Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, January 15, 2021, 11:56 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Video) Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Minister Motegi’s Visits to the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Region and Africa

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I visited five countries in the LAC region and two countries in Africa from January 4 through yesterday. Press releases have already been issued, and I held one online press conference in the LAC region and one in Africa. The content and outcomes are as have been stated. I was truly welcomed in the various countries. I believe these were very significant visits toward working on various international issues and strengthening bilateral relations. That is all from me.

Lawsuit of a Claim for Damages against the Government of Japan Filed by Former Comfort Women and Others

TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask about the judgment on the lawsuit on comfort women in the Republic of Korea (ROK). During your online press conference last Saturday, you stated that the “the Government of Japan will resolutely respond with all options on the table.” On the other hand, following the press conference, at a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) division meeting, there were some voices calling for strong responses against the ROK, such as bringing this issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and delaying the new ambassador’s arrival.

I would like to ask once again about your views on this issue bringing to the ICJ at this moment. And also, what are your current thoughts on other responses?

Minister Motegi: Firstly, in regard to this judgment on the lawsuit against the Government of Japan, as I stated the other day, it is our view that it is extremely regrettable that an absolutely unthinkable, abnormal situation has occurred from the viewpoints of international law as well as bilateral relations. I directly telephoned and lodged a strong protest to Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha from Brazil on January 9 on this matter.

In addition to lodging a protest, the Government of Japan also strongly urged the ROK to immediately take appropriate measures to remedy its breaches of international law as a country. We will continue to resolutely respond with all options on the table.

As for “all options on the table”, we will have to elicit a positive response from the ROK through diplomacy. From this perspective, we will consider what measures would be most effective. We will of course continue diplomatic communications and, through such efforts, decide on the measures. Our future measures are related to this, and thus I would like to refrain from answering what and when we will specifically do at this juncture.

Impeachment of President Trump

PanOrient News, AZHARI: What is the course of relations with the United States, especially after the development of the impeachment of the President who had very good relations with the previous Japanese administration? Also, given the concerns expressed by some democrats about the nuclear button in the hand of the President, there are some reports in the Middle East saying he might launch an attack on Iran or something. Do you have any comments on this?

Minister Motegi:Firstly, we are monitoring the domestic developments and possible effects of our ally the United States, including the impeachment, with high interest. At the very least, I believe this matter will not change our good, strong Japan-U.S. relations.

On January 20, the new Biden administration will start. Now is a transition period. Amidst this, we will monitor matters such as what could occur.

Personnel in the Biden Administration

Nikkei Shimbun, Kato: I would like to ask about the United States. The new Biden administration will be inaugurated on January 20. Recently, it was announced that former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell will assume the position of Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs. Diplomacy personnel decisions are gradually being finalized. Can you please tell us your assessment of the personnel in the new administration and how you think Japan-U.S. relations will be strengthened?

Minister Motegi: If we look at the people who have been nominated to the Cabinet and other positions, my impression is that there are many people who have abundant experience in their respective fields, have deep knowledge of policy, and have worked specific jobs within U.S. administrations thus far.

In addition, Dr. Kurt Campbell served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Obama administration. I believe that the new administration will include many people with deep relations with the Government of Japan, including Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Campbell is scheduled to assume the position of Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, a post which the new administration has established. I welcome this as being a sign of the new U.S. administration’s stance of placing importance on the Indo-Pacific region.

Firstly, I would like to conduct thorough Japan-U.S. coordination about matters such as issues the international community faces and tense regional situations with the important diplomacy and security-related personnel at the earliest possible timing after they assume their positions.

Japan will continue to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and deepen cooperation toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” We will also show leadership in close cooperation with the United States for shaping the post-novel coronavirus international order.

Japan and the United States have firmly participated in the international community building on their good relations, and when I visited the LAC region, I thought that numerous countries had many expectations about this. We will firmly meet the expectations of the international community.

Lawsuit of a Claim for Damages against the Government of Japan Filed by Former Comfort Women and Others

Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would also like to ask about the recent judgment on the lawsuit on comfort women in the ROK. Concerns have been expressed in LDP division meetings and other occasions that this judgment could lead to seizure of Japanese assets within the ROK. What are your thoughts on the possibility of this? And also, what measures are you going to take to prevent the seizure of assets?

Minister Motegi: Firstly, as I stated earlier, rather than how Japan would remedy this issue, it is the ROK side that have caused this situation of clear breaches of international law, and thus I believe it is important that the ROK immediately take appropriate measures.

We will respond resolutely with all options on the table, including urging the ROK to take such measures. Having said that, I would like to refrain from explaining the content of our response and how we will specifically advance it, as that is related to our future response.

Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask a related question. By “all options on the table,” is it correct to understand that the options would also include so-called retaliatory measures?

Minister Motegi: I assume that by “retaliatory measures,” you mean taking countermeasures against something that has been done to Japan. It is not that by any means. Japan is urging the ROK to remedy the status of its breaches of international law which the ROK has caused. It cannot be described as “retaliation.”

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