Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, September 11, 2020, 11:14 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Status of Negotiations on the Japan-U.K. Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: In my opening remarks, I would like to speak about two matters.
The first matter is the negotiations on the Japan-U.K. EPA. As a result of the tough working-level negotiations being held between Japan and the United Kingdom every day following my visit to the United Kingdom at the beginning of last month, the negotiations have progressed and are now being finalized. I will hold a video teleconference talk with Secretary of State for International Trade Truss this afternoon. Although I do not know what will happen as these are negotiations, I would like to aim to have an agreement in principle today if possible.
(2) Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (Launch of the “Business Track” with Singapore)
Minister MOTEGI: The other matter is about the resumption of cross-border travel. When I visited Singapore last month, there was an agreement with the Government of Singapore to launch the “Business Track” in September mainly for use by short-term business travelers. The “Business Track” will enable limited business activities during the quarantine period at home or other locations. Due to this, a joint press statement by the foreign ministers of Japan and Singapore will be released today, and the “Business Track” will be launched on September 18.
Singapore is the first country with which Japan is launching the “Business Track.” The “Residence Track” has already been started with seven countries and regions. In addition to the “Residence Track,” I believe this measure is an important step for allowing resumption of cross-border travel in a partial and phased manner while also preventing recurrence of the spread of infections.
In regard to the “Residence Track” with Singapore that would enable travel by long-term residents such as employees who are dispatched to work abroad, coordination will continue to be advanced toward launching it as soon as possible. That is all from me.
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (Launch of the “Business Track” with Singapore)
TV Asahi, OISHI: In regard to allowing resumption of travel by short-term business travelers with Singapore that you mentioned in your opening remarks, as this is the first country, can you please tell us again the significance of allowing resumption of cross-border travel? Also, can you please tell us your frank reaction to reaching the agreement to allow resumption of travel?
Minister MOTEGI: Although there are some people infected with the novel coronavirus in Singapore, I believe that most of them are workers from abroad and other such people. I believe the level of infections among people actually involved in business has been controlled at an extremely low level.
Furthermore, there is a great demand in business, such as for finance and distribution, between Singapore and Japan. When I visited Singapore recently, we wanted to quickly launch the “Business Track.” We formulated a joint press statement, and the final coordination has been conducted. Singapore is the first country with which Japan will launch the “Business Track.” I would like it to be a good model for extending the “Business Track” to other countries.
New Security Measures
NHK, BABA: Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to issue a statement today concerning the new security strategy. It seems that he will indicate consideration regarding the new policy to counter missiles. What diplomacy-related effects do you think there will be on countries in the vicinity of Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me. The premise of your question is that a statement will be issued, but is that rooted in fact?
Please ask your question again.
NHK, BABA: Yes, my question is based on news coverage.
Minister MOTEGI: I see. As the security environment surrounding Japan grows increasingly severe, deliberations regarding Japan’s security conditions have been repeatedly carried out within the Government of Japan with participation by related ministers including myself. Those deliberations have been carried while reacting to public discourse, within the scope of the current Constitution, under Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, and under the stance that the basic role and mission sharing between Japan and the United States will not change.
I would like to refrain from answering about when conclusions will be drawn on the specific content of the deliberations that were mentioned in relation to this.
Verbal Exchange Between Minister Motegi and the Japan Times Journalist
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: Continuing on from last week, I would like to ask about the issue of your exchange with the journalist Magdalena Osumi of the Japan Times. I will ask my question with the premise that with issues concerning discrimination, the important point is whether discriminative effects are brought about, and not whether one had the intention to discriminate.
Excuse me for talking fast. In your exchange with Ms. Osumi on August 28, you repeated, “Did you understand my Japanese?” twice at the end. But I read your words as being extremely unnecessary. The reason is that you only told her to ask the Immigration Services Agency before that. The only difficult Japanese phrase you used was “Immigration Services Agency.”
In your press conference last Friday, you stated that you used English in so-called good faith by choosing the most suitable wording based on the situation. But precisely because such a situation arose, shouldn’t you have said “Immigration Services Agency” in both Japanese and English? Saying that, I feel that your statement last week was self-contradictory. Excuse me for speaking a long time. Ultimately, this situation…
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, please ask me one question at a time. What is your question?
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: Yes. I’ll ask my question now.
Minister MOTEGI: So what were you saying before now?
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: This situation produced a contemptuous effect.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me.
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: Yes.
Minister MOTEGI: So is it correct to understand that what you said through now was not a question? I am saying that I would like you to ask one question at a time.
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: Yes. So I stated that I felt that what you said was self-contradictory, and finally that this situation produced a contemptuous effect. I believe that such a situation should not occur again, but what are your thoughts?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the reporters here have heard my press conferences over the past year, and there have been people who ask questions in Japanese as well as people who ask questions in English. Amidst this, I have answered the respective questions in my own way in the most accurate and correct way possible.
In regard to the exchange in my recent press conference, as I stated recently, I want to accurately respond to and understand the meaning of the questions that I am asked. I have repeatedly asked, “I do not understand the meaning of your question. What is it?” in response to questions asked in Japanese as well. I want to answer questions as sincerely and correctly as possible. In that sense, this was not the first case in which I asked about the meaning of a sentence. I ask this because I want to answer as correctly as possible.
I was asked about the scientific basis. As I stated recently, in these foreign minister’s press conferences, I have been repeatedly asked questions including about matters in consideration of diplomacy, effects on other countries, and effects on the economy.
However, this was my first time being asked a question about a scientific basis. Frankly, I did not understand the meaning of “scientific basis,” so I asked about it. I asked about it in English. Additionally, I was asking about the Japanese. The question was only about the scientific basis, so it could be an issue concerning various data such as the situation of the spread of infections, which are the issues handled by the Immigration Services Agency. Therefore, I requested the journalist to inquire at the Immigration Services Agency, as it is the organization that generally handles immigration. Through our verbal exchange, I understood that the journalist understands Japanese well, so I answered in Japanese.
Shukan Kinyobi, UEMATSU: You just stated at the end that you did not say the phrase “Immigration Services Agency” in Japanese because you knew that Ms. Osumi understands the Japanese. But based on that, I believe it was unnecessary for you to say “Did you understand my Japanese?” twice at the end. Why did you deliberately repeat that phrase twice at the end? I believe that, regardless of your intentions, the result is that you came across as contemptuous. What do you think?
Minister MOTEGI: I answer questions sincerely.
Japan-China Relations (Appointment of the Ambassador of Japan to China)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: It was decided at the Cabinet meeting today to appoint former Deputy Minister Tarumi to be the new Ambassador of Japan to China. I believe there are various unresolved issues in Japan’s relations with China, including China’s maritime advances. Can you please tell us the role expected of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Tarumi?
Minister MOTEGI: Former Deputy Minister Tarumi understands Chinese very well and has experience being stationed in China. He has also been involved with various policies through now. There are of course various issues between Japan and China, such as the East China Sea and the South China Sea, as well as Hong Kong. As China is a neighboring country with which we have unresolved issues, I believe it is extremely important to resolve the pending issues one by one through high-level dialogue. In that sense, I expect that former Deputy Minister Tarumi will become majorly helpful for advancing such diplomatic efforts of Japan.