Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Thursday, December 19, 2019, 4:30 p.m. Moscow, Russia
Reporter: You mentioned that you had a fruitful discussion. Can you please tell us your frank impressions and personal evaluation of this first meeting for the full-scale negotiations?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I held a Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov for five hours today, including the working lunch. I spoke about this morning’s discussion at the joint press conference, so I will not repeat that. At the working lunch, we continued to advance our negotiations for a peace treaty through thorough discussions. I conveyed my thoughts regarding the approach to future discussions under the instructions of the leaders of Japan and Russia. In regard to the policy of bridging the gap between our countries’ basic positions, we have decided to continue discussions while both sides contribute their wisdom. If various circumstances permit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I have agreed for coordination to hold the next Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting by taking the opportunity of the Munich Security Conference in February 2020. In regard to cooperation in the international arena, in addition to confirming dialogues and cooperation in various fields such as countermeasures against narcotics, corruption, and piracy, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I held a broad exchange of views regarding possible principles of cooperation in order to explore new cooperation for enhancing the potential of Japan-Russia relations. Furthermore, we held a frank discussion based on the recent situations regarding urgent international affairs including North Korea and the Middle East.
Foreign Minister Lavrov also organized for us to have an informal talk yesterday. This is my first visit to Russia as Minister for Foreign Affairs, but I was able to have thorough discussions over a total of eight hours – five hours today and three hours yesterday. I would like to advance Japan-Russia relations through working together with Foreign Minister Lavrov as foreign ministers of our respective countries.
Reporter: You just mentioned coordination to hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting during the Munich Security Conference in February 2020. What did you discuss regarding the Summit Meeting, which was planned to take place in Chile in September but was postponed?
Minister MOTEGI: We discussed that we are going to Munich, and that if various circumstances permit, we would like to hold the next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting then. We concluded that coordination will be conducted through diplomatic channels regarding the schedule for the next Summit Meeting.
Reporter: This is your third time meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov but your first time to have full-scale discussions as the person in charge of negotiations. I would like to ask again what points you think have advanced and developed in terms of the peace treaty negotiations.
Minister MOTEGI: As I did during the time of the trade negotiations between Japan and the United States, I would like to refrain from commenting regarding the content of the peace treaty negotiations, including all the points that are being raised, because the negotiations are ongoing and this is truly an issue concerning diplomatic nuances. If I were to say anything further, it would be that Japan’s positions are being conveyed in detail, including through this meeting, regarding all the points that the Russian side is raising. I believe that we were able to have a frank exchange of views. I think that you all know that eight hours for a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is a substantially long amount of time. I believe that it was a good meeting, and certainly not just a chat.
Reporter: Minister Lavrov has been indicating his thinking that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is a barrier to concluding a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. What discussions did you have regarding matters such as the Japan-U.S. Alliance during this meeting? Please tell us as much as possible.
Minister MOTEGI: Rather than just Russia, both Japan and Russia have concerns about security. We had a frank discussion about the concerns. I would like you to listen carefully from now on. As I stated before, I would like to refrain from commenting about the points raised during the peace treaty negotiations as they are ongoing.
Reporter: Today, at the customary press conference gathering Russian and foreign media organizations, President Putin said that the peace treaty negotiations have to be hikiwake. He used the Japanese word hikiwake. What is your reaction to the word hikiwake?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that hikiwake is not very different from “win-win.” I believe that he was trying to use a Japanese-style expression.
Reporter: So you have a favorable impression?
Minister MOTEGI: Yes.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the Japan-Russia year of regional exchanges. It was decided to coordinate holding the opening ceremony in Hokkaido. Can you please tell us the significance of holding it in Hokkaido, and if you have any expectations about it being held in Hokkaido?
Minister MOTEGI: Hokkaido is a region in the north of Japan that neighbors Russia. In that sense, for example, amidst advancing the matter of the Far East within the Eight-point Cooperation Plan, I believe that Hokkaido as well as the Sea of Japan would be a major hub. We will extend the exchanges between Japan and Russia to every corner of the region, and in that sense as well, I believe that Hokkaido is an extremely important region.
For your information, it seems that Minister Oreshkin has come to Japan numerous times as a representative, with the first time being selected for a baseball team. He said that he had never been to Hokkaido, and was extremely pleased.
Reporter: You have said that you requested that the Japanese fishing boats leave Hurukamappu Port. What is your outlook on this and did you receive a reply from the Russian side?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to this point, as I stated previously, at this meeting I issued a protest and requested that the crews and ships be allowed to swiftly leave Hurukamappu Port from a humanitarian perspective.