Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, December 13, 2019, 5:43 p.m. Colombo, Sri Lanka
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The new administration of President Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka was inaugurated last month. I visited Sri Lanka right away to build a relationship of trust with the Rajapaksa administration that was just inaugurated.
Sri Lanka has traditionally been a country friendly toward Japan, and we have been holding substantial discussions in aim to strengthen cooperation with Sri Lanka, which is located in a strategic position for sea lanes.
I paid a courtesy call to President Rajapaksa this morning. In addition, I held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting for over one hour and also had discussions over lunch. We agreed to continue cooperation with regards to high-quality infrastructure development as well as in areas including defense and maritime security in order to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
With regards to international affairs, we agreed to closely cooperate toward complete denuclearization of North Korea, including complete implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. In addition, I asked for the understanding and cooperation toward the swift resolution of the abductions issue, and received Foreign Minister Gunawardena’s support.
This morning, I visited the location where the terrorist incident occurred this April and offered flowers. Japan will continue to provide support to Sri Lanka in the field of anti-terrorism and security measures, and bolster the national reconciliation process.
Later, I will visit Colombo Port, a hub in the Indian Ocean. I am also scheduled to pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the significance of your visit to Sri Lanka this time. China is considerably strengthening its influence in this region, so what is the significance of cooperation between Japan and Sri Lanka in terms of that?
Minister MOTEGI: The Rajapaksa administration was recently just inaugurated, and although Sri Lanka has had good relations with Japan up until now, I believe that it is highly significant to reconfirm our bilateral relations as quickly as possible. In that sense, I also believe that we held a significant meeting to further accelerate our cooperative relations in various areas that have been advancing.
Reporter: You will pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa later. When Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was President, it was said that he ran his administration with close ties to China. What kind of discussion would you like to have with him?
Minister MOTEGI: At the very least, during my courtesy call with President Rajapaksa and my discussion with Foreign Minister Gunawardena today, they have shown their intention to have Sri Lanka build balanced relations in various ways, including relations with Japan and with India. I would like to welcome that intention.
Reporter: Excuse me as this is not about Sri Lanka, but I would like to ask two questions in relation to Russia. This month, exactly three years have passed since the so-called Nagato agreement in 2016. Can you please tell us your impressions reflecting on the negotiations between Japan and Russia during these three years, and about your resolve toward your visit to Moscow later?
Minister MOTEGI: Since the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in Singapore in November 2018, negotiations have been held between the leaders and foreign ministers of both countries as well as at the vice-ministerial level. At the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in June 2019, Prime Minister Abe and President Putin welcomed that the negotiations on a peace treaty were conducted energetically, under their determination to accelerate negotiations on the basis of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, as announced by both sides in Singapore. Currently, the people in charge of negotiations for both sides are seeking a mutually-acceptable solution. I am scheduled to hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow later. I will persistently conduct negotiations under the basic policy of fundamentally resolving the attributions issue and concluding a peace treaty, while advancing cooperation including grave visits by airplane by former islanders, which have been continued for three years in a row, as well as starting the pilot project for the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands and having the joint economic activities take further shape from next year.
Reporter: Later, you will go to Spain before visiting Moscow. I believe that Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea (ROK) will attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). What is the status of coordination for holding a meeting, and what would you like to discuss if a meeting is held?
Minister MOTEGI: I have not confirmed whether Foreign Minister Kang will be in Madrid, but I would like to conduct coordination for a meeting if she will. Amidst this, Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation are extremely important including for the North Korea issue now, and I believe that it is essential to create future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. Thus, I would like to urge ROK again to quickly remedy its breach of international law.
Reporter: In relation to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to India, there are reports that it has been suspended due to local political instability. What is the current status of coordination?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe there will be an announcement soon in Tokyo. I believe that the final confirmation of the local situation is being conducted now in Tokyo.