Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 2:59 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Effects of the Suspension of the Aegis Ashore Deployment Plan on Japan-U.S. Relations and Other Matters
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to ask two questions about the suspension of the deployment process for Aegis Ashore, which was announced yesterday evening by Defense Minister Kono. I believe that ordinary people, including myself, are probably interested in how the suspension will affect Japan-U.S. relations and Japan’s defense capabilities. At the Committee on National Security meeting this morning, you answered that you do not think it will affect cooperation with the United States. Can you please tell us the specific reason you believe that? Also, can you please tell us your view on whether this matter will affect Japan’s defense capabilities?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Japan-U.S. relations, including the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the personal relationship of trust between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, are stronger now than ever before, and January 2020 marked the 60th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
Amidst this, as the security environment surrounding Japan grows increasingly severe, it is the Government’s important responsibility to protect the lives and assets of the people of Japan, and we have built a seamless system through various forms of cooperation with the United States, our ally. I believe that such a system has been maintained.
I do not believe that this decision will affect such cooperation with the United States. Japan will continue to closely cooperate with the United States. As I stated at the beginning, Japan will further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is stronger than ever before.
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: So you are including effects on defense capabilities in the content of your answer?
Minister MOTEGI: It is as I answered.
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: Thank you.
Novel Coronavirus (Relaxation of Restrictions on Entry Into Japan)
YTN (Republic of Korea (ROK)), Lee: The number of novel coronavirus patients has been increasing recently in areas such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing. It is hoped that entry restrictions will be relaxed for business-related people arriving from the ROK and China from summer, but what effects do you think the recent spread of infections will have?
Also, there are reports in the Japanese media that the Government of Japan will prioritize four countries, including Viet Nam, to relax entry restrictions. Can the ROK enter the next framework?
Lastly, the validity of visas held by exchange students and others from the ROK is suspended now. When will they become valid again? That is all.
Minister MOTEGI: As I have repeatedly stated during my press conferences and answered in the Diet, nothing has been decided at the present point regarding resumption of travel between Japan or any country or region, including the ROK and China. We are at the stage of advancing consideration.
Also, regarding the resumption of travel, I believe that in Japan, the spread of the novel coronavirus has considerably wound down compared to before. However, we must also consider the infection situations overseas. In terms of infection situations, if we look at the entire world, over 120,000 people are confirmed to be infected each day. Also, the novel coronavirus is currently conspicuously spreading in South America including Brazil, South Asia including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, parts of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, and parts of Africa such as South Africa and Egypt. In any event, we will firmly ascertain the overseas infection situations, including by country, as well as the responses of major countries and regions. Additionally, we will comprehensively consider the infection situations in other countries and various forms of information, and relax restrictions in stages.
As we relax restrictions in stages, rather than relaxing them for the entire world at once, we will begin with certain countries where the novel coronavirus has wound down and then sequentially expand the countries.
In regard to the type of people, we will begin with essential human resources such as businesspeople and experts. The next categories will probably include exchange students, which you mentioned. The last stage will probably be ordinary people including tourists.
Amidst this, there are areas in the world where the relaxation of movement restriction are gradually being taken. Although there were temporarily restrictions on travel among the countries of the Schengen Area, restrictions on movement within the Area have been relaxed. Measures towards relaxation have begun, as exemplified in the European Union’s proposal to relax movement restrictions with countries outside the Area.
I have held various exchanges of views and meetings with the Foreign Ministers of over 40 countries thus far. Among them, I held Telephone Talks with the Foreign Ministers of Viet Nam, New Zealand, and Australia, and we agreed to advance consultations regarding the possibility of allowing resumption of travel by necessary human resources while taking countermeasures against the novel coronavirus. Earnest consultations are being conducted at the working level now, including with the countries I just mentioned. Although there will be slight differences depending on the country, I believe that we can see some progress. That is all I can say as of today.
Opening to the General Public of the Industrial Heritage Information Center
Dong-a Ilbo, KIM: I would like to ask about the Industrial Heritage Information Center. Because the ROK alleges that when establishing the Center, Japan broke the promise to provide explanations regarding the victims who were made to be forced laborers during the war, including people from the ROK, the Government of the ROK has indicated that it will formally raise the issue to UNESCO. I would like to hear your reaction.
Also, the Government of Japan has only been saying that this matter has been sincerely implemented. What specifically has been sincerely implemented? What is your reaction to the protest by the Government of the ROK?
Minister MOTEGI: Japan has been sincerely reflecting on the resolutions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee thus far, and has been sincerely implementing measures such as those we have promised. As promised to the World Heritage Committee regarding the Industrial Heritage Information Center in 2015, the registration year, Japan opened the Center in FY2019, and it exhibits panels containing the statements promised by the Government of Japan to the international community. In any event, the preservation management of assets registered as World Heritage is implemented according to the judgments of the country where it is located. The Industrial Heritage Information Center’s exhibition content is based on the resolutions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee, and appropriate decisions have been made while acquiring advice from experts.
The Cabinet Secretariat has jurisdiction over this matter, not MOFA, so please inquire with them for further details.
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask some questions in relation to the previous ones. The testimony of the former islanders that is disclosed at the Industrial Heritage Information Center states that there was no discriminatory treatment of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Can you please tell us your thoughts on whether there was actually discriminatory treatment during the Japanese annexation of Korea?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated, this is under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Secretariat.
Novel Coronavirus (Japan’s International Cooperation Going Forward)
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I would like to ask about a completely different matter. Can you please tell us your views regarding the approach to Japan’s international cooperation after the novel coronavirus? All 2,000 of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) have temporarily returned to Japan, and there have been effects on Japan’s international cooperation in which work was done with local people. As novel coronavirus infections spread in developing countries, I believe it will continue to be difficult to place Japanese people in local areas. Can you please tell us your views regarding what approach should be taken for Japan’s international cooperation, in which people cooperate together in local areas?
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but how do you define “after the novel coronavirus”?
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I mean after the spread of the novel coronavirus, both now and going forward. Can you please answer that?
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, I do not understand what you mean.
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I see. Rather than after the novel coronavirus situation has completely wound down, I would like to ask about Japan’s international cooperation amidst the situation in which the novel coronavirus is spreading and is quite difficult to place Japanese people on the front lines in developing countries.
Minister MOTEGI: I do not believe that is “after the novel coronavirus.”
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I see, yes. I mean now.
Minister MOTEGI: For example, as I stated before, there are some countries where confirmed novel coronavirus cases are expanding, while for some countries the situation has wound down. Amidst this opaque situation, it is extremely difficult to answer in general terms. How would you answer?
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I do believe that the situations will differ depending on the country. While it is difficult to send Japanese people abroad to the front lines, I believe there will be some room for effort, so what approach to international cooperation is possible, such as promoting online medical examinations and online education?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like you to think later about the fact that your question is extremely difficult to answer. If I were to say anything further, it would be that in terms of the entire world now, the novel coronavirus situation has not wound down. We are still in a situation in which caution is necessary. The spread of the novel coronavirus is particularly conspicuous in emerging countries and developing countries. Due to this situation, these countries face issues with their healthcare systems and hygiene aspects. Support measures for these countries have already been included in the first supplementary budget, and through other means. Also, as I stated at my previous press conference, grant aid is being advanced at an unprecedented speed.
In addition, Japan’s support is different from the respective support measures being implemented around the world, and I believe it would be good to have these forms of support complement each other. By providing support for essential systems in hospitals rather than just masks, for example, Japan is advancing efforts to strengthen the healthcare systems of various countries. I believe that these efforts have been highly appreciated by various countries.
Furthermore, in addition to the provision of supplies and systems, I believe it is also important to have human contributions. Although some remote efforts are possible to advance capacity building in the countries I mentioned, it is necessary for people to actually visit the local areas to provide instruction and support.
Moreover, I believe that JICA’s JOCV and other such people are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to visit these areas as soon as it becomes possible, under their highly noble sense of mission that they have upheld while providing assistance thus far. We will provide as much support as possible to create conditions to facilitate the provision of such assistance, in the countries and regions that it would be possible for such people to visit and provide assistance.
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: I understand. Thank you.