Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Saturday, July 3, 2021, 2:01 p.m. Lithuania
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs:Following the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Italy, I have visited Estonia, Latvia, and lastly Lithuania. This year through next year marks the 100th anniversary of friendly relations between Japan and the three Baltic countries. I took this opportunity to make the first ever round of visits to these three countries as a Japanese Foreign Minister.
Following my visits to Central and Eastern European countries during Golden Week, I am carrying out strategic diplomacy that recognizes the geopolitical importance of the three Baltic countries. One major objective of this round of visits was to strengthen the three Baltic countries’ understanding and support for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP).
Based on the “EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” announced in April, the EU is currently advancing discussions to release in September a “Joint Communication” which will serve as a detailed version of the strategy. I believe that it was timely that I was able to explain Japan’s views and initiatives related to the Indo-Pacific at this timing and receive strong support respectively from the three Baltic countries.
In addition, during our discussions on regional affairs, we firmly shared serious concerns about unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force. I felt that the three Baltic countries, which place great importance on fundamental values, will play constructive roles in the EU as strong supporters of FOIP.
The three countries also have great expectations for Japan not only in security but also in other fields such as economy. For example, I agreed to strengthen cooperation in cyber and digital fields with Estonia, an advanced country in ICT, to strengthen cooperation in infrastructure field with Latvia, and to strengthen cooperation in life science and energy fields with Lithuania. Cross-regional infrastructure projects that contribute to deepening European integration are currently being promoted. I clarified Japan’s intention to firmly engage in the region, including Japanese companies` participation in these projects.
After this press conference, I will visit the Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall. I will again express my deep respect for Former Vice-Consul Chiune Sugihara, who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish people with strong conviction, and award the Foreign Minister’s Commendations to the “Sugihara ‘Diplomat for Life’ Fund,” which has maintained and operated the Memorial Hall.
Advancing “diplomacy with both tolerance and strength.” During my visits to the three Baltic countries, I felt the great expectations for Japanese diplomacy. Also, I believe it was a major achievement that I was able to strengthen cooperation with various countries toward maintaining and strengthening the rules-based free and open international order.
Reporter: As you have emphasized in your opening remarks, you were able to promote the FOIP concept with the three Baltic countries. What significance will this have for future Japanese diplomacy? In summarizing your visits to the three countries, what would you say were the achievements?
Minister Motegi: Firstly, FOIP is a concept advocated by Japan during TICAD VI in 2016. During the five years since then, the concept as well as cooperation which served as the basis of the concept have been promoted with the QUAD, ASEAN, and various European countries. In addition, I provided a detailed explanation of the FOIP concept during the EU Foreign Affairs Council in January 2021, which I was the first Japanese Foreign Minister to participate in. During the meeting, although there was not enough time for all 27 countries to speak, representatives of various regions gave statements. Among them, I thought it was very reassuring that the three Baltic countries clearly indicated strong support regarding FOIP even at that point of time in January. This time, I visited the three countries and were able to deepen discussions in detail. As we move forward, I believe it was very important that we were able to agree with three countries respectively as well as EU to advance specific cooperation.
Having visited the three Baltic countries for the first time, based on their histories up until now, I feel that the three countries truly uphold fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe it was a major achievement that we were able to confirm that we would further promote the rules-based free and open international order with these countries.
Reporter:When you discussed matters such as FOIP and infrastructure investment with the Foreign Ministers of the three Baltic countries, how did you see the change in three countries’ views towards China?
Minister Motegi:Firstly, if you look at Eurasian continent on a map, you will see that the geopolitical environment and positional relations of Japan and China is extremely similar to that of the three Baltic countries and Russia. Amidst this situation, frankly speaking, the unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, as well as the human rights situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, cannot be said as someone else’s problem for the three Baltic countries. The countries showed strong sympathy to Japan’s concerns regarding these issues.
As I have just stated, I have explained the current international affairs in the context of FOIP. I feel that the Joint Communication on the Indo-Pacific, which the EU will probably release in September as a more detailed version of the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific announced in April, will probably firmly reflect the concerns and response guidelines shared by Japan, the EU, and the three Baltic countries.