Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 3:34 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Working Lunch
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to report on three matters.
First, I held a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States for about 70 minutes today.
At the beginning, I sincerely welcomed Secretary of State Pompeo’s visits to Japan for three consecutive years. I also expressed my sympathies to President Trump and his spouse who have become infected with the novel coronavirus, and my hopes that they will swiftly make a full recovery.
Secretary of State Pompeo and I agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S Alliance, the cornerstone of the peace and stability of the region and international community, under the Suga administration as well. We also held an exchange of views regarding matters such as the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and North Korea. In regard to North Korea, we agreed to have further cooperation between Japan and the U.S. towards resolving various issues including abductions, nuclear, and missile issues. The United States have conveyed they will continue to fully cooperate toward the swift resolution of the abductions issue.
Furthermore, we agreed to strengthen cooperation while collaborating with like-minded countries for development of a novel coronavirus vaccine and its fair access.
In addition, keeping in mind the discussions at the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that will be held after this, we confirmed continued cooperation among like-minded countries including Japan and the United States toward realizing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, and that it is important to expand the circle of like-minded countries. That is all about the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
(2) Minister Motegi’s Visit to Mongolia
Minister MOTEGI: Next, I would like to discuss my schedule for overseas visits. From Friday, October 9 to October 10, I will visit Mongolia. I am planning to meet with Foreign Minister Enkhtaivan and to pay a courtesy call to dignitaries.
Through this visit to Mongolia, I am planning to further strengthen the “Strategic Partnership” with the new administration in Mongolia inaugurated in July. Also, I will conduct coordination regarding regional situations including North Korea, and will hold an exchange of views regarding matters such as cooperation to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
(3) Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (Republic of Korea (ROK))
Minister MOTEGI: The last matter is about resumption of cross-border travel. Toward the resumption of cross-border travel, we have held consultations with various countries and regions through now, and have launched the “Business Track” with Singapore.
In addition, we have already launched, or have agreed to launch, the “Residence Track” with nine countries and regions – Thailand, Viet Nam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Taiwan.
There has been progress recently in the consultations with the ROK, and we have decided to launch both the “Business Track” and the “Residence Track” from October 8. For details, please ask the administrative staff. That is all from me.
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (ROK)
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the resumption of cross-border travel between Japan and the ROK. There have been various issues with Japan-ROK relations recently. Amidst this, is it intended for the resumption of cross-border travel during the novel coronavirus crisis to be an opportunity to improve bilateral relations?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, Japan and the ROK are extremely important neighboring countries to one another, and many people traveled between our two countries before the novel coronavirus outbreak. Although Japan-ROK relations are currently in an extremely severe situation, I believe that precisely in such a situation it is important to have exchanges between the peoples of both countries, including businesspeople.
I believe it is important to get economic exchanges on the road to recovery through this framework. Additionally, Japan is firmly conveying its positions to the ROK regarding matters between our two countries such as the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. We will firmly continue communication between our countries’ Foreign Ministers and through diplomatic channels.
Japan-Germany Foreign Ministers’ Video Teleconference Meeting (Comfort Woman Statue in Berlin)
YTN, Lee: I would like to ask about the comfort woman statue installed in Berlin, Germany. Is it true that you requested cooperation toward removing the comfort woman statue during the recent Japan-Germany Foreign Ministers’ Video Teleconference Meeting? If it is true, that would mean that the Government of Japan is putting pressure on a private organization. What are your thoughts on this point?
Minister MOTEGI: We discussed this matter. Since the unification of Berlin when it was divided between east and west, I believe that Berlin has been a city of coexistence where various people come and go. I do not believe it is appropriate to install such a statue in Berlin.
Presidential Election in the United States
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: I would like to ask a question in regard to President Trump being infected with the novel coronavirus. It is believed that he could fall into critical condition. I believe that preparation is being advanced to respond whether there is a Trump administration or a Biden administration as a result of the presidential election. Particularly in regard to U.S.-China relations, President Trump has called for a decoupling from China, and it is believed that Mr. Biden might return to G2 relations with China as it was under former President Obama.
Can you please tell us your thoughts on what the response will be to the possible two outcomes? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated in my opening remarks, at my Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo, I expressed my sympathy that President Trump was infected with the novel coronavirus and my hopes that he will quickly make a full recovery.
According to President Trump’s team of doctors, he is in good health and is recovering well. It is my understanding that he has already left the hospital. I hope that he swiftly makes a full recovery.
I believe that for math questions, generally various assumptions are set and you answer based on them. However, for diplomacy questions, I believe that it is common practice to not answer questions based on an assumption. So I would like to refrain from answering.
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel (Future Policy)
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to the matter of Japan-ROK relations from earlier, what policy is being considered now toward allowing resumption of cross-border travel with countries with which negotiations are being conducted, including neighboring countries such as China? I believe there are various difficult conditions, but can you please tell us what is being considered now in terms of how to allow resumption of travel going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: The global economy is falling greatly due to the novel coronavirus now. I believe that allowing resumption of cross-border travel, including for business, is essential for economic recovery. We have been trialing various initiatives such as the “Residence Track” and “Business Track” thus far as we work on how to allow resumption of cross-border travel in a way that prevents the spread of infections. In terms of countries, we are sequentially allowing resumption of travel from countries such as ones where the novel coronavirus is winding down.
In addition, various consideration is being conducted about whether it is appropriate to take infection control measures for ill people. Furthermore, we are conducting analysis on what movements there are on relaxing measures around the world now. Based on this, we will firmly advance allowing resumption of travel in a phased manner on a trial basis, as well as in a sequential manner.
Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ MeetingFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
Welter: Last month the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister called the quad meetings some kind of a mini NATO. Could you comment on that? Do you think that it is an adequate description, which Japan would like to achieve through meetings of the quad group like this evening?
Second question, there was talk about the quad being inclusive. When do you think the quad group should include other members? Would you only include neighboring countries or could you imagine even European countries might be included in this institutional setting?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe that due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus, there are various issues faced by the international community that are becoming highlighted.
These issues include infection control measures. Furthermore, when we think about the future, they include issues such as creating international rules concerning data flow. Also, in addition to the East China Sea and South China Sea, there are other tense relations in various regions. From the viewpoint of how we can resolve these issues, I believe that multilateral discussions are extremely important.
Amidst this, Japan is advocating the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” a framework which allows participation by all countries that share basic values such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of navigation. The meeting this time will be among the four countries of Japan, the United States, Australia, and India, but Southeast Asian countries are also working on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) that has the same values and concepts.
Also, during my recent trip to Europe, I felt that France and Germany also unmistakably have a strong interest and commitment to the Indo-Pacific. I believe it is important to have cooperation by as many countries as possible that share basic values and shared rules.
Minister Motegi’s Visit to Mongolia
NHK, WATANABE: In relation to what you just said as well as your earlier announcement about your visit to Mongolia, the context for both these matters included the values of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” However, Mongolia is a landlocked country. Is it correct to understand that the context is about sharing values?
Minister MOTEGI: Even for landlocked countries, not everything about them is inland. For example, they have maritime trade via other locations. For a country such as France, although it seems like a European country, it also possesses various regions such as French Polynesia. The “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” refers to a vast region extending from East Africa to the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, containing half the world’s population. I believe that it is truly the center of global vitality now and is a major theme and matter of interest to many countries.
Novel Coronavirus (President Trump’s Infection)
Independent Web Journal, KIHARA: I have just one question. You stated that President Trump is in good health. But there are reports that a novel coronavirus cluster has formed involving people close to him and others. We can think that the effects the novel coronavirus has on the central government are extremely serious. It seems that for Japan as well, everyone in the central administration including Prime Minister Suga and all the ministers, state ministers, parliamentary vice ministers, vice ministers, and secretaries, and others, should take PCR tests. Is it planned to conduct PCR tests for them all?
Minister MOTEGI: Please ask the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.