Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 11:56 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Visit to the United Kingdom By Minister Motegi
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Firstly, I would like to report on one matter.
I am scheduled to visit the United Kingdom from tomorrow, August 5, to August 7.
This visit will be the first overseas visit by a Japanese minister since the novel coronavirus began to spread worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, I am scheduled to conduct the final consultations with Secretary of State for International Trade Truss toward swiftly concluding negotiations regarding the new economic partnership between Japan and the United Kingdom. In order to continue smooth business between Japan and the United Kingdom, it is essential to quickly create a new trade and investment framework between Japan and the United Kingdom to substitute for the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.
Due to the fact that the transition period following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU ends at the end of this year, I would like to hold consultations that concentrate on the final negotiations.
In addition, I am scheduled to hold an exchange of views with my counterpart, Foreign Secretary Raab, regarding wide-ranging Japan-U.K. cooperation including for the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and security and defense cooperation, as well as novel coronavirus countermeasures and regional situations. That is all from me.
Visit to the United Kingdom by Minister Motegi
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the approach to infection control measures after you return to Japan from your visit to the United Kingdom, which you introduced just now.
From the perspective of preventing the spread of novel coronavirus infections, the Government of Japan is requesting that people who enter Japan from abroad self-quarantine for 14 days. Can you please tell us how you and your accompanying personnel will respond to this, including the status of considerations thus far?
Minister MOTEGI: Prior to my visit to the United Kingdom, from the perspective of thoroughly implementing infection control measures, coordination has been conducted within departments of the Government regarding infection control measures for overseas visits by officials, such as by Government dignitaries.
The main content of the thorough novel coronavirus infection control measures firstly includes utilizing a private airplane such as a chartered airplane to travel to the country or region with the smallest number of people necessary, avoiding contact with regular people as much as possible in the country or region, and returning to Japan using a chartered airplane. Additionally, after returning to Japan, the people who traveled will conduct necessary diplomatic activities based on the premise that they take a PCR test or other tests after they return to Japan, not use public transportation for two weeks after their return, continue health checks, and take careful actions that consider infection risks.
It is my understanding that such measures have become the global standard, including in major countries in the West.
These measures will first be implemented for my visit to the United Kingdom, and the same measures will also be utilized for overseas visits by officials, such as those by Government dignitaries, for the time being.
In addition, quarantining is, in a sense, just one form of thorough health checks, and I believe that the people who are accompanying me and being exempted from quarantine will travel with me and be thorough about measures to prevent the spread of infections. Specifically, this includes personnel above the Director-General level, my executive assistant, bodyguards, and others.
Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: I would like to ask about the negotiations with the United Kingdom.
Earlier, you mentioned that you will conduct final negotiations with Secretary of State for International Trade Truss. Specifically, I believe that negotiations have been carried out at the working level until now, so what themes are remaining and what kind of negotiations would you like to conduct?
Minister MOTEGI: Two months have passed since negotiations at the working level and with Secretary of State for International Trade Truss began on the economic partnership between Japan and the United Kingdom. I believe the agreement will be composed of about 20 sections. The final discussions on most points at issue are being conducted at the working level between Japan and the United Kingdom.
Naturally, some points will remain unresolved at the working level and we will continue negotiations and find a way to come to a conclusion on those points at the ministerial level. Because these are negotiations on economic cooperation, issues still remain. I also have my own ideas on the approach I want to take.
However, I cannot speak about that because of the negotiations.
Issue of Foreign Nationals Entering Japan
Radio France, NISHIMURA: I would like to ask about foreign nationals entering Japan. It has been reported that several teachers at international schools in Japan were allowed to enter the country. They were not re-entering Japan, but were rather newly entering Japan. They came to Japan from European countries. Entry into Japan is denied in principle based on Japan’s border enforcement measures, but are there exceptions through such work-related reasons? If there are, can you please tell us the evaluation criteria?
Minister MOTEGI: For organizations mainly conducting elementary and secondary education, from the perspective of ensuring the right of children to receive education, we will allow new entry and re-entry to Japan by human resources that are difficult to find adequate replacements for within Japan, as they have “special circumstances” that make them exceptions to denial to enter Japan. From this perspective, coordination has been conducted with related ministries and agencies to allow re-entry by teachers at international schools and their families who have status of residence in Japan, as well as entry into Japan by newly-appointed teachers.
Visit to the United Kingdom by Minister Motegi
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about your visit to the United Kingdom. This will be the first overseas visit by a minister following the spread of the novel coronavirus. Can you please tell us if you would like this visit to the United Kingdom to be an opportunity to resume in-person diplomacy going forward? Also, there are reports that you will visit Southeast Asia after you return to Japan, so can you please tell us your plan as of now?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, if we look at developments in various countries now, exchanges among country leaders and foreign ministers as well as various meetings are beginning to be resumed. In general, I believe that this is being conducted while firmly taking measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Japan also has various issues in diplomacy now, and as I stated in my opening remarks, there is a predetermined deadline for concluding the economic partnership between Japan and the United Kingdom. If we are unable to meet that, there will be major effects on business between Japan and the United Kingdom. Also, I believe that it is probably impossible to conduct such difficult negotiations involving national interests by telephone. That is at least beyond my abilities. I believe that actually meeting directly and conducting negotiations will take several hours. Although I believe the negotiations will take a long time, I would like to find points we can settle and reach an agreement. However, I believe that is not the only topic. For example, the specific scheme toward allowing resumption of travel will begin from countries where novel coronavirus infections are winding down, and we have first applied it to four countries.
The “Residence Track” has already started with Thailand and Viet Nam. We will also hold consultations with 12 countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, and consultations among ministers are necessary to accelerate that.
Furthermore, I believe it has also become extremely important to conduct various exchanges of views and coordination with Southeast Asian countries regarding how to respond to the changes to the environment surrounding Japan and the Asia region, including in East Asia, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea.
Of course, besides this, we are also resuming diplomacy by ministers other than myself as well as at the summit level, and I believe there will be attendance at necessary meetings and negotiations. However, the first round will be my visit to the United Kingdom, and we will firstly take various measures to prevent the spread of infections during the visit and when we return to Japan.
The ODA Project ProSAVANA
TBS, MORIKAWA: I would like to ask about an ODA project in Mozambique. Can you please tell us the reason why it was decided to cancel the ODA project “ProSAVANA” that had been implemented in Mozambique?
Minister MOTEGI: The “ProSAVANA” project is an agricultural development project aiming to enhance the productivity of small farmers targeting northern Mozambique, and I believe the project progressed greatly. Recently, the Government of Mozambique sent a request to conclude the project as the support from Japan for this project was sufficiently utilized for agricultural measures in Mozambique. Due to this, both Japan and Mozambique confirmed the completion of the project. The objectives of the project were accomplished and thus the project was completed.
TBS, MORIKAWA: 3.5 billion yen was spent on the project over 10 years from 2011, and it is very highly evaluated. It was decided to cancel the project, so do you feel there were any lessons learnt?
Minister MOTEGI: As I just stated, there were plenty of results. The project was not canceled. It was completed. It was not stopped mid-way. It was completed after plenty of results were concluded.
Legislative Council of Hong Kong Election
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask two questions. The first question is about Hong Kong. Last week, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region announced that it will postpone the election for the Legislative Council by one year. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is stating that the spread of the novel coronavirus is the reason, and that there are no political intentions. What are the thoughts of the Government of Japan regarding this response?
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to answer by including the election situation in general. Japan has serious concerns about the situation concerning the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, including the effects on the “One Country, Two Systems” framework of Hong Kong by the decision to invalidate the candidacy of certain candidates for the Legislative Council election and the decision to postpone the election, which you mentioned.
Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for Japan with which Japan maintains close economic ties and people-to-people exchanges. It is the long-standing position of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system and the democratic and stable development of Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework. Holding a free and fair election without delay is an important foundation for that. Japan will continue to monitor the situation concerning the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong while closely cooperating with related countries.
Senkaku Islands (Advance Notice about Entry by a Group of Fishing Boats)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the Senkaku Islands. In regard to navigation by Chinese fishing boats around the islands, recently there were some reports that China sent advance notice to the Government of Japan that a large number of fishing boats would enter the territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands. The reports also say that China stated that Japan is not entitled to request that the fishing boats be stopped from navigating there. Is this true?
Minister MOTEGI: It is not true that we received such an advance notice. It is not true. In any event, the Government of Japan is building a necessary system in order to be able to appropriately deal with various situations in the current security environment. We will continue to monitor related movements, and exert all efforts to respond depending on the situation while closely cooperating with related ministries and agencies.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Hiroshima City, atomic bomb survivors, and others are strongly calling on the Government of Japan to conclude the Treaty, and there are 10 countries and regions remaining needed to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force. Based on this situation, can you please tell us again the Government of Japan’s position regarding the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Also, can you tell us how the Government of Japan will bridge the gap amidst the disagreement between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe it is necessary to think about this by differentiating the separate issues of the treaty and Japan’s stance. I think that Japan, as the only country to have felt the inhumanity of nuclear weapons by experiencing atomic bombing during war, has the responsibility to take the lead in efforts by the international community to realize a world free of nuclear weapons. This year marks 75 years since the atomic bombs were dropped, and this is Japan’s firm, unwavering policy. I believe that we must firmly confirm that.
Amidst this, Japan shares the goal of abolition of nuclear weapons that is the aim of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. On the other hand, as I have repeatedly stated, the Treaty has currently not received support not only from some nuclear-weapon states, but also some non-nuclear weapon states that are threatened by nuclear weapons. As the security environment surrounding Japan grows increasingly severe, I believe it is necessary to seek a path that advances nuclear disarmament steadily and practically while appropriately dealing with real security threats, including maintaining and strengthening deterrence. Various countries have different paces for this, so I believe it is extremely important to build a shared foundation based on what we can do together. Japan hosted the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) on the margin of the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last year, and I would like follow-up to be conducted this time and in the future.
Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula (Entry into Effect of the Public Notification)
Dong-a Ilbo, KIM: I would like to ask about Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. Today, in relation to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, Nippon Steel Corporation will immediately appeal against the procedure to seize the company’s assets. What is your reaction to this? Also, do you assume that you will hold consultations or a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with the ROK going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, I would like to emphasize that the ROK Supreme Court’s decision and the related judicial procedure concerning the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula is a clear breach of international law. Additionally, seizure of assets is not equivalent to liquidation. It is my understanding that the public notification of the order to seize assets came into effect at midnight today. If liquidation occurs in the future, it will cause a severe situation. That must be avoided. Japan has been repeatedly and strongly pointing this out, including during the recent Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. We will continue to request the ROK to indicate a swift solution. I believe it is extremely important for the Government of Japan to protect the legitimate economic activities of Japanese companies. While continuing to closely communicate with the companies concerned, we will firmly respond by examining all options, including what scenarios there are.