Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 10:34 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Reasons for the Long-term Administration of Prime Minister Abe, Movements Concerning Prime Minister Abe’s Successor
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask questions that are not directly related to diplomacy. Tomorrow, Prime Minister Abe’s total period in office will become the longest ever in the history of Japan’s constitutional regime. I would like to ask two questions in relation to this. Firstly, I believe that you have consistently supported Prime Minister Abe in your Cabinet minister positions and as a leading party member. What are your thoughts on the reasons for his long-term administration?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The second Abe administration was inaugurated on December 26, 2012. At that time I was Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, and afterwards I held positions such as Chairman of the Election Committee, Chairman of the Policy Council, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization, and Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy , and am now Minister for Foreign Affairs. I believe the fact that the Abe administration will become the longest in Japan’s history tomorrow is, in short, the result of the appreciation of the Japanese citizens of the domestic and diplomatic outcomes steadily produced from work on various policy matters under a stable administration.
On the diplomatic front, diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map has been carried out consistently under the policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace”. I believe that there is no doubt that Japan’s presence is overwhelmingly increasing in various parts of the international community, including the G7, the G20, and the United Nations.
In addition, the domestic economy has unmistakably improved. Regarding the scale of the Japanese economy, nominal GDP has reached a record high of 557 trillion yen. The employment environment has majorly improved, and the number of employees has increased by 3.84 million in just these past six years. I believe that the efforts for various reforms have achieved results, leading to this long-term administration.
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask one more question. There is a growing movement concerning Prime Minister Abe’s successor, as Prime Minister Abe’s term as President of the LDP ends in two years. What kind of person do you think would be fitting for his successor? Are you thinking of aiming to be the next Prime Minister after Prime Minister Abe?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe it would be premature to specifically say a name for who would be a fitting successor to Prime Minister Abe. In any event, I believe it would be a person who firmly exhibits leadership and achieves results, regardless of whether the style is the same or different from that of Prime Minister Abe.
It is a great honor if my name is being raised as a candidate for Prime Minister Abe’s successor, but I am currently tackling a mountain of various issues such as the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands, and taking on a new frontier in my role as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would like to exert all efforts for that now.
TV Tokyo, SAKAIDA: I believe that there have been advantages from the long-running administration, but conversely, what kind of problems do you think there have also been? Also, I believe that there will be various difficult aspects for the successor to a long-running administration, so what difficulties do you think the successor will face? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that a major problem, which is the biggest issue faced by Japan, is how to overcome the declining birthrate and aging population as well as how to build a sustainable social security system. Also, in terms of diplomacy, there will probably be no change to the severe international situation. Amidst this, how Japan can exhibit its coordination capacity, show leadership, maintain the international order and create the new world order and rules, will be major issues.
Situation in Hong Kong
Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: I would like to ask about the situation in Hong Kong. Amidst the increasingly intense clashes between the police and students at Hong Kong’s main university, there are indications of China’s intention to support strengthening crackdown including the recent statement by President XI Jinping that this is a major challenge to the “one country, two systems” principle. Recently there have been large numbers of injured and detained persons, including a Japanese national being detained. I think that the situation in Hong Kong has entered a new phase in the five months or more since the demonstrations began. What is your view?
Minister MOTEGI: The current situation in Hong Kong has been growing tenser for a long time, and there has been some escalation. I believe that it is difficult to assess whether it has entered a new phase, but I am extremely concerned. In any event, I have been requesting the people concerned to resolve this through self-restraint and peaceful dialogue. I strongly hope that the situation will be quickly settled and stability will be maintained in Hong Kong.
The Government of Japan has conveyed this to the Chinese side taking opportunities at various levels. At the Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting being coordinated for the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as well, I will firmly seek mutual understanding regarding this with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
NHK, TAKASHIMA: Regarding the detainment of a Japanese man in his 20s in Hong Kong the day before yesterday, can you please tell us the reason for his detainment, his current status, and the future response?
Minister MOTEGI: We have confirmed the detainment of a male Japanese tourist in his 20s by local authorities in the vicinity of Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 17. Rather than being a student studying abroad in Hong Kong, he is a man in his 20s who traveled to Hong Kong from Japan. The Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong met with him on November 18, and confirmed that he is uninjured and in good health.
In any event, the Government of Japan is providing as much support as possible for consul meetings, communication with his family, and other support from the perspective of protecting a Japanese national. We will exert maximum efforts for his swift release.
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask a question in relation to the situation in Hong Kong. At the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors last week, you answered that it would not be beneficial to make statements leaning toward support of either the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China or the demonstrators. While Chairman SHII Kazuo of the Japanese Communist Party criticized your response as being nothing more than a statement of not protesting against the violation of human rights, some conservative Diet members within the LDP said that a clear message should be sent to China. What do you think of such points from the ruling and opposition parties?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to take them seriously.
Outlook of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)
Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask about the GSOMIA. Yesterday, Defense Minister JEONG Kyeong-doo of the Republic of Korea (ROK) stated that the GSOMIA is an issue to be solved through diplomacy between the governments rather than at the national defense level. What is your reaction to this? What would you like to convey to Foreign Minister KANG Kyung-wha at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have repeatedly stated until now, we believe that the notification of the termination of the Japan-ROK GSOMIA by the Government of the ROK reflects its total misapprehension of the current severe regional security environment. Japan will continue to strongly request the ROK side to take sensible actions based on the current security situation.
It has not been decided who will come from the ROK to the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, so I do not know what to do until that gets decided.
Chosun Ilbo, Branch Chief Lee: If the GSOMIA is terminated on November 22 as is, what effect do you think it will have on the trilateral cooperation among the ROK, the United States, and Japan, and what effect do you think it will have on the situation in Northeast Asia? For example, if the U.S. Forces in ROK be downsized, could that somehow affect the deployment of the U.S. Forces in Japan? I would like to ask about this matter.
Minister MOTEGI: At this stage, it has not been terminated. There are some areas I cannot answer about in response to hypothetical questions, but in any event, we are currently strongly requesting the ROK side to take sensible actions.
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask a question in relation to the GSOMIA. You have repeatedly stated in press conferences that you are requesting the ROK side to take sensible actions. What kind of response would be “sensible actions”? Please answer specifically.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that it would mean keeping the GSOMIA valid in substance.
G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov)
Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: I believe that a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia is expected to take place on the margins of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this weekend. What do you hope to discuss? I also understand that you are considering visiting Russia this year if circumstances permit. Where do you position the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in the context of the upcoming G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: Foreign Minister Lavrov is expected to visit Japan for the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya. I have received an invitation to visit Russia, and if circumstances permit, I hope to visit Moscow by the end of the year.
While the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is currently being coordinated during the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this weekend, in principle, we will be holding negotiations for concluding a peace treaty by resolving the territorial issue, based on the agreement between the two leaders to accelerate the peace treaty negotiations on the basis of the Joint Declaration of 1956. Especially this time, as two pilot projects have been completed, I also hope to confirm the achievements of such projects to some extent. In addition, I hope to discuss developing an environment that will allow former island residents to visit the Four Northern Islands in a less burdensome manner.
Visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis (Japan-Vatican Partnership)
Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: His Holiness Pope Francis who will visit Japan from this weekend stated in a video message that he prays that nuclear weapons will never be used again in human history. What are your thoughts on the future partnership between Japan and the Vatican?
Minister MOTEGI: His Holiness Pope Francis issued a three-minute video message. I believe the Pope conveyed a very good message. The Government of Japan will be reviewing what kind of cooperation will be feasible in light of the Pope’s visit to Japan.
Outlook of the GSOMIA
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to return to the topic of the GSOMIA. Regarding the meaning of “sensible actions” in an earlier question, you responded that it means “the GSOMIA remains valid in substance.” Does this refer to the ROK’s revocation of its decision to terminate the GSOMIA? Or is there another meaning? As the matter stands, at this stage, the ROK President has stated that the ROK will not revoke the termination decision as long as Japan does nothing. Do you anticipate that something will change? Could you please elaborate?
Minister MOTEGI: In any event, as this concerns the decision of the ROK, it is not appropriate for me to state my outlook. As I stated at the beginning, the ROK’s response reflects its misapprehension of the current security environment in the region. Thus, we hope the ROK will change its response and take sensible actions.
G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Expected Outcomes)
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I have a question regarding this weekend’s G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I heard that outcome documents will not be prepared as was the case for the past Foreign Ministers’ Meetings. Could you please tell us what outcomes you hope to achieve at this concluding event of Japan’s presidency year?
Minister MOTEGI: Three themes have been selected for the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, namely, the promotion of free trade and global governance, the realization of the SDGs, and African development. All three are urgent issues that the international community faces, and are also areas in which Japan made significant contributions to strengthening cooperation with various countries at the G20 Summit in Osaka and TICAD 7. This meeting will be the culmination of this past year which Japan held the G20 presidency. At this weekend’s Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we hope to reaffirm the variety of agreements reached at the Osaka Summit, including the Osaka Track and the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment. Furthermore, in light of the current international situation, we hope to extract the wisdom of the 28 countries gathered at the meeting and deepen the discussion on how to materialize the agreements through policies as well as institutions. As the chair, I intend to lead the meeting to ensure that the outcomes of such discussions give momentum to international cooperation in the future and that a forward-looking message is delivered which enhances the prospect for the political and economic outlook of the world.
State Visit to Japan by President XI Jinping of China
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask a question regarding the State Visit to Japan by President XI Jinping of China. With regard to the President’s treatment as a State Guest, some members of the Liberal Democratic Party have expressed opinions against the State Visit to Japan, considering the backdrop of the situation in Hong Kong, in which China is noted to have suppressed human rights, as well as China’s hegemonic maritime expansions. What is your view of such opinions? Could you tell us your thoughts on the significance of the President’s State Visit to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: Regarding the situation in Hong Kong, it is as I stated a short while ago. While the Japan-China relationship has fully gotten back on to a normal track, there are issues between the two countries. To resolve such issues, I believe it is important for high-level officials from both Governments to hold candid discussions from a broad perspective. Looking ahead to President XI Jinping’s visit to Japan next spring, we will continue to fully articulate our position whenever necessary, including the situation in Hong Kong, and steadily resolve the issues that can be resolved one by one.
Situation in the Middle East (Issue of Settlements in the West Bank)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I have a question related to the situation in the Middle East. Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States stated in his press conference that the Jewish settlements built by Israel in the West Bank do not breach international law, essentially indicating his intention of permitting the settlements. I believe that the Government of Japan has been calling on the Government of Israel to freeze such activities based on Japan’s view that they violate international law. What is your view regarding the Secretary’s statement? Do you intend to urge the United States to alter its response?
Minister MOTEGI: The Government of Japan has supported a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and our position is that the matter of the Middle East peace process should be resolved through negotiations between the parties concerned. Japan takes the stand that settlement activities breach international law, and this position has not changed. We will seek to maintain close communication with the United States.
Outlook of Deliberations on the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and Digital Trade Agreement
NHK, TAKANO: I would like to ask about the Japan-U.S. trade agreement. It is expected to be passed at this afternoon’s plenary session of the House of Representatives. Could you please share your comments? At the Diet deliberations so far, opposition parties have noted that there is little evidence or few materials indicating that it will lead to a win-win outcome. What are your intentions for the upcoming deliberations at the House of Councillors?
Minister MOTEGI: I have heard that the agreement is scheduled to be adopted at the House of Representatives today. The Government has prepared as many necessary materials as possible regarding the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement, and at the Diet, the Government has sought to explain the content of the agreement carefully as well as how it will be a win-win agreement. At the House of Councillors, we will also continue to strive to provide careful explanations, and would like to receive its approval as quickly as possible.
Cherry Blossom Viewing Party
TV Tokyo, SAKAIDA: I apologize for deviating from diplomacy issues once again. Although Prime Minister Abe has continued to provide explanations regarding the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party, many of the materials are gone and the facts cannot be confirmed. Do you consider that Prime Minister Abe’s explanation is adequate? Do you believe that further explanations are needed at the Diet? What do you think about it?
Minister MOTEGI: I did not attend the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party so I do not know.