Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 3:35 p.m. Jamaica
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Good morning. I believe it is 5:30 a.m. in Tokyo, but it is 3:30 p.m. here due to the 14-hour time difference. Today was also quite a hard schedule.
I visited the three Central America and the Caribbean countries of Guatemala, Panama, and Jamaica this time. My visit to Cuba was suspended due to circumstances surrounding Cuba, including the spread of the novel coronavirus, but I held a telephone talk with Foreign Minister Rodríguez of Cuba. In terms of what was discussed in the telephone talk, I believe that a press release has already been issued.
Following my visits to five Central and South American countries at the beginning of the year, with this trip I have now visited a total of eight Central and South American countries, which is the largest number for any Japanese Foreign Minister. The main objective of this visit to Central American and Caribbean countries was to share understanding with the countries on the importance of the free and open international order based on the rule of law, and confirm our cooperation. I also explained Japan’s views and initiatives regarding a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and my counterparts and I agreed to strengthen cooperation for the free and open international order.
We also discussed regional affairs, including that of East Asia as well as Central and South America. We shared serious concerns regarding unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, an issue facing the entire international community. We also exchanged our views regarding the novel coronavirus, climate change, disaster risk reduction as many natural disasters occur here, response to immigration issues, and economic cooperation. Disaster risk reduction is an issue shared by Japan and Central American and Caribbean countries, as we suffer damage from typhoons and hurricanes. For all of these issues, expectations towards Japan are high, and we confirmed to continue our cooperation.
During this visit to Central American and Caribbean countries, I was able to deepen dialogues with the countries not only by holding meetings with the leaders and foreign ministers of the three countries I visited, but also by attending the Japan-SICA (Central American Integration System) Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in Guatemala which consists of eight countries, by attending the Japan-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministerial-Level Conference in Jamaica which consists of 14 countries, and by holding a total of 11 bilateral meetings and telephone talks. Including my visit to Mexico in January, I have now held dialogues with all 22 countries in the Central American and the Caribbean region. Through these exchanges of views, I will promote “diplomacy with both tolerance and strength” with even more strength.
I believe it was a major achievement that I was able to further strengthen the traditional friendly relations between Japan and 22 Central American and Caribbean countries, which is a significant force in the international arena, and confirmed cooperation toward maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law. That is all from me.
Reporter: You held consultations with many countries that diplomatically recognize ROC, such as Guatemala, during this visit. How did you feel the changes in China’s influence over these countries?
Minister Motegi:It is true that eight out of 15 countries that diplomatically recognize ROC are Central American and Caribbean countries. During this visit, I exchanged views with the countries on regional affairs in Asia as well as Central and South America. I pointed out that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force is an issue faced by the entire international community, and we were able to share concerns with the countries. The countries provided explanations on regional affairs in Central America, and we deepened our shared understanding. I believe that it was very meaningful that through our meetings during this visit, we were able to agree on the importance of and confirm our cooperation in the free and open international order based on the rule of law.
Reporter: I would like to ask about Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. President Moon Jae-in of the ROK will not visit Japan. Please tell us your reaction. Also, some people have indicated that the statement by Minister Soma of the Embassy of Japan in Korea may have had an effect on President Moon’s visit not taking place. What is your view?
Minister Motegi:It was the ROK side that decided that President Moon will not visit Japan during the Tokyo Olympic Games. I believe I am not in the position to answer about the background of the ROK’s decision on behalf of the Government of Japan. I believe that both Japan and the ROK want to improve Japan-ROK relations. Furthermore, I believe that Minister Soma’s statement was extremely inappropriate as a diplomat and is regrettable. Ambassador Aiboshi severely reprimanded Minister Soma on this matter.