Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Contact Between the Leaders During the G7 Summit)

NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. In regard to the contact between the leaders of Japan and the ROK at the G7 Summit, what the ROK is saying and what Japan is saying are greatly different. I believe that naturally in regard to relations between the governments, the fact that they are making such different statements makes it highly questionable as to which side is telling the truth. Is it true that there were really no arrangements in advance, in the way that the ROK is claiming? Officials had been making visits, so I believe that something more than an informal conversation but less than a meeting was obviously considered. Was there truly nothing?

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: Your question was about the various reports and reactions in the ROK regarding a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting or consultations at the G7 Summit.

What we know is that it seems there have been reports and statements in the ROK that there was some sort of provisional agreement between the governments of Japan and the ROK, and that there was a cancellation due to exercises on Takeshima. I would like to say that such reports and statements are not true.

Also, we believe it is very regrettable that statements are being made on imaginary and untrue matters.

I believe that Foreign Minister Motegi was also asked a question on the same subject and answered it during his press conference yesterday. The G7 Summit in Cornwall this time had a very large number of sessions, and non-G7 countries also began to participate midway. Also, there were very limited access to the Summit venue, and extremely strict rules on movement were required as novel coronavirus countermeasures.

Amidst this, there was not any sort of ulterior motive or falsehood in terms of the fact that a meeting was not ultimately held. In fact, in some domestic reports, video taken from afar of the G7 Summit venue shows that in response to the greeting prompted by President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister Suga and his spouse exchanged very courteous, polite greetings with him.

Since that was the situation, various circumstances were not arranged and a meeting was not reached between the two leaders.

As that was the result, I do not think we should look back and say whether there was preparation or not.

Japan-ROK Relations (Visit to Japan by President Moon during the Tokyo Olympic Games)

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. There are some reports that President Moon will visit Japan during the Tokyo Olympic Games. I would like to ask about the status of coordination between the governments of Japan and the ROK. Please tell us the Government’s current views on whether a summit meeting between President Moon and Prime Minister Suga will be held if President Moon travels to Japan, and what conditions there would be if a meeting were to be held.

Press Secretary Yoshida: As we have explained numerous times through now, whether or not dignitaries of various countries, particularly country leaders, attend the Olympic Games is a matter of coordination between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of various countries and regions.

For example, there are already countries that have said that their dignitaries will officially attend the Opening Ceremony or other events. One example is the President of France, which is the next host country of the Olympics. The Opening Ceremony is still over a month away. There are also circumstances related to the security measures for welcoming country leaders who come. Besides dignitaries who have themselves announced that they will attend, I must refrain from answering about who will attend, even if we know about the people due to receiving a notice from the IOC or NOC.

As this is the situation, at the present point I cannot say whether President Moon will visit Japan, which you asked about. Accordingly, your question on whether there would be a Summit Meeting if he came to Japan is a speculative one now, and I would like to refrain from answering.

Although this is not a conversation about any particular country, if dignitaries come to the Olympic Games, then as the host country, Japan will of course politely welcome them. I believe that how we set the schedule in Japan will be a matter of consideration going forward as we monitor the schedules of the dignitaries and various circumstances at the time.

Japan-ROK Relations (Contact Between the Leaders During the G7 Summit)

NHK, Watanabe: I would like to continue asking questions about Japan and the ROK. I believe that MOFA officials are of course analyzing the circumstances in the ROK by looking at the inner meaning of what they are actually saying. As there are various pending issues between Japan and the ROK, Japan has always been consistently stating that the ROK should first present solutions. Amidst this, President Moon has intentionally sent out the message that the ROK had wanted to meet and properly hold discussions, but there was no chance to do so. I believe that in other words, the ROK is trying to show that it wants to improve Japan-ROK relations and break the deadlock. What is Japan’s analysis on this?

Press Secretary Yoshida: As stated, Japan-ROK relations are currently in a very difficult situation, including the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the comfort women issue. Japan has been strongly urging the ROK to take responsibility and respond in order to resolve the pending issues between our two countries. We are still waiting and monitoring for specific statements on this from the ROK.

Nevertheless, it is not a matter of us not having dialogue with the ROK. In order to restore healthy, normal Japan-ROK relations, we will firstly advance communication between our countries’ diplomatic authorities. We are conducting Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and other such communication based on this way of thinking.

However, unfortunately, the ROK has not provided the response we have been requesting through now. Accordingly, if the ROK truly has the strong will to improve Japan-ROK relations, then they should actually respond in a meaningful manner. I believe this is the first priority.

Also, the details of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, which I answered in an earlier question, are a different matter. Japan’s basic consistent stance has been that if the ROK has such a strong will to improve Japan-ROK relations, then the ROK providing answers based on specific content would foster an environment for making various advancements.

Japan-ROK Relations (Order to the Government of Japan on Asset Disclosure in Regard to the Comfort Women Issue)

Kyodo News, Suzuki: The Seoul Central District Court of the ROK rendered a judgment ordering Japan to disclose its assets inventory in regard to the final decision on the former comfort women lawsuit. Please tell us about Japan’s response and view.

Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe your question is about the Seoul Central District Court’s decision to order to the Government of Japan to disclose its assets. I am aware of the matter in your question. This is a procedure of a domestic judicial institution in the ROK. Also, before this order, the Government of Japan indicated its position that the judgment by the Seoul Central District Court in January 2021 was unacceptable because it was a clear breach of international law and the Japan-ROK agreement.

Accordingly, I will not comment on each part of this procedure. As I have been stating since before, my answer now as well is that Japan will continue to strongly urge the ROK to remedy its breach of international law based on Japan’s way of thinking that I mentioned earlier.

Japan-Russia Relations (Russia’s Bombing Exercises in the Waters Northeast of Etorofu Island)

NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. There are some reports, which I believe are based on the content of a navigation warning by the Japan Coast Guard, that say that Russia has decided to conduct bombing exercises in the waters between Etorofu Island of the Northern Territories and Urup Island which is north of Etorofu Island. Japan lodged a protest about this. What was the content of the protest, and what is your understanding of what exercises are being conducted there? The exercises are set to be held from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day from June 16-18. Do you have an idea of what the content of the exercise is, amongst other matters? Please tell us about that, as well as how Japan is responding, including what kind of protest it lodged.

Press Secretary Yoshida: Japan has received information that Russia will conduct bombing exercises from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Japan time from June 16-18 in waters that include Japan’s territorial waters off the coast of Etorofu Island. Due to this, the Japan Coast Guard issued a navigation warning on June 13, and a map and other information were issued along with the warning text.

Japan is exerting efforts for information-gathering on these bombing exercises with high interest. Such bombing exercises will lead to the strengthening of armaments by the Russian military in the Four Northern Islands. Such exercises and strengthening of armaments by Russia are unacceptable in light of Japan’s position on the Northern Territories, and we have lodged a protest to Russia using diplomatic channels.

We will continue to work for navigation safety in cooperation with the Japan Coast Guard from the perspective of the safety of vessels, and resolutely respond in light of Japan’s position on its territory.

Military Exercise by the Russian Pacific Fleet in the Coast Off Hawaii

NHK, Watanabe: In regard to Russia, although this has hardly been reported on by the Japanese media, the Russian Pacific Fleet has conducted a military exercise on an unprecedented scale off the coast of Hawaii, with participation by cruisers, large anti-submarine ships, frigates equipped with guided missiles, and aircraft. From the perspective of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) concept that is always spoken about, there has been a strong focus on China’s maritime advances. What is Japan’s perception of this large-scale exercise by the Russian Pacific Fleet in that sense? Is Russia viewed differently from China? Is Russia’s exercise seen as not being a problem from the perspective of the FOIP?

Press Secretary Yoshida: Firstly, Japan constantly monitors Russia’s movements involving the Russian Pacific Fleet’s navigation and exercises, particularly which take place near Japan as well as in the Indo-Pacific region, as movements that concern the regional security and balance.

Various authorities are earnestly conducting analysis on this, but at the present point I would like to refrain from commenting on what their assessments are.

In regard to your related question on the FOIP, its center is the rules-based international order. The concept’s content is that countries that support the FOIP, including Japan, which share basic values such as free and human rights, will make basic rules on such values for the Indo-Pacific region.

From that perspective, the concept does not have any particular country in mind. But for example, we must raise our voices in unison against attempts to change the existing international order, such as attempts to change the status quo by force.

Accordingly, from this perspective, we would raise our voices in unison against actions and statements by any country considered to be challenges to the existing free and open international order supported by international law.

We will continue to conduct monitoring in regard to the exercise you mentioned at the beginning of your question or any other exercises. I believe that whether or not such exercises have a connection to the FOIP, which you asked about, will change depending on whether or not they can be considered as actions that challenge the existing free and open international order.

Back to Press Conferences