Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 4:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Exchange of Views with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask a question regarding the courtesy call earlier by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark MILLEY of the United States. You stated at the beginning of the opening remarks that discord between Japan and the United States would benefit not only North Korea but also China and Russia. I believe that your remark probably bore in mind the nearing of the deadline of the Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) losing effect next week. What discussion did you have during the meeting after that, particularly concerning the response to the ROK? Also, I believe that General Milley will visit the ROK from tomorrow, so are there any points that you have hopes for?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: My meeting today with General Milley was quite longer than the planned time, and I believe that it was highly beneficial. As you might have heard, I first stated that the bond between Japan and the United States is stronger than ever through President Trump’s visit to Japan as a State Guest and the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement that was signed recently.
On top of that, I agreed with General Milley on the points that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, that we would further strengthen the response capabilities and deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and that we would deepen our cooperation and collaboration toward realizing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
I also stated during my opening remarks that the security environment surrounding Japan continues to be extremely severe, and is a major issue for the mid-to-long term. I explained that China is continuing its unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and that Japan is requesting China to take a positive attitude. I also discussed that of course Japan-China relations in general have completely returned to their normal path through mutual visits between the leaders and foreign ministers of Japan and China.
In addition, Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is extremely important for the North Korea issue. Discord among Japan, the United States, and the ROK would cause instability in the region and benefit North Korea, and could also benefit China and Russia. I would like Japan, the United States, and the ROK to have firm unity, and I held an exchange of views with General Milley about the recent situation concerning North Korea, including the recent cases of ballistic missile launches by North Korea. We discussed that Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is particularly important now, and that General Milley would like to firmly discuss with the ROK side on that point as well.
Outlook of the GSOMIA
Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: You have stated so far concerning the notification from the ROK of the termination of the GSOMIA that the ROK’s response completely misjudges the current security environment in the region. Amidst North Korea continuing its missile launches since the termination notice on August 23, recently the Director of the National Security Office of the ROK stated that the termination of the GSOMIA would have limited effects on security. It seems that there is a considerable difference in the recognitions of Japan and the ROK regarding the security environment as well as the significance of having the GSOMIA. What are your thoughts on why such a difference has emerged between Japan and the ROK?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have been stating continuously, I have to say that the response by the Government of the ROK of notifying the termination of the GSOMIA completely misjudges the current security environment in the region, and is extremely regrettable. I believe that there is various analysis about what kind of gap exists regarding this. At the very least, the decision to terminate the GSOMIA and Japan’s review of its export control measures, which the ROK has linked, are completely unrelated matters. The matter of firm information-sharing and cooperation between Japan, the United States, and the ROK taking the North Korea situation into account, and the matter of the system for firm export control on respective countries based on security, are completely different. In that sense, the ROK has a different recognition on that point.
Exchange of Views with General Milley (Regarding Russia)
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to the question by Mr. Yamamoto earlier, you stated that discord between Japan, the United States, and the ROK could benefit China and Russia. In that context, in what sense would that benefit Russia? Basically, Japan and Russia are working on a peace treaty, so under what circumstances would discord benefit Russia in this context?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that Japan, the United States, and the ROK share fundamental values including democracy, free trade, the rule of law, and human rights. We cooperate together for peace and stability in East Asia and all of Asia. I believe that we also share such a recognition.
Amidst this, it is also necessary to have cooperation with neighboring countries including China. I believe that cooperation with Russia is also necessary. On the other hand, I believe that it would be incorrect to say that China and Russia’s ideas are completely the same regarding these issues. I believe there are differences.
On the other hand, as I stated earlier, diplomatic relations with China have completely returned to their normal path. As for relations with Russia, joint economic activities are being advanced under the basic policy of resolving the attribution issue and concluding a peace treaty. Rather than hostility, the viewpoints concerning the regional situation are not completely the same. What I was saying is that there is a possibility that such a gap could be taken advantage of.
Exchange of Views with General Milley (GSOMIA)
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask a question in relation to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff mentioned earlier. As asked in the first question, was the GSOMIA a topic of discussion? General Milley stated at the press conference that it was a topic of discussion during his meeting with Prime Minister Abe. What discussion did you have with him? Is it correct to understand that the content from the second question was again conveyed?
Minister MOTEGI: We confirmed the importance of Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, including the GSOMIA.
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about your recognition of U.S.-China relations. At the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors today, you expressed concern about the current situation resembling the “Thucydides Trap” in the sense that confrontation between a ruling power and a rising one will ultimately end in war despite it being mutually undesirable. Do you believe that the United States and China are already in such a trap? Please tell us your view. Also, what do you think would be a solution to escape the “Thucydides Trap”? Please include that in your answer about your thoughts.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe the “Thucydides Trap” is from the past history and politics research by Graham T. Allison, in which he raised about 20 examples that show that there are many cases in which conflict concerning hegemony between a ruling power and a rising one will end in war, despite it being mutually undesirable. This occurred in ancient Greece when Sparta, a ruling power which had land-based strength, was challenged by Athens, which had sea-based military strength, leading to the Peloponnesian War. In addition, a series of three wars broke out between ancient Rome and Carthage led by Hannibal during the Punic Wars. Those are some of the examples. The general view is that there is a tendency for the emerging power to seek a new order against the one established by the dominant powerful nation at the time, and for the emerging power to look for and increase countries that sympathize with it. That is what I mentioned, but I do not believe that the United States and China are in such a situation, at least not now.
Exchange of Views with General Milley (Situation in the Middle East)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: You stated during your opening remarks at the meeting with General Milley that you wanted to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Did you discuss the regional situation surrounding the Strait of Hormuz? Also, Iran has resumed its uranium enrichment activities that violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the United States has strengthened its sanctions. So what is your analysis of U.S.-Iran relations now?
Minister MOTEGI: I held an exchange of views regarding the situation in the Middle East. Naturally, as this was an exchange of views with a top military leader, there are some parts of the content that I would like to refrain from commenting on. General Milley expressed gratitude for specific consideration concerning utilization of Self-Defense Force assets to strengthen the information-sharing system as an independent initiative by Japan toward ensuring safety of navigation in the Middle East.
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: Can you please also explain your analysis of U.S.-Iran relations now?
Minister MOTEGI: I held an exchange of views regarding Iran. However, I would like to refrain from commenting about what the current situation in Iran is and what response is needed for Iran, at a time when diplomatic efforts will be made going forward.
Situation in Hong Kong (Injured Japanese National)
Bloomberg, REYNOLDS: I would like to ask about Hong Kong. There are reports that a Japanese national was injured. Has the Government of Japan confirmed this?
Minister MOTEGI: We have confirmed that on November 11, a Japanese man in his 50s was injured after encountering a demonstration in Hong Kong. The Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong has contacted him, and confirmed that he had received treatment at a hospital and had already been discharged. We will continue to provide necessary support to the extent possible from the perspective of protection of Japanese nationals.