Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, October 4, 2019, 10:37 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Situation in Hong Kong
TV Tokyo, Sakaida: I would like to ask about the situation in Hong Kong. An 18-year-old high school student was shot on October 1, and he was in a critical condition for a while. You stated at a recent press conference that you strongly expect that stability in Hong Kong will be maintained and the situation be settled through peaceful talks between those concerned. Would you seek for an even stronger self-restraint?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: With regard to the recent situation in Hong Kong, I am extremely concerned that a large number of injuries have resulted from clashes between the demonstrators and the police, including the incident you mentioned. Concerning this case, I would like to strongly request the people concerned to resolve the matter through self-restraint and peaceful talks, and I strongly hope that the situation will be quickly settled and that stability in Hong Kong will be maintained. At the recent Japan-China Summit Meeting as well, Prime Minister Abe underlined the importance of a free and open Hong Kong continuing to prosper under “one country, two systems.” I will continue to monitor the situation with high interest.
Japan-Russia Relations (Joint Economic Activities)
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. A sightseeing tour will begin next week as a pilot project of the joint economic activities, which will be realized following the series of discussions that started in 2016. If you have any expectations for progress in the peace negotiations going forward, can you please tell us?
Minister Motegi: Personally, I would like to review the pilot project starting in October as part of the joint economic activities. I would like to review the project a little more in detail. I believe that for Japan, such activities that further deepen exchanges between our two countries and foster a relationship of trust are in line with our basic policy of resolving the attribution issue and concluding a peace treaty.
U.S.-North Korea Consultations
NHK, Takashima: I would like to ask about the U.S.-North Korea consultations. Personnel has currently been dispatched…
Minister Motegi: I am sorry, I could not hear you.
NHK, Takashima: I would like to ask about the working-level consultations between the United States and North Korea. Do you consider dispatching personnel to gather information? How would you like to gather information on the future results?
Minister Motegi: Japan supports the U.S.-North Korea process toward realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and I am watching closely the upcoming U.S.-North Korea working level consultations. There has been close cooperation between Japan and the United States on this issue up until now, and we will firmly seek mutual understanding for the upcoming consultations.
Plan of the United States to Deploy New Intermediate-range Ballistic Missiles in Okinawa
Independent Web Journal, Hirai: There were reports yesterday that the United States has a plan to deploy new intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Okinawa. I believe that if they are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, this would be a substantial change to equipment that could violate Japan’s three non-nuclear principles and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. What is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ recognition of facts?
Also, if it is true, I believe it would be a part of the U.S.’s new strategy facing China and Russia, so what are your thoughts on this?
Minister Motegi: What you stated is not true.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Consultations
China Youth Daily, Zhang: With regard to the progress in the RCEP consultations, it seems that the culmination of results is difficult to be seen at present, so what are the reasons behind that? Also, how will Japan exhibit leadership and advance the negotiations within this year?
Secondly, given a number of issues related to Brexit, there are reports that the United Kingdom is willing to participate in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). What is Japan’s basic position or policy regarding expanding the CPTPP in the future? Please answer those two questions if you do not mind.
Minister Motegi: It is my understanding that toward concluding the RCEP within the year, negotiations are currently being vigorously conducted regarding the text on market access concerning trade of goods, trade of services and investment, as well as on all other fields. Japan, including Prime Minister Abe himself, is leading the RCEP negotiations and is calling on related countries to cooperate. While leveraging our experience in concluding the TPP11 Agreement as well as the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Japan will continue to take the initiative in aiming to conclude a high-quality agreement within this year.
As you know, 16 countries will participate in the RCEP. Although there are various issues, even in comparison with the TPP11, related to the differences in the degree of development, market openness and domestic systems, I believe we are now seeing certain progress.
At the recent Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held at the margin of the United Nations General Assembly, I stated that it is extremely important for each country including India to exercise flexibility regarding the RCEP.
Also, amidst the rise of protectionism worldwide, the TPP11 will establish new rules for the 21st century that are free and fair, and create one massive economic sphere with a population of 500 million people and a GDP of 10 trillion yen. It is the common thought and understanding of the countries participating in the TPP that these 21st century-style common new rules with a high standard and that is well-balanced should be expanded worldwide. Japan welcomes participation in the TPP11 by all countries and regions that have the intention and motivation for fulfilling the high standard established by the TPP, and the same applies for the United Kingdom.
Situation in the Middle East
PanOrient News, Azhari: I am asking about the situation in Iran and the Gulf region. I understand from the statements made by the Prime Minister and yourself that Japan now considers that attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities might not only have been done by the Houthis, an opposition group in Yemen, but also by somebody else, and this might change the position of Japan on the issue. Would you please elaborate more on that, and how do you see the current situation in the Middle East, regarding the tensions that Japan is trying to ease between Iran, the United States and Saudi Arabia?
Minister Motegi: Taking into account the capabilities of the Houthis, I believe it is difficult to consider that this attack could have been carried out by them. We are gathering information and conducting analyses to evaluate this case. I believe that this particular attack would not alter Japan’s stance for working toward stabilizing the situation and easing tensions in the Middle East.
Following the incident this time as well, stabilization of the situation in the Middle East is important from the perspective of a stable oil supply. In addition, Japan is allied with the United States, and also has had friendly relations with the Middle East region for a long time. Considering this unique position of Japan, I would like to continue taking the response that only Japan is capable of and making diplomatic efforts.
North Korea's Ballistic Missiles
Asahi Shimbun, Oota: With regard to North Korea’s ballistic missile, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are calling for consultations in the UN Security Council. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Motegi: The launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea on October 2 violated related UN Security Council resolutions. It was first and foremost extremely regrettable, and we strongly condemned it lodging a severe protest.
Since immediately after the launch of the missile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed close cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and has exerted all efforts for gathering and analyzing information. Furthermore, we are responding in close cooperation with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, which are members of the UN Security Council. Such is the situation, and toward the denuclearization of North Korea and the Korean Peninsula, Japan would like to maintain close Japan-U.S. cooperation and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, as well as cooperation with the international community including China and Russia.
The United States’ New Ground-Launched Intermediate-Range Missiles
Independent Web Journal, Yamauchi: In relation to the earlier discussion on intermediate-range ballistic missiles, according to the coverage by the Ryukyu Shimpo, Russian Presidential Executive Office officials was told this by U.S. government officials. If there will ever be such consultations with the Government of Japan going forward, I believe the Government has a duty to widely notify this to the citizens of Japan. What are your thoughts?
Minister Motegi: The new ground-launched intermediate-range missiles developed by the United States do not presuppose the loading of nuclear warheads, but rather are assumed to be equipped with regular warheads. I believe this has already been announced.