Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, November 11, 2020, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Host Nation Support (HNS) for the U.S. Forces Japan
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I would like to ask about the negotiations on HNS announced this morning. Can you please tell us again about the details of the negotiations based on the press release? Also, I believe that the Trump administration usually requests its allies to majorly increase their cost burden, but was there the same insistence this time as well? Please answer those questions.
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I believe a press release was issued this morning. The current Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on HNS is valid until the end of March 2021. As a result of coordination between Japan and the United States, the in-person formal negotiations were held on November 9 and 10 in Washington D.C., as this timing was convenient for both sides.
As I believe has been disclosed through now, informal communication had been conducted until now through the video teleconference format. Additionally, Japan and the United States reaffirmed the recognition that HNS has played an important role for ensuring the smooth and effective activities of the U.S. Forces in Japan, which remain central to the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
Furthermore, the two sides affirmed the importance of further enhancing the strong solidarity of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. We affirmed our expectations for the negotiations to be able to achieve win-win results for both sides.
In regard to the stance of the Trump administration in the United States that you asked about, I am aware of various references to that, such as in former National Security Advisor Bolton’s book. However, the Government of Japan will approach the negotiations in a way that enables achievement of an appropriate result for HNS in light of the discussions thus far based on the increasingly severe regional security situation and Japan’s severe financial situation.
As the negotiations have just begun, at the present point I would like to refrain from answering about the details of what communication actually took place.
Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I believe the negotiations on the SMA this time are probably the first negotiations to be held at the same time as an administration transition period in the United States. Can you please tell us what effects this overlapping with the administration transition period will have on the negotiations? Also, please tell us if you have an idea of the schedule going forward.
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: It is true that the negotiations this time were held right after the votes were counted in the presidential election, so they are being held at the same time as the administration transition period. We do not know if such an overlap will have effects until the negotiations are conducted. Also, I believe it would not be appropriate at the present point to discuss our analysis of such a matter because of concerns it could affect Japan’s negotiations.
In terms of the future outlook, the formal negotiations were conducted in-person this time. I believe we could better understand each other’s position through negotiating in-person. At the present point, matters such as the specific schedule and when the next round will be held have not been decided. However, as I stated before, the SMA will expire at the end of March, so we will work to conclude the negotiations as quickly as possible based on the fact that the content will affect Japan’s defense budget in FY2021.
Cease-fire Agreement in Regard to the Armed Confrontation Along the Contact Line of Nagorno-Karabakh
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Although I will probably repeat what you just explained, President Putin of Russia announced that the leaders of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan signed a statement concerning the complete suspension of all combat and military activities in the Nagorno-Karabakh disputed area from midnight, November 10 Moscow time.
I believe much has been stated about the content. It is my understanding that the content of the agreement includes deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops along the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, repatriation of internally displaced persons to Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding areas under the leadership of the UNHCR, and mutual exchange of prisoners, detainees, and human remains.
The Government of Japan welcomes that an agreement was made to suspend military actions in this way. We have strong expectations that this agreement will be implemented by all the parties concerned and lead to peaceful resolution of issues. We will continue to monitor the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.
U.S. Presidential Election (Japan-U.S. Relations)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: I would like to ask about the U.S. presidential election. President Trump has still not conceded, and it is being pointed out that the U.S. administration might be disordered for a while. You mentioned matters such as HNS earlier. Won’t prolongation of disorder in the United States impede Japan-U.S. relations? Also, how will Japan respond?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: In regard to the U.S. presidential election, there are still states where the votes are being counted. Depending on the structure of each state, it will take time to make the final determination. However, the Government of Japan recognizes that President-elect Biden certainly won the election. Due to this, Prime Minister Suga and Foreign Minister Motegi sent congratulatory messages to both candidates.
I have heard that the Biden group has begun various initiatives toward transitioning to his new administration. There is no change to the fact that President Trump’s administration of the United States will continue until the inauguration ceremony in January.
Japan and the United States have affirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance many times through now. Due to this, in regard to U.S. military actions and its presence, both our countries’ defense authorities closely cooperate to be able to respond to any situation immediately. There will be no change to that close cooperation, regardless of the current situation of the election. Accordingly, we have confidence that Japan and the United States can cooperate for any situation and respond based on our Alliance.
U.S. Presidential Election (Effects on Relations with North Korea)
Asahi Shimbun, ABE: I have one more question. In relation to Mr. Biden, he has indicated opposition to having summit meetings with North Korea without setting preconditions, taking a different approach from President Trump. Prime Minister Suga has indicated that he would like to have a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting without preconditions. For Japan which faces the abductions issue, Japan and the United States have cooperated to respond. In the case of the new Biden administration in the United States, there might be a different approach. Can you please confirm whether difficulties will arise or not?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: In regard to the situation of the Korean Peninsula, Japan has been responding based on close cooperation of Japan-U.S. as well as Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK). Japan supports the U.S.-North Korea summit meetings and the various steps of the U.S.-North Korea process held under the Trump administration.
We would like to fully ascertain what policies and stance on the Korean Peninsula the new Biden administration will take after the inauguration, as the specific team has not been formed yet, although there may have been several statements. There is the close Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation as well as the United Nations Security Council resolutions on North Korea. Based on this, we are seeking complete denuclearization of North Korea, or CVID as it was called under the Trump administration. We will closely cooperate with the new administration.
In particular, the abductions issue is a matter of utmost importance to the Suga Cabinet. There has not been the slightest change to our policy of exerting all efforts to realize the return to Japan of all the abduction victims as quickly as possible. Accordingly, when the administration changes in the United States, we will closely cooperate and advance even closer cooperation on this way of thinking.
U.S. Presidential Election (Japan-U.S. Summit Telephone Talk)
Mainichi Shimbun, AOKI: I believe that coordination is currently being conducted on a telephone talk between Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Suga. Is it correct to understand that Japan is making the approach? Also, if the telephone talk is held, what would Japan like to discuss?
Press Secretary YOSHIDA: Prime Minister Suga stated in a press conference that the Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk will be held at an appropriate timing. Coordination is currently being conducted on holding the telephone talk. I believe that it will be immediately disclosed once the format and timing are determined.
On the other hand, the candidate has not yet been inaugurated, so I do not know if it is fine to call it a “summit telephone talk,” but in most cases of such telephone talks at the summit level, it is not necessarily disclosed who made the telephone call, and they are not always disclosed each time. Particularly with the United States, they are held with a counterpart who shares the basic shared concepts of our Alliance. I believe that such coordination is conducted according to both parties’ wishes.
In regard to the content of a telephone talk that has actually been held, it depends on specifically how much time there is. At the present point, I cannot speak about the specific topics, but of course I believe that they will include basic concepts concerning the Japan-U.S. Alliance.