Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 11:03 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Personnel Decisions on Senior MOFA Officials
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would firstly like to make three announcements.
The first announcement is about personnel decisions on senior MOFA officials. Personnel decisions related to senior officials of MOFA were approved during the Cabinet meeting today, and the official announcement was made dated today.
Amidst the turbulent international environment, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba has served for three and a half years in his position, the longest such period since World War II. He has served as a leader who can truly be called “Mr. MOFA.” I am grateful that the senior officials who have experience taking on important posts, including Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba, have done such truly excellent jobs.
The personnel decisions on senior MOFA officials made this time took into account various factors. Particular importance was placed on two points. One was policy continuity and further progress, and the second was actively appointing women and young human resources.
Materials will be distributed later with the outline of the personnel decisions. Former Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs MORI Takeo will succeed Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba in his position. Former Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau YAMADA Shigeo will succeed former Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs MORI in his position. Former Director-General of the International Legal Affairs Bureau OKANO Masataka will take on the position of Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau.
In addition, former Director-General for Cultural Affairs SHINO Mitsuko will take the position of Chief of Protocol. Chief of Protocol Shino has also been appointed Ambassador in Charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are happening next month, and will carry out work related to the Games.
Furthermore, former Director of the Financial Affairs Division OKANO Yukiko, who entered MOFA in 1993, will take the vacant position of Deputy Press Secretary. Former Director of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division KAIHARA Kentaro, who entered MOFA in 1996, will take over as Director of the Financial Affairs Division.
MOFA intends to exert even more efforts for various diplomacy matters as we work as one under the new system.
(2) Foreign Minister Motegi’s Attendance at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Foreign Ministers’ and Development Ministers’ Meeting, and the Development Ministers’ Meeting / Visits to Three Baltic Countries
Minister Motegi: The second announcement is about my overseas visits. The G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Foreign Ministers’ and Development Ministers’ Meeting, and Development Ministers’ Meeting will be held in Matera, Italy on June 29. If various circumstances permit, I plan to attend these meetings, and then visit the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from June 30 to July 3.
This will be the first time that the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held in person since I chaired the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers’ Meeting two years ago in 2019. I will actively hold discussions with various countries about various matters of the international community such as recovery from the novel coronavirus, and contribute to G20 cooperation under multilateralism.
In addition, I plan to take the opportunity of the important juncture of the 100th anniversary of friendly relations between Japan and the three Baltic countries from this year to next year, to visit the three countries as the first Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs to do so.
During my visits, I will hold exchanges of views regarding developing bilateral relations, as well as lengthy discussions on regional situations with the three countries amidst rising interest in Europe about the Indo-Pacific region.
(3) Memorial Day to Commemorate the Fallen During the Battle of Okinawa
Minister Motegi: Lastly, I have one more announcement. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences for the many fallen as we mark the Memorial Day to Commemorate the Fallen During the Battle of Okinawa tomorrow on June 23.
Even now, 76 years after the end of World War II, the people of Okinawa are experiencing a major impact. This is an unacceptable situation that we take very seriously.
I will continue to exert all efforts as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, while respecting the feelings of the people of Okinawa. That is all from me.
Personnel Decisions on Senior MOFA Officials
NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the personnel decisions you mentioned in your opening remarks. Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba served for three and a half years in his position, the longest such period since World War II. In your position as the person closest to him, how do you assess his abilities?
Minister Motegi: Former Prime Minister Abe developed “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map.” I believe that Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba truly worked on various matters by mobilizing the strengths of MOFA and the other ministries while taking a panoramic perspective of MOFA and global affairs in an extremely timely manner.
I had various associations with Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba from when I was State Minister for Foreign Affairs. In particular, I believe he did an excellent job in his position as Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs during my two years as Minister for Foreign Affairs as we collaborated and cooperated closely together. I am grateful that he truly supported me well in my duties.
I do not know what position Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba will assume after this. In any event, I believe that his abilities and experience will be extremely valuable for consideration of various issues of Japan’s diplomacy and security going forward. I have high expectations for his future activities.
Nikkei Shimbun, Tobita: I have a question related to what was just asked. Please tell us your expectations for Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori who will succeed former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba, and your assessment on why he was appointed.
Minister Motegi: Former Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori has been appointed Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has experience serving as Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau and as Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, including during the recent transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration in the United States that can be called a difficult time in a sense. Going further, I would say that he has truly demonstrated his capabilities for strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, such as the relationship with former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, from the Obama administration to the Trump administration and from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, as well as for the peace treaty negotiations between Japan and Russia that have been a major issue.
Former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba and Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori have worked since 1982 and 1983 respectively, and have carried out their duties closely together. I would like Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori to firmly carry out his duties in his position following former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba in terms of policy continuity and further progress, which I mentioned earlier.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Director-General Level Talk
TV Asahi, Sato: I would like to change the subject to ask about the Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talk yesterday. You indicated the recognition that Japan-ROK relations were in an unprecedentedly difficult situation in your press conference after the Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talk held in April. You stated that communication between both countries’ diplomatic authorities would be continued, and that Japan would request the ROK side to appropriately respond based on Japan’s consistent position.
If we look at the brief and other material following yesterday’s Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talk, it seems that the ROK side did not provide a new explanation. On the contrary, the ROK stated that Japan needs to show sincerity.
Please tell us your assessment of yesterday’s Talk based on the ROK’s statement, and your thoughts on how the Talk will be positioned in future Japan-ROK relations.
Minister Motegi: I believe there is no question that Japan-ROK relations continue to be in a difficult situation. During the first Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last month in London, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and I agreed to continue communication between Japan and the ROK’s diplomatic authorities to resolve the issues. Yesterday’s Japan-ROK Director-General Level Talk was held based on that.
I have received reports that the Japanese side firmly conveyed Japan’s consistent positions on the bilateral issues of the comfort women issue, the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, and the Takeshima issue. The Japanese side also strongly requested the ROK to respond appropriately.
I am not in the position to comment on the ROK side’s reaction. At the very least, I believe it is extremely important for the ROK to take remedial measures toward resolving the issues. We will continue to conduct communication between the diplomatic authorities of our two counties.