Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 10:32 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Signing of the Protocol Amending the Special Measures Agreement (SMA)
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have one matter to announce. The governments of Japan and the United States recently reached an agreement on the Protocol Amending the SMA. Before this press conference, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Young of the Embassy of the United States of America in Japan and I signed the Protocol Amending the SMA.
Going forward, deliberations will be requested in the Diet aimed towards the entry into force of the Protocol Amending the SMA by the end of the fiscal year.
The Government of Japan will continue to closely cooperate with the United States to further strengthen the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance by enhancing its deterrence and response capabilities.
Intrusions by Chinese Coast Guard Vessels into Japan’s Territorial Waters Near the Senkaku Islands (U.S. Request to Stop Intrusions)
Sankei Shimbun, Ishinabe: I would like to ask about the situation near the Senkaku Islands.
In his press conference on February 23, Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby of the United States stated that the repeated intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters by Chinese Coast Guard vessels “could lead to miscalculation and potential physical harm,” and requested China to stop the intrusions. He also indicated that the United States supports Japan.
Please tell us your thoughts about this statement from the United States.
Minister Motegi: I am of course aware of Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby’s statement that you mentioned. Between Japan and the United States, the unwavering commitment of the United States toward the defense of Japan, including applying Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan for the Senkaku Islands, was stated at the summit level. In addition, Japan and the United States shared concerns about China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, including China’s Coast Guard Law, during the recent Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk and the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Meeting, and agreed to continue to cooperate. Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby’s statement indicates the same direction and concurs with the agreed ideas, and I welcome it.
It is truly regrettable and completely unacceptable that vessels belonging to the Chinese Coast Guard have been repeatedly intruding into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands and seem to be making movements as if trying to approach Japanese fishing boats.
We have been lodging severe protests to China up until now that the activities of the Coast Guard vessels, based on China’s unique claim within Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, are in breach of international law.
Japan will continue to cooperate with related countries including the United States, claim what we need to claim, and respond firmly but in a calm manner to resolutely defend our territorial land, sea, and airspace.
Situation in Myanmar
TV Tokyo, Kato: I would like to ask about Myanmar. Last weekend in Myanmar, Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Maruyama responded to the appeal from civilians from Myanmar and directly listened to their request to the Government of Japan. Some people from Myanmar commended his response. Can you please tell us your reaction to Ambassador Maruyama’s action and the request from the civilians from Myanmar? Also, please tell us again what role you would like Ambassador Maruyama, who has abundant knowledge and experience related to Myanmar, to play now as Ambassador.
Minister Motegi: I believe Ambassador Maruyama is working hard in Myanmar amidst the worsening security situation and continued tensions. I have heard that he is communicating with various countries’ embassies and is playing a central role in driving cooperation.
I am aware that the petition that Ambassador Maruyama received from the demonstrators mentions items including a request for support for people opposing the military coup d’état, protection from violent acts by the Myanmar military, and the release of the detainees.
I believe that the petition basically has the same content and direction as what I have been stating thus far as well as the content of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement.
The petition conveys the people of Myanmar’s strong discontent and opposition to the coup d’état as well as their sincere wish to swiftly return to Myanmar’s democratic political system. Amidst the fluid situation in Myanmar, Ambassador Maruyama is communicating with the people concerned on the Myanmar side and taking the lead in protecting Japanese nationals. Since the coup d’état, Ambassador Maruyama has also directly reported to me about the situation in Myanmar.
I expect that Ambassador Maruyama will continue to play a role that only Japan can offer, while leveraging his experience and personal connections. MOFA will of course support and cooperate with his efforts.
During my visit to Myanmar last year, I went with Ambassador Maruyama to visit State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and others. I personally experienced that Ambassador Maruyama truly has many different personal connections in Myanmar that are not limited to a particular group. Although I believe it will not be an easy matter to improve the situation, I expect that Ambassador Maruyama will make his utmost efforts to do so while leveraging his personal connections.
Japan-U.S. Relations (Outlook on Visits to Japan by the U.S. President and Secretary of State as well as a Visit to the United States by Foreign Minister Motegi)
TV Asahi, Sato: Secretary of State Blinken recently indicated that he would like to visit Japan with President Biden at an early stage. There are also some reports that coordination is being conducted for Secretary of State Blinken to visit Japan as early as next month ahead of President Biden. Please tell us the outlook on this timing. Also, please tell us the status of coordination on your visit to the United States.
Minister Motegi: Excuse me, I could not correctly catch the two parts at the beginning of your question.
TV Asahi, Sato: Firstly, Secretary of State Blinken stated that he would like to visit Japan with President Biden at an early stage in his congratulatory message for the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor.
Minister Motegi: That is probably incorrect. Did he say “at an early stage”?
TV Asahi, Sato: He said as soon as possible.
Minister Motegi: No, I do not think the statement had that phrase.
TV Asahi, Sato: Well, perhaps it was “at some point.”
Minister Motegi: I believe it stated that he would like to visit Japan.
TV Asahi, Sato: Yes. May I ask about the outlook on his wish to visit Japan?
Minister Motegi: I do not know the outlook. I interpreted his statement as just being that he wishes to visit Japan.
Various forms of cooperation must be carried out for Japan-U.S. relations, and telephone talks and other such meetings have been held up until now. Amidst this, we have to come up with various ideas for our communication style, but I believe it is important to meet face-to-face and have lengthy discussions. We will consider aspects such as the appropriate timing while monitoring the novel coronavirus situation and other such matters.
TV Asahi, Sato: How about your visit to the United States?
Minister Motegi: Secretary of State Blinken and I agreed that I should visit the United States as soon as possible. We will conduct the coordination while monitoring the novel coronavirus situation and other matters.