Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 5:27 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Confrontation Between France and Various Islamic Countries
Pan Orient News, AZHARI: There have been political and religious tension as well as killings in France and Austria over what the French said about the right of people to insult anybody as a parody, including the prophet of Islam based on freedom of speech. This is rejected by the Muslim countries. Of course they condemn the killing of innocent people. What is Japan's position on these issues?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am concerned that various confrontations have arisen concerning the caricatures. Firstly, I would like to state that violence and destruction cannot be justified, no matter the reason.
From this perspective, we firmly condemn the recent case of the murder of a teacher in the suburbs of Paris, the terrorist incident that occurred in Nice, the terrorist incident that occurred in Austria, and other incidents. I would like to express heartfelt condolences for the victims and their families.
Japan would like to request all the parties concerned to ease tensions and avoid further deterioration of the situation.
Japan fully understands the strong sentiments felt by followers of Islam concerning the publication of the caricatures. However, we believe it is important to promote mutual understanding through peaceful dialogue and mutual respect based on various values, culture, and beliefs.
U.S. Presidential Election (Outlook)
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the U.S. presidential election. President Trump just held a speech in which he stated that he believes he won. Before that, Mr. Biden also made a similar statement. The result has not come out yet at the present point. What is the Government of Japan’s view and analysis of the U.S. presidential election?
Minister MOTEGI: I am aware of the various comments and reports as well as the current situation of the counting of the ballots. Frankly speaking, although I have seen various presidential elections take place, the current U.S. presidential election is a close race between both candidates, as predicted in advance. Also, ballots are being counted particularly in swing states. I would thus like to refrain from stating what the election result will be based on speculation, including the timing of when the result will be determined, at this stage.
There is high interest among the American people regarding this presidential election, and there are various reports including about the results of exit polls. The Government of Japan will continue to monitor the election result with high interest.
In any event, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy. Regardless of the election result, there will be no change to Japan’s continued efforts to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and intention to cooperate firmly.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask a related question about the presidential election. Although we have not seen a result yet, I believe there could be an administration change depending on the situation. What arrangements has MOFA set up to be able to respond no matter which candidate wins? Also, can you please tell us any preparation being conducted?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, we are of course observing this with high interest. As this is MOFA, we do not simply monitor the situation, but also consider what will happen going forward while hypothesizing various developments. However, at the present point I would like to refrain from answering, including about what we are doing.
Japan-Indonesia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”)
Japan Indonesia Economic Forum (JIEF), Susilo: Prime Minister Suga visited Indonesia on October 20. One result of this was the plan to hold a “2+2” meeting between the foreign ministers and defense ministers. On Monday, Defense Minister Kishi and Defence Minister Prabowo of Indonesia held a teleconference meeting. When will you hold a meeting? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: During Prime Minister Suga’s recent visit to Indonesia, it was agreed to quickly hold a Japan-Indonesia “2+2” meeting. However, nothing has been decided about the schedule at the present point.
U.S. Presidential Election (Negotiations on Host Nation Support for the U.S. Forces Japan)
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about Japan-U.S. relations in connection with the presidential election, although it is still ongoing. Speaking of Japan-U.S. relations, I believe that the biggest theme will be the negotiations on Host Nation Support (HNS). Although you do not know which administration will win, what is Japan’s stance at the present point? I believe you know how you will respond regardless of which administration wins. What is Japan’s current position and stance toward the negotiations on HNS?
Minister MOTEGI: The preparatory consultations on HNS were recently held. However, the timing of the official negotiations is being coordinated at the working level.
As the security environment surrounding Japan grows increasingly severe, I believe the Japan-U.S. Alliance based on the Japan-U.S. security arrangements has an indispensable presence for not only the defense of Japan but also the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
Furthermore, as the targets of security policies expand to new domains such as cyber and outer space, and such threats also expand, I believe the roles that Japan and the United States both must play have expanded.
As the stationing of the U.S. Forces in Japan is a core component of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements, I believe HNS has played an important role for ensuring the seamless and effective activities of the U.S. Forces Japan. As we conduct the official negotiations and reach an agreement, we will appropriately respond based on the increasingly severe regional security situation and Japan’s severe financial situation.
Relations with the Winning Administration’s Secretary of State Following the U.S. Presidential Election
Pan Orient News, AZHARI:What is your message to the new foreign minister or counterpart in US over the TPP, climate change and the Iranian nuclear deal that President Trump's administration withdrew, and Japan urged the US to come back or stay in. You are well versed in negotiations so do you have any special policies for your next American counterpart?
Minister MOTEGI: “Next counterpart” implies that there will be a change in my counterpart. The election result has not come out yet, and we are still monitoring the result including about my counterpart.
In regard to trade policies between Japan and the United States, the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement have already entered into force. Seamless utilization of the agreements is extremely important. At the same time, in regard to the TPP, from the perspective of globally spreading free, open, shared 21st century rules, we have hopes for matters such as the United States’ return to the TPP. Regardless of the election result, I do not believe that the United States will return to the TPP quickly.
In regard to the issue of climate change, I believe that in any event the United States plays a major role. Japan will play its part so that the United States firmly commits to addressing this global-scale issue.
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel
Independent Web Journal, ROKUTANDA: As the world faces the major spread of novel coronavirus infections now, what exchanges will Japan have with other countries? Japan has announced relaxation of restrictions for returnees and others from some countries. How will Japan view people-to-people exchanges in terms of relations with western countries, as they face a second major wave of infections, or a third wave of infections in the case of the United States? When and how will restrictions be relaxed so that exchanges are restored? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: As stated, currently a cumulative total of over 14 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus around the world. As there has been a resurgence in infections in Europe, if we look around the world, the situation of infections is not winding down. There are limits to what one country alone can do to respond to this issue, so I believe that international cooperation on various fronts is necessary.
This is also true for border enforcement measures in relation with infection control measures. Vaccine development and vaccine distribution that include developing countries are extremely important for the development of the situation.
Japan has cooperated through various international organizations, provided medical equipment through bilateral grant aid, and provided JICA’s medical technology cooperation particularly to developing countries with vulnerable healthcare systems through now. Various countries highly appreciate Japan’s initiatives, and we will continue the initiatives firmly.
At the same time, the global economy has majorly declined due to the effects of the novel coronavirus. I believe that another major theme will be how to resume economic activities in a way that prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Amidst this, as stated, Japan has advanced negotiations with 16 countries and regions regarding the “Residence Track” for people including long-term visitors as well as the “Business Track” for short-term business travelers and other business-related people in a way that prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus. The “Residence Track” and “Business Track” have already been started with some countries.
Furthermore, Japan took measures to allow re-entry into the country by foreign people with status of residence in Japan from September, and allow new entry into Japan in October.
It is important to continue to allow resumption of cross-border travel while taking various measures going forward. However, at the same time we must make all efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Amidst this, we will firmly conduct consideration regarding what schemes to carry out and with which countries.
Cross-border Travel with Viet Nam
Economic Monthly, Susilo: Excuse me for asking another question. In regard to Viet Nam, recently crimes by Vietnamese workers have increased. What can be decided for MOFA’s position, such as prohibiting entry into Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that your question just now is an issue concerning the Ministry of Justice rather than MOFA. Please inquire with the Ministry of Justice first.
Novel Coronavirus (Relations with Various East Asian Countries)
Independent Web Journal, ROKUTANDA: I believe my question will follow on from an earlier question in a sense. There is a major difference between the spread of the novel coronavirus in western countries and Asian countries, particularly various East Asian countries. I believe that Japan will probably have to place importance on relations with these East Asian countries more than before. What are your thoughts on that point?
Minister MOTEGI: In terms of the situation of novel coronavirus infections winding down now, we can see that the situations are winding down in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Compared to before, Central and South America, the Middle East, and Africa have shifted to a downward trend as well in a sense. On the other hand, there are also countries that are still changing at a high level such as the United States and India. Infections are currently rapidly spreading in European countries such as France and Italy, as well as Eastern Europe. We have been continuously monitoring this situation since January, and it has been changing. Although it is difficult to predict the future, from the perspective that the situation of infections is in a sense relatively winding down in East Asian countries, we have advanced negotiations and actually started the “Business Track” and “Residence Track,” as I stated before.
However, on the other hand, in terms of what we will do with other countries, we will conduct consideration while thinking about matters such as various business needs as well as what can be done to firmly take infection control measures.