Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Thursday, September 26, 2019, 6:48 p.m. New York City, United States
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: During this visit to New York, I held meetings with foreign ministers of ten countries and participated in seven multilateral meetings. In addition, I attended four summit meetings, including the Japan-U.S. summit meeting.
First, with regard to Japan-U.S. trade, as I stated in my press conference yesterday, following the agreement reached at the meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer on the 23rd, I attended the Japan-U.S. summit meeting on the 25th along with the signing ceremony for the Japan-U.S. Joint Statement.
On September 26 of last year, exactly one year ago on the margins of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly session, it was decided in the joint statement of the two leaders that Japan and the United States will enter into negotiations. Exactly one year later, the leaders confirmed having reached the final agreement. We consider that the achievements are win-win for both Japan and the United States.
Today, I held a meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo. With yesterday’s summit meeting in mind, we held in-depth discussions regarding strengthening of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and regional situations that are aggravated, including the situation in Iran.
With Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov, we discussed the way forward for the negotiations on the peace treaty, and agreed to deepen Japan-Russia relations in a variety of areas. We also agreed to hold meetings frequently, beginning with Minister Lavrov’s visit to Japan for the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya. In addition, as I received his invitation, I hope to visit Moscow by the end of the year, if circumstances permit.
At my meeting with Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, that has just been held, we confirmed in a warm atmosphere that, in view of President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan next spring, the two countries will further deepen exchanges and cooperation in a number of areas to elevate Japan-China relations to a new stage and carve out a new era of Japan-China relations, while actively pursuing high-level reciprocal visits and dealing appropriately with matters of concern.
Today, I also held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea (ROK). We shared the importance of building future-oriented Japan-ROK relations, and stated each other’s position regarding the issues at hand. Furthermore, we confirmed Japan-ROK coordination on North Korea issues and other matters, and agreed to maintain communication through diplomatic channels, including at the foreign minister level.
In addition, I held foreign ministers’ meetings with France, Australia, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. I also attended the summit meetings with Iran and Jordan as well as the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and UN Secretary-General Guterres.
As for multilateral meetings, I attended the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Ministerial Meeting, the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the G4 countries on UN Security Council reform, the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Governance Group (3G) as an outreach of G20, the Meeting of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development, the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the Ministerial Meeting on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). I demonstrated Japan’s leadership and expressed Japan’s position regarding a variety of issues that the international community is facing.
Furthermore, I had an opportunity to talk with and give encouragement to Japanese staff who play active roles in the UN.
Fruitful achievements were obtained at my meetings during the High-level Week of the UN General Assembly. I was also able to exchange candid views with the foreign ministers of various countries. I will continue to make steady efforts for resolving a variety of issues facing the international community.
Reporter: A Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held today. You were appointed Foreign Minister during a difficult time when Japan-ROK relations are deteriorating. Under such circumstances, what did the two of you discuss today? In particular, has anything been decided between Japan and the ROK?
Minister Motegi: Today, we discussed the four items I just mentioned. We shared the importance of building future-oriented Japan-ROK relations, restated each other’s position regarding the issues at hand between Japan and the ROK, confirmed the importance of Japan-ROK coordination on North Korea issues and other matters, and in order to resolve such issues, we confirmed that we will fully maintain communication through diplomatic channels, including at the foreign minister level.
Reporter: Could you please elaborate a little more on what are the issues at hand?
Minister Motegi: They are the issues you have been informed of. There is a situation where the decisions by the Supreme Court of the ROK overthrow the basis for the friendly bilateral relationship which has been developed since 1960 based on the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan, and the ROK and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation. We would like the ROK to swiftly remedy its breach of international law, and I think the largest issue is the question of how to go about this.
Reporter: Could you briefly share with us what the atmosphere of the meeting was like?
Minister Motegi: The meeting was held smoothly.
Reporter: You are fluent in English. At your meetings with people from English-speaking countries, which I believe you had many, did you speak in English or through an interpreter?
Minister Motegi: In principle, in these cases, I often spoke through interpreters since I can also gain time to think. However, in order to save time or depending on other circumstances, I spoke without an interpreter.
Reporter: At your press conference in Japan, you expressed your intention to create “memorable diplomacy.” This was your first diplomatic activity. Were you able to move a step closer to this “memorable diplomacy”?
Minister Motegi: It is quite difficult to become memorable in one day, so I will keep working hard.
Reporter: I would like to ask a question regarding relations with the ROK. I believe you had a lengthy one-on-one dialogue with Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Were you able to make any breakthrough different from the ones before?
Minister Motegi: Today was our first meeting, and the contents were as I stated earlier.
Reporter: You said that the two countries will coordinate closely. Do you have plans to hold a meeting again, have you arranged anything concrete?
Minister Motegi: By coordinating closely, I mean that the two countries will coordinate closely on North Korea issues and other matters, and that the two countries will continue to maintain communication at the foreign minister level and through diplomatic channels.
Reporter: As a follow-up, in addition to diplomatic channels, do you intend to pursue summit meetings?
Minister Motegi: We did not discuss that today.
Reporter: A Japan-U.S.-Australia-India ministerial meeting was held for the first time today. What are your thoughts on holding this meeting at this timing?
Minister Motegi: Japan-U.S.-Australia-India director-general level meetings have already been held four times. Through a variety of frameworks, including bilateral, Japan-U.S.-Australia, Japan-U.S.-India, and Japan-U.S.-Australia-India, Japan has held discussions regarding common issues such as infrastructure, connectivity, maritime security, and regional security including counter-terrorism measures, in order to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific and ensure stability and prosperity in the region. Director-general level meetings have been held four times so far. As the Foreign Ministers of the four countries would be together for the UN General Assembly session, it was decided that ministerial level consultations would be held.
Reporter: A Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. While on the one hand Japan and the United States reached a trade agreement, on the other hand the United States and China are in the midst of trade frictions. Were opinions exchanged regarding free trade at the foreign ministers’ meeting?
Minister Motegi: We exchanged views regarding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). I stated that each member state needs to demonstrate flexibility to finalize the agreement as early as possible.
Reporter: There was no particular mention of the U.S.-China trade friction?
Minister Motegi: It was not mentioned.
Reporter: I have a related question. There are some news reports that China has indicated an interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Did the TPP come up in today’s Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister Motegi: No, it did not.
Reporter: I would like to change the topic and ask about the situation in Iran. You held meetings with the Foreign Minister of Iran, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, and Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States. Was any achievement made toward easing tensions as sought by Japan? Did you notice any such signs?
Minister Motegi: Could you repeat your question one more time? You asked a difficult question. As you are asking a difficult question, probably similar to three simultaneous equations, I would like to know to which part you would like to have an answer. It is very difficult to respond to the question you just asked.
Reporter: I understand you aim to ease tensions in the Middle East region. What do you regard as Japan’s role in easing tensions in the Middle East region?
Minister Motegi: That question is simpler. I wanted to say that it becomes a very difficult question like simultaneous equations if you include Saudi Arabia. We are deeply concerned over the increasing severity of the Middle East situation. Peace and stability in this region are directly linked to the stability of not only Japan but also of the world. Under such circumstances, with Iran, Prime Minister Abe held a meeting with President Rouhani, and myself with Foreign Minister Zarif, respectively. With the United States, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump held a meeting, and Secretary of State Pompeo and I held another, respectively. We candidly exchanged views regarding the Middle East situation and measures for easing tensions. We view that the severer the situation, the more Japan is demanded to fulfill its unique role as an ally of the United States, and simultaneously, a country which has maintained friendly relations with Iran for many years.
Reporter: I have a question concerning your meeting with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. With regard to the Supreme Court decisions, the plaintiffs have seized Japanese companies’ assets in the ROK and have applied to convert the assets into cash. They could be turned into cash anytime. If that were to happen, it would be detrimental to Japan-ROK relations. Did the two of you exchange views today on measures for preventing such conversion into cash?
Minister Motegi: We held a one-on-one meeting for a considerable length of time. With regard to what we discussed, the contents were as I announced earlier.
Reporter: Are you saying that you cannot elaborate?
Minister Motegi: No, that is not the case. As you said, if the assets are turned into cash, I believe that the situation will likely become even more serious.
Reporter: I have a related question. You spent today a significant amount of time for the one-on-one Japan-ROK meeting. Was the meeting anticipated from the start?
Minister Motegi: Yes it was.