Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Relations with Taiwan (Mutual Visits by People Related to the Government)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about Taiwan, which has been in the news recently. I believe that the Government of Japan’s basic stance on Taiwan is to maintain Japan-Taiwan relations as a working relationship on a non-governmental basis. To what extent are mutual visits by people related to the government possible? For example, would it be possible to have mutual visits by senior personnel at the director-general level from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs?
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: Your question was about MOFA’s relations with Taiwan. Firstly, as you pointed out, Japan-Taiwan relations are maintained as a working relationship on a non-governmental basis as indicated in the Japan-China Joint Communique.
On the other hand, Taiwan is an important partner of Japan. We share fundamental values, such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, and enjoy a close economic relationship and people-to-people exchanges. As we have a working relationship on a non-governmental basis with Taiwan, there is an organization that handles the working relationship in Taipei.
MOFA has been responding to matters such as Japan-Taiwan exchanges and mutual visits based on our basic position as I just explained.
In particular, in terms of your question about personnel at the director-general level and senior personnel, I think there are not any specific forms of mutual visits. It is my understanding that communication is conducted appropriately between Japan and Taiwan based on our position which I just stated.
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: As you just stated, I do not believe there are any specific limitations on mutual visits. However, for example, in a recent interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage made suggestions such as that senior MOFA personnel should hold meetings with Taiwan in order to secure the international standing of Taiwan. Would that be realistic?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I consider what former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage stated in the interview to be his opinion as an expert who has actually recently visited Taiwan. However, I believe that what specific needs there will be, such as for contact or meetings, will be case by case. Unless such actions are necessary in the current situation, I believe it would not really be appropriate to speak generally about that based on speculation.
China’s Political System
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to change the subject. U.S. President Biden has been speaking about the clash between the United States and China as being democracy vs. autocracy. How does Japan perceive this positioning?
For example, Japan has been repeatedly stating that China is making attempts to change the status quo through force and that its behavior is inconsistent with the international order. Does Japan also acknowledge that China is an autocracy?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that the Government of the United States under the Biden administration has declared that China is a unique competitor and has been engaging in frank communication regarding various pending issues.
Regarding the various issues surrounding China, it is true that through regular communication between Japan and the United States, including the recent Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting, the preceding Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. "2+2"), and at the working level, the two countries have been firmly sharing their common views and concerns. However, thus far Japan has not really stated how it defines the system of any particular country or relations with any particular country, although it is true that historic terminology and social sciences terminology such as autocracy and autocratic government exist.
Accordingly, I believe that Japan will probably not use such terminology. However, Japan will frankly convey its views to the Government of China at various levels, such as in terms of unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force that I mentioned earlier, as well as the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) vision that promotes values such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
ODA for Myanmar
Kyodo News, Nakata: I would like to ask about Myanmar. During today’s meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, Foreign Minister Motegi stated regarding ODA to Myanmar that Japan has made various efforts for democracy and humanitarian aid in Myanmar. He also stated that there are concerns that ODA might no longer be given for economic development if the current situation continues as it is, that private companies also cannot provide investment during such a situation even if they want to, and that Japan is holding talks with the Myanmar side so that they can firmly take such aspects into consideration. Can you please confirm what the Government of Japan’s current view is on whether or not to provide ODA to Myanmar?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am not fully aware of the communication in the Diet today, so my answer is in that context. As we have clarified through now about the current situation in Myanmar, the Government of Japan has been speaking about three matters. Amidst this, the situation has not headed toward improvement at all since the coup d’état, and it seems the situation is deteriorating.
It is true that Japan has built solid economic relations with Myanmar, as Japan is the country that provides the most ODA to Myanmar. Based on this, we have stated that Japan will not provide new ODA to Myanmar due to the situation since the coup d’état. On the other hand, it is clearly true that Japan’s various forms of economic cooperation have supported Myanmar as a country as well as the basis for the livelihood of the people of Myanmar.
We are currently making the same requests we have been stating thus far to the Myanmar military, and constantly conducting comprehensive consideration on how to respond based on the developments in response to our requests.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: A Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was conducted recently in the United Kingdom. It had been over one year since such a meeting was conducted, and the extremely difficult situation of Japan-ROK relations has continued. Can it be said that there was a change in the difficult situation due to the fact that a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Foreign Minister Motegi, who was staying in the United Kingdom to attend the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting, held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong of the ROK on May 5 U.K. time. I believe the outline has already been issued. The ministers agreed and affirmed again the importance of Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation for responding to North Korea and regional stability. They also held an exchange of views regarding bilateral relations concerning pending issues between our two countries.
Currently, Japan-ROK relations are in a considerably difficult situation. I do not think it is possible to say that the flow of Japan-ROK relations will change immediately after just one Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. However, through this meeting, the views of Japan were again precisely conveyed to the ROK Foreign Minister, and the ministers agreed and affirmed that communication between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and the ROK will be continued in order to restore healthy bilateral relations. Amidst this, we will continue communication between our diplomatic authorities regarding the future of Japan-ROK relations, which you asked about.