Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 11:07 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Firstly, I would like to make one remark. As I mentioned at the press conference last night, I held a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone talk for about 20 minutes. The discussion progressed quite smoothly, and we had a substantial exchange of views on strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, North Korea issues, and the situation in the Middle East. We also agreed to hold a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting when the United Nations General Assembly convenes next week.
Attacks on Saudi Crude Oil Facilities
Kyodo News, Niwa: I would like to ask about the attacks on Saudi crude oil facilities. President Trump of the United States stated that Iran is behind the attacks and suggested Iran’s involvement. Does the analyses conducted by Japan also suspect involvement of Iran?
Minister Motegi: Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the peace and stability of the entire international community. In addition, stable supply of oil from the Middle East region, including Saudi Arabia, is essential for the stability and prosperity of the global economy, including Japan. As stated in the foreign minister’s statement that was issued the day before yesterday, on September 15, the Government of Japan strongly denounced such terror attacks. During the Japan-U.S. foreign ministers’ telephone talk yesterday, Secretary of State Pompeo stated that he appreciated the statement.
We will continue to make diplomatic efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East. For Yemen as well, we will support peace initiatives by the entities concerned including Saudi Arabia, as well as mediation efforts by the United Nations.
With regard to the facts of the attacks as you asked, we are currently gathering and analyzing various information, while cooperating with countries concerned including the United States.
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: I would like to ask a question related to this question. The statement issued on September 15 was titled, “The Terror Attacks by the Houthis on Saudi Crude Oil Facilities in Eastern Province.” Was it titled this way because the Government of Japan definitely concluded that the attacks were made by the Houthis of Yemen? Or was this title used while the facts were still unclear?
Minister Motegi: It was the latter. Rather than the facts being unclear, the statement was issued based on the fact that there were attacks, as well as the fact that there was an announcement made by Yemen. What is important, I believe, is the content of the statement, as it included a strong denunciation of terrorism.
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: Although the statement’s content was as you described, I believe such a conclusive phrase was probably inappropriate to use for a title. What about that?
Minister Motegi: We will be careful about that.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations (Movements towards the Signing of an Agreement)
TV Tokyo, Sakaida: The White House sent a notice to Congress of its intention to sign a Japan-U.S. trade agreement. What is your reaction to this as the minister in charge, as well as your outlook going forward?
Minister Motegi: On September 16, U.S. time, President Trump sent a notice to the U.S. Congress of his intention to sign a Japan-U.S. trade agreement as well as a Japan-U.S. digital trade agreement. My understanding regarding the internal process of the Government of the United States is that this notice to Congress was carried out according to the preferential trade agreement from 2015, which is to be revised this time.
Maritime Security Initiative
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to return to the question related to Iran and the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities. In relation to the maritime security initiative being called for by the United States, what effect do you think this situation will have on the decision-making of the Government of Japan and on discussions over responses to be taken? Please answer while referring to the current status of considerations.
Minister Motegi: During my talk with Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday, I stated that Japan fully understands the current position of the United States as well as its initiative, that the peace and stability of the Middle East is extremely important to Japan, that Japan would like to make a comprehensive decision on what it can do, and that we should discuss in any case in New York.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations (Additional Tariffs on Automobiles)
Reuters, Takenaka: With regards to Japan-U.S. trade negotiations, President Trump sent a letter to Congress, but how is the current status of additional tariffs on Japanese automobiles? Can you please include in your answer if such tariffs will not be adopted according to the agreement being negotiated?
Minister Motegi: With regard to additional tariffs on automobiles from Section 232 (of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962), in paragraph 7 at the end of the Joint Statement of the United States and Japan from the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting on September 26, 2018, it is stated that Japan and the United States will conduct negotiations based on mutual trust and refrain from taking measures against such spirit. That is clearly stated in paragraph 7.
At the Summit Meeting on September 26 which I also attended, Prime Minister Abe directly confirmed with President Trump that the gist of that paragraph is that no additional duty will be levied on Japanese automobiles pursuant to Section 232.
I would like to confirm again in a similar way about the issue of Section 232 in the final stage of the Japan-U.S. trade agreement.
Reuters, Takenaka: Is it correct to understand that no-levying of additional duties is currently under negotiation?
Minister Motegi: That was what was expressed on September 26, 2018. However, with regard to the negotiations, those for trade of goods and digital trade will come to a conclusion this time, if not all of them. Thus, in the final stage it will be reconfirmed that additional duty in pursuant to Section 232 will not be levied. I do not know in which paragraph it will be stipulated, and I am not formulating it. We are writing a text carrying a similar gist.
Reuters, Takenaka: Is it correct to understand that it was agreed that the tariffs will not be levied?
Minister Motegi: Things will be as I stated earlier. Please look at paragraph 7 in the Joint Statement last year.
Speech by a Representative of the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference
Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. At the IAEA General Conference held yesterday in Austria, the Government of the ROK raised the issue of releasing contaminated water from Fukushima into the ocean. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Motegi: In the afternoon of September 16, Vienna time, at the IAEA General Conference, the representative of the ROK gave a speech criticizing efforts related to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant made by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). In reaction to this, Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna Hikihara made an objection by appropriately exercising its right to reply and conveyed points such as that the future handling of ALPS-treated water is currently being considered and that the IAEA report positively evaluates Japan’s efforts. Through opportunities such as the IAEA General Conference, Japan will again request that the ROK make statements based on facts and scientific basis. In addition, we plan to carefully provide transparent explanations to the international community.
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk (Japan-ROK Relations)
Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: In relation to your telephone talk yesterday with Secretary of State Pompeo, regarding Japan-ROK relations, the announcement made by the U.S. side states that Secretary of State Pompeo emphasized the necessity of constructive dialogue between Japan and the ROK. Can you please tell us if Secretary of State Pompeo encouraged such dialogue, and whether if you are considering to hold a meeting with Foreign Minister Kang of the ROK during the United Nations General Assembly?
Minister Motegi: During the telephone talk, I showed my recognition that it is a serious issue that information-sharing related to security has been undermined, or is no longer being conducted smoothly, when Japan-U.S. cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and the North Korea issue cannot be more important than now. Secretary of State Pompeo said that he completely agreed. How should I put, it is my understanding that the announcement by the U.S. Department of State that you mentioned was also based on that shared recognition between myself and Secretary of State Pompeo.
Visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis
Chugoku Shimbun, Kono: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced recently that Pope Francis will visit Japan. He will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and send a message of peace. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Motegi: His Holiness Pope Francis will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima from November 23 to 26. I hope that this visit to Japan by the Pope will be an opportunity to further strengthen bilateral relations between Japan and the Vatican. It is my understanding that the detailed schedule for the visit is being coordinated with the Vatican. I believe that the visit by the Pope, who seeks international peace, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were affected by atomic bombs, is very important, also for accurately conveying the reality of atomic bombs to the international community.
Minister Motegi’s Thoughts toward Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
Chugoku Shimbun, Kono: In relation to this, I would like to change the subject to ask for your thoughts on the elimination of nuclear weapons. There are also voices calling for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. How will you work on the elimination of nuclear weapons?
Minister Motegi: As you know, Japan is the only country to have suffered from atomic bombing. As such, I believe Japan has a duty to lead efforts by the international community toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons. Firstly, this is Japan’s firm policy. On the other hand, in the international community, different positions among countries can be observed concerning the approach to nuclear disarmament. Amidst this, in order to advance nuclear disarmament, I believe it is important to persistently continue making efforts to pursue specific methods that can serve as a shared foundation for common efforts by all countries for transparency or nuclear disarmament verification.
Based on this viewpoint, the Government of Japan will actively contribute to international discussions toward advancing nuclear disarmament such as rebuilding relationships of trust between countries and encouraging mutual participation and dialogue, while utilizing the results of discussions in the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament. In particular, the NPT Review Conference , which is held once every five years, will be held next year. The Government of Japan will continue to make proposals through initiatives such as the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in order for the discussions to achieve meaningful results.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations
TV Asahi, Oishi: I would like to ask a question with regard to Japan-U.S. trade negotiations. The trade agreement will be signed at the end of this month and it is truly to enter the final stage. I would like to ask again for your thoughts on what kind of an agreement you are aiming at as the minister in charge.
Minister Motegi: To put it in one word, I am aiming for a win-win agreement for both Japan and the United States to come into effect soon.
North Korea Situation (Abductions Issue, Relations with North Korea)
NHK, Takashima: Today marks the 17th year from the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. How will you work on the abductions issue and relations with North Korea?
Minister Motegi: Japan will continue to address this issue based on its basic policy of comprehensively resolving issues of concern regarding North Korea including the nuclear issue, all types of ballistic missiles, and most importantly for Japan, the abductions issue, with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration at the basis. The U.S.-North Korea process is currently going forward. Japan will work on this issue while supporting the Japan-North Korea process and also firmly cooperating with the United States, the ROK, and other countries concerned. Amidst this, the abductions issue concerns Japan itself, and Prime Minister Abe has stated that he would meet with Chairman Kim without preconditions. We will work on this without missing any opportunities.
Situation in the Middle East
PanOrient News, Azhari: Did you discuss with your American counterpart the prospect of launching a war against Iran? According to a statement reportedly made by President Trump, he said the United States is ready to attack, and the United States accused Iran almost officially of being behind the Aramco attacks. Meanwhile, Japan is taking the approach of diplomacy. How would this work in case the situation develops into a war?
Minister Motegi: Firstly, we exchanged views toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East during the telephone talk yesterday. Secretary of State Pompeo also shares information with us. That said, the Government of Saudi Arabia is working on the restoration of facilities, and it has been announced by the International Energy Agency that there is sufficient supply for the market from abundant business-use reserves at this point. I believe the basic position of the United States is that it hopes to resolve this issue through diplomatic efforts going forward. Amidst this, we will closely monitor how the situation will progress. In addition, Japan will firmly cooperate with the United States and other countries concerned.
Japan-U.S. Trade Negotiations
Yomiuri Shimbun, Terashima: I would like to return to the Japan-U.S. trade agreement. The letter sent by President Trump to Congress shows his intention of conducting further negotiations toward a conclusion of a comprehensive Japan-U.S. trade agreement. What is your current recognition of this statement? Also, if the negotiations are to be conducted, is it correct to understand that it will be held in a framework of you and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer? Please tell us your thoughts.
Minister Motegi: Firstly, I believe the notice to Congress was in accordance with the Joint Statement from September 26, 2018. There will be negotiations on fields in which outcomes can be expected to be seen soon, and discussions will take place on other fields once those negotiations are over. It is my understanding that exactly that point was conveyed in the notice.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Terashima: Is it correct to understand it had been stipulated in Article 4 of the Joint Statement?
Minister Motegi: Yes, it is fine for you to understand that it was stipulated in Article 4.