Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 3:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Intrusions By Chinese Government Vessels Into Japan’s Territorial Waters Surrounding the Senkaku Islands
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: Chinese government vessels have intruded into and stayed within Japan’s territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands for over 57 hours. This is the longest time ever. How does the Government of Japan perceive this time?
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: In regard to the incident in which Chinese government vessels have intruded into Japan’s territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands that you just asked about, two Chinese government vessels entered Japan’s territorial waters on October 11 and left around 8:26 p.m. on October 13. The period in which they were in Japan’s territorial waters was 57 hours and 39 minutes, and it is my understanding that this was the longest period ever by a large margin. It must be said that it is truly regrettable that such situations have been continuously occurring over a long period of time.
As I believe has been repeatedly explained thus far in relation to these incidents of intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters by Chinese government vessels, our maritime security authorities have repeatedly called for the vessels to leave Japan’s territorial waters.
Also, from the perspective of the safety of Japanese fishing boats in coastal waters, this time we implemented maximum efforts to secure the safe navigation of these fishing boats by deploying patrol boats near them.
As for MOFA, we have been lodging severe protests about this incident over several days to the Chinese side both in Tokyo and Beijing. We have been diligently conducting information-gathering and analysis on the background and intentions of this long period of stay by the Chinese government vessels. However, speaking about this would show our hand, so I would like to refrain from commenting.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: You mentioned that Japan lodged severe protests to the Chinese side in Tokyo and Beijing. What level were the protests and what was specifically conveyed?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I do not have materials at hand on what level the protests were, so I would like to have the administrative staff report on that point afterwards. It is my understanding that the protests in Tokyo were of course lodged by MOFA officials to officials at the Chinese Embassy, while the protests in Beijing were lodged by Japanese Embassy officials to the Chinese authorities. It is my understanding that the protests were based on Japan’s principle position that the Senkaku Islands are historically an inherent part of the territory of Japan and that we cannot accept such actions by China.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: The Government of Japan always explains that Japan has taken composed and resolute responses when these issues occur. However, the reality is that these intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters by Chinese government vessels are becoming normalized. It seems that Japan’s responses have not been effective. What are your thoughts on this point?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As I explained before, this time Chinese government vessels were moving near Japanese fishing boats and other vessels. The Government of Japan firstly took appropriate action from the perspective of maximally protecting the safety of the Japanese fishing boats, and simultaneously responded to the Chinese government vessels. I believe that the Government of Japan took the maximum response.
Of course, Japan’s consistent position, including for MOFA’s diplomatic channels, have not changed at all. We take all possible opportunities, rather than just lodging protests through embassies and diplomatic channels for each incident. We provide explanations of our principle positions to key people in China through opportunities such as high-level mutual visits. We will continue to firmly take such responses.
Installation of a Comfort Woman Statue in the Mitte District of Berlin, Germany
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the female statue symbolizing a comfort woman installed in Berlin, Germany. Although there was a request for its removal, the deadline has passed, and it has not been removed. The request has become void. The issue is that the statue is still standing, so can you please tell us what the Government of Japan is considering as a response?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: In regard to the installation of a comfort woman statue in Berlin, today, October 14, was the deadline for the statue’s removal ordered by the Mitte District. This district has jurisdiction over the area where the statue is located.
In response to this, the local organization that installed the statue known as the “Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan” requested a German administrative court to issue a temporary injunction. I believe that the request was made yesterday. In response, the Mitte District voided the October 14 deadline for the removal of the statue. It is my understanding that there was an announcement that the deadline was void in the time period until the judgment by the court.
Therefore, I would like to add that although the deadline for the statue’s removal has been suspended until the judgment by the court, that does not mean that the order for the statue’s removal itself has been voided.
The request made to the administrative court, which is the basis of all this, is a matter of judicial proceedings in Germany. As this is the customary practice, basically all we can do is observe the situation.
On the other hand, there has been absolutely no change to the Government of Japan’s efforts and views regarding the comfort women issue and the installation of comfort women statues. We will continue to explain Japan’s position to the international community based on our consistent stance, and work so that a just assessment is received.
Stationing Costs for the U.S. Forces Japan (Negotiations on Amending the Special Measures Agreement)
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I would like to ask about the negotiations on host nation support. There have been reports for several days that advance consultations will soon begin. What is the status of coordination? Also, the Trump administration has been requesting its allies to take on more of the cost burden. As the negotiations will begin going forward, can you please tell us again what stance the Government of Japan will take in the negotiations?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: In regard to the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) regarding the burden of the stationing costs for the U.S. Forces Japan, the current SMA is in force until the end of March 2021. Therefore it is necessary to conduct negotiations on its amendment, including necessary domestic procedures, until the deadline.
As the current security environment truly grows increasingly severe, the SMA for Japan-U.S. security arrangements is more important than ever, and is the vital key for Japan’s security as well as regional peace and security. Furthermore, the scope of security policies is expanding to various new domains such as cyber and outer space. Therefore, I believe that the roles that Japan and the United States should play based on the Japan-U.S. security arrangements have changed with the times.
Due to this, it is necessary for Japan and the United States to conduct discussions regarding the SMA. Although communication is currently being conducted at the working level regarding the format of the negotiations and when they will start, I believe the specific plan for that will be decided going forward based on the circumstances of both sides.
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: Although this overlaps with my earlier question, can you please tell us how Japan will respond to the Trump administration’s policy of requesting allies to take on more of the cost burden?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I am fully aware that the Trump administration has been requesting its allies to take on more of the cost burden for defense and security costs. I believe this is the general view. On the other hand, as I just stated, the official negotiations have not started yet. We must fully discuss and respond to what the United States’ response is. However, the negotiations have not yet begun, so in that sense, I believe it would be improper for me to comment at the present point because stating our thoughts on this might partially reveal our hand.
Service by the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia (Tweet By Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Kono)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Kono, who was formerly Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out that the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia does not accept emails outside its counter service hours. Basically, there is a system in which it is not possible to send emails to the Embassy outside its service hours. This seems to be unaccommodating in terms of the service. Can you please tell us why this occurred, and if you are aware of any other examples of this at other embassies?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I am aware that Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Kono’s tweet, which pointed out that the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia has an email system that sends out automated responses.
Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia introduced a reservation system for all counter service at the end of March. It set up a dedicated email address for accepting reservations. However, various consultations on consular services besides reservations began to be sent to the dedicated email address for reservations.
Due to this, from the perspective of providing proper service to these consultations besides reservation requests sent to that email address, an automated response email was configured that requested people’s cooperation to only send emails during service hours from September 4. I believe that this was what was pointed out.
As consular services are an important duty of MOFA for Japanese nationals, the dedicated email address for reservations will be improved so it can receive reservations 24 hours a day in line with its inherent purpose. Also, for various inquiries regarding consular services, there has been improvement so that these are answered by telephone rather than email during service hours. The Embassy has been instructed to inform Japanese nationals in Indonesia of this.
People have pointed out various matters regarding situations at other diplomatic missions, but confirmation is still being conducted locally so I do not have any specific information I can provide now. In any event, instructions have been issued to correct issues if there are any in cases similar to the one in Indonesia. There are thus plans to sequentially implement improvements.