Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 3:22 p.m. Kenya
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have visited the two countries of Senegal and Kenya during my second visit to Africa, which follows on from my visits to the four African countries of Tunisia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Mauritius in December 2020. I believe that I am the first Japanese foreign minister to have visited six countries in Africa within two months. In the countries I went to, the presidents and foreign ministers welcomed that a Japanese foreign minister would visit under the circumstances. I believe these visits were significant in terms of raising the presence of Japanese diplomacy.
In Senegal, I paid a courtesy call to President Sall and held a meeting with Foreign Minister Tall and Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation Hott. The details of the content have already been issued in press releases. We agreed to further strengthen our multilayered cooperative relations, including cooperation on medical treatment and healthcare, agricultural and fisheries fields, and international issues, building on the foundation of our long-standing friendly bilateral relations with Senegal, which is a stable democratic country in Africa. Last year, Senegal and Japan celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
In addition, I arrived in Kenya last night. I paid a courtesy call to President Kenyatta and held an exchange of views with Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Omamo. Kenya is a prioritized country for the promotion of Universal Health Coverage and is a gateway for Japanese companies entering the African market. In addition to cooperation in development fields, including novel coronavirus countermeasures, we confirmed cooperation toward supporting Japanese companies and promoting investment in Africa. I also held a meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage Mohamed. She was Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs when TICAD VI was held for the first time in 2016 in Kenya, Africa. During my meeting with her, we held an exchange of views about promoting bilateral relations through sports and cultural exchanges.
Furthermore, as already explained, my planned visit to Nigeria was cancelled. However, during my visit to Senegal, I held a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Onyeama of Nigeria. We agreed to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation, including for novel coronavirus countermeasures, development issues, and business, while confirming the friendly bilateral relations between Japan and Nigeria, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations last year.
In all of the countries, I confirmed with the summit leaders and my counterparts to promote development in Africa toward TICAD8, strengthen business relations focused on the post-novel coronavirus world, and cooperate toward regional peace and stability. We also confirmed promoting cooperation under the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision. Through my two visits to Africa in December and this time, I reaffirmed the friendly relations between Japan and Africa that have been cultivated over many years. I believe I was able to implement “diplomacy with both tolerance and strength” in Africa, further raise Japan’s presence for shaping the post-novel coronavirus international order, and built a foundation for showing leadership, toward maintaining and strengthening a rules-based, free, and open international order.
That is all I would like to say about my visit to Africa. During my online press conference while I was in Brasilia, I made statements about the judgment by a court in the Republic of Korea (ROK) that denies the principle of State immunity under international law, and about the situation in Hong Kong. In regard to the current situation in the United States, I would like to once again express congratulations to President-elect Biden, whose election victory was formally certified by the U.S. Congress on January 7. It is absolutely unforgiveable to overturn election results using violence. I earnestly hope that the American people will overcome difficulties and become united once again under President-elect Biden. That is all from me.
Reporter: It has been announced that you held discussions about the ROK within the context of regional situations during the Japan-Kenya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today and the recent Japan-Brazil Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I suppose you discussed the recent judgment of the lawsuit on comfort women in the ROK. To the extent possible, can you please tell us your objective in raising the issue of the ROK in the countries you visited, and the reactions of the people you met with?
Minister Motegi: I touched upon the issue of the ROK in Brazil, Senegal, Kenya, and other countries. I would like to refrain from mentioning the specific content as it involves diplomatic communication. In any event, I believe I was able to share our recognition with the various countries on the importance of responding in accordance with international law.
Reporter: In his recent press conference, Prime Minister Suga stated in regard to border enforcement measures that entry into Japan for business from 11 countries and regions would be temporarily suspended. You have worked on building a framework for cross-border business travel through now. As novel coronavirus infections spread in Japan, how do you think border enforcement measures should be implemented going forward?
Minister Motegi: Since last year, the entire Government of Japan, including MOFA, has been conducting consideration and implementing various measures in regard to how to allow resumption of cross-border travel in a way that also prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the novel coronavirus has continued to spread within Japan since last year. There is a serious situation of infections in Japan now, including the expansion of areas subject to the state of emergency declaration. That is one issue.
In addition, recently there have been confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus variant among clusters caused by people returning to Japan from the United Kingdom, as well as people infected with a new variant arriving from Brazil. We take the concerns of the people of Japan about this intensifying situation very seriously. From the perspective of preventatively removing various risks to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Japan, we have decided to temporarily suspend the Business Track and Residence Track for the duration of the statement of emergency.
We will conduct consideration about what we will do going forward, while comprehensively taking into account whether the novel coronavirus is spreading or winding down in Japan, the infection conditions in the countries with which we mutually agreed to launch the Business Track and Residence Track, and other such matters.
Reporter: I would like to ask about your overseas visits this time, particularly in regard to China. There are various details about the strength of China’s influence and its strong presence that can’t be grasped when looked from Japan. During your meetings with foreign ministers and others in various countries, including Africa countries and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries, did you feel such influence or presence? Thank you.
Minister Motegi: Firstly, China currently has the second largest economy in the world. China’s GDP accounted for 4% of global GDP 20 years ago in 2000, but it now accounts for 16% of global GDP, which is four times more. As China expands its various strengths including its economic strength, it is a fact that China has been increasing its presence, including in economic and other aspects, in not only East Asia, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea, but also Africa and the LAC region. Amidst this, I have directly stated to China that we would like China as well to fulfill its responsibilities as a major power to firmly build the international order based on international rules. During my foreign ministers’ meetings and other opportunities in various countries, I have held various exchanges of views about Japan’s recognition and position on this matter, and about what is happening around the world now. I believe these were significant exchanges of views.