Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, September 25, 2020, 12:19 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Residence Track with Singapore and Brunei
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to report on two matters.
The first is about resumption of cross-border travel. Discussions have been earnestly advanced respectively with various countries and regions toward allowing the resumption of cross-border travel. We have already launched the “Residence Track,” which enables travel by long-term residents and others, with seven countries and regions: Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Taiwan.
There has also been progress with Singapore and Brunei. The “Business Track” targeted at short-term business travelers was launched on September 18 with Singapore. During my visit to Singapore last month, we also agreed to launch the “Residence Track” in September, which would enable travel by long-term residents such as employees who are dispatched to work abroad. Following this, as a result of consultations between our two countries, we agreed today to launch the “Residence Track” with Singapore from September 30.
We also agreed today to launch the “Residence Track” with Brunei from October 8.
In addition, in regard to re-entry into Japan by foreign people with status of residence in Japan, this has already been allowed since September 1. I believe that it is an extremely important matter to allow resumption of acceptance of foreign people who will newly enter the country. The Government of Japan is conducting serious consideration regarding how to allow resumption of travel in a way that prevents recurrence of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
I would like priority to be placed on attaining a conclusion particularly in regard to acceptance of foreign people who have newly obtained status of residence in Japan and will enter the country. That was the first matter.
(2) Appointment of UMEMOTO Kazuyoshi as President of the Japan Foundation
Minister MOTEGI: The other matter is about the appointment of the President of the Japan Foundation. At the Cabinet meeting this morning, it was agreed to appoint Mr. UMEMOTO Kazuyoshi as the new President of the Japan Foundation as of October 1.
For the appointment of Mr. Umemoto, a panel of experts was established and a selection was carried out from among many applicants. As a result, it is my understanding that Mr. Umemoto was evaluated the highest as a person who has extensive expertise in general international relations and deep knowledge of culture.
I also determined that Mr. Umemoto is suitable to be the President of the Japan Foundation, as he served as the chief negotiator for the negotiations on the TPP11 Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement which were compiled when I was the minister in charge, and I know well his reliable working manner and abundant experience and knowledge due to serving as the Japanese Ambassador to Italy and other posts.
I expect that Mr. Umemoto will show leadership as the top head of the Japan Foundation which implements comprehensive international cultural exchanges that connect Japan with the world. That is all from me.
Resumption of Allowing Entry into Japan from Overseas
Economic Monthly, Susilo: In regard to allowing entry into Japan as you mentioned earlier, if you look at various newspaper articles, they state that new entry into Japan will be allowed from anywhere in the world from October. Do you have any information about what will happen in October?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, consultations are being conducted now with several countries regarding the “Business Track” and the “Residence Track,” and they have already been launched with some countries.
In addition, foreign people with status of residence in Japan who temporarily went overseas have already been allowed to re-enter Japan from September 1.
Moreover, I believe that it is an extremely important matter to allow resumption of acceptance of foreign people who will newly enter Japan. The Government of Japan is currently conducting consideration on how to allow resumption of travel in a manner that also prevents recurrence of the spread of the novel coronavirus. I would like to prioritize attaining a conclusion particularly in regard to acceptance of foreign people who have newly obtained status of residence in Japan and will enter the country. Since it is a priority, I do not believe it will take such a long time.
Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about your schedule for diplomacy going forward. Next month, the foreign ministers from four countries – Japan, the United States, Australia, and India – are planned to meet in Tokyo, but can you please tell us the current status of coordination? Can you also please tell us the background and reasons for planning to hold the meeting in Japan? Also, please tell us what results you would like to achieve through this Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Minister MOTEGI: The specific schedule for the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that you mentioned has not been decided at the present point. The importance of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision is increasingly growing for the post-novel coronavirus world. Japan will aim to realize it while utilizing various consultation frameworks with related countries including between Japan, the United States, Australia, and India.
If the meeting will be held in Japan, it would probably be an in-person consultation in which the foreign ministers of major countries met together for the first time after the novel coronavirus, and I hope to be able to hold a frank exchange of views regarding various matters such as the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and maritime order.
Review of the Regulations on Seals at MOFA
Fuji TV, FURUYAMA: Discussions are being conducted on abolishing hanko seals as part of administrative reform. Can you please tell us your thoughts on this? Also, can you tell us if you already issued any instructions to personnel?
Minister MOTEGI: Although they are mostly no longer used at MOFA, consideration is being conducted toward abolishing unnecessary hanko seals.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
Dong-a Ilbo, KIM: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. A Japan-ROK telephone talk was held yesterday, and I would like to ask about your thoughts. Is there a possibility that Japan-ROK relations will improve a little under the Suga Cabinet compared to the previous administration? Please tell us your thoughts.
Minister MOTEGI: It is absolutely not true that Japan-ROK relations were entirely bad during the Abe administration. Various cooperation was conducted with the ROK as an important neighboring country of Japan. Firstly, I believe that communication was continued among the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs level, while both sides agreed Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation are necessary for issues concerning North Korea.
Additionally, a Japan-ROK summit telephone talk was held yesterday. The two summit leaders reaffirmed the importance of Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. Prime Minister Suga stated that he believes that Japan-ROK relations, which are currently in an extremely severe situation including for the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, must not be left as they are. He also clearly conveyed Japan’s consistent position that the ROK should create opportunities to restore healthy relations between Japan and the ROK.
As I stated at the beginning, the ROK is an extremely important neighboring country of Japan, and Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation are essential for regional stability, including the North Korea issue. On the other hand, having unresolved issues with neighboring countries is unavoidable, and there are difficult unresolved issues, such as the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, that remain between Japan and the ROK.
I believe that there was a good exchange of views during the telephone talk yesterday in which it was agreed to continue dialogue and communication between our two countries, including at a high level, toward resolving such issues.