Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 11:26 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Visit to Africa by Foreign Minister Motegi
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I returned to Japan from my visit to Africa last evening. I provided an outline of my visit during my online press conference conducted in Mauritius, which I believe was the day before yesterday. That is all from me.
Visit to Africa by Foreign Minister Motegi
TBS, KASHIMOTO: I believe that you placed importance on a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” during your visits to the four countries. How did the countries respond?
Minister MOTEGI: My answer will be exactly as I stated in my press conference the day before yesterday. Would you like me to say it again? (Indication of yes by reporter)
The vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” was advocated by Japan during TICAD6, which was held in Africa in 2016. This vision is now shared by the United States, Australia, India, and various ASEAN countries, and is also gaining support from the principal countries of Europe and African countries.
I visited Tunisia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Mauritius this time. During discussions about matters such as bilateral relations, regional issues, and international issues, when I mentioned the realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), the counterparts would soon nod and express agreement. I believe that FOIP has been steadily spreading within Africa in the last four years. Also, I believe it was a major outcome of these visits that the countries agreed to deepen collaboration and cooperation toward realizing FOIP.
TPP (Statements about Participation by Various Economies)
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about the TPP, for which Japan will serve as the Chair of the TPP Commission in 2021.
After President Xi Jinping recently indicated that China would like to participate in the TPP, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK) stated that the ROK is also considering its participation.
There are many countries such as Thailand and the United Kingdom that have indicated that they would like to participate. As the Chair of the TPP Commission in 2021, how will Japan respond to these countries?
Minister MOTEGI: The TPP11 is significant for globally spreading high-standard, balanced 21st century rules. Truly with the leadership of Japan, an agreement was reached on this economic partnership agreement and it has entered into force. In addition to the United Kingdom and Thailand which already stated that they are interested in participating before now, various economies, including the countries you mentioned as well as Taiwan, have been expressing interest in participation. This in itself shows the high appreciation for the TPP, and we welcome it.
On the other hand, the TPP11 has high-level content in terms of market access as well as rules concerning ecommerce, intellectual property, government procurement, state-owned enterprises, phytosanitary inspection measures, and other matters. I believe it is necessary to firmly ascertain whether the economies expressing its interest in participating in the TPP11 can be prepared to fulfill such high level content.
I believe that flexibility will be requested on the points I just mentioned if these economies participate.
As the Chair of the TPP Commission in 2021, Japan will continue to work for the steady implementation and expansion of the TPP while monitoring the movements of the economies that have expressed interest in newly joining, including whether they are prepared, from a strategic perspective.
Overseas Visits by Foreign Minister Motegi during the Beginning of the New Year
TV Asahi, SATO: You visited Africa this time, and there are some reports that it is being coordinated for you to visit Africa again as well as the Latin American and Caribbean region at the beginning of the New Year. As you visited Africa this time, and if you visit the regions I mentioned from the beginning of the New Year, how would you like the Government of Japan to participate in the regions and what are the future aspirations?
Minister MOTEGI: This is part of “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map,” which was advanced under the Abe administration as well. I believe the basic concept has not changed. Also, amidst this, I have been developing diplomacy with both tolerance and strength. I believe I have been able to have truly excellent discussions about strengthening bilateral relations with various countries as well as what actions the international community needs to take based on international rules.
Although I have of course participated in telephone talks, international conferences, and the like this year, I believe it is extremely important to actually meet in-person to exchange views about issues concerning bilateral relations of course, as well as the subtleties of international situations. Within the international community, there are countries holding various views as well as regions that have various amounts of influence. I believe it is extremely important to hold in-depth discussions with the top leaders of those countries and regions as well as my counterparts.
My schedule for overseas visits at the beginning of the New Year has not been decided yet. Consideration will be conducted on it based on perspectives including the ones I just mentioned.
The Electoral College Vote in the U.S. Presidential Election (Affirmation of Mr. Biden’s Win)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about the U.S. presidential election. The voting by the Electoral College has started, and Mr. Biden’s victory in the election has been affirmed. Can you please tell us your reaction to this, as well as tell us once again how you will develop Japan-U.S. relations with the new administration?
Minister MOTEGI: Federal law in the United States stipulates that December 14 is the date this year when the Electoral College votes. Mr. Biden received the majority of the votes of the electors on December 14, and his election as the next President of the United States has been affirmed. I believe that the remaining procedure is just confirmation of the result by the U.S. Congress on January 6.
I believe there will be no change to our strong Japan-U.S. relations with the new Biden administration as well. We would like to cooperate even more closely with the new Biden administration in order to make Japan-U.S. relations even stronger and realize FOIP. When former Deputy Secretary of State Blinken, who has been nominated to be Secretary of State under the new administration, officially assumes his position, I would like to quickly communicate with him and cooperate on various aspects toward further development of strong Japan-U.S. relations.
Foreign Minister Motegi’s Kanji (Chinese Character) of the Year
(As the facilitator was about to end the press conference)
Minister MOTEGI: Oh? Isn’t anyone going to ask about the “kanji”? No? (Laughter in the venue)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I will ask on behalf of the others. It is now the end of this year. Which kanji do you think best represents 2020? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me. This question has been asked in various ministries and agencies, and I have prepared my answer just in case.
The kanji for “mitsu” (meaning “close,” “closed,” and “crowded”) has been written strongly as the kanji representing 2020. However, in my view, I believe that the kanji for “kaku” in the word “kankaku” (meaning “remote” and “distance”), should be the kanji of the year in the sense that people are going remote to avoid “mitsu.” In a sense, I think both kanji have the same meaning of avoiding close contact and crowded, closed spaces.
It is certainly true that diplomatic activities have been difficult to conduct amidst the global spread of the novel coronavirus this year. However, despite this, since this summer following the global spread of the novel coronavirus, I have visited 16 countries and had in-person discussions with summit leaders and foreign ministers.
Also, as telephone talks and video teleconference meetings have increased since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, if I count them, I have held 109 of them. I have visited 22 countries this year, including the 16 countries I visited since this summer and the six countries I visited before that, and also held 109 remote meetings. Saying this, I believe that this has been a year of close cooperation with various countries even while we were remote (“kaku”) from one another.