Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 3:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Visit to the United States by Prime Minister Suga (Vaccination for the Purpose of Diplomacy)
Mainichi Shimbun, Tadokoro: My question is not necessarily about MOFA, but rather the Government of Japan overall. Prime Minister Suga was vaccinated yesterday for his visit to the United States, and today Government personnel and others were vaccinated. Also, it is possible that Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi will visit the United States going forward. I believe there is a possibility that there could effectively be a system in the future in which vaccination priority is given for the purpose of diplomacy. This is probably partially a matter for those in charge of vaccinations, but please tell us about this to the extent possible.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: In regard to the visit to the United States by Prime Minister Suga scheduled for the first half of April that you asked about, all of the accompanying members of the Japanese delegation, including reporters, will receive the vaccine. It is my understanding that the members received the vaccine yesterday and today.
It was decided to provide vaccinations as our extremely cautious response for overseas visits amidst the current spread of the novel coronavirus as well as the threat posed by the variants.
On the other hand, at the present point it has not necessarily become fixed whether this measure will be necessary for future overseas visits by the Prime Minister and Cabinet members. I believe that consideration will be conducted case by case on how to best respond while comprehensively making decisions on the infection conditions in Japan as well as abroad, including at the destination, and the situation of infection control measures.
I believe the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the related parts of the Government of Japan, especially the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which has jurisdiction over work related to the novel coronavirus, as well as the Cabinet Secretariat will work closely together for this process.
Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”)
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: I would like to ask about the Japan-U.S. “2+2” that was held yesterday.
Firstly, please tell us the final assessment of the results. Also, I believe that discussions will be advanced going forward on the division of roles in Japan-U.S. relations, so what viewpoint will Japan take for putting this in order?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”) held yesterday, I believe that various statements were made by the Cabinet members in attendance during the joint press conference also held yesterday. We believe that it is of extreme historic importance that the United States chose Japan for the first foreign visit of Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin and held a “2+2” at such an early timing after the inauguration of the new Biden administration.
Additionally, we recognize that the holding of the “2+2” itself shows the clear commitment of the United States under the Biden administration to the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the Indo-Pacific region.
The results are stated in the Joint Statement. The strategic environment of the Indo-Pacific region is in a severe situation in a completely different dimension than it was until now. Amidst this, the significance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance is increasing at an unprecedented level.
Additionally, the Biden administration will advance its series of policy reviews such as for security and national defense. We recognize that it was extremely significant that Japan and the United States could have a lengthy discussion about matters such as the strategic environment as well as the ideal state of and strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance ahead of the timing of the policy reviews.
Amidst this, I believe it can be said that it was significant that the United States showed its unwavering commitment to the Japan-U.S. Alliance both domestically and overseas, that Japan and the United States shared recognition that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, that it was agreed to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” not only by Japan and the United States but also while cooperating with like-minded countries of Australia and India, and that there was reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense through all forms of U.S. defense and military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities.
Furthermore, in regard to the regional strategic environment, there was lengthy, extremely deep communication particularly about the situation on China. The results are described in the Joint Statement. The ministers of course exchanged views regarding denuclearization of North Korea and coordinated their basic recognitions.
Moreover, based on this recognition of the strategic environment, the ministers confirmed strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and that Japan and the United States will closely coordinate their strategies and policies as the United States conducts its various policy reviews. This will include extended deterrence as well as cross-domain cooperation for outer space and cyber domains.
As Japan and the United States conduct coordination on strengthening deterrence and response capabilities as well as about the division of roles and missions, I believe that Japan will consider and undertake playing a proactive role responding to the new strategic environment.
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: In regard to what you said at the end concerning extended deterrence, I believe the ministers reaffirmed what was stated at the summit meeting in January this year. What is the significance of this reaffirmation?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Extended deterrence accounts for the core of defense of Japan by the United States in the Japan-U.S. security arrangements that form the basis for the Japan-U.S. Alliance. As stated, in recent years the strategic environment and security environment surrounding Japan and the region have grown extremely severe, and are expected to grow increasingly severe. Japan and the United States share this common recognition. We recognize that it was significant that Japan and the United States reaffirmed extended deterrence in the sense that the United States clarified its commitment to the defense of Japan and the Indo-Pacific region based on the common recognition.
Visit to Japan by the Minister of Defence of Ukraine (Novel Coronavirus Countermeasures)
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to change the theme. In relation to the question asked earlier by Ms. Tadokoro of the Mainichi Shimbun, I get the impression that in-person diplomacy has begun in earnest. However, Defense Minister Taran of Ukraine had an online meeting with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs today. The reason the meeting with Defense Minister Taran will no longer be held in person is because a member of the Ukrainian delegation tested positive for the novel coronavirus after arriving in Japan.
I believe this did not happen with, for example, the U.S. delegation. However, as in-person diplomacy resumes and as delegations from various countries will travel to Japan for the Olympic Games, will the same countermeasure be taken if one person tests positive for the novel coronavirus? I believe that consideration will probably be conducted for each specific case. What will happen with such border enforcement if a member of a delegation tests positive when conducting in-person diplomacy? In this case of Ukraine, the meeting was changed to be held online. Is consideration being conducted at MOFA on this for the future?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In-person diplomacy was resumed from around summer 2020 beginning with the Foreign Minister’s overseas visit, and is implemented now in response to the conditions at the time as needed. As I stated before, infection control measures have been implemented after consideration of each case and communication based on the infection conditions at the time both domestically and abroad, various countries’ infection control measures, and the schedule of the delegation.
As you pointed out, unfortunately there was an infected person among the delegation of the Defense Minister of Ukraine, and the circumstances changed for the in-person communication in Japan. Such cases cannot be 100% eliminated even after making all efforts to prevent them, and even when conducting in-person diplomacy to date, we have decided how to handle such cases by conducting internal consideration both when a Japanese delegation travels overseas and when summit leaders and ministers from foreign countries come to Japan.
I believe that that will be necessary going forward, and that the best option will be taken in response to the situation at the time.
Situation in Myanmar
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about the situation in Myanmar. Since the situation has arisen, I believe the tense situation has been continuing. What is the Government of Japan’s current assessment of the local situation, and what is it currently considering with regard to the situation of protecting Japanese nationals? Spot information was issued yesterday. What does the future outlook seem like now?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to the situation in Myanmar, large-scale protests and demonstrations are continuing. As clashes unfold between the large-scale demonstrations and the security forces throughout the country, large numbers of casualties have been continuously arising, which is extremely unfortunate.
In response to this situation, as I have stated thus far, it is unacceptable for the security forces to use force against peaceful demonstrators. Japan as well as the international community have been repeatedly urging the authorities to stop the violence. The situation has not improved despite that, and it is being strongly condemned.
There are still many Japanese nationals working at Japanese companies remaining in Myanmar. As of now, incidents have arisen such as a tear-gas bomb fired by the police hitting the home of a Japanese national and a Japanese journalist who was temporarily detained. However, we have not received any reports of Japanese nationals being injured or suffering serious damage.
The Embassy of Japan in Myanmar is issuing spot information as well as consul emails and information on demonstrations as needed. We are requesting Japanese residents of Myanmar to continue to exercise caution and refrain from making nonessential trips outside. In addition, spot information was issued on March 9, and in that sense immediately called for people’s attention. It called on Japanese nationals to consider whether to return to Japan on a commercial flight.
Furthermore, because demonstrators have been holding protests near factories operated by foreign companies in the past day or two, we have received reports that fires and arson are occurring. Many Japanese companies are taking self-defense measures such as suspending operations and having employees work from home. From the perspective of making all efforts possible, we will cooperate with JETRO in Myanmar and continue our approach of working to grasp the situation of Japanese companies.