Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, September 8, 2020, 12:14 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Phased Relaxation of Restrictions on Cross-Border Travel (“Residence Track”)
Sankei Shimbun, HARAKAWA: The “Residence Track,” one of the phased measures for relaxing restrictions on cross-border travel, was started today with five countries and regions including Malaysia and Taiwan. My first question is, can you please tell us the outlook of the consultations going forward, including about other countries with which there are ongoing consultations? Can you also please tell us the outlook for expanding the target countries and regions for consultations?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Consultations are currently being conducted on creating a framework toward the resumption of cross-border travel with 16 countries and regions, based on the decisions by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters on June 18 and July 22. As has been stated, the “Residence Track” has already been implemented with Viet Nam and Thailand among the first four countries to be considered.
Also, as I announced recently, the “Residence Track” was started today with five countries and regions: Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Taiwan.
Regarding the “Business Track,” when I visited Singapore recently, there was an agreement to aim to start it in September. Consultations and coordination are currently being conducted diligently with the rest of the 16 countries and regions.
In addition to the target 16 countries, we would like to expand the scope to regions where the novel coronavirus is winding down and regions where there are high needs such as for business. We will conduct consideration while monitoring the situation going forward.
Outlook on Relaxation of Restrictions on Entry into Japan Going Forward
Pan Orient News: AZUHARI: I think you are talking about those who had re-entry permit. My question is about those who don’t have any visa to Japan. If somebody in any country wants to come and visit Japan, when do you think the ban on such people to have a visa to come and visit Japan for the first time is going to be relaxed? We know some diplomatic people, VIP or American military can come, but what about ordinary people? Do you think, in the near future, people can have a visa and come visit Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have stated, resumption of cross-border travel would be balanced with the prevention of the novel coronavirus spread. Regarding countries, we are starting with countries where infections are winding down. Regarding people, we will begin with people related to business and other such matters, then overseas exchange students and other people with high needs, and finally regular people such as tourists. We are currently taking these phased steps. We have started the “Residence Track” and “Business Track” that I just mentioned. Also, we are considering the extent of expansion for the target countries of the “Residence Track” and “Business Track”
On the other hand, while monitoring conditions such as the state of infections, we will conduct consideration on entry of people with Japanese residency, including revoking suspensions on visas.
Germany’s Involvement in the Indo-Pacific Region
Nikkei Shimbun, MIZOROGI: The Government of Germany published new guidelines on diplomacy and trade entitled Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific Region. It seems that the free and open Indo-Pacific concept advocated by Japan is echoing. What is your view of this publication by the Government of Germany?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the guidelines by the Government of Germany can be highly evaluated. There have been discussions through now between Japan and Germany about the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Maas and I have of course held such discussions. The essence of the guidelines formulated by Germany is that the formulation of the future world order will be determined in the Indo-Pacific region, and it is my understanding that the guidelines were formulated as a governmental basic policy by a Cabinet decision.
I believe that the guidelines are in agreement with freedom of navigation, the rule of law, and the concept of connectivity which have been emphasized by Japan through now. They are also in agreement with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the free and open Indo-Pacific concept that has been advocated by Japan. I think they can be very highly evaluated.
Japan has led the activities toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific while deepening cooperation with many related countries, which of course include ASEAN countries as well as the United States and European countries. We will continue such initiatives with not only countries such as the United Kingdom and France but also Germany as our important partners.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Presidential Election
Kyodo News, TAKAO: Please excuse me for asking about governmental affairs, but I would like to ask a question regarding the LDP presidential election about which there was an announcement today. Former LDP Secretary-General Ishiba, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, and LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Kishida have provided notification of their candidacy. Can you please tell us your expectations about what the election campaigns will be toward the tally on September 14 as well as your thoughts on the qualities necessary for the new leader?
Minister MOTEGI: I am participating in this press conference today as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, so all I can say is that the three candidates were announced today. I believe that it is important for a free and active presidential election to be held with candidates with excellent experience and insight, and that as a result the new LDP president is elected and a new administration is quickly built.
ASEAN-Related Foreign Ministers’ Teleconference Meetings
NHK, WATANABE: The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held online from tomorrow. Can you please tell us how you would like Japan to position the meetings, such as viewpoints and discussions, and about your determination?
Minister MOTEGI: I am planned to participate in three meetings on September 9 which are the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Japan-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on September 12, which will all be held online.
It is my understanding that at these meetings, foreign ministers of countries including ASEAN countries will participate and hold exchanges of views regarding the response to the novel coronavirus as well as regional conditions such as the South China Sea issue and the North Korea issues.
I will actively contribute to the discussions based on my recent visit to Southeast Asia and the discussions during the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Amidst this, I hope to hold discussions on strengthening cooperation on novel coronavirus countermeasures and realizing regional peace and prosperity.
Senkaku Islands (10 Years Since the Collision Incident Involving a Chinese Fishing Boat)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about the collision incident involving a Chinese fishing boat that occurred 10 years ago near the Senkaku Islands. Diet member MAEHARA Seiji, who was Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, stated in an interview with the Sankei Shimbun that the release of the ship’s captain, who had been arrested, was carried out at the order of then-Prime Minister KAN Naoto. Is the current Cabinet aware of the fact that this occurred? Also, can you please tell us your view on whether this decision was appropriate?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that various things happened during the administration at the time. I would like to refrain from commenting about individual matters. However, I recently saw the film Fukushima 50. I thought that WATANABE Ken and SATO Koichi were excellent, but SANO Shiro, who played the role of the Prime Minister, was superb at portraying his irritation and confusion. Although I am not sure since it is a film, I felt that it was a very realistic portrayal.
Regarding the matter you mentioned, it is an incident involving interference with the execution of Japanese government duties within Japanese territorial waters, and I believe there are various views regarding what would be proper to do. At the very least, it is true that various views are being expressed about that.
NHK, WATANABE: In regard to the statement by former Foreign Minister Maehara in the Sankei Shimbun, for example, is it equivalent to a former minister for foreign affairs leaking confidential information?
Minister MOTEGI: I do not know because I have not closely verified the content. But because you pointed it out, I will try to examine what the content was.