Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 4:04 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Video) Press Conference by Foreign Minister Motegi
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

The EU’s “Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to speak about one matter. It is the EU’s “Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.” Yesterday, the EU announced its strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Japan welcomes that the EU announced its strong intentions for engagement in the Indo-Pacific.
I attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council in January 2021 for the first time as Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, and explained Japan’s vision and initiatives related to the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” The EU’s document mentions democracy, the rule of law, the rules-based international order, and freedom of navigation, which Japan places importance on, and includes cooperation in extensive fields of security, defense, the economy, and connectivity in the region.
Japan will continue to promote cooperation with related countries, including the EU and various European countries, toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” That is all from me.

Passing of Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mondale

Asahi Shimbun, Sato: Former Vice President Walter Mondale of the United States, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration, has passed away. As Ambassador, he announced the 1996 agreement on the return of Futenma Air Station with then- Prime Minister HASHIMOTO Ryutaro, and is known as a person who worked to reduce the burden of the bases in Okinawa. Please tell us your reaction.
Minister Motegi: Yesterday on April 19 U.S. time, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale passed away. I would like to extend my sincere prayers for him.
Former Ambassador Mondale served as Vice President from 1977-1981 during the Carter administration, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1993-1996. While he was Ambassador, he greatly contributed to the development of Japan-U.S. relations, including responding to not only the issue you pointed out, but also the issue of economic friction between Japan and the United States, Japan-U.S. security issues, and issues related to the U.S. Forces stationed in Japan including the Japan-U.S. agreement on the return of Futenma Air Station. 
In addition, after he retired from his ambassadorship, he greatly contributed to promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the United States and developing human resources who will shoulder the future of Japan-U.S. relations as the Honorary Chairman of the Japan America Society of Minnesota, his home state.
Based on such major achievements, he received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers in 2008. I believe he greatly contributed to building the foundation for today’s strong Japan-U.S. relations and to strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
I would like to again express my respect for Ambassador Mondale’s contributions to Japan-U.S. relations.

The EU’s “Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”

Nikkei Shimbun, Tobita: You stated that Japan welcomes the EU’s strategy on the Indo-Pacific during your opening remarks. If we look at the current global situation, although there are attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, there is also movement to change the status quo in Ukraine in Europe. Can you please tell us your thoughts about a strategy on responding to this by Japan along with the EU and our ally the United States? 
Minister Motegi: As I stated earlier, at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in January 2021, I pointed out the existence of the potential for major development in the Indo-Pacific, and at the same time the existence of various challenges. There was considerable discussion on this. The EU’s document this time indicates concerns about rising tensions caused by geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific region, and clarifies the intention to deepen engagement in the Indo-Pacific with partners that have already announced their own approaches on the Indo-Pacific, which I believe of course includes Japan as the most important partner. 
For example, putting aside whether we can speak about this in the same way as the Ukraine situation, I believe that it is important to respond to unilateral attempts to change the status quo in close cooperation with like-minded countries, including our ally the United States. Japan has held “2+2” meetings with the United Kingdom, the United States, Indonesia, and Germany since the start of this year. Amidst this, we have shared this recognition and agreed to advance cooperation.
Japan first advocated the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept and vision five years ago in 2016. Its significance and importance have been increasingly growing. The number of countries that share the concept has also been growing. We will continue to closely cooperate going forward with the EU, our partner with which we share such values. 
TV Asahi, Sato: I would also like to ask about the EU’s strategy on the Indo-Pacific. The EU compiled a document this time, but there were voices that said the compilation work would take several years. You attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council in January, and the document was compiled in just under three months since then. How do you assess this speed, and what is your view on the background for this?
Minister Motegi: I believe that various developments are accelerating around the world now. As I stated before, the potential for major development as well as various challenges are being exposed in the Indo-Pacific. Amidst this, France, Germany, and the Netherlands have already announced their own visions on the Indo-Pacific. When I attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council in January, I felt that the momentum was rising considerably for the EU to also create such a strategy. The EU Foreign Affairs Council compiled this document in an extremely swift manner. Ultimately it will be approved by the European Commission, but I believe that they are responding with a sense of urgency.
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to ask another related question. The document mentions at the end that a joint communication will be issued as a specific document by September. What are your expectations for this document? Are you considering having any discussions in relation to the compilation of this document?  
Minister Motegi: As I touched on before, I believe the document will be compiled by the EU as a whole. The compilation work will proceed going forward, and the strategy document this time will provide the basis for it. I believe that I will of course have opportunities for discussions, such as the G7, discussions with the foreign ministers of various European countries, and discussions with those in charge of foreign affairs at the European Commission. I would like to confirm this matter and deepen cooperation.

Situation in Myanmar (Detainment of a Japanese Journalist)

Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: I would like to ask about the situation in Myanmar. In regard to the Myanmar military’s oppression of civilians, I have heard that the Government of Japan aims to break the deadlock in the situation through dialogue rather than sanctions by utilizing connections built up with the Myanmar military. Does the Government also plan to break the deadlock in the situation using the same policy toward the release of KITAZUMI Yuki, the journalist who was recently detained in Myanmar? Thank you. 
Minister Motegi: Excuse me. Who said that our policy was to resolve the situation through dialogue?
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: I read something like that in an article in the Nikkei Shimbun.
Minister Motegi: In that case, please ask someone here from the Nikkei Shimbun.
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: Understood.

Iran Nuclear Issue

Pan Orient News, Azhari: I would like to follow up on the statement by Japan last week on the announcement by Iran to resume enrichment of uranium. Japan expressed concern, and said you will activate the policy to make the Middle East more stable. What are the exact steps in this regard that Japan is planning to take, especially regarding the continued cross-border missiles against Saudi Arabia and also the Iranian request to reduce the sanctions?
Minister Motegi: There are two developments related to the Iran nuclear issue. The first is a good one. We welcome that there is a forward-looking response among various countries being undertaken in Vienna. We expect progress toward the return of the United States and Iran to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and are monitoring the direction of the discussions.
On the other hand, we are strongly concerned that Iran has started producing enriched uranium up to 60%, as you pointed out. We will strongly urge Iran to comply with the JCPOA, refrain from provocative measures that undermine the JCPOA, and act in a constructive manner aiming to resolve the issue through the dialogue. I have held meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif many times, and have directly conveyed Japan’s stance.
Japan is not one of the countries involved with the JCPOA. However, we have an alliance with the United States as well as traditionally friendly relations with Iran. We will leverage these relations to actively contribute toward progress in the dialogue, although it is difficult for me to say what steps we will take now.

Situation in Myanmar (Detainment of a Japanese Journalist)

Freelance, Shiba: I would like to ask about the matter of the detainment of Mr. KITAZUMI Yuki in Myanmar. I believe that Japan is urging the Myanmar military in various ways behind the scenes, but shouldn’t you clarify to a certain extent what Japan should do depending on Myanmar’s response? I believe it is necessary for Japan to make its measures visible, such as by setting a deadline for the suspension of violence in Myanmar and then gradually imposing economic sanctions and taking other measures, and by imposing sanctions for the unjust detainment of and violence to Japanese nationals. What is your view on this?
Minister Motegi: On the night of April 18, a Japanese journalist in his 40s residing in Yangon was arrested in his home, and is currently being detained at Insein prison in Yangon. The Myanmar authorities have said that he did not sustain any injuries. However, his detainment is unacceptable. We have lodged a protest to the Myanmar side, and are strongly requesting at all levels to be able to meet with him as soon as possible and for his swift release.
I heard your view. Having said that, I believe what is important now is to ensure the Japanese man’s safety and realize his swift release. I intend to conduct considerations from the perspective of what would be the most appropriate response to achieve this.

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