Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 4:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Free and Open Indo-Pacific

Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I would like to ask about the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” At his recent press conference following the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, Prime Minister Suga mentioned a “peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” calling for discussions centered on experts.

Although I believe this has already been answered in the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s press conference, has there not been a change in the principles of Japan’s diplomacy for the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”? Can you please tell us again whether Japan currently positions the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” as a strategy, vision, or something else?

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: Regarding the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” the Government of Japan is strategically advancing efforts to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” while cooperating with countries that share the concept such as the United States, Australia, and India which participated recently in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), as well as ASEAN countries, European countries, and others. There is no change at all to the Government of Japan’s concept.

In regard to the statement by Prime Minister Suga, it is my understanding that the statement was based on the Government of Japan’s consistent position of leading efforts toward regional peace and prosperity through realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

In regard to your question on whether the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is a strategy or vision, I believe the same question has probably been asked before. It is referred to as a strategy or vision depending on the context or other aspects. I believe that Ms. YAMAO Shiori asked Minister Motegi the same question during the recent Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting, and he answered that the word “vision” is added to “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” when predicating its realization.

Accordingly, the phrase changes according to the context of use. It is my understanding that there have not been any changes to the content signified or the position aimed for by the Government of Japan.

Asahi Shimbun, KITAMI: I believe that the United States also adopted the phrase “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” as a diplomatic policy under the Trump administration.

On the other hand, it has been pointed out that Mr. Biden often says “peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific” without mentioning FOIP when he has referred to the Indo-Pacific region through now. Although this is hypothetical, does the Government of Japan believe that FOIP will actually be continued in the next administration? If it is not, how will the Government of Japan promote FOIP?

Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The new Biden administration has still not been inaugurated, so it is difficult to predict what diplomatic policies the new administration will take at this point in time. During Prime Minister Suga’s recent telephone talk with President-elect Biden, he explained Japan’s position of promoting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” In response, President-elect Biden indicated his position of cooperating with Japan regarding the Indo-Pacific.

Regardless of which phrase is used, I believe that the new administration will continue the stance of Japan and the United States pursuing fundamental values such as freedom of navigation, the rule of law, economic prosperity, democracy, and human rights, which are the components of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” based on the Japan-U.S. Alliance in this region.

I believe that matters such as the specific approach and forms of cooperation between Japan and the United States should be coordinated after the inauguration of the new administration.

Negotiations on Host Nation Support (HNS) for the U.S. Forces Japan

NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about Japan-U.S. relations. Although there is still some time until the inauguration ceremony of the new U.S. administration and president, can you please tell us what you know about the negotiations on HNS, which is still pending between Japan and the United States, including what stage the negotiations are at and the outlook on when the next round of negotiations will be held?

Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on HNS is valid until the end of March 2021. The first round of formal negotiations took place on November 9 and 10 in Washington D.C. As stated, before that informal consultations were conducted between both our countries’ authorities by video teleconference.

As these were the first formal negotiations, both sides shared the basic recognition that it is important to ensure the smooth and effective activities of the U.S. Forces in Japan which are central to the Japan-U.S. Alliance, that we will further strengthen the strong unity of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and that it is important to attain mutually beneficial results through the negotiations.

The first round of negotiations has just ended, so I do not currently have any materials that can explain about matters such as the specific future negotiations schedule or the aims. It is my understanding that we are at a stage of wanting to accelerate the negotiations schedule, bearing in mind that the SMA is valid until the end of March, as I mentioned earlier, and that this is related to the government budget process in Japan.

Japan-North Korea Relations (Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)

NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about a different matter, which was also brought up during the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s press conference earlier. Chairman Kim Jin-pyo of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union, who visited Japan recently, told the media in the Republic of Korea (ROK) that someone related to the Government of Japan told him that Japan is prepared to invite Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Workers' Party of Korea to the Tokyo Olympic Games if he would like to come. Also, in relation to Chairman Kim of North Korea and concerning the Tokyo Olympic Games, there have been various statements about utilizing the Tokyo Olympic Games for various purposes. Is Japan currently considering using the Olympic Games somehow as an opportunity to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula?

Press Secretary YOSHIDA: I have heard the reports that Chairman Kim Jin-pyo of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union stated something like what you described in an interview with the ROK media, as mentioned in your question.

In regard to this matter, it is my understanding that there was discussion prior to this during the House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting on November 5. A Committee member asked if Japan intends to invite Chairman Kim Jong-un to the Tokyo Olympic Games, and Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Hashimoto explained that it is ultimately up to the IOC, the organizers, whether to invite him, and not the Government of Japan.

In response, the Committee member who asked the question also asked if Prime Minister Suga would meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un if he came to Japan. Prime Minister Suga stated that he would like to refrain from answering questions based on speculation, but that it would be a good opportunity.

Chairman Kim Jin-pyo of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union visited Japan and met with various people. Based on the communication I just mentioned, as the IOC makes decisions about inviting dignitaries from foreign countries to the Olympic Games, I believe it is difficult to imagine that someone related to the Government of Japan told him something like that based on the Government’s position.

On the other hand, in terms of what would be done if such an opportunity arose, I believe it is as Prime Minister Suga answered during the recent Budget Committee meeting. I believe that we are still not at the stage of exceeding this statement and taking any sort of specific action, but it is my understanding that the ROK side hopes for this to occur.

NHK, WATANABE: In that case, then it was actually the ROK side that began saying this. Kim Yo-jong, Chairman Kim Jong-un’s sister, attended the PyeongChang Olympic Games, which was used as an opportunity to considerably move forward various U.S.-North Korea processes at face value, including with President Trump. Based on this, do you feel that the ROK unilaterally wants to use the Olympic Games as such an opportunity?

Press Secretary YOSHIDA: The dignitary from the ROK that you asked about visited Japan and made such a statement after he returned to the ROK. It is not possible to know what communication he had unless you were in the conversation. I stated that this conveys that there is such an expectation in the ROK.

On the other hand, in regard to Japan-North Korea relations, based on the Government of Japan’s long-held position of wanting to meet to resolve the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues without preconditions and normalize relations, Government officials have stated repeatedly that we are prepared to have a meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un without preconditions. If any opportunity arises, we will probably pursue it.

In any event, it is my understanding that the communication and statements about how to use the Olympic Games have come from the ROK. As I stated earlier, speaking from the Government’s perspective, as the Government of Japan does not issue such invitations, no one with a position in the Government would state that they would invite Chairman Kim as the Government of Japan.

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