Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 2:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Expectations for the New Minister for Foreign Affairs
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: There has been an informal decision made that Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa will be the next Minister for Foreign Affairs. What expectations do you have for him based on his past career and other aspects?
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I am fully aware that there are various rumors about who the next Minister for Foreign Affairs will be due to media reports and statements made by relevant parties. However, at this point in which the cabinet formation headquarters may or may not have been established yet, the appointment has not been made. Therefore, as a bureaucratic organization, I must refrain from speaking about matters concerning the Prime Minister’s appointments.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that no matter who is appointed and assumes the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs, we would like that person to guide us using his or her experience, personal connections, and extensive insight, as there are many issues faced by Japanese diplomacy in the current severe international environment. There is of course no change to our view that the linchpin of Japanese diplomacy is the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and that we will cooperate with partner countries that share our values and aim for a rules-based free and open international order. We believe that it is important for diplomacy to be continuous and consistent. We expect that the new Minister for Foreign Affairs will provide leadership in a robust manner based on such policy.
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I have another question. Foreign Minister Motegi served in his position for two years. Please tell us again MOFA’s view about him as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Press Secretary Yoshida: We believe that Foreign Minister Motegi provided leadership in guiding Japanese diplomacy, which faces numbers of issues, over two years and three administrations: the Abe administration, the Suga administration, and the Kishida administration although it was only for a short period of time. We at MOFA are extremely grateful for his two years of leadership on, for example, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific, as well as various issues amidst the novel coronavirus crisis since last year including the protection of Japanese nationals, promotion of international cooperation including for vaccines, holding telephone talks with various countries when it was difficult to conduct face-to-face diplomacy, and taking the lead to show Japan’s presence amidst the resumption of face-to-face diplomacy since the summer of 2020.
We believe that he will face even more difficult issues in his new post as Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party. He has already started his activities, and we expect that he will continue to provide leadership and contribution in various ways for Japan’s diplomacy and security.
No First Use (NFU) of Nuclear Weapons
Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: I would like to ask about NFU of nuclear weapons. There have been reports recently in several media outlets that U.S. allies including Japan have requested the Biden administration of the United States to stop the review of its NFU policy. Please confirm whether that is true. Could you also tell us again the Government of Japan’s position on NFU?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that various reports are out there. Japan is engaged in a close, extensive and deep exchanges of views regarding various matters including security and defense cooperation with the Government of the United States, our only ally.
In regard to the NFU that you asked about, since it is something that is directly related to national security, due to the nature of the matter I basically cannot answer in the midst of such exchanges regardless of the topic.
On top of that, generally speaking, if a policy of NFU of nuclear weapons is approved, I believe that it would not be meaningful unless all nuclear-weapon states adopt such policy at the same time in a verifiable manner.
On the other hand, under the current security environment in which there is no way to verify the intentions of the nuclear-weapon states concerned, there would be issues with relying on NFU and entrusting one country’s security, and as a general view, I believe it would be difficult to fully ensure national security.
In any event, I would like to refrain from answering your question on what exchanges have been made, or whether or not exchanges have been made at all, since it is something that is related to national security.
Situation in Nicaragua (Holding of the Presidential Election)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about the presidential election held recently in Nicaragua in Central America. Although the incumbent President Ortega was elected, the United States and the EU successively issued statements criticizing Mr. Ortega for his actions including the detainment of prominent rival candidates before the election. What is the Government of Japan’s view on this?
Press Secretary Yoshida: The election in Nicaragua in Central America was held on November 7 local time. At this point, the counting of the ballots has still not completely ended. However, at this point in which approximately 97-98% of the ballots have been counted, it seems that the election result is almost certain as incumbent President Ortega received 75.92% of the votes, far more than the 14.15% of votes received by the second place candidate Mr. Walter Espinoza.
Having served as President once and then leaving office, Mr. Ortega has recently served three successive terms as President. If he wins this election, this will be his fourth term.
On the other hand, as you pointed out, the presidential election in Nicaragua was held while many opposition party candidates were detained for political offenses. The Organization of American States (OAS) had called for the acceptance of an electoral observation mission to hold a transparent, free, and fair election, but the election was implemented without the mission being dispatched.
Amidst such situation, we recognize that doubts are being expressed about the presidential election in the international community. The Government of Japan would like to express concern over the strong doubts that exist amongst the international community.
We are urging Nicaragua to appropriately respond to the doubts that the international community already has. We have also made requests to the government. We will continue to respond in accordance with aforementioned position.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
YTN (ROK), Lee: There has still been no progress in the discussions between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and the ROK since the inauguration of the Kishida administration. When do you think this will resume?
As for my second question, some reports indicate that the Government of Japan has expressed its recognition that it is still premature to declare the end of the Korean War. Is the Government’s stance that it is hard to agree to the end of the war as long as there is no resolution of the issue of the abductions of Japanese people? Please answer these two questions.
Press Secretary Yoshida: You have just asked about our recognition of Japan-ROK relations. I would firstly like to speak about Japan’s recognition of Japan-ROK relations, which remains to be the same under the new Kishida administration as well. Firstly, the response to North Korea is an extremely urgent issue of regional security for Japan and the ROK. We believe that for a response, Japan-ROK cooperation and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation are essential. We have already held several meetings at the foreign minister level from these perspectives. The diplomatic authorities of Japan, the United States, and the ROK have almost regularly held the Three-Party Talks and Six-Party Talks on North Korea. Our recognition is that coordination among our diplomatic authorities is continuing.
Having that said, we recognize that Japan-ROK relations are in an extremely difficult situation with the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, the comfort women issue, and others. We believe that we cannot leave the current situation as it is.
After his inauguration, Prime Minister Kishida held a telephone talk with President Moon Jae-in and exchanged views regarding the current situation of Japan-ROK relations and initiatives between Japan and the ROK.
Although there are still unresolved issues that I have mentioned, they are basically matters that are related to promises made between countries, which we believe are the foundation of country-to-country relations. Therefore, from the perspective of restoring healthy Japan-ROK relations as both countries wish, Japan would like the ROK to precisely keep the promises that are the foundation of country-to-country relations, as I have just mentioned. Thus, we have been requesting the ROK to respond appropriately. There is no change to Japan’s recognition regarding this position, and the Kishida administration will basically take the approach based on such position as well.
On the other hand, we believe it is important and necessary to have communication between diplomatic authorities in order to address the issues that I have stated at the beginning and to restore healthy Japan-ROK relations. Our recognition is that we are currently continuing communication between diplomatic authorities, and there is no change to such view.
Regarding the declaration of the end of the Korean War which you asked about in your other question, we are aware of the various reports on the ROK and North Korea. The Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral talks on North Korea that I mentioned earlier were most recently held on October 19 in Washington D.C. We have been closely communicating from the standpoint that it is important to fully implement the United Nations Security Council resolutions to realize the complete denuclearization of North Korea for regional peace and stability.
During the exchange of views in the talks, in short, we have agreed that we would respond to the situation in North Korea together. We are holding frank exchanges of views to achieve that. Although it is not possible to disclose the details of our exchanges, we have been talking. We would like to continue to closely coordinate between Japan-U.S.-ROK.