Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, June 4, 2021, 10:37 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Provision of Vaccines to Taiwan
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to report about two matters.
The first matter is about provision of vaccines to Taiwan. Japan has provided vaccine support through international frameworks such as the COVAX Facility through now.
We have received requests for provision of vaccines from various countries and regions up until now. As we have completed coordination regarding the request from Taiwan, we have decided to provide 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan free of charge to the people of Taiwan, through the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association which is the contact organization in Taiwan.
I would like to express respect for the parties concerned including AstraZeneca plc, which cooperated for realizing the provision of the vaccines.
The vaccines were shipped from Japan today before midday, and are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan today before 4 p.m. Japan time, and before 3 p.m. Taiwan time.
Japan expects that this provision of vaccines will contribute to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus in Taiwan.
In regard to vaccine support, during the COVAX AMC Summit on June 2 the day before yesterday, Prime Minister Suga announced that Japan will provide an additional contribution of $800 million USD to the COVAX Facility. I believe it was a significant achievement, including for Japan’s leadership, that it was possible at the COVAX AMC Summit to secure well beyond $8.3 billion USD, which was the target for the end of this fiscal year.
In addition to fundraising, due to the severe situation of the spread of novel coronavirus variants and vaccine provision delays, Prime Minister Suga expressed Japan’s intention to provide, when circumstances allow and at an appropriate time, around 30 million doses of vaccines manufactured in Japan to various countries and regions, including through the COVAX Facility.
In addition, I emphasized “Last One Mile Support” which contributes to the delivery of vaccines down to the last person by leveraging Japan’s technology and strength, and called for cooperation with the COVAX Facility.
Toward the swift ending of the spread of the novel coronavirus, Japan will continue to implement various forms of vaccine support via support through multilateral frameworks such as COVAX, bilateral cooperation, as well as cooperation with international organizations, based on the requests of the international community and needs for support in various countries.
Japan will continue to firmly show leadership in the vaccine field for the COVAX initiative and “Last One Mile Support.”
(2) Japan-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations (“2+2”)
Minister Motegi: The other matter is that the Japan-Australia “2+2” is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, June 9 next week. This will be the ninth Japan-Australia “2+2,” and it will have been two and half years since it was last held.
Japan and Australia are “Special Strategic Partners” that share fundamental values and strategic interests. During this “2+2,” I would like to firmly discuss matters such as plans to take security and defense cooperation to a new level toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” That is all from me.
Provision of Vaccines to Taiwan
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask about provision of vaccines to Taiwan. Japan has taken the position of leading the international framework. Firstly, please tell us the reason why Japan is venturing to provide direct support of vaccine provision.
Minister Motegi: In regard to vaccines, from the start COVAX has had the functions of procuring and distributing vaccines using financial donations contributed by various countries. However, recently it has been pointed out that it is also important for vaccines themselves to be provided to COVAX and other international organizations, or for one country to provide vaccines to another on a bilateral basis.
Japan has secured enough vaccines to provide two doses to all its people. We will provide vaccines beyond that amount to international frameworks, centered on COVAX and other initiatives. At the same time, we will also provide cooperation on a bilateral basis and through other international organizations based on various countries’ needs.
In the case of Taiwan, it had strongly controlled the spread of infections since last year, but infections have been spreading recently. Although the vaccine production system in Taiwan will be established from July, Taiwan will be in an extremely severe situation for a while in terms of procuring vaccines, and Japan has provided support.
I believe that the people of Japan vividly remember that during the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake 10 years ago, Taiwan immediately began to send many contributions. Japan is providing the vaccines in light of our important partnership and friendship with Taiwan.
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: I would like to ask about provision of vaccines to Taiwan. My company has gone to Narita Airport to conduct coverage. Can you please confirm if it is correct that the flight taking the vaccines to Taiwan is the JAL flight departing Narita Airport at 11:45 a.m.?
Minister Motegi: Yes, that is correct.
Inspection and Escort of a Japanese Fishing Boat by Russia
Hokkaido Shimbun, Furuta: I would like to ask about the seizure of the fishing boat from Wakkanai. The Government of Japan recently lodged a protest to Russia regarding Russia’s seizure of the No. 172 Eiho Maru, stating that it was operating within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In response, last night Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs objected that the fishing boat was discovered within Russia’s EEZ.
Please tell us again about Japan’s recognition of this matter and the outlook for the release of the crew members.
Minister Motegi: It is Japan’s recognition that the fishing boat was operating within Japan’s EEZ, based on the explanations and analysis of the parties concerned.
Russia’s objection is unacceptable, and we are requesting Russia to immediately release the crew members and ship. MOFA will continue to exert all efforts to respond toward the swift resolution of this incident.
Provision of Vaccines to Taiwan
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to return to the subject of provision of vaccines to Taiwan. Please tell us if it is presumed that Japan will provide more vaccines if Taiwan requests additional vaccines in the future. Also, is Japan currently conducting specific consideration on providing vaccines to countries and regions besides Taiwan?
Minister Motegi: Basically, we will firstly secure the amount of vaccines necessary to vaccinate the people of Japan, and use the vaccines beyond that amount for international cooperation.
For example, the amount of vaccines beyond that amount will differ depending on the month. Prime Minister Suga stated that Japan will provide 30 million doses when circumstances allow and at an appropriate time. In this way, we will make determinations going forward based on various factors such as the amount of vaccines we can provide abroad in June and from July, the situations of infections in various countries, their vaccine needs, and their relations with Japan.
Intrusions by Chinese Coast Guard Vessels into Japan’s Territorial Waters Near the Senkaku Islands
Sankei Shimbun, Tamura: I would like to ask about the Senkaku Islands. It was confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels navigated within the contiguous zone near the Senkaku Islands today, marking a new record of 112 consecutive days of such navigation. What is your reaction to this? Also, the Government of Japan has expressed serious concerns about the movements of the Chinese Coast Guard during this time, and lodged protests about intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters. As there are absolutely no signs that China will change its approach, do you believe that your response up until now has been sufficient?
Minister Motegi: As of 8 a.m. today, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been confirmed in Japan’s contiguous zone for 112 consecutive days.
I believe it is extremely regrettable that Chinese Coast Guard vessels have continued to navigate within the contiguous zone near the Senkaku Islands and have repeatedly intruded into Japan’s territorial waters. We have repeatedly lodged severe protests regarding such activities by China through diplomatic channels, including during the Dialogue Between the Heads of the Delegations of High-level Consultations on Maritime Affairs held yesterday.
The international community has voiced concerns in various ways about China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force. During the recent G7 Foreign and Development Minister's Meeting, we agreed that we strongly oppose any unilateral attempts that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order.
We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of whether urging China on this issue as well as various other issues leads to specific actions. I believe that the nature of this situation is not one in which we say something today and China promptly changes tomorrow. Frankly speaking, right now it is quite difficult for me to be told to assess something at once. If the situation was that easy to change, then no one would have trouble. The entire international community is working on this.
Japan does not intend to change its stance of responding firmly but in a calm manner to resolutely defend our territorial land, sea, and airspace.
Developments in Israel and Palestine (Tweet by State Minister of Defense Nakayama)
Independent Web Journal, Chiura: During your press conference on May 28, you reported that during your telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, you urged the countries to ease tensions through a ceasefire and held exchanges of views regarding matters such as emergency support for the Gaza Strip.
Japan does not recognize Palestine as a state, but it has relations with the self-government body planning for recognition in future. Japan is urging that confidence building measures among the parties concerned be continued toward a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel regarding the Middle East Peace Process…
Minister Motegi: Two-state.
Independent Web Journal, Chiura: A two-state solution. On May 12, State Minister of Defense Nakayama tweeted on his private Twitter account “Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorists. Our hearts are with Israel.” The Ambassador of Israel to Japan and the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs read this and welcomed it. I would like to ask about this.
The tweet has now been deleted. However, State Minister of Defense Nakayama currently tweets notices related to his duties on his Twitter account. The tweets by State Minister of Defense Nakayama, who supports the recent attacks by Israel, cannot be said to be personal statements by a private individual, but rather could be interpreted in Japan and abroad as being statements of the Government of Japan’s position. A particular example related to the Israeli attacks is the targeting of the building where international news agencies such as the AP and Al Jazeera were located.
Facilitator: Please ask your question.
Independent Web Journal, Chiura: Yes. This is being criticized around the world. Does the Government of Japan think State Minister of Defense Nakayama’s tweets…
Minister Motegi: please ask your question.
Facilitator: Please ask your question.
Independent Web Journal, Chiura: Yes. What is MOFA’s viewpoint on whether Israel is acting justifiably?
Minister Motegi: This matter is regarding the personal Twitter account of State Minister of Defense Nakayama, and I would like to refrain from commenting.
Situation in Israel (Completion of the Formation of the Cabinet)
Pan Orient News, Azhari: There are some reports that Israeli elections are being held, and the opposition might establish a new government. What is Japan’s position on the new political development in Israel, and the Israeli occupation in general?
Minister Motegi: On June 2 local time, based on the general election results from March, Chairman Lapid of the Yesh Atid party issued a notification of the completion of the formation of the cabinet to the president and others, and that the credentials process is scheduled to take place in the Knesset going forward.
We will monitor this situation. I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan about the domestic affairs of other countries. We will continue to promote Japan-Israel relations.