Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Friday, May 14, 2021, 2:24 p.m. Minister for Foreign Affairs
(1) Developments in Israel and Palestine
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to speak about three matters.
The first matter is about the developments in Israel and Palestine. The situation is worsening by the day due to the attacks by Palestinian armed insurgents and the counterattacks including surface attacks by the Israeli military. Japan would like to express its serious concern about the situation.
Acts of violence cannot be justified for any reason, and it is particularly deplorable that there have been many casualties among civilians on both sides. Japan strongly condemns this. We are convinced that the issues of the parties concerned in Israel and Palestine cannot be solved through violence, but only through negotiations and efforts to build mutual trust between the parties.
Based on our position, Japan has been conducting efforts in Tokyo as well as in Israel and Palestine to urge both parties to exert maximum self-restraint.
Currently, the United States, Egypt, and others are conducting intermediary efforts. Japan will continue to firmly cooperate with the international community and conduct diplomatic efforts while monitoring these developments.
(2) Release of the Japanese National Detained in Myanmar
Minister Motegi: The next matter is about the release of the Japanese national in Myanmar. The Japanese national who was detained twice in Myanmar recently arrived at Yangon International Airport. I believe he is still on the plane on the runway, and it will take off soon. He is on his way back to Japan, and should arrive tonight. According to embassy personnel who directly communicated with him at the airport, he does not have any health issues.
Under my instructions, the Government of Japan had been repeatedly urging the Myanmar side in a vigorous and strong manner to release the Japanese national. Ambassador Maruyama also held two consul meetings by telephone with the Japanese national.
With the coordination between Special Envoy of the Government of Japan Sasakawa and Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Maruyama the release of the Japanese national was achieved, and yesterday, the Myanmar authorities announced they would withdraw the indictment and release him. We will continue to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals.
In addition, in cooperation with related countries, we will continue to strongly urge the Myanmar side to immediately stop the violence, release the detainees, and swiftly restore Myanmar’s democratic political system.
(3) Emergency Grant Aid to India and Myanmar
Minister Motegi: The next matter is related to the Cabinet meeting this morning. Today, the Government of Japan decided to extend Emergency Grant Aid totaling $22.5 million to support India and Myanmar.
I recently informed External Affairs Minister Jaishankar in London that Japan was ready to provide additional grant assistance of up to $50 million to India. The aid we decided on today is a part of that assistance. Specifically, we will provide 500 ventilators and 500 oxygen concentrators. As a result, we will provide a total of 800 ventilators and 800 oxygen concentrators to India with the inclusion of what was already announced.
In regard to Myanmar, as worries about the food supply have worsened since the coup d’état, the Government of Japan will provide food assistance of $4 million, which is 432 million yen, through the World Food Programme (WFP) to the people of the Yangon region who are facing difficulties in even maintaining the most basic living conditions. Several international organizations including the WFP have issued appeals concerning the humanitarian assistance needs in Myanmar. Japan has implemented highly urgent assistance from a humanitarian perspective following the coup, and the assistance this time is a part of that. That is all from me.
Also, in regard to the Japanese national who was released in Myanmar, his plane took off at 2:23 p.m.
Release of the Japanese National Detained in Myanmar
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about Mr.KITAZUMI YUKI, the Japanese journalist who was released in Myanmar. You stated that this matter was considerably difficult when you answered questions in the Diet this morning. Can you please tell us what specifically was difficult, if there is anything you can introduce to us? Also, do you believe that Japan’s connection to Myanmar was useful in leading to the journalist’s release?
Minister Motegi: The journalist was released within the day of his detainment the first time he was detained, but it took several days for him to be released after he was detained the second time. Ambassador Maruyama and others kept up contact with personnel responsible for not only diplomacy but also for security in the Myanmar military to confirm the facts of the matter and hold various forms of communication. I also issued instructions on the best ways to urge the Myanmar side. Amidst this communication, Special Envoy Sasakawa also conducted communication using his own channels and conducted various efforts through now.
Of course, many people – not just the Japanese national – have been detained in Myanmar. The international community is urging for these people to be released. But firstly, MOFA particularly strengthened its efforts from the perspective of requesting the release of the Japanese national. I would like to refrain from speaking about the specific content of our considerably frequent communication as our various efforts are still ongoing. But I believe our communication led to the release of the Japanese national. Frankly speaking, it was difficult.
TV Tokyo, Kato: I would also like to ask about Myanmar. Has Mr. Kitazumi, who was released, already been asked about the conditions while he was detained? Please tell us about the conditions if he was asked about them. If he was not asked about the conditions, are there plans to ask him?
Minister Motegi: Asked?
TV Tokyo, Kato: Yes. Has he been asked about the conditions while he was detained?
Minister Motegi: Ambassador Maruyama asked him about this during the two consul meetings by telephone. In terms of the conditions, I have heard that Mr. Kitazumi did not have any health issues, concerns about the food, and he was not being forced to do anything.
TV Asahi, Sato: I would also like to ask about the release of the Japanese national in Myanmar. The government-run television station in Myanmar reported that he was released in consideration of the friendly relations between Myanmar and Japan. What is your reaction to this viewpoint in Myanmar? Also, you mentioned earlier that Japan will continue to urge that all the detainees be released in Myanmar. Although the release of the Japanese national was quite difficult for Japan, in a sense Japan received special treatment. What effect do you think this will have in terms of Japan’s cooperation going forward with the international community and related countries?
Minister Motegi: I do not believe there will be any particular effects on our cooperation with related countries. Japan has relations with Myanmar in various forms, including through ODA, private investment, and diplomatic missions. We also have various communication channels with Myanmar, and have conducted various forms of dialogue using them.
We believe that the situation since the coup d’état on February 1 has been extremely grave. There has been no change to the three requests we have been making to Myanmar thus far to immediately stop the violence, release the detainees, and swiftly restore the democratic political system. During the recent G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting, I probably spoke the most about various matters related to the situation in Myanmar.
Also, when I called the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei, I stated that Japan would firmly support ASEAN’s response efforts of implementing the Five-Point Consensus compiled when the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting was held, which specifically involve dispatching a special envoy. The G7 members also endorsed this. I believe that there was recognition of the important role that Japan is playing while responding to the expectations of the international community in terms of what must be done to resolve the Myanmar situation.