Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 3:51 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I would like to ask about the TPNW, which has recently become more likely to enter into force. I believe that Komeito has requested to consider Japan’s participation as an observer in the meeting of State Parties. At Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato’s press conference, he answered that there would be careful consideration about this as the content of the meetings is not known. Based on this, conversely speaking, what content of the meeting of State Parties would make Japan able to consider its participation? Please tell us your thoughts on that.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: As stated, it is my understanding that the TPNW is planned to enter into force on January 22, 90 days after the date when it was ratified by 50 countries as required. I remember that the TPNW prescribes that a meeting of State Parties will be convened within one year of the TPNW’s entry into force.
As stated by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato, nothing is clear yet about the meeting of State Parties, particularly including its format and when it will be held. It is my understanding that this has probably not been discussed by the State Parties either.
As you stated, I know that Komeito requested Foreign Minister Motegi for Japan to participate as an observer in the meeting. I believe we will consider what to do fully based on that. However, there have not been any indications yet of the meeting’s modality, timing, and other details, so I do not believe we have reached the stage in which we can discuss what conditions Japan would participate under now.
Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: In his recent policy speech, Prime Minister Suga stated that he would aim to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” However, the FOIP has been referred to as the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” and later the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative.” It seems that “strategy” and “initiative” are not being affixed now. Can you please tell us the difference between the two terms?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The content of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, which is abbreviated as FOIP, is what has been stated. It is a concept that it is important to ensure regional and global peace and prosperity by realizing a free and open order based on the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Government of Japan has been taking various opportunities to promote this concept to various countries and in the international arena. The opportunities include bilateral meetings, international conferences, and policy speeches such as the speech you mentioned.
Regarding the terms used so far, they have depended on aspects such as the timing and thoughts of the people concerned. Accordingly, there have been cases in the past of using “strategy,” “vision,” and “initiative,” as well as just “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” without adding any such terms.
You asked about the differences between the terms. Basically, as I just stated, the terms are used in the context of talking about the FOIP concept. I do not believe there are major differences in their semantics.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: “Strategy” and “initiative” were also not added in this year’s Diplomatic Bluebook. Does this mean that MOFA currently believes that the official way of referring to the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is to not add “strategy” or “initiative”?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: It is true that the phrase “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is used in the Diplomatic Bluebook that you just mentioned as well as various documents and speeches. But there has not been any particular policy change.
On the other hand, as I just stated, the appropriate terms are used depending on the occasion and context, so I do not think it is necessarily limited to just that.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Director-General Level Talk
Kyodo News, NAKATA: There are reports that Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Takizaki will visit the ROK for three days from today, and meet with ROK Director-General for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kim Jung-han and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon to discuss various unresolved issues between Japan and the ROK. Can you please tell us if this is true?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I am aware of those reports. Coordination is being conducted to hold a Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talk. This is not yet at a stage in which I can speak about the content, who will participate in the meetings, and the format. We are still in the stage of conducting coordination, so that is all I can say.
U.S. Presidential Election
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: The U.S. presidential election is drawing near. Public opinion polls in the United States are saying that Mr. Biden is in the lead. There is a possibility that a Democratic administration may take over from the current Republican administration. How is Japan advancing preparation to respond to such an administration change?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The American people will vote in the U.S. presidential election, on November 3. We have of course been following the developments, various observations, opinion polls, and analysis with high interest.
Although it is not possible to predict the winner, regardless of the election result, there will be no change to the fact that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy policy. Accordingly, there is no change to our policy of conducting constant efforts to quickly build relations with new administrations and people selected as president while firmly monitoring developments.
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: I understand that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy. What about analysis from the perspective of whether continuance of the Trump administration or a change to a Biden administration would be better for Japan’s national interest?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: We are carefully following each party’s policies and campaign pledges. The Government of Japan has itself experienced administration and leadership changes in various forms through now. However, I believe that the consistent recognition that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is important will probably be held by not only Japan but also the Government of the United States, no matter the election result. We will continue to maintain and strengthen Japan-U.S. relations and the relations between our governments under this recognition.
Situation in Belarus
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to change the subject to Europe. The President of Belarus is continuing to wield power and demonstrations are occurring one after the other. Belarusian residents in Japan have also held demonstrations. How will the Government of Japan view its policy toward Belarus going forward? Also, can you please tell us about the current status of the Japanese national detained in Belarus?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: As stated many times in press conferences and press releases, we are extremely concerned about the situation in Belarus. In particular, we have repeatedly urged immediate suspension of the responses of applying force and detaining participants in peaceful protests. The demonstrations are still being held, and the overall tense situation is continuing.
Accordingly, the Government of Japan will continue to convey its views and position to the Belarusian administration and request improvement based on the position I just mentioned.
In regard to the detained Japanese man in your question, consul meetings have been held several times thus far and his current status has been confirmed. There is no information I can provide beyond that here at the present point. We will continue to follow the status of the detained Japanese man with high interest.
Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh
NHK, WATANABE: I would like to change the subject to the conflict concerning Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Japan has appreciated the mediation efforts by Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia. I believe that Foreign Minister Motegi conveyed Japan’s stance at the recent Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk. As Japan has good relations with both countries concerned, will Japan appeal to them directly? Or will Japan appeal to Turkey, which is involved in the background with Azerbaijan?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The Government of Japan has been conveying its views regarding the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh thus far. Unfortunately the conflict is still continuing. Various countries are conducting mediation efforts. There has also been a mediation framework on this situation centered on the United States, Russia, and Europe.
The Government of Japan believes that both parties should peacefully resolve the conflict through dialogue while utilizing various frameworks.
As you mentioned, Foreign Minister Lavrov explained Russia’s efforts for this situation to Foreign Minister Motegi during their recent telephone talk. The Government of Japan highly appreciates Russia’s efforts.
In addition, the United States and Europe have been conducting mediation efforts. We will support those efforts.
The Government of Japan will continue to work to improve the situation while conducting communication with other countries with influence as well.
Selection of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretary-General
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I would like to ask about the selection of the WTO Secretary-General. There are reports that various countries have expressed who they support. Firstly, can you tell us how you view the current situation?
For my second question, at the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) meeting this morning, a view was expressed asking why a Japanese candidate was not put forth this time. Can you please tell us again how Japan intends to approach the selection, and Japan’s view on having Japanese people as the heads of international organizations going forward?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The candidates have currently been narrowed down to two people for the selection of the next WTO Secretary-General. I believe countries are currently at the stage of considering which candidate they will support in the end. Although there have probably been some official announcements of support depending on the country, basically I believe it is generally the international custom to not disclose which candidate is voted for in selections for international organizations.
Accordingly, I would like to refrain from answering how Japan will approach this. As stated previously, the WTO’s Appellate Body’s fall into dysfunction and rule-making on new fields such as the digital economy that is growing in importance due to the novel coronavirus are urgent issues. It is important to select a Secretary-General who can take the lead to work on these accumulated issues. We will conduct communication and cooperation with various countries so that a candidate is selected who has the ability to coordinate the interests of major countries, and can contribute to maintaining and strengthening the multilateral trade system that Japan places importance on.
You asked why Japan did not put forth a candidate. Consideration was conducted on the various options according to the stage of selecting the Secretary-General this time. Amidst this, the Government of Japan decided not to nominate a candidate based on the position I mentioned earlier while monitoring the developments of the candidates of various countries.
In terms of what we will do for personnel selections for international organizations going forward, we are fully aware of views from political parties and the people that it is necessary to respond more actively for selections of leaders of international organizations. There have been past examples of Japan putting forth candidates for Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the top positions in other major United Nations organizations. There are different needs for people with appropriate qualities and abilities depending on the times. Amidst this, we will continue to take opportunities and conduct serious consideration, including for discovering and fostering human resources.