Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, September 18, 2020, 11:13 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is my first press conference since the inauguration of the new Cabinet. Thank you for your support.
Five Years Since the Enactment of the Security-Related Legislation
Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: Tomorrow, five years will have passed since the enactment of the security-related legislation that enables exercising the right to collective self-defense. Can you please tell us your thoughts on how Japan’s security policies have been improved and how contributions have been made to deepening the Japan-U.S. Alliance during these five years?
Minister MOTEGI: The Abe administration has left various results during its tenure for seven years and eight months, and I believe the enactment of the security-related legislation is one of the major results among them. It is the Government’s utmost responsibility to protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the people of Japan in any situation.
The Legislation for Peace and Security enacted in 2015 enables protection of weapons and other equipment of U.S. military forces, and there is no question that it has made the Japan-U.S. Alliance unprecedentedly strong and enhances deterrence and response capabilities. I believe that this contributes to regional peace and security. In addition, I believe it has enabled Japan to contribute more actively to the peace and security of the international community.
MOFA will continue to work on the effective utilization of the legislation for peace and security while closely cooperating with the National Security Secretariat and the Ministry of Defense. Also, MOFA will exert all efforts with a sense of urgency to protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the people of Japan in any situation.
In-Person Diplomacy By Prime Minister Suga
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about the policy for diplomacy initiatives of the new administration. Since the inauguration of Prime Minister Suga, I believe that in-person diplomacy will be important to build relationships of trust between him and the leaders of various countries. However, as it is quite difficult to conduct in-person diplomacy amidst the spread of the novel coronavirus, how will diplomacy with summit leaders be advanced going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Although it has been quite difficult to conduct in-person diplomacy amidst the global spread of the novel coronavirus, I have actively resumed visiting foreign countries since last month. I have held in-person meetings with dignitaries of various countries and spent plenty of time thoroughly discussing and deepening understanding on novel coronavirus response issues, the South China Sea issue, and issues faced by the international community. I feel anew the importance of that.
As the new administration has just been inaugurated this week, nothing has been decided at the present point about overseas visits by Prime Minister Suga. Comprehensive decisions on matters such as the timing and destinations for Prime Minister Suga’s overseas visits will be made while monitoring the international situation and novel coronavirus conditions going forward.
Prime Minister Suga’s First Press Conference Following his Inauguration
Independent Web Journal, HAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about your recognition of the content of Prime Minister Suga’s first press conference following his inauguration that was held recently. At his first press conference following his inauguration, Prime Minister Suga stated that he would start his administration to work for the people of Japan, and firmly raise results and meet the expectations of the people. I believe that a politician chosen by the people would of course work for the people. What is your view on whether the meaning of this statement is that it reflects a recognition that at least the previous administration did not work for the people?
Minister MOTEGI: I do not believe that is what he meant at all. As it was during the Abe administration, there is no change to the Suga administration’s stance of working for the people of Japan and exerting all efforts to resolve the issues faced by Japan and the international community.
There are various perspectives on working for the people. Speaking from MOFA’s perspective, “people of Japan” means Japanese nationals, and it is our most important job to protect the safety of Japanese nationals who are overseas. Amidst the emergence and global spread of the novel coronavirus this year, MOFA has provided assistance for the repatriation of over 12,000 Japanese nationals from regions and countries that were difficult to return from, beginning with the repatriation operations in Wuhan. We will firmly continue this work and exert all efforts to protect the safety of Japanese nationals.
It is also extremely important to protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the people of Japan, and for this there is the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the linchpin of Japanese diplomacy. As the security environment in East Asia grows increasingly severe now, we will firmly protect the lives, safety, and peace of mind of the people of Japan in any situation, using the Japan-U.S. Alliance as the linchpin,
At the same time, it is also important to build friendly relations with various countries. We will build both friendly bilateral relations as well as multilateral relations. We will also position Japan at the center of these relations and enhance Japan’s presence. That is what I believe.
Also, in terms of working for the people, the people’s daily lives and financial circumstances are also important. Japan proudly raises the flag of free trade, and has been leading efforts to promote and develop free trade amidst the inward-looking developments by various countries now. Beginning with the TPP11, we have concluded the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement entered into force in January. We also reached an agreement in principle on the Japan-U.K. Comprehensive Economic Partnership recently, and would like to have it enter into force in January 2021. I believe that promoting such trade policies also contributes to enhancing the financial circumstances and daily lives of the people. We would like to implement such policies.
Continuity and consistency are important for diplomacy, and we will firmly implement that.
Five Eyes (Statement By Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom)
Mainichi Shimbun, AOKI: On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom indicated that he would welcome Japan’s participation in the so-called “Five Eyes.” What are your thoughts on “Five Eyes”? Also, can you please tell us if any sort of negotiations have started on this matter and if there is a possibility that Japan will participate in future?
Minister MOTEGI: I am not in the position to comment on the specific content of Prime Minister Johnson’s statement. It is true that “Five Eyes” advances various initiatives that Japan appreciates. However, because the name “Five Eyes” refers to its composition of five countries, Japan could not be added to “Five Eyes.” But Japan will advance various forms of multilateral cooperative relations.
Japan-China Relations (State Visit to Japan By President Xi Jinping of China)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. Yesterday, Secretary-General Nikai of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) stated in a speech that if the postponed state visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China would have been held, Japan and China had concluded the 5th political document based on the theme of “kyoso” (co-creation), written with the characters for “together” and “create” and meaning “creating together.” Is the Government of Japan considering this? Also, can you please tell us again the status of consideration regarding President Xi’s state visit to Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: As I have stated repeatedly regarding President Xi’s state visit to Japan, the present stage is not that of consideration. Also, various preparatory work had been advanced at the stage of when the state visit to Japan by President Xi was planned. Whenever a Chinese President has visited Japan, a variety of documents had been issued, including some of the previous four political documents. Discussions were held about whether to create such an outcome document, but because President Xi’s visit to Japan has not actually been held, consideration is not being conducted at the present point about his visit to Japan and a document during that visit.