Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, November 1, 2019, 1:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Ballistic Missile Launch by North Korea

Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the ballistic missile launch by North Korea yesterday. Prime Minister Abe stated that he strongly condemns the launch of objects by North Korea, which was determined to be ballistic missiles, as a threat to regional peace and security, and again indicated that there would be close cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Based on this incident, do you believe there is a need to hold a Japan-U.S. Summit Telephone Talk? Also, can you please tell us if you intend to hold a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo soon? Additionally, can you please tell us if there was a Japan-U.S. telephone talk at the director-general level?

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: North Korea’s ballistic missile launch yesterday violates the related Security Council Resolutions and is extremely regrettable. The Government of Japan immediately issued a severe protest and strong criticism to North Korea through the embassy route in Beijing. MOFA contacted the United States, the ROK, and others immediately after the launch, confirmed our close cooperation, and is exerting all efforts for information-gathering and analysis.

What actions will North Korea take going forward? Decisions will be made on what level talks to have with the United States taking into account what actions might be taken by North Korea going forward, based on analysis of the information on the launch this time. Nothing has been decided at present.

Kyodo News, SAITO: In relation to North Korea, as has been stated, President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he does not view North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles as a problem. Can you please share your recognition of whether Japan needs to quickly share its position with President Trump that all ballistic missiles are a serious issue?

Minister MOTEGI: At successive summit meetings, such as during the G20 Osaka Summit, Prime Minister Abe has clearly explained to President Trump and gained his understanding that all ballistic missiles, including short-range ballistic missiles, are violations of the Security Council Resolutions. During my recent telephone talk with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, we shared the recognition that all ballistic missiles, including short-range ballistic missiles, are violations of the related Security Council Resolutions.

Japan-Russia Relations (Cancellation of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC))

NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. The Japan-Russia Summit Meeting will not be held due to the cancellation of APEC Chile 2019. I believe that the Russian side mentioned the possibility of you visiting Russia during the previous Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New York. In this situation in which the Summit Meeting will not be held, how do you understand the placing of the next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and will it have an effect? This is my first question.

Also, the experimental sightseeing tour in Etorofu Island has been cut short and the participants in the tour have already returned. Nevertheless, they were able to land on Etorofu Island.

Minister MOTEGI: I apologize, but it is too long so I would like to request you to ask one question at a time.

NHK, WATANABE: Understood. Firstly, can you please tell us what developments there will be for holding a Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting now that the Summit Meeting will not be held?

Minister MOTEGI: First, I believe that it is extremely regrettable that Chili APEC 2019 has been canceled. I recognize that it is the result of the careful consideration of Chili, the APEC chair country, based on its domestic situation. At the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting during the United Nations General Assembly in September, a visit to Japan by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya this month was discussed. I have also been invited by Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit Russia, and if various circumstances permit, I would like to visit Moscow within the year. There is no change to these plans.

NHK, WATANABE: Additionally, the schedule for Etorofu Island has been shortened at the moment.

Minister MOTEGI: Sorry, what do you mean?

NHK, WATANABE: The stay schedule for Etorofu Island.

Minister MOTEGI: Oh, your next question.

NHK, WATANABE: Yes. The sightseeing tour.

Minister MOTEGI: Can you please repeat it from the beginning?

Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands (Sightseeing Pilot Tour)

NHK, WATANABE: Yes. The stay schedule on Etorofu Island for the sightseeing tour was shortened. What is your view on this? I believe that there will be a review of this going forward, but how would you like to further develop the joint economic activities between Japan and Russia based on the achievement of landing on Etorofu Island?

Minister MOTEGI: The sightseeing pilot tour is being held first in conjunction with the garbage disposal project, and I would like the results to be firmly analyzed for the future. The fact that the stay on Etorofu Island ended in a short period of time was simply due to the considerably terrible weather. After arriving at the port, it ended following visits to main facilities and locations. I believe that the only reason was the effects of the terrible weather.

Import Restrictions on Japanese Food Products.

Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about the issue of import restrictions on Japanese food products. Relaxation and repeals are successively taking place in the EU, Brunei, and Macao for import restrictions on Japanese food products that followed the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. I believe that the understanding about Japanese food products is spreading. How do you assess this trend, and how will you appeal to countries such as China and the ROK that are continuing their restrictions?

Minister MOTEGI: Complete repeals and partial relaxation are progressing for restrictions on Japanese food products. However, we are still partway, and I would like to further disseminate correct information and hold talks with countries that still have restrictions in order to lead to the repeal or relaxation of those restrictions. Damage due to harmful rumors has been a major blow to farmers and people who make various products, and I would like to put a stop to it. I will appeal the fact that Japanese food products are safe in a stronger and even firmer manner.

Visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis

Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: I would like to ask about the visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis this month. The Vatican, where Pope Francis serves as the leader, has shown an active stance for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and quickly signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Japan has distanced itself from the Treaty by giving reasons such as the threat of North Korea. Do you have any concerns about this visit to Japan by Pope Francis such as the way of approaching the abolition of nuclear weapons?

Minister MOTEGI: Rather than having any major concerns, I firstly believe that the visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis, including going to Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, is extremely meaningful. I believe that the visits by the Pope, who seeks world peace, to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which were affected by nuclear bombs, will be important for conveying accurate information regarding the reality of nuclear bombing to the international community.

I also expect that this visit to Japan by the Pope will be an opportunity for further deepening mutual understanding between Japan and the Vatican and strengthening bilateral relations. Additionally, Japan, which understands the inhumanity of nuclear weapons as the only country to have experienced wartime nuclear bombing, has a duty to lead initiatives of the international community toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons. This is Japan’s firm policy.

Japan also shares the goal of abolition of nuclear weapons of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. On the other hand, the Treaty was not drawn up sufficiently based on the perspective of security in reality, which is why it has not gained much support from either nuclear-weapon states or non-nuclear-weapon states facing nuclear threats. I believe this is the reality. I think that it is necessary to pursue a path of advancing nuclear disarmament steadily and realistically while appropriately dealing with real security threats. In any event, I believe that the visit to Japan by Pope Francis is extremely meaningful.

General Meeting of the Japan-Korea and Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Unions

TV Asahi, OISHI: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. The general meeting of the Japan-Korea and Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Unions is being held today in Tokyo. Amidst almost no signs of improvement in Japan-ROK relations, can you please tell us if there is a role expected of diplomacy by parliamentarians

Minister MOTEGI: I heard yesterday from Chairman NUKAGA Fukushiro of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians' Union that the meeting would be held today. I believe it is excellent that a frank exchange of views will take place. I said that I would like Japan to precisely assert what it should.

Case of the Detainment of a Japanese National in China

NHK, TAKASHIMA: I would like to ask about the case of the detainment of a Japanese national in China. Can you please tell us if there has been any progress in this case that began in September? Can you also please tell us again about the response going forward of the Government of Japan?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that it is extremely important work to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad and maintain an environment in which they can freely travel and return to Japan. I have strong concerns about the case of the detainment of a Japanese national in China and am appealing to the Chinese government. His family is also extremely worried about this issue, and work is being done now including efforts to connect him with his family in various ways.

Resignations of Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Sugawara and Minister of Justice Kawai

Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: Minister of Justice Kawai has resigned. What is your reaction to the result of two ministers, including Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Sugawara, resigning in one week? How do you think that this will affect the Abe administration?

Minister MOTEGI: I would like to attend the Diet with a further feeling of urgency. As I have stated many times, the actions of politicians are matters that concern the individual politicians themselves. In addition, I believe that they need to firmly provide explanations regarding allegations.

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