Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, September 13, 2019, 1:49 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
TV Tokyo, Sakaida: I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. While answering a question at a lecture this week, Ambassador Kong Xuanyou of China mentioned that he had no objection over concluding a 5th political document following the Japan-China Joint Statement in 2008. Such a message is coming from the Chinese side, and I believe the voice is getting stronger calling for specific results from improved Japan-China relations. How will you work on Japan-China relations?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: With regard to Japan-China relations, we are currently coordinating President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan for next year, and frequent high-level mutual visits are being conducted, through which relations have returned to a completely normal track . Exchanges are advancing in not only in the fields of politics and diplomacy but also economics and many others, and I believe it is extremely important to further develop them.
Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula (Supreme Court Decision)
Kyodo News, Saito: This is your first regularly-scheduled press conference, and I would like to ask you your basic recognition of the judgement by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea (ROK) concerning former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula that started the frictions with the ROK. I have two questions. The first is that, at your press conference on September 11 after you assumed the position of Foreign Minister, you stated that the Supreme Court decisions breach international law and overthrow the basis of Japan-ROK relations. I would like to confirm whether this viewpoint is based on the idea that the plaintiffs’ individual claim rights have extinguished based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK?
Minister Motegi: Article II.1 of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems explicitly states that the problem concerning claims is settled completely and finally . Furthermore, Article II.3 states that it is not possible for either Contracting Party and its nationals to make any claims. Therefore, there is no judicial relief to any claims even if the individual claim rights have not extinguished. In addition, the Contracting Party cannot provide judicial relief. This is the legal provision.
Kyodo News, Saito: My second question is related to this. It is my understanding that the Supreme Court judged that it is difficult to regard Japan’s economic cooperation of $500 million based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems as having the character of compensation. At the same time, you have just mentioned that the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation for inhumane treatments is not subject to Article II. Is it correct to understand that your understanding follows the general one?
Minister Motegi: I know. I understand that well.
Kyodo News, Saito: Do you understand? So is it your position that since everything is covered by the economic cooperation, all matters are resolved? If that is what you mean, then what is the basis for it? Or is it not your position? I would like you to explain that point.
Minister Motegi: As you know, based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems, Japan extended $300 million in grants and $200 million in loans . At the same time, it has been confirmed in the Agreement that the problem concerning claims between either Japan or the ROK and their nationals have been settled completely and finally.
Therefore, the decisions by the Supreme Court of the ROK ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation clearly breach the Agreement.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations
Asahi Shimbun, Narazaki: I would like to ask a question about Japan-U.S. trade negotiations. You mentioned at a recent press conference that you would continue to be in charge of the negotiations, but does that mean you will continue to be in charge of your duties as the minister in charge? Can you please answer again including the reason for this?
Minister Motegi: I will be in charge as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
NHK, Takashima: I would like to return to Japan-ROK relations. On behalf of the Government of Japan or as Minister for Foreign Affairs, what specific responses will you request the ROK side to take, and what is your specific vision if you have one? Also, the United Nations General Assembly will convene soon, and while dialogues between the diplomatic authorities will be continued, can you please tell us if you plan to meet with Foreign Minister Kang and others?
Minister Motegi: As I stated earlier, there is no change to the stance that Japan will continue to strongly urge the ROK side to remedy its breach of international law as quickly as possible. Nothing has yet been decided with regards to a foreign ministers’ meeting with Minister Kang Kyung-wha, but I will continue to work on maintaining communication between the foreign ministers as well as diplomatic authorities of our two countries.
Issues of Vessels of Unknown Nationalities in Yamatotai and their Navigation Close to Patrol Vessels
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: With regard to the issue where North Korean official vessels threatened the control vessels of the Fisheries Agency, when did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issue a protest? Also, what is your reaction to the incident given that there have been past cases of illegal operations around the Yamatotai area?
Minister Motegi: I have not confirmed the specific time of protest, so I would like to answer after verification. Firstly, speaking about the facts of the matter, at around 9:30 a.m. on August 23, a Fisheries Agency-owned patrol vessel confirmed a vessel of unknown nationality in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the west of Yamatotai. The following day, at around 9 a.m. on August 24, a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel was approached by a vessel of unknown nationality equipped with a rifle-like weapon, while the patrol vessel was performing surveillance activities in the same zone. There was no damage to either the Fisheries Agency vessel or the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel. The Government of Japan shared information among the ministries and agencies concerned immediately after the incidents occurred. The Government regards there is a high probability based on the facts confirmed so far that the vessel in question was a North Korea-related vessel, and lodged a firm protest through the embassy route in Beijing. I will confirm when that was carried out.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Kyodo News, Fukuda: President Trump expressed his willingness to hold a U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. Could you please share your reaction as well as comments on its impacts on the Japan-North Korea dialogue?Minister Motegi: What is important is that the agreement reached between the two leaders, including North Korea’s commitment towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, is implemented fully and swiftly according to the Joint Statement between the U.S. and North Korean leaders of June 2018. The Government of Japan will continue to support the U.S.-North Korea process, and will work closely with the United States towards the resolving of the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues.
Appointment of Secretary General of National Security Secretariat
Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: I have a question regarding the appointment of the Secretary General of National Security Secretariat. Mr. Kitamura, former Director of Cabinet Intelligence , was appointed Secretary General effective today. Some people express concern that the appointment of Mr. Kitamura, who is originally from the National Police Agency, will weaken the influence of MOFA. What is your view on this, including the impact on foreign policy?
Minister Motegi: Diplomacy and security are inseparable, and their coordination is critical. The National Security Council and MOFA have coordinated closely to date, regardless of who was Secretary General. This remains unchanged.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations
Bloomberg News, Urabe: With regard to the Japan-U.S. trade negotiations aimed at signing an agreement by the end of this month, let me ask a question concerning the handling of automobile tariffs. In particular, regarding the postponement to November 13...
Minister Motegi: Sorry, could you please speak a little louder?
Bloomberg News, Urabe: Regarding the handling of automobile tariffs, yesterday, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Nishimura stated that he does not plan or expect consultations to continue after an agreement will be reached at the end of this month. What is your outlook as to whether this month’s agreement could also settle the issue of automobile tariffs?
Minister Motegi: Sorry, could you repeat once more? I would like to hear correctly. Can you restate your question once more precisely?
Bloomberg News, Urabe: Yes. Regarding the handling of automobile tariffs, yesterday, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Nishimura stated that he does not expect consultations to continue after the agreement is signed at the end of this month. While the consultations are not limited to automobiles, he stated that he does not expect consultations to continue. Can the issue of automobile tariffs be settled by then, or will consultations continue afterwards? Could you please share your outlook on this?
Minister Motegi: Are you referring to the issues of additional tariffs under Section 232 and export volume restrictions? Or are you referring to the issue concerning the current 2.5% automobile tariff?
Bloomberg News, Urabe: Could I ask about both?
Minister Motegi: We have reached a consensus with United States Trade Representative Lighthizer on the core elements. Starting with drafting the text of the agreement, we are in the process of creating a schedule of concessions that determines the tariff rate, agreeing on the rules of origin, and preparing side letters for the written confirmation necessary for the two countries to conclude the agreement.
As has been the case with previous economic partnership agreements, the content of the agreement, including its text, will be disclosed and explained carefully to the public once the agreement is reached. As we are in the midst of the negotiations, I would like to refrain from commenting on the contents of the negotiations.
Phoenix TV, Li: Returning to Japan-China relations, both Japan and China have been stating recently that they will develop bilateral relations suitable for a new era. What is your understanding of Japan-China relations of a new era?
Minister Motegi: Japan and China will be fulfilling significant responsibilities in the world in a variety of fields. Both countries, working shoulder to shoulder, will assume major responsibilities towards peace, stability, and development of the Asia-Pacific region and of the world as a whole. The two countries are in this position and will steadily fulfill such responsibilities. Against the backdrop of the complete normalization of Japan-China relations, the two countries will build a future-oriented new era of Japan and China as well as bilateral relations.
Phoenix TV, Li: Then how should Japan address the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, referred to as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, which remain unresolved between Japan and China?
Minister Motegi: There is no territorial issue over the Senkaku Islands.
Minister Motegi’s Response in English
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: At your last press conference following your appointment, you answered a question asked in English by the foreign press in Japanese.
Minister Motegi: Should I have answered in English?
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: No. I meant that your predecessor, Minister Kono, gave answers in English at his press conferences, and also made remarks in English at the beginning of official meetings that are open to the press. Some opined, meanwhile, that it is better to make remarks in Japanese. Could you please share your thoughts on this if any?
Minister Motegi: For instance, you first say “hello” when you speak with people from overseas even if both you and the person you are speaking with are not native English speakers, since this is a greeting. With regard to the opening remarks that follow, I would like to consider what would make it easy to understand for a variety of people, also taking into account the opinion you just mentioned.