Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Saturday, November 30, 2019, 8:53 p.m. New Delhi, India
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, the so-called 2+2 meeting was held for the first time between Japan and India among four ministers: the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries. I am very pleased that the first historic 2+2 meeting for Japan and India was convened successfully and that the four ministers were able to issue a Joint Statement.
With regard to today’s schedule, first, this morning, Minister Kono and I paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Modi. The two sides confirmed that we will further strengthen the Japan-India relationship, which has made remarkable strides due to the close ties between Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Modi.
In addition, prior to the 2+2 meeting, the 12th Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue was held between External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and myself. At the Strategic Dialogue, we confirmed that we will work to ensure that the outcomes of this visit to India will contribute to the Japan-India Summit Meeting on the occasion of Prime Minister Abe’s upcoming visit to India. We also exchanged views regarding key projects including the high-speed railway project, as well as regional affairs and cooperation in the international arena.
Regarding the main discussion items at the 2+2 meeting, we exchanged views regarding bilateral security cooperation, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan-U.S.-India cooperation, and so on. I would like to highlight two points. First, regarding the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), we confirmed the significant progress made in the negotiations to conclude the agreement, and shared the view on aiming for the early conclusion of the negotiations.
We shared recognition on the consistency and commonalities among Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” initiative, the “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” announced by Prime Minister Modi at this month’s East Asia Summit, and ASEAN’s “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” and confirmed our expectations to bring synergy among them. We will continue to enhance cooperative relations in the region toward achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
The 2+2 meeting continued until dinner. Opinions were exchanged concerning East Asian affairs including North Korea, as well as the security environment in the region such as South Asia and the international community.
With respect to the situation of the South China Sea, we exchanged views regarding responses to the ongoing Code of Conduct (COC) negotiations between China and ASEAN.
We will continue to work closely with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and Defence Minister Singh to build up concrete cooperation in the security and defense areas, and firmly advance the Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership.
Mr. KONO Taro, Minister of Defense: From 5:30 p.m. today, Japan and India held the first ministerial 2+2 meeting, followed by a working dinner. Before the 2+2 meeting, I, together with Minister Motegi, paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Modi and then visited Hindon Air Force Station. From 4 p.m., the Japan-Indian defense ministers' meeting was held. At the 2+2 meeting, we reaffirmed that we will further promote security and defense cooperation between Japan and India. Specifically, we welcomed that the two countries had initiated joint exercises between all three components of their defense forces by the end of last year and agreed to make efforts to hold the joint exercises regularly and expand them. We agreed that next year, a squadron of Su-30MKI, which is India's main fighter jet, will visit Japan to hold joint fighter exercise. If this is realized, India will be the fourth country to hold a joint fighter exercise with Japan, after the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, indicating the importance of India in Japan's defense cooperation. If ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement) is concluded between Japan and India, the two countries will be able to implement their defense cooperation smoothly in terms of operation, including joint exercises, so I am hoping for further progress in the defense cooperation. Regarding maritime security cooperation, we welcomed the establishment of the Information Fusion Center for the Indian Ocean in December last year and expressed our intention to further promote cooperation between the two countries in the fields of maritime security and MDA (Maritime Domain Awareness). As for specific activities, we welcomed the start of exchange of information, including information concerning vessels, between the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) and the Indian Navy. Regarding defense equipment and technology cooperation, we welcomed the progress made in the joint research in the field of UGV (unmanned ground vehicles/robotics) and agreed to continue efforts to identify specific cooperation projects through regular consultations between the two countries' defense equipment authorities.
In addition, with respect to cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, we welcomed the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, and the Vientiane Vision 2.0.”
At the working dinner, we exchanged opinions on regional developments, including developments in the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. I am confident that we have succeeded in laying the foundation for continuing to steadily promote security cooperation for the sake of the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, which is a matter of common interest for Japan and India, through the 2+2 and other frameworks. That is all I have to say.
Reporter: China, underpinned by its economic power, has increased its influence in the Indo-Pacific region, including the South Asia region. In this context, what significance do you attach to holding the first 2+2 meeting with India? What did you specifically discuss today with regard to China?
Minister MOTEGI: As I just stated, Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative, Prime Minister Modi’s Initiative, and ASEAN’s Outlook have consistency and commonalities.
Against this backdrop, it was highly significant that Japan and India advanced cooperation in the areas of security and defense. At the same time, the two countries confirmed shared values, such as safety of navigation, freedom, rule of law, and sustainability with regards to infrastructure. Furthermore, Japan and India shared the view on deepening cooperation on various projects in neighboring countries, including Sri Lanka. Therefore, we believe that the meeting produced major outcomes in this regard.
Reporter: I have a question for Minister Kono. Could you tell me about the significance of the 2+2 meeting toward the realization of the Indo-Pacific vision?
Minister KONO: Through the 2+2 meeting, significant progress has been made toward concluding an ACSA between Japan and India, and we agreed to hold joint exercises between the three components of the two countries' defense forces, which have already been held, on a regular basis. In addition, we agreed to hold the first fighter exercise and identify cooperation projects concerning defense equipment. Therefore, defense cooperation is expected to deepen further, and I am confident that we will be able to deepen the cooperation. Under the vision to make the Indo-Pacific a free and open region, it is very important for Japan, India, the United States, and Australia to closely cooperate with each other. I believe that there appears to have been an agreement on making steady efforts to realize the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision while keeping the door open widely for countries that are in agreement with the vision.
Reporter: I have one more question, which is related to the ACSA. Next month, a summit meeting is scheduled to be held. I assume that preparations are underway for concluding the agreement by the end of the year. Could you tell me whether or not the conclusion of the agreement is likely to be reached by the end of the year? Is there any problem standing in the way of concluding the agreement?
Minister KONO: I think I can tell you that we are making significant progress. While working-level consultations are underway, my understanding is that there are no major problems.
Reporter: How about the prospects for concluding the agreement by the end of the year?
Minister KONO: As for the timing, it may be too early to say, but I think I can assure you that we are making significant progress.
Reporter: I have a question for Minister Motegi. Could you tell us what discussion took place at the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue regarding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)? Prime Minister Abe will visit India next month. Does Japan intend to seize this occasion to urge India to conclude the negotiations among the 16 countries?
Minister MOTEGI: I met with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar last week as well in Nagoya. We held extensive discussions on RCEP last week. I also raised the topic of RCEP when we paid our courtesy call on Prime Minister Modi today. Working-level consultations are currently being held on what will be the discussion themes for Prime Minister Abe’s visit to India. We hope that the summit meeting will confirm cooperation in a variety of areas, including diplomacy, security, and economic partnership.
Reporter: I have a related question for Minister Motegi. Can you share your thoughts on what Japan can do to address the bottlenecks for India to join RCEP?
Minister MOTEGI: During last week’s discussion with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, I was informed about India’s various concerns, and I conveyed that Japan will cooperate as much as possible. However, as you know, since the negotiations are ongoing, I would like to refrain from commenting on their content.