Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, January 14, 2020, 3:50 p.m. San Francisco, the United States of America
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, I held a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and tête-à-tête with Secretary of State Pompeo for about 1.5 hours, including our meeting over lunch. I also held a Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that also included Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha for about 50 minutes. Additionally, I held a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Minister Kang for a total of 45 minutes, including a tête-à-tête for about five minutes at the end.
During the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo and Minister Kang, I held a broad exchange of views regarding regional situations, including North Korea and the Middle East, and common issues of the international community, and we also confirmed close Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. I believe that it was an extremely significant meeting.
This was my second Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo since the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019, although we have talked on the phone. Amidst the relaxing atmosphere with sunlight pouring down in the west coast of the United States, we held a long and frank exchange of views regarding various issues for which Japan and the United States should cooperate. Secretary of State Pompeo stated that he would like to meet frequently going forward and that he would like me to attend the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that will be hosted by the United States this year, and hoped to have an opportunity to meet before that. I stated that coordination would be conducted as much as possible given the schedule of the Diet, and we agreed to continue to closely cooperate.
At the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we held an exchange of views regarding various unresolved issues, including the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, currently the largest issue between Japan and the ROK. During this, I once again strongly requested the ROK to take responsibility and indicate a solution. Minister Kang and I agreed to continue to seek mutual understanding between the diplomatic authorities of our countries, including at the foreign minister level. We also reconfirmed close cooperation for the North Korea issue. That is all from me.
Reporter: I would like to ask one question. You stated in your opening remarks that during the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, you held an exchange of views regarding North Korea and the Middle East. More specifically, there are tensions with the North Korea nuclear and missile issue and the current situation in the Middle East, so what kind of cooperation did you confirm for this?
Minister MOTEGI: We shared recognition of the current situation in the Middle East and that we would cooperate well for it. For the North Korea issue, we also shared fundamental recognition of future policy on North Korea on three basic points. The first point is complete support for the U.S. initiative of aiming for denuclearization through U.S.-North Korea dialogue, and that it is important for North Korea not to conduct provocative actions and to proactively undertake this dialogue toward realizing complete denuclearization. The second point is that it is important for the international community to show unity and fully implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and we discussed that it would be premature at this stage to ease sanctions. The third was that Japan, the United States, and the ROK will continue to closely cooperate in all situations. Additionally, in regard to the North Korea issue, I again appealed to the United States and the ROK to continue to provide support and cooperation toward the swift resolution of the abductions issue. That is all.
Reporter: In regard to your discussion on the situation in the Middle East at the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo, did you encourage a restrained response instead of a military strike?
Minister MOTEGI: At the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we had a quite in-depth discussion about the situation in the Middle East. During our lengthy discussion, we shared recognition of the current situation and had a frank exchange of views. I expressed deep concern about the increasing level of tensions in the situation in the Middle East, requested on behalf of Japan for all of the people concerned to conduct all diplomatic efforts to ease tensions, and expressed appreciation for the restrained response by the United States. Secretary of State Pompeo expressed appreciation for Japan’s initiatives. Moreover, Secretary of State Pompeo and I shared the recognition that escalation of the situation should be avoided, and confirmed the importance of conducting all diplomatic efforts toward easing tensions in the Middle East and stabilizing the situation while continuing to closely cooperate with the countries concerned.
Reporter: You also spoke about the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in your opening remarks. Is it correct to understand that you requested the ROK side for a new solution, and that the ROK side did not indicate a solution?
Minister MOTEGI: The ROK side did not have any specific new proposals this time. However, we agreed that we would continue to seek mutual understanding between the diplomatic authorities of our two countries, including at the foreign minister level.
Reporter: You just mentioned appreciation for future initiatives in relation to the Middle East. What were Secretary of State Pompeo’s specific reactions to the dispatch of Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) ships to the Middle East as well as Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East? Did Secretary of State Pompeo provide a specific explanation about the military movements by the United States, including the killing of General Soleimani?
Minister MOTEGI: Your question jumped around various topics. Can you please tell me what you would like to ask again?
Reporter: Firstly, you mentioned appreciation for Japan’s initiatives in the Middle East. My first question is to ask how Secretary of State Pompeo reacted to the dispatch of the SDF to the Middle East. I would also like to ask how Secretary of State Pompeo reacted to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East.
Minister MOTEGI: This was my third time explaining to Secretary of State Pompeo about the dispatch of SDF assets, so I once again provided an explanation that included the specific schedule for the dispatch. I stated that Secretary of State Pompeo expressed appreciation for the explanation. I also stated in my opening remarks that he expressed appreciation for Japan’s initiatives, which include Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East this week including to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, my visit to the United States today and holding a meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo, as well as encouraging President Rouhani to exhibit self-restraint last year.
Reporter: In relation to the Middle East, the United States is unsatisfied with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and believes it is flawed. Did you discuss the future direction of the JCPOA during the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the JCPOA, Japan appreciates the international non-proliferation system, supports the JCPOA that contributes to stability in the Middle East, and believes it is regrettable that the United States withdrew from the JCPOA. That is Japan’s position. At the same time, Japan and the United States do not accept Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons, share the goal of promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, and will continue to closely cooperate.
In addition, it is extremely regrettable that Iran is taking countermeasures in violation of the JCPOA. We will continue to urge Iran to adhere to the JCPOA and persistently continue diplomatic efforts while cooperating with the countries concerned toward easing tensions in the Middle East.
However, although I stated that I had a quite lengthy discussion regarding the Middle East today, most of the time was spent discussing the various situations that have occurred since the beginning of the year, predictions for future developments, and other such matters. Amidst this, the discussion centered on the fact that it is extremely important to avoid escalation of the situation and about cooperation with related countries, so we did not have an in-depth discussion about the JCPOA.
Reporter: During the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, did you mention the issue of the Japanese abductees?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated before, I mentioned it.
Reporter: In relation to the Middle East, I believe that the Government of Japan will continue to call for the easing of tensions. Are you personally considering any new specific way of encouraging Iran to do this based on your discussion with Secretary of State Pompeo this time?
Minister MOTEGI: We conducted various analyses of the situations that have occurred thus far and the current domestic conditions in Iran. We also discussed our predictions for what could happen from now on and other such matters, but as this is a diplomatic matter, of course I would like to refrain from commenting about topics such as what I will do and what the United States will do going forward.