Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, June 2, 2021, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Inspection and Escort of a Japanese Fishing Boat by the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. A fishing trawler from Wakkanai was seized and entered the Port of Korsakov on Sakhalin. I believe that MOFA’s Consulate-General of Japan in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is making various intermediary efforts. At the present point, what is MOFA’s understanding of the boat’s violation alleged by the Russian side and whether it truly occurred? Also, please tell us the current outlook on the boat’s release and the status of the negotiations for that.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: The incident with the Japanese fishing boat in your question occurred on May 28. The fishing boat is named No. 172 Eiho Maru. Firstly, on the date the incident occurred, MOFA requested detailed information from the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Japan, including on the health of the crew members and the condition of the boat, as well as the outlook on the release of the crew members and boat, and the Embassy of Japan in Russia and the Consulate-General of Japan in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, which you mentioned in your question, requested information from others on the Russian side as well. Also, from a humanitarian perspective, we are urging that the crew members and ship be able to swiftly return to their home port.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk has contacted the crew members, and confirmed that there are not particular difficulties in terms of the crew members’ health and their supply of food, water, and fuel thus far.
I have heard that the Border Service of Sakhalin Oblast and others announced that the fishing boat was fishing in Russia’s waters. The Japanese ministries and agencies concerned are confirming whether that is true by communicating with the Russian side. I would like to refrain from commenting beyond this.
Regarding the outlook for the release, we have not seen any specific signs at the present point. MOFA and the Government of Japan will respond by exerting all efforts toward swiftly resolving this matter.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Comfort Women Issue)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: Foreign Minister Motegi made a statement concerning the Japan-ROK comfort women agreement at the House of Councillors Audit Committee meeting on May 31, saying that frankly speaking, the ROK is always moving the goalpost. This has been pointed out for many years. Is it the Government of Japan’s recognition that the ROK is continuing to always move the goalpost even now?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Because I am not aware of the flow of the question and context concerning Foreign Minister Motegi’s answer in the Audit Committee meeting that you mentioned in your question, I do not know with certainty what Foreign Minister Motegi was speaking about. However, regarding the various unresolved issues between Japan and the ROK up until now, particularly the comfort women agreement is a commitment between nations that was announced to the international community as an irreversible agreement by the governments of both countries in 2015.
The current situation of the state of the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement is as has been previously announced, and this state has been caused by the ROK. Therefore, for quite some time through now, Japan has been stating that the ROK needs to remedy its breach of international law and the international agreement by taking responsibility and corrective action regarding the decision on comfort women by the ROK Supreme Court.
“Moving the goalpost” frankly refers to the circumstances of this matter. In addition to the comfort women issue, the same problem has occurred for issues such as that of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Thus, I presume that “moving the goalpost” refers frankly to our recognition of this matter.
Japan-ROK Relations (Request to Remove Takeshima from the IOC Website)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask another question about the ROK. Regarding the Tokyo Olympic Games, it seems that yesterday, the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Minister SOMA Hirohisa of the Embassy of Japan in Korea to lodge a protest about Takeshima being displayed on the Tokyo Organising Committee's official website. Can you please tell us if that is true? Also, did the ROK lodge a protest about Foreign Minister Motegi’s recent statement about the goalpost? How did Japan object?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe your question refers to the issue of the map showing the Olympic torch relay route on the website of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is true that the ROK issued a protest, as you asked in your question. On June 1, the Director General for Asian and Pacific Affairs of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a protest to Minister Soma of the Embassy of Japan in Korea.
In response, we naturally objected that the ROK’s protest is unacceptable because firstly, Takeshima is an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based on international law.
Furthermore, as I stated before, the map uploaded on the Tokyo Organising Committee website was created to show the Olympic torch relay route in an easy-to-understand manner. I believe the Tokyo Organising Committee has explained that the map has a purely geographical appearance with objective descriptions.
I am not aware of whether there was communication regarding the statement on the goalpost, which you asked about, so I would like to refrain from answering.
Novel Coronavirus (Additional Investigation by the United States on the Origin of the Novel Coronavirus)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: It has been disclosed that President Biden has mentioned the possibility that the novel coronavirus leaked from a Chinese laboratory, and that he has requested an additional investigation. What is the position of the Government of Japan on this stance of investigating the origin of the novel coronavirus?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware of what you mentioned in your question regarding President Biden and the Government of the United States.
Firstly, regarding the origin of the novel coronavirus, the Government of Japan’s basic position is that it is essential to have a swift, independent assessment led by experts on the origin of the novel coronavirus without external interference, from the perspective of preventing future pandemics.
Therefore, it is important to have further investigation leading to elucidation of the origin of the novel coronavirus going forward. We will continue to cooperate with efforts by the international community from that perspective.