Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, September 29, 2020, 11:53 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Minister Motegi’s Visits to Portugal, France, and Saudi Arabia
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to report on two matters concerning my upcoming diplomacy schedule.
Firstly, I will visit Portugal, France, and Saudi Arabia from today until Sunday, October 4.
These will be my first overseas visits since the inauguration of Prime Minister Suga. I have held many telephone talks with countries in Europe and the Middle East through now. Active visits by dignitaries are resuming now in the international community. I plan to have in-person meetings and in-depth discussions in European countries and Saudi Arabia, the G20 President this year, in order to consider the post-novel coronavirus world.
Specifically, in Europe, which shares fundamental values with Japan, I plan to hold exchanges of views with the foreign ministers of France, our G7 partner, and Portugal, which will serve as the EU President for the first half of 2021, regarding cooperation toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” cooperation on novel coronavirus policies, and about urgent regional situations faced by the international community. In addition, in France, I will hold an exchange of views with Director-General Azoulay of UNESCO, which has its headquarters in Paris, regarding the fields of education, culture, and science that Japan has actively contributed to for many years, and convey Japan’s views.
Furthermore, regarding Saudi Arabia, as Japan was the G20 President last year, I plan to confirm cooperation between Japan and Saudi Arabia toward the success of the G20 Summit in November 2020. I also plan to hold discussions regarding strengthening cooperation between Japan and Saudi Arabia, as well as regional situations in the Middle East amidst major developments such as the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as well as between Israel and Bahrain.
(2) Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Minister MOTEGI: The other matter I would like to speak about is the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that I will hold next week on October 6 in Tokyo with Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States, Foreign Minister Payne of Australia, and Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar of India. This will be the second meeting since the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with the four countries of Japan, the United States, Australia, and India last year in New York.
This Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be the first ministerial level international meeting to be held in Japan since the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, and it will receive a high degree of attention. I believe it is truly timely to have the foreign ministers of the four countries meeting in Tokyo for an in-person exchange of views. We have similar views about responding to various issues that have come about due to the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus as well as regional situations. I would also like to take this opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with the various foreign ministers including Secretary of State Pompeo.
The “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision is becoming increasingly important for the post-novel coronavirus world. During the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I would like to confirm the importance of further deepening cooperation with more countries toward realizing the vision.
That is all from me.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has decided to suspend Aegis Ashore, and it seems that the idea of “enemy base strike” capability as an alternative has been advanced without being discussed in the Diet. However, it also seems that the plan to install the Aegis Ashore on sea is advanced without discussion in the Diet.
I believe that this is a major issue concerning not only the MOD but also Japanese diplomacy in general. If a war were to start with China, I believe that Japan would inevitably be exposed with attacks. Despite that, the fact that this is proceeding without even a little discussion on retaliation measures or consideration of the rationality in terms of security or economic feasibility, brings the major question whether that is because Japan is following the United States’ request to purchase weapons. Will Prime Minister Suga continue to advance such diplomacy that follows the United States? I would like to ask MOFA’s view of this. Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: There have been many multi-faceted discussions on subjects such as diplomacy and security in relation to the alternative of Aegis Ashore in the National Security Council through now.
Considerations based on that are continuing at the MOD. As has been stated, it is probable for the Government of Japan to conduct consideration on various issues, and it is naturally the Government’s policy to carefully answer questions if there is an opportunity to hold deliberations in the Diet. I believe it would be irresponsible to not hold any discussions before the Diet begins and to not have final discussions within the Government.
Lowering the Level of the Advisory Prohibiting Travel
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about lowering the Warning on Infectious Disease Levels. You mentioned the possibility of lowering the Levels at your press conference immediately following the inauguration of the new administration. At the present point, what consideration is being advanced about the timing and target countries to lower the Levels for? Is it possible that the Levels could be lowered within next month?
Minister MOTEGI: In my first press conference following the inauguration of Prime Minister Suga, I stated that we would sequentially lower the Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels while monitoring global infection conditions, movement restriction conditions, and other such conditions since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus this year. Close to 160 countries are currently at Level 3, and there are regions in the world where infections are currently continuing to spread.
On the other hand, there are also regions where infections are winding down. There are also movements to relax various restrictions on travel and other aspects. Amidst this, the basic goal of our Travel Advice and Warnings is to provide alerts about whether it is dangerous to travel to countries for travelers, overseas appointees, and others. Accordingly, we conduct consideration on raising or lowering the Levels of our Travel Advice and Warnings. As a result, the entire Government has raised the Levels and taken measures to prohibit entry into Japan. Going forward, we intend to advance consideration with a view to lower the Levels regarding allowing resumption of cross-border travel, while monitoring conditions such as infections winding down. However, it is not the case that there have been any decisions now specifically about the countries and timing.
Additionally, I would like to repeat that how infection conditions have wound down in various countries and regions is important for lowering the Warnings on Infectious Diseases Levels. MOFA is conducting analysis every day on the infection conditions in various countries and regions. We will also carefully look at relaxation of movement restrictions in various countries as well as business needs toward restoring the economy.
In any event, it is important to balance preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus when allowing resumption of cross-border travel. Additionally, rather than just lowering the Warning on Infectious Diseases Levels, the entire Government will conduct careful consideration about what policies and measures to combine with allowing resumption of cross-border travel.
Yomiuri Shimbun, MORIYAMA: I would like to ask about relations with Russia. I believe that a summit meeting with Russia is planned to be held tonight. I believe that the Government of Japan will inherit the basic policy of the Abe administration of resolving the attributions issue and concluding a peace treaty. Can you please tell us again your thoughts on how negotiations will be approached going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Prime Minister Suga is conducting summit telephone talks with various countries, including Russia, as you pointed out. Consideration and coordination are also being conducted on holding summit telephone talks going forward.
In regard to Russia, there is no change to Japan’s stance of placing importance on Japan-Russia relations. We would like to develop general Japan-Russia relations, in extensive fields, such as the political field including the peace treaty issue, as well as economic, cultural, and other fields, in order to contribute to our national interests.
There is no change to the Government of Japan’s basic policy of resolving the attributions issue and concluding a peace treaty. We will continue to persistently work on this based on this basic policy.
Visit to Japan By State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Kyodo News, TAKAO: I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. Prime Minister Suga and President Xi Jinping of China held a telephone talk last week, and confirmed high-level close cooperation, including at the summit level. Amidst this, there are reports that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Japan next month and meet with you and Prime Minister Suga. Can you please tell us the current status of coordination for this?
Minister MOTEGI: China has the world’s second largest economy, and Japan-China relations are among the most important bilateral relations that Japan has. On the other hand, there are various unresolved issues between Japan and China. Our basic position is to continue to utilize all high-level opportunities, including summit meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings, to firmly assert what we need to assert, resolve the unresolved issues one by one, and strongly request the Chinese side to take positive responses.
I have conducted close communication with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi through now, including through four meetings and four telephone talks. The last time I met with him in person was at a dinner at the end of 2019 in Beijing. However, coordination on the specific schedule for his visit to Japan is not being conducted now.
The New Administration’s Foreign Policy Concerning the Middle East
Pan Orient News, AZHARI: Following up on your notice about visiting Saudi Arabia, what is the foundation of Japan's foreign policy towards the Middle East in general? I remember during the last administration, you had a basic policy towards the area, especially easing the tension and increasing the stability. Is there a change in this administration or is it going to be stronger?
Minister MOTEGI: Speaking about the Middle East situation in general, there is no change to Japan’s policy thus far of firmly advancing the easing of tensions in the Middle East.
Japan relies on the Middle East for about 90% of its crude oil imports. I believe that peace and stability in the Middle East continues to be extremely important to Japan.
On one hand the novel coronavirus infections are continuing to spread currently in the Middle East, and on the other, a highly tense situation is still continuing in the region. There are various complex power relationships.
Japan is an ally of the United States, and we have also built good relations with various countries in the Middle East. Under the Suga Cabinet as well, we will continue to appeal to various countries at various levels for easing tensions and aiming for regional stability in the Middle East.
I have held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of various countries since the spread of the novel coronavirus. I have held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Middle Eastern countries including Israel, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, and communicated about regional situations including peace in the Middle East as well as various matters such as novel coronavirus measures.
As I stated in my opening remarks, I plan to visit Saudi Arabia, the G20 President this year and a key player in the Middle East, this weekend. In the near future, I would also like to hold an exchange of views with the Arab League and confirm close cooperation toward resolving such issues.
Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
NHK, YAMAMOTO: In regard to the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that you introduced in your opening remarks, is coordination being conducted for the three foreign ministers to pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Suga?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that Prime Minister Suga met with Secretary of State Pompeo when he visited the United States when he was Chief Cabinet Secretary. This is an opportunity for the foreign ministers of major countries to visit Japan, including the United States, an extremely important ally of Japan, as well as Australia and India, all of which truly share fundamental values with Japan. Although I believe it would depend on matters such as Prime Minister Suga’s schedule, I believe it would be significant for him to meet the foreign ministers.
Visit to Japan By State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: I heard you say earlier that Foreign Minister Wang Yi might come to Japan.
Minister MOTEGI: I did not say that.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: Is that incorrect?
Minister MOTEGI: I did not say that.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: That’s not so.
Minister MOTEGI: It is as I answered earlier. I did not say what you are saying I did.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: Excuse me. So that has not been coordinated yet?
Minister MOTEGI: I answered that it is not the case that a specific schedule is being coordinated.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: So if it is not the case, does that mean that you do not know if there is a possibility that Foreign Minister Wang will visit Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: It is as I answered earlier.
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: I see. However, there are reports that you will meet him, that you plan to discuss matters such as the Senkaku Island issue during your meeting, and that you plan to confirm the importance of maintaining more stable bilateral relations. Is there a possibility that you will follow the wisdom of your predecessors in the Japanese and Chinese governments and shelve the attributions issue?
Or if you do the opposite and show a confrontational stance, then I believe that it will seem that your foreign policy is following in the footsteps of the United States, which is strengthening its confrontational stance toward China. Can you please tell me MOFA’s viewpoint? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, but it has not been decided yet whether we will meet. I would like to refrain from answering a hypothetical question.