Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Situation in Myanmar (Use of the Title “Foreign Minister”)
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: I believe that a post was uploaded on the Facebook page of the Embassy of Japan in Myanmar on the night of March 8 referring to Mr. Wunna Maung Lwin as the Foreign Minister of Myanmar. Foreign Minister Motegi also used the title Foreign Minister during his press conference yesterday. As critical comments arise from the citizens of Myanmar, does the Government of Japan intend to continue to refer to Mr. Wunna Maung Lwin using the title Foreign Minister going forward? If you intend to continue using the title, please tell us the basis for this.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: As you pointed out in your question, Ambassador Maruyama conveyed Japan’s positions to Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Myanmar, and this was stated in the Japanese embassy’s announcement. As we have been saying since before, Japan strongly hopes that the situation in Myanmar will be one in which human rights are protected, peaceful society and democratic process are restored, and where Japan can advance cooperation with Myanmar toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP).
Additionally, in regard to the coup d’état, Japan has been repeatedly making three requests to the Myanmar military in a strong manner: the immediate suspension of violence, the release of the detainees concerned, and the swift restoration of the democratic system.
I have certainly heard that there are various views about Mr. Wunna Maung Lwin, who Ambassador Maruyama met with, taking the title of Foreign Minister. However, it is extremely important now to precisely convey Japan’s views and the international community’s views to the military authorities that are currently in charge of public order and governance of Myanmar in order to achieve the objectives I just mentioned.
To request Myanmar to take specific action, we must communicate with the Myanmar military, so we are holding talks through such channels.
In regard to your question about what we will do going forward, we will continue to urge the Myanmar military. We have used the Foreign Minister title from the perspective of having the requests be realized. However, I would like to emphasize here again that our usage of the title of course does not mean whatsoever that we believe the coup d’état was legitimate or that we accept or acquiesce to the violence committed by the Myanmar authorities.
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: I would like to ask another question. I believe that criticism has arisen that while the Government of Japan does not recognize that the coup d’état was legitimate as you mentioned at the end of your statement, the use of the title Foreign Minister can be interpreted as recognition by the Government of Japan. Can you please explain again this contradiction? Also, just to confirm your meaning, is it correct to understand that the Government of Japan will continue to use the title Foreign Minister going forward?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Firstly, although I am probably repeating the points I just stated, Japan is urging the Myanmar military authorities about the three requests by using various channels to reach the military.
This time, we conveyed our requests to the person appointed to the post of Foreign Minister in charge of foreign relations. I would like to re-emphasize that the title we use to refer to the person does not mean that we approve of the appointment as legitimate, that the party that appointed him is legitimate, or that we approve of the current situation including the series of violent incidents. We will continue to pay attention so that such a misunderstanding does not arise.
On the other hand, the Foreign Minister of Myanmar, who Ambassador Maruyama met with, recently visited the neighboring country of Thailand and also held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. We issued the announcement based on comprehensive consideration that it is necessary to continue urging the Myanmar military and conveying our requests to the contact person for Myanmar’s diplomatic authorities. In terms of what we will do going forward, we will pay attention to what you pointed out, but at the present point we have not decided whether to change what we are doing.
NHK, Watanabe: In relation to the subject of Myanmar, the number of fatalities due to shootings by the military has been increasing. I believe there was a discussion on not suspending ODA in the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives today. Is there a way to more strongly declare the Government of Japan’s position to Myanmar, such as through a statement by the G7 or the Press Secretary?
Press Secretary Yoshida: The situation in Myanmar is of course changing moment by moment, and the international community’s response will of course change in various ways depending on the local situation.
The Government of Japan has already announced its position, and we have also re-indicated our views when various critical junctures and incidents have occurred.
Of course, what is important now amidst the ongoing demonstrations is for the Myanmar authorities to stop the violence and immediately remedy the current chaotic situation. The situation is tense, and at the present point it is impossible to predict what will happen going forward.
If the situation worsens or reaches an extremely serious state, I believe that the Government of Japan will of course properly convey our views while cooperating with the international community and related countries.
Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Summit Telephone Meeting
Mainichi Shimbun, Aoki: During his press conference today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato announced the date of the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Summit Meeting. Please tell us your thoughts on the significance of the meeting of the summit leaders of these four countries, particularly the significance of the participation by India, which has held a neutral position.
Press Secretary Yoshida: In his press conference this morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato announced that Prime Minister Suga will attend the first online teleconference meeting of the summit leaders of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States on the night of March 12.
The meeting will be held at the request of President Biden, whose new administration was inaugurated. I would like to refrain from predicting the details on the content of the meeting at the present point, but I believe it will include global issues such as FOIP, the current pressing issue of novel coronavirus countermeasures, and climate change which is an important issue faced by the international community. Also, in relation to FOIP, there will of course be discussion on the regional situation that requires a response with joint cooperation by the four countries.
In relation to India which you asked about, I believe it is certainly true that India has historically taken a non-aligned, neutral position. At the same time, India is a top democratic country within the Indo-Pacific region as well as the world. It is a major country within the Indo-Pacific region that truly shares common values such as international order based on the rule of law as well as freedom that are the important elements of the FOIP vision.
Accordingly, I believe it is greatly significant that India is participating in this meeting and cooperation of four countries. We would like the summit meeting to be an opportunity for the results accumulated thus far through the foreign ministers’ meetings and more to be further deepened at the summit level as well, and to steadily advance toward specific cooperation.
Mainichi Shimbun, Aoki: In relation to this, China has been indicating its extreme wariness about the cooperation of these four countries. What is the meaning of this meeting of four countries from a China-related perspective? There is a view that this is meant to encircle and contain China. Please tell us MOFA’s view on this.
Press Secretary Yoshida: The foreign ministers’ meetings of Japan, Australia, India and the United States, which are known by names such as “Quad,” were held in-person last year and online on February 18. The central theme is cooperation to promote FOIP.
The FOIP concept and vision is as explained through now, and does not have any particular country in mind. Also, the world compares FOIP with NATO and other such organizations, but there is no aim for something like a military alliance. Accordingly, we will broaden cooperation among countries that can share the vision.
From that perspective, shared recognition has already been spreading within Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, as well as countries in Africa and the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Amidst this, the four countries have been implementing various forms of collaboration as countries that are advancing specific cooperation for FOIP.
Accordingly, although I am repeating myself, this framework does not have in mind China as you mentioned, or encircling or confronting any particular country.
Asahi Shimbun, Kitami: In relation to what you just stated, I believe you explained that the Japan- Australia-India-U.S. Summit Meeting will be held at the request of President Biden. Please tell us your view of the significance of such a meeting being held at the request of the U.S. side immediately after the inauguration of the Biden administration.
Also, please tell us your thoughts on how the change of government from the Trump administration to the Biden administration is affecting the Japan- Australia-India-U.S. framework.
Press Secretary Yoshida: We truly welcome that the foreign ministers’ meetings of the four countries were held and will be followed by the first meeting at the summit level, although it will be online, even though not much time has passed since the inauguration of the new administration.
Although the Indo-Pacific region has been seeing remarkable growth, issues such as challenges to the rule of law have been accumulating in the region. We recognize the enthusiasm of the new Biden administration, which requested the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. meeting, as something that shows the stance of addressing issues head-on.
We have extremely high expectations that we will further deepen cooperation on promoting this view through this framework and with the United States, which is the most important ally of Japan.
Although there has been a change of government in the United States, we also deepened Japan-U.S. cooperation for the FOIP concept with the Trump administration, and the in-person Japan- Australia-India-U.S. “Quad” Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held during the Trump administration. In that sense, I believe that this cooperation and the FOIP concept have received nonpartisan support within the United States. Accordingly, we expect to steadily deepen cooperation with the other two countries as well based on the results thus far.