks. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Now we will entertain questions from the floor. When you are recognized, please go up to the microphone, first of all please state your name and affiliation, and then ask your question. First, a member of the Japanese media.

QUESTION (Mr. Takayama, Chunichi Newspaper): There was the fishing vessel that collided off the waters of the Senkaku Islands, and the captain who had been arrested, has been released by the Naha District Public Prosecutor's Office, and there have been various views in Japan on this response. What is the view of the government and how will this case affect Sino-Japanese relations?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: With regard to that decision, the district prosecutor's office considered the nature of this incident from all angles and I believe they came to their judgment in compliance with their duty on the basis of Japanese domestic law. In any case, China and Japan are important neighbors and we both have important responsibilities in the international community. In order to further deepen our mutually beneficial relationship based on strategic interests, I believe it is necessary for both Japan and China to engage in efforts calmly.

MODERATOR: Now, a member of the non-Japanese media.

QUESTION (Mr. Paul Eckert, Reuters): Congratulations on your reelection [as DPJ President] just 10 days ago. As is well known, Japan intervened in the financial markets last week to hold down the value of the yen. There is some market talk that overnight there was another intervention. These interventions raise concerns in some quarters that there will be more competitive devaluations around the world as countries try to keep their exports competitive. What do you say about the concerns about competitive devaluations and did Japan indeed intervene again last night in Tokyo?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: With regard to this question related to the exchange rate, as I have stated from time to time, at the G8 as well as the G20, I believe there is a common understanding that excessive fluctuations of exchange rates will militate against economic and financial stability. The recent currency intervention by Japan was conducted with this view in mind for the purpose of restraining excessive fluctuations of the exchange rate. I have not heard that there was yet another intervention in the market.

MODERATOR: Next, from the Japanese media.

QUESTION (Mr. Matsui, Jiji Press): I would like to ask about the issue of relocation of Futenma Air Station. As you mentioned in November, President Obama will be visiting Japan and up until that time, how are you going to proceed with the Futenma Airbase relocation issue, especially to gain the understanding of the people of Okinawa, what kind of measures are you going to take?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: With regard to the relocation of Futenma Air Station, our position is to work on it firmly on the basis of the May Japan-US agreement. At the same time, to reduce the burden on the local community in Okinawa, we shall be doing our utmost, as I have been saying. By taking these actions, we hope to gain the understanding of the Okinawan people, so we would like to continue to explain to them in good faith. The APEC economic leaders' meeting will be held in Yokohama in November and President Obama is scheduled to visit Japan at that time. As I have said already, with regard to the Futenma relocation issue, various work on the basis of the May agreement is underway, but without the understanding of the people in Okinawa, we will not be able to translate that work into concrete results and therefore without setting clear timelines, I believe it is important that we continue to work with good faith and engage in sincere efforts to gain the understanding of the Okinawan people.

At the Japan-US summit meetings that will be held at the margin of that APEC meeting, we will build on the two summit meetings that we have already had in order to further grow the Japan-US alliance in a way that befits the 21st century. I spoke of the three pillars and we did not have sufficient time to exchange views on all three pillars, so next time, in addition to security, I would like to exchange views on the economy, as well as culture and people-to-people exchanges including making concrete proposals myself in order to further deepen our relations so that we can further develop the Japan-US alliance.

MODERATOR: We are pressed for time, so we will entertain one final question from the non-Japanese media.

QUESTION (Mr. Tuyet Nguyen, German Press Agency): Since I cover the United Nations, I am very interested in how Japan will do this time. You just said that you wish to have an early reform of the UN Security Council, which started about 15 years ago. The G4 has just revised a plan to gain permanent seats on the security council, but on the other hand, the opposition, the United for Peace bloc, including Italy, China and a lot of developing countries are opposed to the G4 attaining their wish of having permanent seats in the Council. I wonder what is your plan, now, to make sure that it will not collapse like last time a few years ago. The US always supports Japan having a permanent seat. When you met President Obama, just a few days ago, has he renewed the support of the US for Japan?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: It has been 65 years since the birth of the United Nations. Compared to 65 years ago, the situation around the world has undergone major change. Because of that, the current Security Council does not sufficiently reflect that changed world of today. I think this basic sense is shared amongst all UN member states. Now then, the question is what shape would be conceivable? I am sure we can move on to that stage of discussions. As we engage in discussions at that phase, together with the countries of the so-called G4, we shall be cooperating and tenaciously stressing the need to reform the UN Security Council and would like to continue to engage in those efforts. Of course, amongst permanent members, there may be different ideas and some ideas to give vetoes to all or some without vetoes, and I am sure by devising various ideas, we will be able to come to agreement. In my meeting with President Obama yesterday, we did not have sufficient time to discuss this matter.

Thank you very much.