Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 2:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the trade agreements between Japan and the United States. The bill for the trade agreements was approved earlier by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors. I believe the Government of Japan will almost reach its goal of having the trade agreements approved within the current session of the Diet. What is your frank reaction?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement were approved by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors earlier. We will continue to aim for their early entry into force.
I feel we have finally reached this point as the result of the decision to launch talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals (FFR) in April 2018 , the decision to begin negotiations with the Joint Statement of Japan and the United States in September 2018, the full-blown negotiations beginning in April 2019, the final agreement in August, and the signing on October 7. This has renewed my feeling that I would like Japan to continue to play a leading role in creating rules for the 21st century that are free and fair within the international community.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Report in Shukan Bunshun)
Yonhap News Agency, Park: I would like to confirm one point. A report in the latest edition of the Shukan Bunshun stated that you had said that Foreign Minister KANG Kyung-wha is a “figurehead.” Can you please confirm whether that is true? If it is false, do you intend to request a corrected report?
Minister MOTEGI: What you stated is not true. If there is some basis to your question, then please tell me what it is.
Yonhap News Agency, Park: So do you intend to request a corrected report?
Minister MOTEGI: Please tell me the basis first.
Yonhap News Agency, Park: The basis for my question is the report in the Shukan Bunshun.
Minister MOTEGI: Have you confirmed whether that is true?
Yonhap News Agency, Park: The report quoted a comment of a person related to MOFA.
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to request that you accurately confirm the content before asking questions. I am telling you that it is not true after confirming the facts. Please first confirm whether the content is true through your own coverage before asking a question.
The Passing Away of Former Prime Minister NAKASONE Yasuhiro
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: Can you please tell us about the achievements in Japanese diplomacy and your personal memories on former Prime Minister NAKASONE Yasuhiro, who passed away recently?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the major achievements of former Prime Minister Nakasone include reform of the Japanese National Railways under the banner of the conclusion of postwar Japanese diplomacy. As for diplomatic relations as well, he exerted all efforts to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, including building the “Ron-Yasu relationship” between himself and former President Ronald Reagan.
There is no change to the fact that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japanese diplomacy, and I believe it is important to firmly strengthen the Alliance. It is also my impression that he had an extremely clear way of speaking, such as when he attended press conferences using panels during the time when there were trade issues with the United States.
Holding a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting
Kyodo News, SAITO: At the Liaison Meeting of the Government and Ruling Parties today, Prime Minister Abe announced that coordination is being conducted for a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting to be held coinciding with the Japan-China bilateral meeting in China. What results can be expected for the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting? Also, what effort is the Government of Japan making toward the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting? Please give your views on these points.
Minister MOTEGI: At the recent Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we agreed to conduct coordination toward holding a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting taking the opportunity of the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit, which is being coordinated to be held this month. There are important matters that should be discussed now between Japan and the ROK, including the regional security environment and the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. The leaders of the three countries will meet together for the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit, and it is my understanding that the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting had been held on the occasion of the past Trilateral Summits until now.
As for unresolved issues, we have agreed to continue aiming at a mutual understanding through the diplomatic route, including at the Foreign Minister level. The Government of Japan will continue to strongly request that the ROK swiftly remedy its current breach of international law.
Situation in Iran (Meeting with Foreign Minister Araghchi)
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the situation concerning Iran. Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi and Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs MORI had a consultation today and I believe that you are scheduled to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi later. Iran is suggesting that it will carry out the fifth breakup of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Government of Japan has been urging Iran to exhibit self-restrain until now. What are your thoughts on the current response and the outlook?
Minister MOTEGI: Sorry, but the meeting will be held later.
Minister MOTEGI’s Policy on Overseas Visits
Yomiuri Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about your schedule for overseas visits. I believe the coordination for your schedule for overseas visits is being conducted as we are heading to the final session of the Diet. What are your thoughts on the future policy for your overseas visits, such as the countries and regions you would like to visit?
Minister MOTEGI: In order to further advance the diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map developed by Prime Minister Abe, I have stated that I would like to expand diplomacy with both tolerance and strength. I have had few opportunities to go abroad due to the Diet sessions and other reasons until now. However, I have held various bilateral meetings, multilateral meetings, and so on with the foreign ministers of various countries including at the United Nations General Assembly and the recent G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I have also received requests from some countries for my visit, and I will coordinate my schedule with careful consideration. In the same manner, I have received an invitation from Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia that he would like me to visit Moscow soon. If various circumstances permit, I would like to visit Moscow in mid-December.
Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit
NHK, TAKASHIMA: In regard to the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit, I believe that coordination is also being made for the Japan-China Summit Meeting. Are there any results you would like to achieve through the Japan-China Summit Meeting to prepare the environment toward President XI Jinping’s visit to Japan next spring?
Minister MOTEGI: The current Japan-China relationship has completely returned to its normal path through frequent mutual visits including at the summit level and the foreign minister level. On the other hand, there are several unresolved issues including the issue of import regulations on Japanese food products, issues concerning the East China Sea and the South China Sea, the situation in Hong Kong, and cases of detainment of Japanese nationals. In the sense of preparing the environment toward President XI Jinping’s visit to Japan next spring, I would like to prepare the environment by firmly resolving each unresolved issue through high-level meetings.
State of Conservation Report on the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution”
Korea JoongAng Daily, Yoon: The Spokesman of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement today....
Minister MOTEGI: Sorry, what did you say about the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Korea JoongAng Daily, Yoon: The Spokesman made a statement. I would like to ask about that. When Gunkanjima was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, Japan promised to acknowledge the Korean victims of forced labor and to take appropriate measures for them. However, there is no such content in the State of Conservation Report uploaded to the UNESCO homepage yesterday. Today, the Spokesman of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the report by the Government of Japan is regrettable. What is your reaction to this?
Minister MOTEGI: I am aware of the reports. The State of Conservation Report submitted this time summarizes the state of progress of efforts toward carrying out the decisions issued by the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2018. It is not requested to include a report regarding the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Japan has received the recommended content from the decisions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in a serious manner, and has sincerely worked to implement it.
Dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to the Middle East
Asahi Shimbun, TAKESHITA: I would like to ask about the dispatch of the SDF to the Middle East. There are reports that there will be a Cabinet decision to dispatch them within this month. Can you please tell us the status of consideration and what time period would be desirable for dispatching the SDF based on the current situation in the Middle East?
Minister MOTEGI: As has been stated, under the concept of carrying out independent initiatives to ensure the security of ships related to Japan in the Middle East, concrete consideration is being advanced related to utilizing SDF assets in order to strengthen the information-gathering system as a Government policy. Various consideration is proceeding now including the decision-making process. Nothing has been decided at present regarding the specific schedule or other matters.