Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Wednesday, September 9, 2020, 8:58 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting have just ended today. After this, I am scheduled to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Three hours have already passed and I believe the total time will be over five hours. Although this is a long time, very significant discussions are being held.
During the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that was held first, I explained Japan’s support measures for ASEAN as follow-up to the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) held via video conference in April. They include efforts toward establishing the ASEAN Center for Infectious Diseases that is supported by Japan. In addition, I confirmed continued cooperation with related countries toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) within the year.
Next I will speak about the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held earlier. I just visited some ASEAN countries in August. I was the first foreign dignitary to visit these countries since the start of the spread of the novel coronavirus, and I was told this truly left an impression on these countries. I also visited the four countries of Viet Nam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia early in the beginning of this year, and I believe that also left an impression. I feel that I held good meetings in a very personal manner. During the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, we agreed to realize Japan-ASEAN cooperation for the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept that Japan is promoting, as Japan and ASEAN share many fundamental values including the rule of law, freedom of navigation, and openness. In addition, today I announced that Japan will newly contribute $1 million USD to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, which aims to develop vaccines and procure medical supplies. Furthermore, I explained Japan’s positions on regional situations such as the East China Sea, the South China Sea, North Korea, and Hong Kong, and various countries made statements about the abductions issue. I believe that discussions with various ASEAN countries about such regional situations deepened. After this at the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I will raise Japan’s positions in a strong manner regarding the response to the novel coronavirus including verifying the response by the WHO as well as about regional situations including North Korea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and Hong Kong, and will confirm strengthening cooperation with related countries.
As I stated earlier, I believe that wide-ranging, significant discussions have been held regarding everything from government and security fields to economic fields as well as the response to the novel coronavirus and the issue of cross-border travel. Those discussions are based on the results of my visits to various Southeast Asian countries last month. We will continue to work in cooperation with various countries on regional peace, security, and prosperity, and above all achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
I must attend the EAS meeting after this, so the administrative staff will provide an explanation of the details.
Reporter: You stated that you explained Japan’s positions regarding the East China Sea, the South China Sea, North Korea, and Hong Kong during the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. Would it not be an overstatement to say that you confirmed close cooperation with ASEAN countries?
Minister MOTEGI: I am firmly conveying Japan’s concerns.
Reporter: I have a related question. Did you share recognition with the ASEAN countries regarding the South China Sea, which China is strengthening its effective control over? Did you also have discussions about the South China Sea during the ASEAN Plus Three (Japan-China-Republic of Korea) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister MOTEGI: The rule for these meetings is we basically speak about what our own country stated during the meeting and do not disclose what was said by other countries. I have deepened discussions regarding various regional issues on a bilateral basis with other foreign ministers through now. I believe we achieved a shared understanding. In addition, I directly conveyed Japan’s positions and concerns to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, and requested a positive response by China. I will continue to do this going forward.
Reporter: I believe there are considerably many similarities between the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) adopted by ASEAN in 2019 and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept raised by Japan. Do you feel that there are settings where synergy between these two concepts has already been specifically created?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe there are many shared fundamental values between the two concepts such as freedom of navigation and the rule of law. I confirmed that we would continue to advance cooperation for this.