Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Saturday, October 3, 2020, 3:01 p.m. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Although it is considerably late at night in Japan, I would like to hold this press conference. As of today, I have finished my visits to Portugal, France, and Saudi Arabia. After this, I will go to Kuwait. While being warmly welcomed in the countries I have visited thus far, I have spent plenty of time meeting in-person with the countries’ foreign ministers, and have thus been able to hold in-depth exchanges of views. In addition, during my stay in Paris, I held a video teleconference meeting with Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Maas of Germany as well as meetings with Director-General Azoulay of UNESCO and Foreign Minister Omamo of Kenya, who I saw by chance at the hotel. I believe it was a very substantial trip.
Firstly, in Europe, I confirmed strengthening of cooperation toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” as well as agreed on further strengthening extensive bilateral relations and Japan-EU relations with France and Germany, which are leaders in the EU, and Portugal. Portugal will hold the EU presidency in the first half of next year. I also held exchanges of views with them regarding regional situations such as the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and response to North Korea including for the abductions issue. We confirmed to continue close cooperation. I felt that Europe’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific became stronger through the series of meetings.
In addition, I also confirmed cooperation toward advancing international frameworks concerning novel coronavirus measures with the various countries. In regard to relaxation of restrictions on entry into Japan, I conveyed that approval is being sequentially given for new entry into Japan by people with status of residence in Japan and others as of October 1, which has already passed. The countries indicated that they welcomed this.
Today, with Saudi Arabia, the G20 President this year, I confirmed close cooperation toward the success of the G20 Riyadh Summit, and the policy of strengthening the Strategic Partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia in extensive fields through the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030. I also held a frank exchange of views on matters including the majorly changing situation in the Middle East, Iran and the Middle East peace process. We confirmed cooperation toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.
I will go to Kuwait after this to pay a condolence call due to the demise of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the former Amir of Kuwait, on September 29. In Kuwait, I am scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ahmad. I will probably meet with him soon after arriving today in Kuwait. Based on the results of my visits to Europe and the Middle East, I would like to further advance cooperation with the various countries. That is all from me.
Reporter: In regard to your meeting with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, I believe you had a meeting as well as a working lunch. How did you differentiate the discussions in the meeting and the working lunch? Can you please tell us more details about that?
Minister MOTEGI: I first held the meeting and then the working lunch. During the meeting, in particular, we discussed bilateral cooperation, Japan-Saudi cooperation in the international arena, and complete cooperation for the success of the G20 Riyadh Summit as part of the G20 Troika, since Japan was the G20 President last year and Saudi Arabia is the G20 President this year. It was a meeting with discussions relatively focused on Japan-Saudi relations. We then moved to the working lunch and began to discuss regional situations. There were two major topics. As I mentioned earlier, the first was the situation in the Middle East, including Iran and the Middle East peace process. The other topic we discussed was issues in East Asia, the East China Sea and South China Sea, and the situation in North Korea including the abductions issue. Regarding the abductions issue, I conveyed Japan’s position and received Foreign Minister Faisal’s understanding and cooperation toward the swift resolution of the issue.
Reporter: I would like to ask about your visits in general. These are your first overseas visits since the inauguration of Prime Minister Suga. Former Prime Minister Abe, who was a leader in the international community, has resigned, so did the various countries express interest or anything else regarding the change of administrations in Japan? Also, did you have any opportunities to convey the diplomacy policies of the new administration?
Minister MOTEGI: This is my first time of overseas visits since the inauguration of the Suga administration, but I am continuing in my position as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I clearly stated the continuation of the various diplomatic policies under the Suga administration, such as the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and relations with various countries. In response, the various countries stated that they would certainly like to continue to cooperate in that direction.
Reporter: I would like to ask about your meeting with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. You mentioned earlier that you confirmed cooperation toward easing tensions and stabilization in the Middle East. Can you please tell us how you would like Japan to further play a role toward stabilization of the situation in the Middle East going forward? Also, if you have any determination for this, can you please tell us more details on what you would like to start with through these overseas visits?
Minister MOTEGI: Speaking about the general situation in the Middle East, I stated that Japan relies on the Middle East for over 90% of its crude oil imports. Therefore, peace in the Middle East and stabilization of the situation are extremely important for Japan. In regard to a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” I also stated that the issue of freedom and safety of navigation is a serious matter that directly affects the navigation of tankers that carry crude oil to Japan. We also held a truly frank exchange of views regarding the situation in Iran, the Middle East peace process, and the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as well as between Israel and Bahrain. I believe there was a very large number of areas in which we shared a basic recognition.
Reporter: Excuse me, but I would like to ask a question that is not about your overseas visits. Can you please tell us your reaction to the fact that President Trump of the United States was infected with the novel coronavirus, and your thoughts on matters such as the effect of this on diplomacy? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, I would like to express my prayers for the earliest possible complete recovery of President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Basically, I believe that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is unwavering, no matter the situation. Secretary of State Pompeo is scheduled to visit Japan next week, and I would like to firmly coordinate our views on such points, Japan-U.S. relations, and issues in the international arena.