Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 3:18 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Situation in Myanmar

NHK, Watanabe: I believe that people from Myanmar living in Japan have come to MOFA, and earlier they handed over a written request to MOFA and the rest of the Government of Japan. I believe they are requesting the release of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. How is Japan considering responding after receiving this request?

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: People from Myanmar living in Japan are currently protesting so loudly that their voices can even be heard in this room. I myself have not yet heard the content of their request, but the Government of Japan will respond based on our position taking into account their request.

A Foreign Minister’s Statement was issued on February 1st regarding the situation in Myanmar. Although I am repeating what Foreign Minister Motegi stated yesterday, Japan has grave concern over the situation of the coup d’état by the Myanmar military in which the process of democratization is being undermined.

As also stated in the Foreign Minister’s Statement, Japan urges the release of those who were detained, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Firstly, Japan has strongly supported the process of democratization in Myanmar. We are clearly opposed to any action which goes against such process. Japan will once again appeal to the Myanmar military based on our position.

NHK, Watanabe: So is it the case that the Government of Japan has firmly accepted the request by the people from Myanmar living in Japan?

Press Secretary Yoshida: As I stated at the beginning, I have not seen the written request. I do not know whether we have responded to every word of the request. I stated that the Government of Japan will continue its response as explained based on our position, taking into account that there was a request from the people of Myanmar living in Japan.

Nikkei Shimbun, Mizorogi: You stated earlier that Japan will appeal to the Myanmar military. Has the Government of Japan already contacted the Myanmar military since the coup d’état on February 1st? Also, please tell us the detail if there is anything you can say.

Press Secretary Yoshida: The Government of Japan has supported the process of democratization in Myanmar thus far. Due to this situation, we are once again strongly urging the Myanmar military side to swiftly restore Myanmar's democratic political system. We have also begun communicating with various people concerned both inside and outside Myanmar, including people related to the military.

I cannot say anything further under the current circumstances. We will continue communicating with the people concerned, including people related to the military.

Asahi Shimbun, Abe: In Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato’s press conference today, he explained that the military’s actions correspond to a coup d’état.

You also used the term coup d’état earlier. In the press conferences and statements by the Foreign Minister thus far, the situation has only been described as the process of democratization being undermined. Please tell us the reason for recognizing the situation as a coup d’état at this timing.

Press Secretary Yoshida: Firstly, I believe you are aware of the content of the Foreign Minister’s Statement issued on February 1st. The statement describes that a state of emergency had been declared at that point in time and that the process of democratization is being undermined, and indicates Japan’s concern.

Having said that, we believe that the situation is a coup d’état after comprehensive consideration of the situation on February 1st and the details following that such as the Myanmar military seizing power.

This point was explained by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato, and my statement at the beginning was also based on that recognition.

Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I have a related question. The United States prohibits giving foreign assistance to countries where a coup d’état has occurred. How does Japan respond to such countries? Is there any decision on how to respond?

Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe that your question implies the response by the Government of the United States explained by the State Department. We have also heard that the United States has regulations that suspend assistance by government organizations in the event of military coup d’états and other such developments. On the other hand, there is no such comprehensive law or regulation in Japan.

Regarding what we will do going forward, firstly, in accordance with the Government of Japan’s position that I just explained, we have requested the Myanmar military side to restore the process of democratization. We will ascertain the developments of all aspects of this. We believe that how the Government of Japan can respond beyond that is an issue we should consider.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Lawsuit of a Claim for Damages against the Government of Japan Filed by Former Comfort Women and Others)

TV Asahi, Maeno: I would like to change the subject to ask about the judgment on the lawsuit on comfort women. I have several questions. The judgment in the lawsuit was confirmed on January 23, and I believe Foreign Minister Motegi issued a Foreign Minister’s Statement. The ROK announced further objection to the Foreign Minister’s Statement. I would first like to confirm whether the Government of Japan made any new objection or lodged a protest in response to this.

Press Secretary Yoshida: The Foreign Minister’s Statement was issued on January 23 due to the confirmation of the judgment. I am aware that on the same day, in response to this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of ROK issued reference materials on the view of the Government of the ROK.

The content is unacceptable to the Government of Japan, and a protest was lodged. It is confirmed that the issue of comfort women was “resolved finally and irreversibly” based on the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea. Also, as stated in the ROK’s material and the President’s speech, the ROK also acknowledges that the December 2015 agreement is an official agreement. This was not simply confirmed in the Foreign Minister’s Meeting, but also confirmed by the summit leaders of Japan and the ROK and was highly appreciated by the international community. Thus, we believe that even if the administration changed in the ROK, it should take responsibility and implement the agreement.

Japan has sincerely implemented all measures it committed to under this agreement. Accordingly, if the Government of the ROK acknowledges the agreement as an official agreement between two governments, we believe the ROK should sincerely implement the agreement that is being closely followed by the international community.

Therefore, the objection issued by the ROK was unacceptable, and Japan immediately lodged a protest.

Japan-ROK Relations (Ambassador-Designate of the ROK to Japan Kang Chang-il)

TV Asahi, Maeno: I would like to confirm one more matter. Ambassador Kang Chang-il, who has already visited Japan, has been making various statements to the media concerning the judgment on the lawsuit on comfort women. What is the Government of Japan’s view on this matter? Also, although this is a slightly old matter, I believe the Government of the ROK announced Ambassador Chang’s appointment as Ambassador before Japan agreed to his appointment as a diplomatic agrément. Can you please confirm whether the Government of Japan had a reaction or something similar about this point?

Press Secretary Yoshida: You asked about “Ambassador Chang,” but the presentation of credentials has not finished yet so I will refer to him as Ambassador-Designate. I am aware that he stated his various personal views when responding to the media when he arrived in Japan.

I would like to refrain from reacting or commenting on every single one, but I would like to state that there have been some statements among them that are different from Japan’s position. Ambassador-Designate Chang is still quarantining for 14 days since his appointment. Above all, due to the current situation of Japan-ROK relations that is more difficult than ever before, we would like the ROK to take responsibility and show it is taking action to appropriately respond to the issue.

Regarding the diplomatic agrément and the ROK’s announcement, the announcement about the ROK’s internal decision on Ambassador-Designate Chang was made before the agrément. It is generally the international custom for countries making internal appointments of ambassadors to make an announcement after agrément with the recipient countries.

The ROK this time made an external announcement before the agrément. Immediately after this, Chief of Protocol Kaifu lodged a protest to minister Kim Yong-il at the Embassy of the ROK in Tokyo saying that this was a major deviation from regular international custom and extremely regrettable.

China’s Coast Guard Law

Asahi Shimbun, Abe: Regarding China, the Coast Guard Law has entered into force in the country. China has been repeatedly conducting provocative actions near the Senkaku Islands and other such locations. Do you believe that tensions between Japan and China will further rise due to the entry into force of the Coast Guard Law? Also, please tell us what efforts will be needed to prevent accidental use of weapons.

Press Secretary Yoshida: The Coast Guard Law entered into force on February 1st. We have received questions repeatedly about this on various occasions. The Coast Guard Law stipulates the duties and authority of China’s Coast Guard. Japan has stated its concerns about this to China using various opportunities. The meeting of the Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs is currently being held, and I believe Japan will bring up this matter during the meeting.

We are monitoring with extremely high concern what effects the entry into force will have in the areas concerned and how the law will actually be applied. As Foreign Minister Motegi stated in his press conference prior to this, Japan’s position is that this law must absolutely not be applied in a way that breaches international law.

From this perspective, we are conducting internal analysis on what effects there actually are. Because the law has just entered into force, I would like to refrain from giving details about the analysis.

However, Japan will continue its policy of responding firmly under the determination to resolutely defend our territorial land, sea, and airspace in the areas concerned, with cooperation among the related ministries and agencies, including responding to such effects.

Situation in Myanmar (The Government of Japan’s Recognition of the Coup D’état)

Nikkei Shimbun, Mizorogi: I would like to return to the subject of Myanmar. Regarding the recent recognition of the coup d’état, how many years has it been since the Government of Japan recognized a coup d’état? I saw that MOFA website mentions the 2014 coup d’état in Thailand, but when was the coup d’état recognized?

Press Secretary Yoshida: We stated our recognition that the current situation is a coup d’état in which the military seized power. I do not have materials now that indicate when Japan used the term coup d’état in the past, so I will have to re-confirm that. Unless my memory is mistaken, I believe that Japan used a term such as political disturbance at the time to refer to such incidents as the coup d’état in 2014 in Thailand. In any event, I believe it would be best for me to confirm the facts.

Situation in Myanmar (G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement)

NHK, Yamamoto: The G7 Foreign Minister’s Statement regarding Myanmar was issued recently. I have not thoroughly read the content yet, but can you please tell us the points of the Statement and the background for the G7 issuing the Statement?

Press Secretary Yoshida: The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement was just issued. The Statement indicates that the G7 is united in condemning the coup d’état in Myanmar, and calls upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, and release all those unjustly detained including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The Statement also emphasizes that the November 2020 election results must be respected and Parliament should be convened at the earliest opportunity.

Regarding the Statement, the G7 agreed on the importance for improving the current situation in Myanmar, and to firstly issue an appropriate message by the G7, which shares fundamental values. Then discussions were conducted in the G7 toward issuing the statement. Japan actively participated in these discussions.

Situation in Myanmar (Cooperation with the United States)

NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask another question about Myanmar regarding sanctions. The Biden administration has indicated that it is prepared to impose sanctions on Myanmar. Amidst this, there is a viewpoint that if the United States imposes sanctions, it could strengthen China’s ties with Myanmar. Chairman of the Nippon Foundation Sasakawa is a person who has very deep ties to Myanmar, and he raised this point in his blog. He also wrote that Japan’s diplomatic efforts are needed to persuade the United States. Can you please tell us your thoughts about how Japan should urge the United States and whether sanctions should be imposed?

Press Secretary Yoshida: I have not seen Mr. Sasakawa’s blog that you just spoke about. We requested Mr. Sasakawa to serve as head of the election observer mission during the general election held in 2020 in Myanmar. He went to Myanmar and confirmed that the election was held in a fair, just, and peaceful manner. He has also provided various suggestions and guidance about policies on Myanmar.

It is not necessarily clear what response the Government of the United States will take to the situation in Myanmar going forward. I believe the U.S. State Department recently made a certain explanation that a coup d’état would trigger suspension of financial assistance. However it is not certain how the United States will respond further going forward.

In any event, what would be most effective to take action based on the position which was also indicated in the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement? Japan has the bilateral pipeline to Myanmar, and we will also again urge the Myanmar military side about our position in cooperation with the international community. I believe we will probably advance both of these. We will closely cooperate with the United States, with which we share the position of jointly promoting the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept.

Director-General Ichikawa of the North American Affairs Bureau has already conducted an exchange of views on the situation in Myanmar with Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Sung Kim. We will conduct coordination with the new Biden administration, including that. Amidst this, the Government of Japan will state our views to the United States based on our long-standing engagement with Myanmar up until now.
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