Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Wednesday, May 5, 2021, 5:57 p.m. United Kingdom
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting just finished. The G7 foreign ministers were able to have fruitful discussions, beginning with the working dinner two days ago on May 3, and joined by the foreign ministers of outreach countries since last evening.
The G7 foreign ministers held frank and candid discussions and reaffirmed the G7’s determination to unite and lead the international community. I was strongly reminded of the significance of cooperation among the G7 countries that share fundamental values and principles.
During yesterday’s session, we held an in-depth discussion on regional situations. The ministers raised various concerns regarding China and shared the view that the G7 will call on China to fulfill responsibilities commensurate with its economic size and role. The ministers also shared serious concerns over the situations in the East and South China Seas and shared the view on strongly objecting to unilateral actions that could increase tensions and undermine the rules-based order. The ministers also discussed other regional situations, including Myanmar, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Since last evening, the G7 was joined by the foreign ministers of Australia, India, the Republic of Korea (ROK), South Africa, and Brunei, which is the Chair of ASEAN. We discussed the Indo-Pacific, “open societies,” and issues facing the international community, including vaccines and health and climate change. I led the discussion on vaccines and health. I noted that, in order to overcome the novel coronavirus crisis, it is essential to realize equitable access to vaccines for countries around the world, including developing countries, under the concept of universal health coverage, to which the ministers expressed support. In addition, I announced that Japan will increase the maximum amount of its COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan from 500 billion yen to 700 billion yen. This loan scheme was created in April of last year to meet financial needs, including those of the medical and health sector.
We just adopted the joint communiqué. I believe that the G7 was able to unite and issue a strong message based on wide-ranging discussions among the foreign ministers.
This morning, a Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. It was a very timely meeting as the United States had just completed its review of North Korea policy. Secretary of State Blinken, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung, and I reaffirmed our commitment toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea and shared the view to urge North Korea to abide by its obligations under the United Nations Security Council resolutions. We then confirmed that Japan, the United States, and the ROK will work closely together in implementing the concrete measures of the North Korea policy based on the outcomes of the policy review. In addition, I once again obtained the support of both ministers for the abductions issue.
At the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that followed, we reaffirmed the importance of Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation for regional stability, including in dealing with North Korea. With regard to the judgement of the lawsuit filed by former comfort women and the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, I strongly urged anew to the ROK to take appropriate responses based on Japan’s principled positions. Furthermore, on ALPS treated water, I stated that Japan would continue its efforts, including providing necessary information, and expressed my concerns about the recent public communication by the Government of the ROK. We then shared the view on continuing communication through the diplomatic channels in order to restore sound Japan-ROK relations.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. According to the announcement released by the ROK after the meeting, the ROK emphasized that, whether it is the comfort women issue or the issue of former civilian workers, the issues of the past will not be resolved without Japan’s correct recognition of history. This was your first meeting with Minister Chung. Do you expect constructive discussions and dialogue with Minister Chung going forward? What is your impression?
Minister Motegi: This was my first meeting with Minister Chung. We were able to hold a candid exchange of views. We shared the view that we cannot leave Japan-ROK relations as they are. I strongly urged anew to the ROK to take appropriate measures regarding the judgement of the lawsuit filed by former comfort women and others based on Japan’s principled positions. With regard to the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, I renewed my call for the ROK to urgently provide a solution that is acceptable to Japan, insisting that the liquidation of the assets of the Japanese companies must be avoided at any cost. We intend to discuss with the ROK in various ways regarding its responses. In order to restore sound relations between Japan and the ROK, we will maintain communication between diplomatic authorities, continue to strongly urge the ROK to take appropriate responses based on Japan’s principled positions, and hope to have a candid exchange of views between the foreign ministers. Minister Chung also stated that it was very good that we were able to exchange views directly with each other today.
Reporter: I get the impression that the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting Communiqué includes many matters related to China, including the Taiwan Strait and human rights issues. First of all, what is your assessment of this? In addition, during your stay in the United Kingdom, you also held meetings individually with the G7 members as well as Australia, India, and other countries. I believe China was discussed at almost all of them. Please tell us once again the international community’s view of China, the reaction of your counterparts when you raised issues related to China, and if there were any differences from the past.
Minister Motegi: All G7 members share a great interest in China. This was also the case in my bilateral meetings. Yesterday morning, we held a 90-minute discussion at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting. Members made comments on various aspects of China, and through the discussion, we shared the view to urge China, as a major economy, to participate constructively in the rules-based international system. In addition, the G7 has strong concerns over the human rights situation in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the situation in Hong Kong, and we shared the view to urge China to respect basic human rights and freedom. I raised the issues of the East and South China Seas and the developments surrounding China’s Coast Guard Law, and stated that Japan has serious concerns about the continuation and intensification of China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo. At both the G7 meeting and my bilateral meetings, there was a basic consensus among the countries, and I obtained the support of my counterparts regarding Japan’s statements.
Reporter: At the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting earlier, you stated that Japan supports the United States’ continued goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The recent Japan-U.S. Joint Leaders’ Statement states that Japan and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the complete denuclearization of North Korea. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is wording that has been used by North Korea and the ROK, and the wording encompasses stopping the provision of the nuclear umbrella to the ROK and denuclearization of the U.S. Forces in Korea. Was the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula confirmed at the Japan-U.S. or Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting? Has there been a change in policy from using the previous wording of “North Korea”? Could you please confirm this point?
Minister Motegi: There is no change. Japan and the United States have a shared basic view, as do Japan, the United States, and the ROK.
Reporter: I have a question regarding Myanmar. The G7 foreign ministers issued two statements in February regarding Myanmar. In comparison, in Paragraph 24 of the Communiqué, if the military does not reverse its course…
Minister Motegi: Even if you tell me the sentence and paragraph, I do not have the Communiqué with me right now.
Reporter: I understand. It states that the G7 is ready to take further steps if the military does not reverse its course. Is it correct to interpret that the G7 took a step further by including this statement?
Minister Motegi: Please stop there for a moment. Regarding the developments in Myanmar, there was a coup d'état on February 1, and there have been many casualties since then. Not only Japan but other countries also expressed their strong condemnation of the situation.
On April 24, the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting was held, and the “Five-Point Consensus” was adopted. We intend to call for forward-looking developments. On the other hand, it is also true that the situation has not been resolved. The G7 issued a strong message in light of the current situation.
Reporter: As of yesterday, May 4, the United Kingdom announced that it requested the support of member countries for expanding the network of sanctions against individuals and organizations close to the military. I believe this was not included in the Communiqué. Could you please explain the reason?
Minister Motegi: At the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, of course various opinions are expressed. The respective G7 members share basic values and have a shared view on the future direction. However, there are differences in how strongly members feel about individual issues. It is in this context that the Communiqué is adopted, and please consider that the Communiqué issued is the consensus of the G7.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. An in-person foreign ministers’ meeting between Japan and the ROK had not been held for over a year. Could you please share with us the background behind its realization?
Minister Motegi: As for the background, the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting was being held in London. This year, the UK presidency invited India, Australia, the ROK, Brunei, and South Africa as guest countries from the perspective of prioritizing the Indo-Pacific. As a matter of course, I also held bilateral meetings with the respective G7 members. As the countries are present in London, it is a matter of course that Japan maintains communication with the respective countries in the limited time available.