Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Saturday, February 15, 2020, 2:05 p.m. Munich, Germany
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, at the Munich Security Conference, I just attended a panel discussion under the theme of “Keeping it Pacific: Managing Security Relations in Asia ” with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar of India, Minister for Defence Reynolds of Australia , and Senator Menendez of the United States . At this panel, I spoke about the importance of promoting the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) initiative, in particular, the importance of improving the three connectivity, namely: improving physical connectivity through quality infrastructure development; improving people-to-people connectivity through education and other means; and improving institutional connectivity through economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and the like. We held an extensive discussion toward the realization of FOIP.
This Munich conference is attended by leaders and foreign ministers from various countries. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I held four meetings this morning. First, at the Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we exchanged views on the recent situation regarding North Korea, deepened discussions on our future responses, and shared the view on continuing to coordinate among the three countries. We also exchanged views regarding the novel coronavirus infection, of which outbreak has expanded in China and spread geographically, as well as the recent international and regional situations, including the situation in the Middle East. Regarding the novel coronavirus infection, we shared the view on supporting China’s efforts toward preventing the spread of infection and on providing support as the international community as well.
At the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that followed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha and I shared the view on the importance of an early resolution of the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, which is currently the largest issue between Japan and the ROK. With respect to the response to the novel coronavirus, we shared the view on sharing information and coordinating closely between the two countries. As there have been some erroneous reporting and statements in the ROK regarding the issue of the novel coronavirus and ALPS-treated water, I requested the dissemination of accurate information based on scientific evidence. Minister Kang and I also shared the view on continuing to maintain communication between diplomatic authorities toward the resolution of concerned issues, and on promoting people-to-people exchanges.
I then held a Japan-Iran Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Minister of Foreign Affairs Zarif and I exchanged views toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East. I called upon Iran to take a restrained response, expressing my concern over the heightened tensions in the region. We shared the view on continuing to coordinate closely between Japan and Iran. I once again explained Japan’s three policy pillars for ensuring the safety of ships related to Japan, which are: diplomatic efforts; measures for ensuring safety of navigation; and dispatching the Self-Defense Forces as Japan’s own effort to strengthen its information gathering posture . We confirmed that there was no change in Iran’s position that was expressed when President Rouhani visited Japan last December.
Furthermore, I held informal talks with Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States for a short time after the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In regard to the novel coronavirus, Secretary Pompeo applauded the response Japan has taken related to the Diamond Princess, and appreciated Japan’s cooperation with the disembarkation of U.S. passengers and repatriation operation. In addition, based on the strong Japan-U.S. Alliance, Secretary Pompeo and I reaffirmed the importance of continued close coordination between Japan and the United States on issues the international community faces, such as the issue of North Korea, including at the G7 to be held in the United States this year.
This afternoon, I am scheduled to hold a Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with State Councilor Wang Yi and a Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov. That is all from me.
Reporter: I have a question regarding today’s Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. You stated that views were exchanged on the situation regarding North Korea. A Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held last month and again today, amidst lack of major developments since Chairman Kim Jong-Un’s remarks at the end of last year. What do you consider to be the significance of holding repeated consultations?
Minister MOTEGI: Although there seems to be a lack of major development on the surface, I believe that this does not necessary match what the actual situation of North Korea is. Japan-U.S.-ROK coordination is critical in relation to the situation regarding North Korea, and it is extremely significant to share the latest information and exchange views frequently on a variety of levels, including the foreign minister level. I intend to continue to find opportunities to exchange views at the foreign minister level for achieving complete denuclearization of North Korea, which is a challenge shared by Japan, the United States, and the ROK.
Reporter: Regarding your talks with Secretary Pompeo, you mentioned earlier that Secretary Pompeo applauded Japan’s response related to the Diamond Princess. What was your response to Secretary Pompeo?
Minister MOTEGI: I briefly explained Japan’s overall efforts. Various countries will be arranging chartered flights according to their respective wishes. I stated that Japan will cooperate if there are countries that wish to repatriate their citizens. We are in fact in the process of finalizing the details of the disembarkation and repatriation operation with the United States, and therefore, Secretary Pompeo expressed appreciation for Japan’s cooperation with the operation.
Reporter: You stated that Japan intends to cooperate with chartered flights according to the wishes of each country. Specifically, is it correct to understand that Japan has received a number of requests from other countries besides the United States for dispatching chartered flights?
Minister MOTEGI: No, we have not received any formal requests. I understand that another briefing session was held today. I believe that the respective countries will be reviewing this matter. First, with regard to the Diamond Princess, passengers who take PCR tests and get a negative result will begin to disembark from as early as February 19 under certain conditions. On the other hand, as for countries and regions that wish to disembark their citizens instead of waiting until February 19, Japan is ready to cooperate with them if they can arrange chartered flights and repatriate their citizens on their own. The U.S. operation will be conducted in this context.
Reporter: In relation to the previous question, it is criticized that infection spread inside the Diamond Princess, and the United States and other countries are arranging chartered flights because they cannot wait any longer. I believe this factored into their decision. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister MOTEGI: The United States explained that that is not the case. It stated that it has decided to dispatch chartered flights from the perspectives of fulfilling the U.S. Government’s responsibility to its citizens, and reducing the Government of Japan’s medical response load. I have also just been explained that the U.S. Government appreciates the Japanese Government’s responses so far. The Government of Japan intends to respond to both the people aboard the Diamond Princess and the people wishing to disembark as much as possible.