Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, March 12, 2021, 10:49 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- (1) Ten Years After the Great East Japan Earthquake
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to speak about three matters in my Opening Remarks. The first is the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Yesterday marked 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and I issued a Foreign Minister’s Statement. I would like to once again pray for the repose of the souls of the victims and extend my condolences to their families. I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude for the abundant support and encouraging words Japan received from around the world, as well as the warm messages and prayers we have received as we mark a decade after the disaster.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo and the Australian Consul-General in Osaka attended the memorial ceremony in Minamisanriku yesterday. It seems that they supported the disaster area 10 years ago along with other staff from the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, were once again posted to Japan, and participated in yesterday’s ceremony.
In addition, memorial ceremonies were held around the world yesterday. Japan will never forget the generosity shown and the support kindly provided by the people of the world. The word tomodachi (friend) has been shared in many countries including the United States, and we have once again felt this sentiment.
Important issues, such as import restrictions on Japanese food products, still remain even a decade after the disaster. We will continue to exert all efforts for these issues under the strong determination that “without the reconstruction of Tohoku, there is no revival of Japan.” Also, as abnormal weather frequently occurs around the world and natural disasters are growing increasingly intense in recent years, we will strengthen international cooperation through disaster prevention.
- (2) National People’s Congress (NPC) of China (Change to the Electoral System of Hong Kong)
Minister Motegi: The second matter is in relation to Hong Kong. The session of the NPC was held in China from March 5 to yesterday, March 11, and Japan has been monitoring the developments. Yesterday, the NPC adopted a “decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
Japan’s grave concern is intensifying over the decision made by China’s NPC to change the electoral system in Hong Kong following a series of arrests and prosecutions of a number of pro-democracy politicians and activists since the enactment of the national security law last June.
In particular, the decision this time will further undermine the confidence in the ‘One Country Two Systems’ framework as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration which have been the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s prosperity, and also represents a major setback for the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong. Japan cannot overlook this.
It is the long-standing position of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system which Hong Kong has been enjoying and the democratic and stable development of Hong Kong under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ framework.
Japan calls on China to hold relevant elections in Hong Kong in a fair manner that are open to candidates representing a wide range of political opinions. Japan has again conveyed our views to China due to this decision, and will continue to cooperate with the international community in urging China to take concrete actions.
- (3) White Paper on Development Coordination 2020
Minister Motegi: The third and final matter is that I spoke about the release of the “White Paper on Development Cooperation 2020” at the Cabinet meeting today.
The White Paper this time has the subheading of “International cooperation during the novel coronavirus era toward the future.” It has special features on the novel coronavirus, and introduces topics such as health and medical care support implemented at an unprecedented speed, contributing to ensuring equitable access to vaccines, and Japanese personnel at international organizations who are active globally.
In addition, the aim was for it to be a “participatory-style white paper.” We made creative efforts to make the White Paper familiar widely among Japanese citizens by publishing photographs by the general public, special features, and columns solicited utilizing social media and other sources.
Through this White Paper, while receiving the understanding and further support of citizens about Japan’s development cooperation, we would like Japan to continue to show leadership to actively contribute to development cooperation and resolving global-scale issues in the international community.
Visit to the United States by Prime Minister Suga
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the visit to the United States by Prime Minister Suga. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato announced that the visit will be in the first half of April. What results do you hope for or assume at the present point? Also, although the number of people accompanying Prime Minister Suga will be kept at the minimum, is consideration being conducted on you accompanying him?
Minister Motegi: Prime Minister Suga will visit the United States in the first half of April. Today, the first Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Leaders’ Video Conference was held for the “Quad.” I would like to welcome the strong commitment shown by the Biden administration to strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance by holding this summit meeting at such an extremely early timing after the administration’s inauguration. I believe this meeting is an extremely significant opportunity to affirm Japan-U.S. cooperation and show leadership on the tense regional situation, Japan-U.S. cooperation toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and shared issues of the international community such as climate change and novel coronavirus countermeasures, based on the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
Prime Minister Suga’s visit to the United States will of course have a small number of people from the perspective of having thorough novel coronavirus countermeasures. At the present point, I am not planned to accompany Prime Minister Suga.
U.S. Foreign Policy on Asia
Yomiuri Shimbun, Fukuda: In relation to this, it seems that the new U.S. administration is placing focus on Asia in its foreign policy, including Prime Minister Suga’s visit to the United States, the Quad summit meeting, and Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to Asia. Please tell us your thoughts on the background of this and how you will approach it.
Minister Motegi: It is extremely important that the Biden administration is showing its stance of focusing on Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and its firm commitment. Japan would like to welcome this.
I believe that of course the United States under the Biden administration intends to firmly show leadership on various issues of the international community while again cooperating and collaborating with its allies and like-minded countries. It must show such leadership, and it must strengthen collaboration with its allies. I am not raising any particular countries. In this sense, I believe that the United States recognizes the importance of Asia.
Situation in the Middle East (Collaboration with the United States, Australia, and India)
Pan Orient News, Azhari: This is a follow up question on the Quad summit meeting. I think you will discuss the Indo-Pacific region. How will the other areas in the world be discussed in this summit, namely the Middle East? This region is close to the Indian Ocean.
Minister Motegi: I believe that the Middle East is of course included geographically within the region of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” Additionally, in regard to the issue of peace in the Middle East, Japan has been working on building trust among the parties concerned through our own initiatives such as the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative and the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) while cooperating with related countries such as the United States that have major influence in the Middle East.
In addition, in regard to the situation in the Middle East including peace in the Middle East, we have been conducting frank exchanges of views with important partners in the international community including not only the United States but also Australia and India.
Japan will continue its diplomatic efforts while closely cooperating with related countries toward peace and stability in the Middle East as we leverage the good relations we have built up over many years with various Middle Eastern countries.
Situation in Yemen
Pan Orient News, Azhari: There are some reports that Houthis are firing missiles across the border against Saudi Arabia including recent missiles that reportedly hit Saudi Aramco, an oil company, and also maybe some civilian facilities. How does Japan see this situation?
Minister Motegi: Japan is concerned about the conflict in Yemen that has continued for a long time putting many civilians in difficult humanitarian situations. In addition, Japan strongly condemns the continuous cross-border attacks by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia.
The Government of Japan, once again, calls on all parties concerned for an immediate ceasefire and early start of dialogue for a political solution to the situation in Yemen. Japan also supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Mr. Griffiths, toward an end of the Yemeni conflict, and welcomes the United States’ strengthened diplomatic efforts.
The Government of Japan remains committed to continuously making efforts, in cooperation with countries concerned, towards realizing peace and stability in Yemen, including through humanitarian assistance.
I have delivered the abovementioned positions of Japan to my counterparts at the occasions such as my visit to Saudi Arabia last year and the telephone talks with Dr. Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, the other day.
China’s Proposal to Provide its Vaccine to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Sankei Shimbun, Ishinabe: I would like to ask about China’s vaccine. President Bach of the IOC disclosed that China offered to provide its vaccine for athletes and other people related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Please tell us your reaction to this and your view on China’s intention.
Minister Motegi: I would like to refrain from commenting because issues related to the Olympic Games, the IOC, and related vaccine development are not under my jurisdiction.
Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”)
NHK, Yamamoto: In regard to the Japan-U.S. “2+2” that will be held next week, what results are you planning to aim for, and in particular will it be an opportunity for Japan and the United States to send some sort of strong message in terms of China?
Minister Motegi: I would like to welcome the visit to Japan by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, which is their first overseas travel soon after the inauguration of the Biden administration, as a demonstration that the United States values the Japan-U.S. Alliance. I believe that this will be an extremely significant opportunity to discuss the regional security environment that is growing increasingly severe as well as global affairs which include various issues. I would like to hold an in-depth exchange of views face-to-face regarding matters such as future cooperation to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and show the unwavering strong solidarity of the Japan-U.S. Alliance within Japan and abroad.
I have already held Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talks with Secretary of State Blinken three times. This will be our first time having a face-to-face meeting, which we said we wanted to have as soon as possible. I would like to spend plenty of time discussing the issues I just mentioned and conduct Japan-U.S. coordination. I would also like to further deepen our personal relationship of trust.
In regard to the specific results of the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the “2+2,” I believe that press conferences will be scheduled after the meetings so I would like to announce the results then.