Monday, September 10, 2012 (PM)
Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)
Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura
- The Ministerial Meeting Regarding the Acquisition and Possession of the Senkaku Islands
- Japan-China relations
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The Ministerial Meeting Regarding the Acquisition and Possession of the Senkaku Islands was held from 2:30 pm today. I hosted the meeting and the other attendees were Senior Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, representing the Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The contents of the confirmation are as follows.
- There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.
- Based on a judgment that it is necessary to ensure the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of the Senkaku Islands, since fiscal 2002 the Government has been leasing the three islands of the Senkaku Islands, Uotsuri-jima, Minami-Kojima and Kita-Kojima, that are in private ownership.
- Given that the owner has indicated an intention to sell the three islands, at the ministerial meeting the ministers confirmed that the following policy will be followed, in order to continue to appropriately implement maritime navigation safety operations in the Senkaku Islands and ensure their peaceful and stable maintenance and management in the long term.
(1) The three islands of the Senkaku Islands shall be acquired as soon as possible from the owner.
(2) The acquisition and possession of the three islands of the Senkaku Islands shall be conducted by the Japan Coast Guard, in view of the fact that the purpose of acquisition includes the implementation of maritime navigation safety operations, and that the Japan Coast Guard is the body that possesses the necessary means to ensure effective maintenance and management.
(3) In light of the special nature of this case, in which there is no other substitute but to acquire and possess islands that lie on Japan's national borders, under the overall coordination of the Cabinet Secretariat the Government shall take the lead in concluding negotiations with the owner, having duly assessed the value of continuing to peacefully and stably maintain and manage the three islands of the Senkaku Islands in the long term, and having sought the opinion of real estate specialists.
(4) Under the overall coordination of the Cabinet Secretariat, the ministries and agencies concerned shall cooperate closely together on the acquisition and possession, in order to realize the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of the Senkaku Islands in the long term.
These were confirmed in the meeting.
REPORTER: With regard to the acquisition and possession of the Senkaku Islands, there are some in Japan who have expressed the opinion that the islands should be populated, or new facilities constructed there. What is the Government's concept relating to such opinions?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I am aware of the various reports and opinions that have been aired. However, as I have just stated several times, the consistent objective of the Government is to ensure the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of islands. Also, given the fact that the owner of the islands had indicated an intention to sell them, a decision was made to take possession of the islands.
REPORTER: With regard to the third item listed in the points confirmed by the ministerial meeting concerning the intention of the owner to sell the islands, does this refer to the point when the owner first indicated to Tokyo Metropolitan Government the intention to sell them?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First of all, it has been the case that up to now there have been various considerations, given the objective and necessity of the maintenance and management of the islands and based on the intention of the owner. In actual fact, this process of consideration has been ongoing since about 2006-the lease of the islands has been executed since 2002-and based on the wishes of the owner the possibility of engaging in a land swap with the Government has been deliberated. Following the statement in April 2012 by the governor of Tokyo concerning the purchase of the Senkaku Islands, the Government sought to gain information concerning the specific details of the purchase plan by Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and has interacted on several levels such as the owner and Tokyo Metropolitan Government and duly engaged in comprehensive considerations. As part of that process, at the end of June, based on considerations up to that point, although the previous possibility of engaging in a land swap with the Government had been raised, consideration was first given to the possibility of the Government directly purchasing the islands outright as a new concrete option. That is the background thus far.
REPORTER: Could you tell us the flow of events leading up to the acquisition from now? Please also address in your response the press reports that tomorrow the Cabinet will approve the disbursement of 2.05 billion yen from reserve funds.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First of all, given the fact that the owner is a private citizen, I will not go into details regarding the sums involved. However, based on the confirmation by the ministerial meeting today, the Government wishes to expedite the required procedures towards the acquisition, although I am unable at this point to give specific details.
REPORTER: On a related note, in item 3.(3) of the ministerial confirmation document, the text says that "the Government shall take the lead in concluding negotiations." However, I believe you stated that the Government "has taken the lead." Does this imply that a general consensus has already been reached with the owner?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: (Abridged) The section of the text in item 3.(3) states that "the Government shall take the lead in concluding negotiations," in the future tense, and so it is the case that a conclusion has yet to be reached.
REPORTER: Given what you say, is it the case, therefore, that at the current stage the parties have not yet concluded a contract or agreement, but rather have confirmed their mutual assent, with a formal conclusion to follow in the future?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As you rightly point out, there has been mutual assent on the matter among the three parties, including Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the conclusion of an agreement or contract is something that still remains ahead of us.
REPORTER: What impact do you think the purchase of the Senkaku Islands will have on Japan-China relations?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First of all the acquisition and possession of the Senkaku Islands is a case in which the ownership of land under Japan's sovereign territory will be transferred from the previous owner to the Government. I believe that this matter is therefore not something that should raise any kinds of issues for other countries or regions. Having said that, I would like to state that the Government in no way desires the circumstances related to the Senkaku Islands to negatively impact the broader aspects of Japan-China relations. From the perspective that it is important to avoid misunderstanding and any unforeseen situation arising between Japan and China, to date both Governments have been engaged in a process of close communication through diplomatic channels to respond to any concerns that China has have.
REPORTER: With regard to the purpose of the acquisition, are there any reasons other than the "peaceful and stable maintenance and management of the islands," and the "appropriate implementation of maritime navigation safety operations"?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I will repeat the purpose of the acquisition once again. (Abridged) In addition, since February 2005 the Japan Coast Guard has had jurisdiction over the lighthouse that has been established on Uotsuri-Jima and has engaged in its operation. The securing of maritime navigation safety in the surrounding seas is also among the duties of the Japan Coast Guard. As the owner recently indicated an intention to sell the islands, the Government decided to acquire them as soon as possible from the owner with the objective of continuing to appropriately implement maritime navigation safety operations in the islands and ensure their peaceful and stable maintenance and management in the long term. It is to this end that various discussions have been implemented with the owner.