Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, April 16, 2021, 2:44 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting (Reference to Taiwan in the Joint Statement)
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: I would like to ask about Taiwan. During a television program at midday today, you pointed out that Japan and the United States sending a clear message about rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait will lead to regional peace and stability. Has it already been decided to create a joint statement at the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting, and if so, will it include the Taiwan issue? Please tell us your thoughts.
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: A joint statement is usually issued for such major summit meetings. However, at the current stage there has not been a decision on whether a joint statement will be issued. The meeting will of course be held later, and I would like to refrain from speaking about the content based on speculation.
Additionally, it is my understanding that during the meeting, Prime Minister Suga and President Biden will reaffirm the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance, and thoroughly discuss Japan-U.S. cooperation toward a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Japan-U.S. cooperation and cooperation of the international community for issues such as responding to the novel coronavirus and climate change, and regional situations such as China and North Korea.
Water Treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask again about the issue of the treated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Reactions to Japan’s decision on the treated water have emerged from various countries, including neighboring countries and the United States. In my coverage of Fukushima, I have covered MOFA’s many efforts to dispel harmful rumors, such as calling on people at embassies in Tokyo. These are not ordinary efforts. I believe there has been reputational damage because it is difficult to respond even if there is safety on a scientific basis. As Japan addresses this going forward, please tell us how you will respond, including preparation, to these voices from the international community, including about the issue of reputational damage.
Minister Motegi: In regard to the handling of the ALPS treated water, we have been providing information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through now. I held an in-person meeting with Director General Grossi last year, and I believe he visited Fukushima after that. We have been actively providing information with high transparency to the international community through having people visit Fukushima and providing careful explanations to diplomatic corps, as you pointed out.
In regard to the process going forward, it is my understanding that before TEPCO actually discharges the treated water into the ocean, it will firstly receive approval regarding the detailed plan and installation of necessary equipment from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which has extremely strict standards. Only then will TEPCO actually discharge into the sea. I believe the discharge will begin two years from now.
In this way, the process will advance following proper procedures. We will carefully respond while confirming safety and announcing the respective results.
Japan will be sure to adhere to international law as well as domestic and overseas regulations and rules, and ensure safety, when handling the ALPS treated water. Under this way of thinking, specifically measures will be taken to evaluate the potential effects on the ocean environment prior to actually discharging based on related international law and customs. Monitoring will also be continuously conducted after the discharge, and measures will be taken to grasp the situation.
Within the basic policy on handling the ALPS treated water that was announced this time, the Government of Japan will further strengthen initiatives to curb the effects of negative reputation as much as possible.
We are of course firmly providing explanations on a scientific basis. The issue of negative reputation is also extremely important, including to the local people. We will minimize the effects as much as possible, while staying fully aware of these points. We will exert the maximum possible effort on these two points in particular.
Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting (Reference to Taiwan in the Joint Statement)
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: I would like to ask another question about Taiwan in relation to what I asked earlier. How do you suppose China would react to Japan and the United States jointly sending a message about the Taiwan Strait issue? Please tell us if you have thoughts about this.
Minister Motegi: When we make various public statements, we firmly consider how the international community, including related countries, would react and respond.
However, because this is an issue affecting our diplomacy in general, I would like to refrain from commenting on how a certain country would react to a certain statement.
COVAX Vaccine Summit
TBS, Kashimoto: I would like to ask about vaccine support. You participated in the COVAX meeting yesterday, and announced that Japan would co-host a Vaccine Summit with Gavi in June. Please tell us your thoughts on the significance of Japan co-hosting the summit rather than just participating, and what support in terms of finances and other aspects Japan will provide.
Minister Motegi: As I have stated through now, I believe it is extremely important to wind down the situation of novel coronavirus infections as soon as possible by advancing vaccinations within Japan as the maximum priority. However, at the same time there are concerns that if the novel coronavirus still remain somewhere in the world, it could still spread or start spreading again. In this sense, in particular I believe it is extremely important to provide support to developing countries with vulnerable healthcare systems, including for vaccinations.
From this perspective, Japan has been playing a central role for Gavi and the COVAX Facility and has already contributed $200 million. Japan will co-host the summit in June as part of our response.
Amidst this, there is a funding gap for raising the general vaccine supply of the COVAX Facility from the current 20% to around 30% of participating countries’ populations. The funding gap is growing. I believe it is necessary for Japan to contribute to the extent possible for the method to fill the gap. Of course, we will do what we can after confirming the details with the financial authorities going forward, such as the specific amount of contributions.
Organizational Improvements to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme
Yomiuri Shimbun, Fukuda: I would like to ask about UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. In relation to the Memory of the World Programme, the UNESCO Secretariat agreed on a structure to newly establish a formal objections system and not approve inscriptions unless the countries concerned agree through dialogue. Please tell us your reaction to this reform and about what diplomatic efforts have been made thus far.
Minister Motegi: I visited the UNESCO Headquarters when I visited Paris, which I believe was in October 2020. I held an in-person exchange of views with UNESCO Director-General Azoulay regarding matters such as various management issues of UNESCO. I explained Japan’s assertions thus far.
Additionally, in regard to the organizational improvement content approved this time, the Government of Japan welcomes that the content includes the major points for improvement that Japan has been advocating, including on participation by member country governments, and that it is expected that the Memory of the World Programme will be resumed. I personally believe that this is good.
Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting (Supply Chain Cooperation)
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: I would like to change the subject and ask about the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting with regard to Japan-U.S. relations.
Minister Motegi: I do not think much has changed. (Laughter in the venue)
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: There are some reports that Japan will work on a $2 billion plan in cooperation with the United States on communications technologies such as 5G. Please tell us if you have any thoughts on the future direction of Japan-U.S. cooperation on cutting-edge technologies and supply chains for semiconductors and other goods.
Minister Motegi: I would like to refrain from commenting on specific reports one by one. I believe that there is renewed recognition of the risks of relying on supply chains in certain regions due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus.
I believe it is extremely important to diversify and strengthen supply chains for goods and services, including semiconductors, rare-earth elements, pharmaceuticals, and various important parts. We will firmly cooperate with related countries including the United States on promoting this.
Additionally, I believe that how to handle issues related to economic security will be discussed during the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting.