Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, January 22, 2021, 4:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-Russia Relations (Peace Treaty Negotiations)
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. In his policy speech on Monday, Prime Minister Suga stated in regard to the peace treaty negotiations that “the communication from 2018 in Singapore is being continued.”
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Carried over. The new administration has firmly carried over the communication.
NHK, Watanabe: Yes, carried over. Until now this had been referred to as the “agreement” in Singapore, but now it is “communication.” Is this because there was some sort of change in policy?
Minister Motegi: No, I believe the term “communication” has been used from last year. Please check this carefully.
NHK, Watanabe: It seems that the term changed from around autumn last year, and was used again this time.
Minister Motegi: It is not the case that there is any particular reason for the change. I suppose that because the agreement in Singapore was between President Putin and Prime Minister Abe, Prime Minister Suga stated that it has been carried over since he himself did not participate in the agreement. The meaning has not changed.
NHK, Watanabe: In that case, I believe that “communication” is a slightly weaker term than “agreement.” Was the term changed due to the Prime Minister’s intention?
Minister Motegi: No, although he used that term, it does not indicate his intention. This is not his intention.
China’s Coast Guard Law
TBS, Kashimoto: I would like to ask about China’s Coast Guard Law.
It seems that the Coast Guard Law will be passed today by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The law stipulates that the Coast Guard has the right to use all necessary means, including the use of weapons against foreign ships. Please tell us what developments will be a concern due to the Coast Guard Law, and how the Government of Japan will respond.
Minister Motegi: We are currently at the stage of continuing to monitor with high concern the developments regarding the Chinese Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard Law.
There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan.
I believe it is extremely regrettable that Chinese government vessels have been repeatedly sailing through Japan’s contiguous zone and intruding into our territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. We have been repeatedly issuing severe protests regarding such activities by China through diplomatic channels. We have also been conveying our concerns about the Coast Guard Law to China.
EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) (Attendance by Foreign Minister Motegi)
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask about the EU FAC, for which you will attend a meeting on Monday. This will be the first time that a Japanese foreign minister will attend a meeting of the FAC at the invitation of the EU. I believe that the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) will be a topic of discussion. Can you please tell us the reason, objective, and significance of the decision for you to attend the meeting?
Minister Motegi: I was invited to attend last year, and the schedule was coordinated for me to attend this time. This will be the first time for a Japanese foreign minister to attend a meeting of the FAC at the invitation of the EU. Speaking in terms of the recent situation, last year Germany and the Netherlands respectively announced their own Indo-Pacific Guidelines following France. Discussion has begun on the Indo-Pacific within the EU.
Various multilateral frameworks have been advanced thus far toward realizing the FOIP, including between Japan, the United States, Australia, and India. Support and understanding for this has also been spreading, including within Southeast Asia and Africa. I believe it is extremely important at this timing to cooperate with Europe, which shares fundamental values and principles.
I believe that High Representative Borrell will probably lead the FAC meeting. During the meeting, I will explain to the EU countries Japan’s views and initiatives thus far toward realizing the FOIP. I would like to support discussion within the EU about the Indo-Pacific, and lead this to specific cooperation, as I believe there are many areas in which Japan and the EU can cooperate in this field.
Japan-Russia Relations (Peace Treaty Negotiations)
NHK, Watanabe: Please excuse me for asking another question. I would like to confirm something from earlier. If what you stated is the case, is it correct to understand that it was MOFA’s idea to change from using the term “agreement” to “communication” because Prime Minister Suga succeeded Prime Minister Abe?
Minister Motegi: That is not the case. I was just stating the timing of the matter. The truth is that nothing has changed.
Entry into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Fukuda: The TPNW entered into force today. Please tell us your reaction.
Minister Motegi: The TPNW entered into force today among the signatory nations. The TPNW was opened for signature in September 2017, and just over three years have passed since then. At the present point, there are 51 countries and regions that are signatory nations, as well as 37 countries and regions that have signed the TPNW but have not ratified it. Japan has noted the entry into force of the TPNW as the only country to have experienced atomic bombing during war, and as a country that has promoted the international community’s initiatives on nuclear disarmament thus far.
As I have stated repeatedly through now, Japan has the obligation to lead the international community’s initiatives toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons as the only country to have experienced atomic bombing during war. We share the TPNW’s goal of aiming for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, to realize a world without nuclear weapons, it is essential to promote nuclear disarmament that involves countries that actually possess nuclear weapons. However the TPNW currently has not received the support of nuclear-weapon states. It has also not received support from many non-nuclear weapon states.
In addition, as the security environment surrounding Japan grows increasingly severe, I believe it is appropriate for Japan to seek a path of steadily and practically advancing nuclear disarmament while appropriately dealing with real security threats, including maintaining and strengthening deterrence.
While conducting dialogue with countries that support the TPNW, Japan will continue to work to build bridges with countries that have differing positions and actively contribute to international discussions toward the shared goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Situation in the Republic of Korea (ROK) (Lawsuit of a Claim for Damages against the Government of Japan Filed by Former Comfort Women and Others)
Nikkei Shimbun, Kato: The judgment on the lawsuit on comfort women in the ROK is expected to be confirmed on January 23. I understand that the Government of Japan’s policy is not to appeal. Please tell us about the Government’s response going forward.
Minister Motegi: Although it is still hypothetical yet, the judgment will be confirmed at midnight on January 23, and in any event, we will not appeal.
Having said that, Japan’s position on this issue has been made clear publicly up until now. If the judgment is confirmed, we will firmly communicate our position publicly again.