Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, October 13, 2020, 11:50 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Intrusion by Chinese Government Vessels Into Japan’s Territorial Waters
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about the Senkaku Islands. Over two days have passed since Chinese government vessels have intruded into and stayed within Japan’s territorial waters. Can you please tell us your reaction and MOFA’s response?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Navigation by Chinese government vessels, fishing boats, and other vessels into Japan’s territorial waters and surrounding ocean areas has continued this year as well. In response, we are lodging protests to China in a timely manner.
Japan-U.K. Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Signing Ceremony (Status of Coordination)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: Can you please tell us the status of coordination toward signing the Japan-U.K. EPA? There are reports that it will be signed on October 23, but can you please tell us the status of coordination?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, it is important to continue the benefits Japan has reaped under the Japan-EU EPA and ensure the continuous business of Japanese companies by concluding the Japan-U.K. Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of this year, which is the end of the transition period following Brexit.
In consideration of this, we are aiming for its entry into force on January 1, 2021, but in that case there would of course be deliberations on the Agreement in an extraordinary session of the Diet. We are conducting coordination with the U.K. side aiming for the Agreement to be signed while considering the schedule for such domestic procedures. Also, it is a very long document, so the legal scrub work is currently being advanced for formulating the Agreement. Although it is difficult, it is proceeding well.
Heavy Oil Leak Incident in Mauritius (Japan’s Support)
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about the heavy oil leak incident in Mauritius. It will soon be three months since the incident occurred. When you spoke with the Prime Minister of Mauritius by telephone last month, you stated that you wanted to cooperate on an unprecedented scale. Can you please tell us the current status of consideration for support by the Government of Japan?
Minister MOTEGI: The oil leak incident occurred in August. The Government of Japan took this extremely seriously and in response to Mauritius’ request, we dispatched Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Expert Teams and provided equipment for about one month immediately after the incident occurred.
As you pointed out, in September I conveyed to Prime Minister Jugnauth that Japan would extend cooperation on an unprecedented scale from a long-term perspective in a swift manner.
Currently, with the cooperation of related ministries and agencies, specific work is being conducted regarding cooperation for Mauritius including preventive measures to stop recurrence of incidents as well as cooperation for environmental restoration and recovery of the local residents’ livelihoods.
In addition, within this month, it is scheduled to dispatch to Mauritius a survey team to form cooperation projects. As I stated before, Prime Minister Jugnauth has expressed gratitude for Japan’s cooperation. We will continue to advance cooperation in close collaboration with related countries and organizations for the recovery and restoration of Mauritius.
Diplomacy Under the Suga Administration
Kyodo News, NAKATA: In-person diplomacy, which had been suspended for a long time within Japan due to the novel coronavirus crisis, is being resumed and you are actively making overseas visits. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the new Suga administration and during the novel coronavirus crisis, can you please tell us your thoughts on what diplomacy you will develop and how you will raise Japan’s presence going forward?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, I believe that in the seven and a half years of the Abe administration after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took power again, Japan’s presence in the international community has greatly risen due to development of “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map.” It is my understanding that such diplomatic policies and stances will be continued under the new Suga administration as well.
When I assumed my position as Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 2019, I stated that I would realize “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map” through “diplomacy with both tolerance and strength.” Since then, I have participated in various meetings starting with the ones in the United Nations.
However, since February 2020, a situation has arisen in which it is quite difficult to conduct in-person diplomacy due to the novel coronavirus crisis. Despite that, I have held 60 meetings such as video teleconference meetings and telephone talks with the foreign ministers of various countries. But there are actually countries where novel coronavirus infections are winding down. Also, important matters such as the Japan-U.K. negotiations emerged which had to be conducted in-person. Additionally, it has been necessary to confirm international cooperation in various fields more than ever before amidst the novel coronavirus crisis.
From this perspective, beginning with the United Kingdom in August, I have made visits to Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asian countries, Europe, the Middle East, as well as the Mongolia last weekend. I believe it is excellent that there is an increasing number of countries that share the fundamental values of liberal democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and that have a commitment to realize the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept that Japan advocates. I would like to create a flow like this.
Of course, I am directly traveling overseas, but I also believe it is important to have discussions on issues that the international community faces, see agreement on views, and communicate this globally, such as in the “Quad” meeting in which the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, Australia, and India met in Japan last week.
Of course, it is not just me. Administrative staff are also advancing preparation, including for specific in-person diplomacy, in various forms. Although we must continue to monitor the novel coronavirus conditions, we will expand hybrid diplomacy by utilizing remote methods as well as in-person meetings.
Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit
Reuters, TAKENAKA: I would like to ask about the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit. There are reports in Japan that the Government of Japan conveyed that Prime Minister Suga will not be able to attend the Summit unless the ROK takes measures acceptable to Japan concerning the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Can you tell us if that is true?
Minister MOTEGI: Nothing has been decided about the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit at the present stage, including the specific date.
Overseas Visits By Prime Minister Suga (Viet Nam, Indonesia)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about overseas visits by Prime Minister Suga. A meeting of the Board of the LDP was held this morning, and it was made public that Prime Minister Suga will visit Viet Nam and Indonesia next week. It was stated that Japan will convey domestically and abroad its intention to contribute to regional peace and prosperity. What are your thoughts on the significance of Prime Minister Suga visiting these two countries as his first overseas visits?
Minister MOTEGI: As I stated earlier, as international cooperation is needed now, many countries have approved of realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” Amidst this, Viet Nam holds the ASEAN Chairmanship this year. In addition, Indonesia has the position of being a major country in ASEAN. I believe it will be greatly significant for the top leaders of those two countries –Prime Minister Phuc of Viet Nam and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia – to meet with the top leader of Japan to have a frank, lengthy discussion on matters such as regional issues, issues of the international community, and responses after the novel coronavirus winds down.