Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 3:26 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Resumption of Cross-Border Business Travel Between Japan and China
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I would like to ask about the resumption of cross-border travel by businesspeople between Japan and China. There are reports that there will be an agreement on this by the end of this week. Can you please tell us the status of coordination for this, and your thoughts on the significance of allowing resumption of cross-border travel with China?
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: As already announced, we are currently conducting specific coordination with China regarding allowing resumption of cross-border travel. Based on the confirmation at the Japan-China Summit Telephone Talk in September to continue to hold consultations toward quickly allowing cross-border travel by businesspeople, consultations are currently being conducted between Japan and China on how to take phased measures. I would like to refrain from commenting based on speculation at the present point regarding the outlook on the consultations as well as the specific content and timing for allowing resumption of travel.
Although we are not stuck on any major issues, we will advance resumption of cross-border travel in a way that also prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus. We will advance consultations from the perspective that it is necessary to have a fully appropriate system for that.
Japan and China are mutually extremely important neighbor countries to one another. Chinese people were the most numerous among foreign people who visited Japan before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and Japan has very strong economic ties with China. I believe it is extremely important to allow resumption of cross-border travel and economic exchanges from the perspective of getting on track for economic recovery.
As has been stated, of course consultations are being advanced with not only China but also various countries including Viet Nam, Thailand, and Singapore, with which cross-border travel has already been resumed. We will continue to conduct firm consideration regarding resumption of cross-border travel in a way that also prevents the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Protection of Australian Defence Force Assets by the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF)
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about relations with Australia. At the Defense Ministers’ Meeting yesterday, it was agreed that Australian Defence Force weapons and other assets would be added to those protected by the SDF. I believe it was also agreed to deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific at the foreign minister level as well. Can you please tell us your thoughts on the significance and necessity of further deepening relations in the security field?
Minister MOTEGI: I believe it was agreed to begin the necessary coordination. In any event, at consultations including the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on October 6 and the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on October 7, Japan and Australia, which share fundamental values and strategic interests and are also both allies of the United States, shared recognition of the major potential to further deepen collaboration and cooperation in various fields.
Amidst this, during the Japan-Australia Defense Ministers’ Meeting yesterday, it was announced that necessary coordination will begin toward the SDF providing protection of Australian Defence Force weapons and other assets. We will continue to advance collaboration and cooperation in various fields, including security, with Australia, Japan’s Special Strategic Partner, in order to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in a concrete manner.
I held a telephone talk with Foreign Minister Payne today, and we reaffirmed this point.
Release of Treated Water from a Nuclear Power Plant into the Ocean (Explanation to the International Community)
Nikkei Shimbun, KATO: I would like to ask about the issue of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. There are reports that the Government of Japan will soon make a decision at the appropriate timing about whether to release the treated water into the ocean. However, China has been calling for Japan to properly consult with neighboring countries in advance and then carefully draw a conclusion. How will the Government of Japan provide explanations to the international community and neighboring countries around when it makes its decision?
Minister MOTEGI: Firstly, it is my understanding that it is not true that there have been any formal decisions at the present point about the Government’s policy or when it will make a decision about handling the water treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). As has been stated, even if multi-nuclide removal is conducted with ALPS, under present-day science, tritium will still remain, which is something we must handle. I believe that international expertise on this is clear. There is currently no consensus on how to completely deal with treated water, at least for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Additionally, I believe that Japan has carefully provided transparent explanations to various countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the international community. Since before the discussion on whether to release the treated water in some form, Japan has explained the handling of ALPS treated water thus far, the status of consideration, conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, how the treated water has been stored, and conditions in the ocean nearby. I believe that the related ministries and agencies must continue to work as one to provide careful explanations to the international community and local residents.
Future Relations with China
Kyodo News, NAKATA: In your earlier answer about resuming cross-border travel with China, you stated that China is an extremely important neighbor to Japan and that cross-border travel was previously extremely high.
Minister MOTEGI: I did not say previously. It was until last year.
Kyodo News, NAKATA: Yes, you said it was numerous until last year. On the other hand, in his speech at Vietnam-Japan University in Viet Nam yesterday, Prime Minister Suga pointed out that amidst the various issues in the South China Sea of China, Viet Nam, and other countries, developments contrary to openness and the rule of law have been unfolding there.
Minister MOTEGI: Excuse me, to what extent did you quote Prime Minister Suga in your question?
Kyodo News, NAKATA: He stated that developments contrary to openness and the rule of law are unfolding in the South China Sea.
Minister MOTEGI: Yes, but he did not mention China and Viet Nam.
Kyodo News, NAKATA: No, he did not mention them. Countries such as Viet Nam and Indonesia are, to a certain degree, facing issues in the South China Sea in relation to China.
Minister MOTEGI: That is your opinion, right?
Kyodo News, NAKATA: It seems that China is increasing its presence from a security perspective, but China’s economic ties with Japan are also strong. Can you please tell us how you think China should be approached going forward? Thank you.
Minister MOTEGI: I would like to request you to make it clear on whether you are stating your opinion or whether you are asking to confirm the facts. My answers will differ depending on it.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that as I have stated thus far, China currently has the second largest economy in the world. China accounted for 4% of global GDP in 2000, but this had grown four-fold to 16% as of 2019. As I have stated previously, I believe that Japan-China relation is one of our most important bilateral relations.
In addition, I recognize that Japan and China are in the position to take major responsibility for resolving various issues of the international community. I have also conveyed this to China and have encouraged them to do so.
Although Japan has various pending issues with China because it is a neighboring country, there has been no change to our basic policy of continuing to utilize high-level opportunities, such as meetings at the summit level and the foreign minister level, to firmly assert what needs to be asserted, resolve the pending issues one by one, and strongly request China to make positive responses.