Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, May 19, 2021, 3:01 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (Participation by the Republic of Korea (ROK))
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: It seems that prior to the U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting this week, there has been an assertion in the ROK asking about participating in some form in the Quad, such as in the working groups. Please tell us the Government of Japan’s position on the appropriateness of the ROK participating in the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India framework.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: It is my understanding that the U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting will be held in Washington D.C. tomorrow, I believe. Although I do not know the connection, I know that several reports have come out on the possibility of the ROK cooperating with Japan, the United States, Australia, and India.
On the other hand, the reality is that there have been no discussions among Japan, the United States, Australia, and India of expanding the Quad beyond the four participating countries. The true meaning behind the reports is not certain, but we have not received an approach from the Government of the ROK in the way you mentioned.
Japan, the United States, Australia, and India are conducting various initiatives aimed at a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” I believe you know the long history of this. Some of the initiatives are only participated in by three out of the four countries, such as Japan-U.S.-Australia initiatives and Japan-U.S.-India initiatives, and initiatives that Japan is not a part of.
Firstly, as we broaden practical cooperation by accumulating discussions and cooperation, we will expand cooperation with countries outside the Quad that share our way of thinking.
Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games (Statement by the U.S. Speaker of the House)
NHK, Watanabe: U.S. Speaker of the House Pelosi has called for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games due to the issue of the human rights of the Uighurs. She is calling for the Beijing Olympics to be boycotted immediately because of displeasure with what China is doing. Leaving aside the issue of Uighurs, what is the Government of Japan’s view on a diplomatic statement using the Olympics for such purposes? Also, I believe there are various stances on the issue of the Uighurs. How does Japan assess such statements?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I have heard that there are reports on the statement by Speaker Pelosi that you mentioned.
Firstly, generally speaking, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) which organize the Games decide the International Dignitary Programme for the foreign dignitaries and country leaders that participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The system is that the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) of respective countries and regions apply to the IOC and IPC and then the IOC and IPC provide authorization.
Based on this recognition, it should be presumed that the matter of country leaders participating or not participating in the Games is different from country governments deciding on their own whether or not to have their dignitaries participate and go to regular international conferences or events.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that I understand that the Government of Japan and Japan’s NOC have not made any decisions in particular on how to respond to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are held with the ideal and motto of being an event for world peace. Thus, the Government of Japan’s basic view is that we expect the forthcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games to also be held based on that principle.
Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (Possibility of Expansion of the Quad)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: Thank you for your answer earlier about the Quad. My question was about the ROK. I know that an approach has not been received from the ROK and discussions have not actually been held among the Quad about expanding the participating countries. However, for example, could the Quad framework as a system allow increasing the members from the current four countries or allow participation by non-member countries in the three working groups that have been newly created?
Press Secretary Yoshida: The Quad has been built up at the working level several times, at the foreign minister level over the past several years, and now at the summit level for the first time. Amidst this, the working groups you mentioned were established through the most recent meeting. It is presumed that the working groups will hold discussions on matters such as the ideal cooperation among the four member countries, role-sharing, and what the aims should be, from experts’ points of view.
Amidst this, I understand that discussions are not being held now on calling on countries beyond the four Quad countries or on what to do if another country has interest in participating in the Quad. The Quad does not have any treaty or protocol. It is basically grounded in the concept I stated earlier. It is fine to understand that firstly the work of the recently established working groups will be diligently accelerated at present.
Water Treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (Approach from the ROK about Consultations)
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. The ROK would like to create something like a consultative body to conduct coordination with Japan on the issue of the treated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Please tell us whether the ROK has formally approached the Government of Japan about establishing such a consultative body. What is the current status of coordination for this?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I am aware that there have been reports about some sort of consultative body between Japan and the ROK regarding the ALPS treated water that you asked about. However, at the present point I cannot explain anything to you, including whether the ROK specifically made such a request.
On the other hand, we have taken various opportunities thus far to provide explanations to the Government of the ROK, including the opportunities to provide explanations to their diplomatic corps in which other countries were present as well. Also beyond that, we have been working considerably diligently to provide necessary information and transparent explanations to the ROK due to their interest in this matter.
Accordingly, there is no change to our intention to continue such efforts based on the ROK’s interest.
Additionally, I believe that whether such a consultative structure is really necessary is a matter that should be considered based on such communication.
Intrusion by Chinese Coast Guard Vessels into Japan’s Territorial Waters Near the Senkaku Islands
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about the ideal form of information dissemination by the Government of Japan regarding the Senkaku Islands. Although the Chief Cabinet Secretary or Minister for Foreign Affairs comment when Chinese Coast Guard vessels intrude into Japan’s territorial waters, they almost always make a statement with wording such as, “We have lodged a severe protest through diplomatic channels that the Chinese Coast Guard vessels’ activities are a breach of international law, and are truly regrettably and absolutely unacceptable.” I understand that this is the official viewpoint, but I would like to ask why the same phrase is always repeated. There is an argument that this stance of repeating the same phrase despite the repeated intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters makes it difficult to convey the Government’s sense of crisis domestically and abroad. What is your recognition of this point?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to Japan’s responses to intrusions by Chinese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands which you asked about, we firstly make announcements and take other actions from the perspective of making the cases known within Japan. Also in regard to your question, when there is a question at a press conference or other occasion about how the Government of Japan will respond, the Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Foreign Affairs clarify the content of the response in the process of explaining the facts of the matter.
We must of course respond resolutely to intrusions near the Senkaku Islands, an inherent territory of Japan, including the fact that this is a breach of international law. Additionally, the Japan Coast Guard risks its safety to respond at the scene of the intrusions by determinedly requesting the vessels to leave the area. We repeatedly provide clear and concise explanations during question and answer sessions at press conferences and other occasions about such efforts, our protests, and Japan’s position. There is no change whatsoever to our basic position, and we use the phrases you described to make that clear. We use the most appropriate method to respond to each case based on the conditions at that time, and we use phrases and objections in our protests to China that are appropriate at that time.
If there are concerns that this could cause some sort of misunderstanding in the international community, then we must sincerely take that into account and pay more attention to our external communications. However, through now we have been using various means to communicate Japan’s position on our sovereignty and claim to the Senkaku Islands in these specific cases as well as other times and occasions. We also make efforts to provide explanations using specific examples directly to other governments on an individual basis and people in appropriate positions of various countries. We will likely further strengthen such efforts while continuously reviewing the situation going forward.