Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 3:30 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Evaluation of the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: I believe that with your meeting yesterday with State Councilor and Foreign Minister WANG Yi, the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting has completely ended, including all your bilateral meetings. What is your evaluation reflecting on this?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Japan held the G20 presidency this year and hosted the G20 Osaka Summit in June. I believe that the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was a good opportunity to further advance the results of the G20 Osaka Summit, including the Osaka Track.
At the same time, I held bilateral meetings with several dozen foreign ministers from the participating countries, and had various exchanges of views regarding bilateral relations as well as the current international situation. I believe that it was a very fruitful meeting.
Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting during the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I believe that you held a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia. At his press conference after his meeting with you, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Russia has been conveying its concerns regarding the Japan-U.S. Alliance to Japan through the foreign ministry route and the national security council route, which I believe would be from Russia’s Security Council Secretary Patrushev to Japan’s National Security Secretariat Secretary-General KITAMURA, and is requesting a response, to which he said that the Japanese side had said that it will respond. Can you first tell us if the Russian side requested a response about its concerns by a certain date?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the overall impression of the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting may become distorted if you only cut it down to one part, so I would like to explain a little. The Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held during the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting confirmed the steady implementation of the agreement between the leaders of Japan and Russia and the further strengthening of Japan-Russia relations. On top of that, there was discussion regarding the approach for future meetings including negotiations for a peace treaty. As I have been invited to visit Russia, if various circumstances permit, I mentioned that I would like to hold discussions regarding bilateral issues and other matters centered on the issue of concluding a peace treaty with myself visiting Moscow in mid-December, and Foreign Minister Lavrov also welcomed this. In addition, we highly evaluated the success of the pilot project of the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, and agreed to advance discussions toward holding joint economic projects in earnest from next year. Regarding humanitarian measures for the former islanders, I expressed gratitude for Russia’s cooperation including for grave visits by airplane implemented for three successive years, and requested continued cooperation. In response, Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated a cooperative stance going forward. Furthermore, I stated that as the co-chair for the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues, Japan will advance economic relations in general and particularly promote realization of the Far East matters in the Eight-point Cooperation Plan while cooperating with the ministries and agencies concerned. Foreign Minister Lavrov also stated that he would like to strengthen cooperation in the trade and economics field. I believe that my meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov lasted about 40 minutes. Since 40 minutes is not enough time to talk about the issue of concluding a peace treaty, we agreed to take the time to have a more thorough discussion in Moscow. At that time the concern was mentioned as one of the issues, to which I told Foreign Minister Lavrov that I will think carefully about it.
NHK, WATANABE: As you just said, Foreign Minister Lavrov also said that the issue of Japan and the United States will be a central theme at the next discussion in Moscow. With regard to the issue of Japan and the United States being increasingly treated as a major theme amidst the peace treaty negotiations, do you believe this represents a change in the phase or a continuation of what has occurred thus far?
Minister MOTEGI: It is difficult to determine whether this is a continuation of what has occurred thus far or a change in phase. Various aspects will become entangled amidst the major negotiations toward resolving the issue of the attribution and concluding a peace treaty. It is my recognition that this is one important point amidst the negotiations.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Export Control)
JoongAng Ilbo, Yoon: On November 24, the Government of the ROK announced that Japan had apologized after the Blue House used diplomatic channels to complain to Japan that Japan had deliberately distorted the agreed-upon content regarding the announcement on November 22 concerning export control. In addition, there were reports and also an explanation from the ROK side that Japan had apologized through a message from a Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs turned over by a diplomat from the Embassy of Japan in the ROK . There is a difference between the explanations from the ROK and Japan, so can you please confirm whether Japan issued an apology?
Minister MOTEGI: It is not true that Japan apologized. Having that said, it is my understanding that there are slight differences between the reports in Japan and the ROK, but what I stated to Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha was that what is most important is that discussions will begin regarding export control measures between the authorities in Japan and the ROK, and that it is important to have solid discussions. Rather than what was said or not said, I stated that what is important is to have solid discussions going forward, and Foreign Minister Kang agreed.
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. The pope has finished his scheduled series of visits and has left Japan. What is your impression of his visit, including his speeches calling for the abolishment of nuclear weapons in Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
Minister MOTEGI: The visit to Japan by His Holiness Pope Francis was the first visit to Japan by a Pope in 38 years since the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1981. I believe that he conveyed various messages to the people of Japan. Japan’s initiatives were transmitted to the world including the Vatican through the series of events attended by the Pope, including his audience with His Majesty the Emperor, his meeting with Prime Minister Abe, and the gathering of government dignitaries yesterday. Furthermore, I believe that this has led to deepened mutual understanding between Japan and the Vatican and the further strengthening of bilateral relations. In particular, I deeply consider that it was important that His Holiness Pope Francis, who seeks world peace, visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which were razed by atomic bombs, and called for abolishment of nuclear weapons and world peace. It renewed my belief that Japan, as the only country to be affected by wartime atomic bombing, will exert all efforts toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.
Asahi Shimbun, NARAZAKI: In relation to this, the Pope’s speech included content repudiating nuclear weapons as deterrence. The reality is that Japan is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, so what is your reaction to this speech and what effects do you think his statement will have?
Minister MOTEGI: As I just stated, I took it seriously.
Detainment of a Japanese National in China (Employee of the Itochu Corporation)
Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: I would like to confirm the facts of a matter. In relation to the detainment of a Japanese national in China, there are reports that a male employee of the Itochu Corporation, who was detained last year in China, was sentenced last month at a court to three years’ imprisonment. Can you please confirm if that is true?
Minister MOTEGI: It is my understanding that that is correct.
Human Rights Situation in China
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the human rights situation in China. Internal documents of Chinese authorities have revealed that the Government of China has built a large-scale system for monitoring the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, grasping their actions, and has been arbitrarily restricting them and detaining them in large numbers in facilities. The documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that includes media in various countries. The Government of China has reacted by saying that they are a pure fabrication. What is your view on the exposure of these documents backing human rights violations in China?
Minister MOTEGI: The Government of Japan considers it important that the international community’s universal values which are freedom, respect for fundamental human rights, and the rule of law are ensured in China as well. We are monitoring the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with concern. Japan’s position has been conveyed to China through various opportunities and at various levels, including my meeting yesterday with State Councilor Wang.
Kyodo News, SAITO: In relation to the previous question, the Government of China has been repeatedly asserting that the human rights issues concerning the Uyghurs, Tibet, and recently Hong Kong are a domestic issue within China. What is your reaction to this point? Setting aside what you specifically discussed with State Councilor Wang in your meeting, I believe that Japan and China disagree on this matter so can you please tell us roughly how you conveyed Japan’s position and what recognition you shared?
Minister MOTEGI: I was just asked this.
Kyodo News, SAITO: Yes, I know.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that I already answered that for the previous question.
Kyodo News, SAITO: I listened carefully and took notes. The previous question was about the Uyghurs and my question is more general. Internal documents have emerged regarding the Uyghurs, and in addition to that, I also asked about Hong Kong and Tibet in my follow-up question. Moreover, China has consistently referred to this series of issues as intervention in domestic affairs. In light of this, what position have you conveyed regarding human rights in general in China, and what have you agreed or disagreed on? If there is anything you can explain, then please do so. That is what I mean.
Minister MOTEGI: I will repeat myself. I believe that it is important for the international community’s universal values which are freedom, respect for fundamental human rights, and the rule of law to be ensured in China as well.
Japan-ROK Relations (Evaluation of the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Outlook for the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting)
Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask for your evaluation of your meeting last Saturday with Foreign Minister Kang. Also, if you have any expectations for the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting next month, please tell them to us.
Minister MOTEGI: I believe it was a good meeting. I think that we were able to have a frank exchange of views. I firmly stated Japan’s position on the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, and also re-confirmed Japan-ROK cooperation and Japan-ROK-U.S. cooperation for the North Korea issue. We agreed to begin coordination for holding the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting during the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit. I believe it was meaningful.
Detainment of a Japanese National in China (Employee of the Itochu Corporation)
TBS, HASHIGUCHI: I would like to ask a question related to the previous question concerning the case of the detainment of a Japanese national in China. There are some reports that the court sentenced the man to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 150,000 yuan, which is 2.3 million yen, for the crime of harming national security . Is that true? Has the Government of Japan made some kind of response to the Government of China about this judgment? Please answer these two questions.
Minister MOTEGI: Sorry, is this different from the answer in the Diet this morning?
TBS, HASHIGUCHI: The answer in the Diet by the Director-General of the Consular Affairs Bureau was about the total number of people detained. What I explained to you is about the case of the man in his 40s from the Itochu Corporation.
Minister MOTEGI: I already answered about that in response to the question from the Mainichi Shimbun.