Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, April 2, 2021, 3:39 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Train Accident in Taiwan
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the express train derailment accident in Taiwan. There was an announcement that 36 people displayed no vital signs. Please tell us what you know regarding the situation, such as whether any Japanese nationals in Taiwan were involved.
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have not received any information that Japanese nationals in Taiwan were involved in the accident. However, I am aware that there were many casualties, and I would like to express my condolences for the people who lost their lives and my sincere sympathy to everyone involved in the accident. The Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association is currently enquiring with the local authorities for details.
Situation in Myanmar (Statement by Myanmar’s United Nations Ambassador, ODA for Myanmar)
Nikkei Shimbun, Tobita: In an interview with the Nikkei Shimbun, Myanmar’s United Nations Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun stated that Japan should cut off investment into the country until an elected government is restored. Please tell us your reaction to this, and whether the Government of Japan is considering completely suspending ODA to Myanmar.
Minister Motegi: Japan strongly condemns the situation in Myanmar in which a large number of casualties has occurred, including on March 27 which marked the highest number of deaths thus far, due to the use of force by the Myanmar military and police against civilians, despite repeated calls by the international community. We are taking the situation seriously.
Japan has been strongly urging the Myanmar military on three points: immediately stop resorting to violence, release those who are detained including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and swiftly restore Myanmar’s democratic political system. We will carefully consider what response will be effective while monitoring the developments in the situation and the responses by related countries.
It is necessary to continue urging and communicating with the Myanmar military in various forms. Amidst this, we will work toward the calming down of the situation and for the swift restoration of the democratic political system. A passage from The Little Prince – “What is essential is invisible to the eye”.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. The Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talks were held yesterday. From what I can see in both sides’ press releases, it does not seem that both countries bridged the gap regarding the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the comfort women issue. What is your assessment?
Minister Motegi: As I have repeatedly stated, Japan-ROK relations are in an unprecedentedly difficult situation because the ROK has breached international law and is not implementing the bilateral agreements in relation to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the comfort women issue.
Amidst this, we will continue communication between the diplomatic authorities of our two countries. As part of this, the ROK Director-General has visited Japan and yesterday the Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talks were held over four hours, which I believe was the first time they were held in-person in five months.
During the talks, it was agreed to continue close communication in order to restore healthy Japan-ROK relations. At the same time, the Japanese side re-emphasized Japan’s position regarding the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the comfort women issue. Japan will continue to strongly urge the ROK to take an appropriate response based on our consistent position.
I believe that Japan’s position has been firmly conveyed. Amidst this, the question is how we can resolve matters. Mutual efforts are required, but it is not the case that we instantly bridged the gap at yesterday’s stage.
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask a question in relation to what you just stated. Although the Government of Japan has been asserting itself in such a way up until now, in the recent press conference by Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong of the ROK, he made statements including that the ROK has been repeatedly suggesting realistic measures, and that 99% of the problem will be solved if Japan sincerely apologizes. As the ROK makes such statements, please tell us your current thoughts on the appropriateness of holding discussion yourself during a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Minister Motegi: Rather than speaking about the appropriateness, I would like to say that an announcement will be made about the diplomatic schedule when it is decided, as I always state.
Japan-Arab Political Dialogue
Pan Orient News, Azhari: Yesterday there was a Japan-Arab Dialogue. We heard that by the statement the result was very encouraging and positive. How do you evaluate the next step for bilateral relations? I noticed in the results that Japan talked about the abductees in North Korea, and the free system in the Indo-pacific Ocean. Did you get a response from the Arab countries supporting Japan's views on these two points?
Minister Motegi: The Japan-Arab Political Dialogue yesterday was originally scheduled to be about two hours, but we actually had an in-depth discussion over three hours. We reaffirmed the importance of Japan and Arab countries strengthening comprehensive, multi-layered cooperative relations. We of course had an exchange of views regarding regional situations, including the issue of peace in the Middle East and the issue of Yemen. The Arab side also indicated high appreciation for Japan’s contributions in various forms thus far.
I stated Japan’s intention to commit itself more deeply to Middle East affairs including in the field of politics, and to reinforce cooperation with a view to maintaining and solidifying the rule-based international order.
I also stressed the necessity of protecting a free and open maritime order in the Middle East, which underpins the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific through sea lanes. In response, many of the participants expressed their support for the principles set out in “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP),” including the importance of the maritime order based on the rule of law and international law, as well as the importance of energy security.
Also, as you mentioned, I strongly condemned the ballistic missile launches by North Korea and asked for cooperation on responding to North Korea, including for the abductions issue.
Furthermore, I expressed serious concerns on the attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, including China’s Coast Guard Law.
At the beginning when the cameras were recording, the Arab side stated that they would like to hear about the situation in East Asia, so I mentioned issues concerning North Korea and China.