Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 12:11 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Earthquake Damage in Indonesia
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to speak about the earthquake damage in Indonesia. Due to the earthquake that occurred on January 15 in West Sulawesi Province in the Republic of Indonesia, there are victims including many casualties, as well as physical damage.
I would like to express my sincere condolences for the people who lost their lives due to the earthquake, as well as my sympathy to those affected. I sent a letter of condolences to Foreign Minister Retno.
Japan has conveyed to Indonesia that we are prepared to provide emergency aid supplies through JICA, from a humanitarian perspective and in consideration of our friendly bilateral relations. If there is a request from Indonesia, we will finalize the coordination as quickly as possible and swiftly deliver the relief supplies. That is all from me.
Japan-U.S. Relations (Assessment of the Trump Administration and Building Relations with the New Biden Administration)
NHK, Yamamoto: The Biden administration will be inaugurated the day after tomorrow in Japan time. I believe you had a very deep connection to the Trump administration both as Minister for Foreign Affairs and in your previous position as Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization. Can you please tell us your assessment of the four years of the Trump administration, as well as about how you will build a relationship of trust with the Biden administration?
Minister Motegi: Japan-U.S. relations during the four years of the Trump administration have grown to become unprecedentedly strong, including the relationship of trust at the summit level. Last year also marked the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States (Japan-U.S. Security Treaty). Cooperation and initiatives were advanced toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” The Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement was agreed upon, and we achieved results through the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Quad) on November 6, 2020 toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
On the other hand, if we look at the developments since the result of the U.S. presidential election in November 2020, I believe we can see the current situation of the so-called “division of U.S. society.” Overcoming this division and uniting U.S. society will be a major issue for the new Biden administration. I earnestly hope that the American people will overcome difficulties and become united in solidarity once more under the new Biden administration.
Japan will deepen cooperation with the new Biden administration to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” We would also like the United States and Japan to cooperate closely and exhibit leadership in the international community to respond to issues faced by the international community that are growing in importance such as responding to the novel coronavirus and climate change, as well as shaping the post-novel coronavirus international order.
Japan’s Position on the Conflict in Yemen
Pan Orient News, AZHARI: There are some reports that the United States is planning to recognize or designate the Houthis group in Yemen as a terrorist organization. What is Japan's position on that? And the situation in Yemen has been concerning. What is your policy about that?
Minister Motegi: We are monitoring the situation of the United States’ recent designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, including the effects on implementation of humanitarian aid in Yemen and on a political solution to the conflict. Peace and stability in Yemen are important for the peace and stability of all of the Middle East. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity to once again call on all the parties concerned to immediately call a ceasefire and swiftly begin dialogue toward a political solution in Yemen.
New Year’s Press Conference by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Sankei Shimbun, Ishinabe: I would like to ask about the ROK. In his New Year’s press conference yesterday, President Moon Jae-in stated that he was perplexed by the judgment on the lawsuit which ordered the Government of Japan to pay compensation to former comfort women and others. Furthermore, he indicated that liquidation would not be desirable with regards to the lawsuit on the issue of so called requisitioned workers. Some argue that this could be a softening of stance toward Japan. What is your view on this press conference yesterday, and how will you communicate with the ROK?
Minister Motegi: I am of course aware of President Moon’s press conference. Japan and the ROK are important neighboring countries to each other. Unfortunately, however, over the past few years the ROK has breached international agreements and is not implementing bilateral agreements.
In such a situation, it is difficult for us to make an assessment with merely a statement of the ROK’s stance to seek to resolve the issues. I would like to make an assessment after seeing concrete proposals from the ROK to resolve the issues.
Japan-ROK Relations (Impact on Japan-U.S.-ROK Security Cooperation)
Nikkei Shimbun, Kato: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. In your foreign policy speech yesterday, you indicated your recognition that Japan-ROK relations have fallen into a difficult situation. On the other hand, you also mentioned the importance of Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK coordination concerning the denuclearization of North Korea. Can you please tell us what kind of impact the prolonged difficult situation between Japan and the ROK will have on Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation, including whether the current situation has actually affected the cooperation?
Minister Motegi: The term I used in my foreign policy speech yesterday was not a “difficult situation” but a “more difficult situation.” I believe that the recent Japan-ROK relations are falling into a more difficult situation due to the recent judgment on the lawsuit against the Government of Japan in addition to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula.
On the other hand, I believe that the current Japan-ROK relations must not affect Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation in a negative way. We would like to continue Japan-U.S.-ROK coordination for regional stability, including in dealing with North Korea.