Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 3:51 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: Although notification has already been provided through press releases and other materials, I would firstly like to again introduce the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that were held today.
I will first introduce the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Commencing at shortly past 11 a.m. today for approximately 60 minutes, Foreign Minister Motegi held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting over lunch with Foreign Minister Marise Payne of Australia, who is visiting Japan to attend the second Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Foreign Minister Motegi stated that as “Special Strategic Partners,” Japan and Australia have great potential to further reinforce their cooperative ties.
Foreign Minister Payne firstly conveyed her congratulations upon the successful Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and stated that close bilateral cooperation is important for the safety and stability of Indo-Pacific region. Minister Payne also expressed her congratulations for Minister Motegi’s birthday.
Based on the Japan-Australia Summit Telephone Talk held in September, the Ministers held an exchange of views regarding future cooperation in the fields of security, defense, and the economy.
With regard to security cooperation, they affirmed the need to not only to deepen their cooperation thus far, but also to widen its scope in order to tackle contemporary new challenges. It is my understanding that they had a discussion bearing in mind economic and security fields.
Also, in regard to the economy, the Ministers discussed methods to develop bilateral relations, including allowing resumption of travel between the two countries, in a way that balances measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Furthermore, they discussed bilateral cooperation for Pacific Island countries and ASEAN, cooperation with international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and bilateral collaboration focused on the post-novel coronavirus age.
Lastly, they agreed to advance preparations to realize Prime Minister Morrison’s visit to Japan at a mutually appropriate time.
(2) 13th Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Next, commencing at around 12:30 p.m. for approximately 75 minutes, Foreign Minister Motegi held a Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar of India, who is visiting Japan to attend the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. It was decided to hold the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue, which was held for the 13th time, as an in-person meeting.
Regarding relations with India, Foreign Minister Motegi stated that Japan will cooperate to further elevate the Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar expressed congratulations for Foreign Minister Motegi’s birthday, and gratitude for Japan’s coordination as the host country of the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.
The two ministers discussed bilateral relations concerning matters such as politics and security, as well as the economy and economic cooperation.
Referring to the signing and exchange of notes in late August for Japan’s provision of a 50 billion yen emergency assistance loan and one billion yen in grant aid for medical equipment as a novel coronavirus countermeasure, Foreign Minister Motegi expressed his hope that this assistance will contribute to strengthening the health and medical systems of India. In response, Minister Jaishankar expressed his appreciation.
The ministers agreed to advance Japan-India cooperation in medical and infrastructure fields with third-party countries such as ASEAN countries and Southwest Asian countries neighboring India. They also reaffirmed the importance of steadily developing the high-speed rail project in India and accelerating it toward starting construction quickly.
In regard to the regional situation, the two ministers confirmed wide-ranging cooperation to realize the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), as well as strengthening cooperation for the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative promoted by India, an initiative for a maritime order based on international maritime rules such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The two ministers also held an exchange of views regarding the situation in North Korea and other matters, and cooperation from India was reaffirmed for the abductions issue and other issues.
Lastly, Foreign Minister Motegi congratulated India on its election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The ministers agreed on cooperation, including among the G4, to quickly realize UNSC reform.
That is all I have to report in my opening remarks.
Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Reciprocal Access Agreement)
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: Was there no specific progress on the facilitation agreement during the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Discussion was made on the facilitation agreement, which is also known as the Reciprocal Access Agreement. It is my understanding that the ministers agreed to cooperate toward concluding it swiftly.
Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Asian NATO)
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: In regard to the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, it is my understanding that Secretary of State Pompeo has been aiming to institutionalize an Asian NATO. Can you please tell us MOFA and the Government of Japan’s thoughts on the possibility of institutionalizing this?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As you just pointed out, it is my understanding that Secretary of State Pompeo of the United States made a statement about developing a regional security framework. I believe that this shows the United States’ strong commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
The Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held again among like-minded countries with a shared understanding about the FOIP vision. During the meeting, they confirmed cooperation in the areas of security, region, and the novel coronavirus.
As Japan emphasized at the meeting, firstly, the meeting should be held regularly at fixed intervals. We would also like to aim to expand cooperation on the FOIP vision to other countries and regions.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: In relation to the question just now, Secretary of State Pompeo has answered in some media interviews that it would be desirable to develop the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. quadrilateral framework and create a multilateral security framework for the Indo-Pacific. Does Japan also have such an outlook?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As I stated before, I am aware that Secretary of State Pompeo has indicated such hopes. Or thoughts, I would say. Earnest efforts have been made thus far for the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and cooperation regarding the FOIP. Foreign Minister Motegi has also confirmed cooperation with ASEAN and European countries. It is my understanding that amidst this, security issues will also be focused on in the discussions. I believe it is currently important to steadily and firmly expand such efforts first.
Secretary of State Pompeo’s Statements About China
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: During the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting yesterday, Secretary of State Pompeo made striking statements using extremely harsh wording, including that the Chinese Communist Party’s cover up made the novel coronavirus situation worse. Can you please tell us what Japan’s position is on these statements?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I would like to refrain from commenting on Secretary of State Pompeo’s statements. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus is an urgent issue faced by the international community. Close cooperation between Japan, the United States, Australia, and India will be taken to deal with the issue. Amidst this, I believe that matters such as vaccines, their development, and access to them will be under discussion. However it is currently an urgent matter for the international community to unite to cooperate on such matters, and we are currently making efforts on that.
Prime Minister Suga’s Twitter Message to President Trump
Kyodo News, ASADA: I would like to ask about a different matter. It seems that a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) commented in the LDP Foreign Affairs Division meeting earlier that the English of the recent Twitter message sent by Prime Minister Suga to President Trump in relation to his infection with the novel coronavirus was low level. In the LDP’s explanation afterwards, it was stated that MOFA provides some writing support. If you are aware of the details about writing the Tweets, can you please tell us?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I am not aware of what comments there were in the LDP Foreign Affairs Division meeting. However, I believe that if MOFA should assist or participate in creating English translations for Twitter, then we are doing it. But I am not aware of the details.
Kyodo News, ASADA: In relation to this, since such a view was expressed and people in foreign countries are reading the messages because they are from the Prime Minister, will you consider strengthening a system to provide support for writing messages?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As I stated before, I do not know what view was expressed by the LDP member. In other words, I do not know what he or she thinks is incorrect. I would thus like to refrain from commenting at this stage on how this will be handled.
Birthday Message to President Putin
NHK, WATANABE: You mentioned earlier that Foreign Minister Motegi’s birthday is today. His birthday is the same as President Putin’s. He was born in 1952 and is turning 68. Former Prime Minister Abe used to send him a message on his birthday until now. In relation to what you said just now, can you tell us if Prime Minister Suga has taken or will take some sort of action, such as sending a birthday message like former Prime Minister Abe, which I believe would probably be with the support of MOFA? I believe this would be one barometer concerning future Japan-Russia relations in terms of whether Prime Minister Suga is continuing the route taken by former Prime Minister Abe.
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Firstly, thank you for providing this important information. However, excuse me but I am not aware of what discussions or consultations are being conducted with the people in the division in charge. I thus do not have an answer to your question, but I will share your question with the people in the division in charge.
Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP))
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: Excuse me for returning to this, but I would like to ask about the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Was the RCEP mentioned during the meeting? Amidst the aim of signing it within the year, India has not been participating in negotiations since the start of this year. Can you please tell us the Government of Japan’s position on the possibility of India participating in the RCEP?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Firstly, in regard to your question about whether there was mention of the RCEP during the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, it is my understanding that it was not discussed.
Japan has actively promoted the RCEP through now as a framework to advance multilateral free trade in the region. As you pointed out, it is our recognition that India’s participation is extremely important. Regarding the negotiations, final negotiations have been conducted on a substantial level through now. Although the time period is not necessarily clear, there is no change to our recognition that it is important to quickly conclude the negotiations and create a framework. I do not have anything I can say about the future prospects at the present point.
Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Joint Statement)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: Yesterday, Foreign Minister Motegi stated that he had an extremely in-depth discussion after the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and he received agreement from the foreign ministers about realizing the FOIP vision. I believe this was a significant discussion. However, I think it would have been good to issue a joint statement yesterday. Why was it not issued?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: This was the second time that the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. It is my understanding that the discussions centered on expanding cooperation to more countries toward realizing the FOIP vision and to further materialize cooperation for that. It is my understanding that the ministers agreed on the necessity of specific, practical cooperation for quality infrastructure, maritime security, cyber-related matters, and other such cooperation.
Regarding the joint statement that you asked about, it was decided to not create one as a result of the discussions among the four countries. I believe that the meeting was conducted firstly so that the ministers could have an in-person, in-depth discussion together.
Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (China’s Reaction)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: China has reacted to the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson made a comment which seems to put pressure on the meeting, stating that all multilateral cooperation should be open and transparent, and should not harm the interests of third-party countries. What is Japan’s position regarding this?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Firstly, as implied in its name, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” discussed at the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is an open vision. It does not exclude any country that agrees with this content. Also, this vision is not being implemented with any particular country in mind. Discussions were conducted about this vision which can be agreed upon by probably most countries in the international community that support maritime freedom, the rule of law, and a free maritime order. I believe that this itself is open and transparent.
In regard to matters such as the particular country in your question, we will continue to make efforts to gain understanding, including from that country.