Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, April 23, 2021, 3:40 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Initiatives Related to “Business and Human Rights”
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have one matter to speak about. I would like to give a brief introduction of MOFA’s initiatives related to “business and human rights.” As voices calling respect for human rights by companies increase around the world, the Government of Japan, with MOFA at the center, formulated an action plan on “business and human rights” in October 2020.
The action plan encourages companies to introduce due diligence for human rights; in other words, it points out the importance of companies specifying the risks of human rights abuses of forced labor, child labor, and discrimination, and taking preventative measures and countermeasures.
For the promotion of introducing due diligence for human rights at companies, firstly I believe it is important to spread the concept of protecting and encouraging human rights in company activities and conduct awareness efforts.
As part of this, the portal site on “business and human rights” was launched on the MOFA website last month at the end of March. Documents have been posted on the portal site until now, but today a video introducing the plan of action and more was posted on the site. I hope you will watch it later. Despite the limited budget, I believe it is a good video although it is not something like Netflix videos.
Going forward, we will post information, including United Nations, ILO, and OECD links, that will be of reference to companies, industry groups, and everyone in civil society. I hope it will be utilized widely. That is all from me.
Situation in Myanmar (ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting)
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the situation in Myanmar. The ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting will be held tomorrow in Indonesia, and it is being reported that the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military will attend. What discussions do you expect will be held at this meeting?
Minister Motegi: I held a telephone talk with Foreign Minister Retno of Indonesia yesterday. The ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting will be held tomorrow in Indonesia. It is my understanding that coordination is being conducted for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend. I believe that ASEAN plays an extremely important role for the situation in Myanmar, and Japan strongly supports ASEAN’s initiatives, including holding the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting.
I believe that Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin of the Philippines will probably go to Jakarta in the first half of this week. Also, during my telephone talk yesterday with Foreign Minister Retno, we agreed that the ongoing situation of bloodshed by the Myanmar military must stop immediately. We confirmed that we would cooperate toward the immediate suspension of violence, release of the detainees, and swift restoration of the democratic political system in Myanmar.
I hope that positive discussions will be held on stopping the violence, and that progress in dialogue will lead to the turning around of the situation, and hope for discussion on the eventual path to be taken in Myanmar. I hope the discussions at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting tomorrow leads to the turning around of the situation. We will firmly confirm the results of the Leaders’ Meeting, and respond in cooperation with ASEAN and various western countries from next week.
Sankei Shimbun, Ishinabe: I have a related question. There are concerns that inviting Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting could indicate recognition of the military government in Myanmar as legitimate. What is your view on this point?
Minister Motegi: I do not think it is likely that any ASEAN countries have such a recognition. I believe the reality is that the military police efforts are in fact important issues in terms of turning the situation around.
On the other hand, approval of the coup d’état and current situation is a completely different matter, and these matters should be considered separately.
TV Tokyo, Kato: In relation to the situation in Myanmar, you have been using the term “Leaders’ Meeting” in this press conference, but during the Japan-Philippines Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk yesterday, you used the term “ASEAN Summit.” Is it the Government of Japan’s policy to refer to this meeting as a “Leaders ‘Meeting”?
Minister Motegi: ASEAN is referring to the meeting this way. ASEAN is holding the meeting, so that is why.
COVAX Vaccine Summit
Tribune News, Susilo: I believe the vaccine summit is truly wonderful. It has received the approval of people in ASEAN countries, including myself. What is the status of coordination for the summit? For example, are there any countries that oppose it? The reason I ask is that there may be some other countries that think Japan will provide vaccines to improve relations through “politicization of vaccines.” What are your thoughts?
Minister Motegi: Are you asking about the Vaccine Summit that Japan will co-host in June with Gavi?
Tribune News, Susilo: Yes.
Minister Motegi: As I stated a little while ago, even if the novel coronavirus generally begins to wind down, there is still a risk of the novel coronavirus possibly spreading again if it remains somewhere in the world, particularly developing countries with vulnerable healthcare systems. Therefore, even if domestic countermeasures are advanced in various countries, it is extremely important to ensure equitable access and accelerate the spread of vaccinations around the entire world at the same time.
Based on this belief, Japan has actively contributed to the discussions from the start of establishment of the COVAX Facility on the system planning through now. In terms of financial aspects as well, we have increased our contribution to the framework for developing countries and have already contributed $200 million. Japan will also co-host the Summit, so we will contribute as much as possible going forward after confirming the details with the financial authorities.
Achieving the funding goal necessary for the COVAX Facility will lead to delivering more vaccines to developing countries as a result. We will continue to cooperate with the international community and advance preparations toward the success of the Summit while calling on various countries including the United States to contribute toward the funding gap for the COVAX Facility.
Lawsuit of a Claim for Damages against the Government of Japan Filed by Former Comfort Women and Others
Asahi Shimbun, Sugawara: I would like to ask about the effects of the judgment on the lawsuit by the former comfort women in the Republic of Korea (ROK) on April 21. The recent Japan-U.S. joint statement mentioned trilateral Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. Please tell us your thoughts again on the effects on trilateral cooperation of the recent judgement as well as how you intend to promote cooperation.
Minister Motegi: Excuse me, I do not understand the meaning of your question.
Asahi Shimbun, Sugawara: The judgment issued on April 21.
Minister Motegi: I know that. I also know that the importance of working for Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and collaboration was stated during the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting. What I said is that I do not understand the meaning of your question.
Asahi Shimbun, Sugawara: I meant to ask about the connection between the two matters – whether the recent judgment will have effects on the necessity of Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.
Minister Motegi: What do you mean? Your question is beyond my understanding. I cannot understand how those two points are connected, so could you explain your question as, for example “It seems something like this will have certain effects, and what do I think?” If you explain the connection between the two matters, then I can answer your question.
Asahi Shimbun, Sugawara: Understood. I will think about my question.
Leaders’ Summit on Climate (Assessment of Japan’s New Goals)
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the issue of climate change. Yesterday, Prime Minister Suga announced Japan’s new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by FY2030 compared to FY2013. What is your assessment of the figure of 46%, including of whether it is achievable? I believe you are well-versed in this field because you once served as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Minister Motegi: Yesterday at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, Prime Minister Suga declared that Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in FY2030 from its FY2013 levels, setting an ambitious target which is aligned with the goal of net-zero by 2050. I believe that Japan’s goal is compared to greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, while the United States is for 2005, and the EU and United Kingdom are for 1990.
Japan’s new goal of 46% is over 70% higher than the previous goal of 26%. Furthermore, Prime Minister Suga announced that efforts will be continued in the challenge to further increase the goal to 50%, and that deliberations will be accelerated toward identifying policies and measures for meeting our goals.
I will speak about the figures later. Various countries including the host country the United States, as well as United Nations Secretary General Guterres who attended yesterday and gave the opening address, stated that they welcome Japan’s announcement and determination. I believe that this was appreciation of Japan’s stance of leading the international community in the climate change field in cooperation with the United States and other countries.
The standards of the years are different, so we cannot just compare the figures as-is. But I believe that our goal for emissions reductions compared to the year 2013 is an ambitious one that is generally similar to the figures of the EU and the United States.
In regard to the calculations, although I do not know whether there will be an announcement on the detailed figures, emissions from energy sources account for the majority of emissions, and the emissions from other sources have been added to this. Basically, I believe that Japan’s initiatives to date on emissions from energy sources will of course be modified at a certain stage, based on the recently announced goal. I believe the ambitious figure was properly calculated based on Japan’s initiatives concerning emissions from energy sources, emissions from the agriculture field, emissions from other fields, and the issue of emissions trading.
Novel Coronavirus (Border Enforcement Measures)
Tribune News, Susilo: I saw new rules on the MOFA website on April 20. Yesterday, the border enforcement measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus were updated to deny permission to enter Japan from 150 countries around the world, not just Asia, including Indonesia. But Viet Nam is not included in those countries. Viet Nam had 110 infected people as of January 30, 2021. Why is Viet Nam not included in the countries?
Minister Motegi: In regard to Japan’s border enforcement measures, we conduct comprehensive consideration on general criteria such as the situation of infections in various countries in terms of the general figures, the ratio of infected people against the population, and other such infections-related information, without ever favoring any particular country.