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INTERVIEW: Japan’s new foreign chief stresses inclusivity, strength

Tokyo, Sept. 20 (Jiji Press) — Japan’s new Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has cited two keywords, inclusivity and strength, in pushing forward with his diplomatic policy, in an interview with Jiji Press and other media organizations.

 

Motegi said he will put priority on such areas as issues related to North Korea and Japan’s negotiations with Russia on their longstanding territorial row and the conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty.

“I’d like to deal with our country’s diplomatic challenges with inclusivity and strength in order to further promote Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s comprehensive diplomacy,” said Motegi, who took up his current post in a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month. Before the shake-up, Motegi served as economic revitalization minister.

“Japan will show its leadership and act in a resolute manner” as needed, the new foreign minister said.

Motegi expressed hopes to “take new steps” by concentrating on six important areas–further strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, handling North Korea issues, coping with matters related to other neighboring countries such as China, South Korea and Russia, dealing with growing tensions in the Middle East, promoting economic diplomacy, and tackling global challenges.

Asked whether a Japan-South Korea summit should be held at an early date amid worsening bilateral ties, Motegi said, “Nothing has been decided on a meeting between the two countries’ leaders or foreign ministers at the moment.”

“Of course, contact between the foreign ministers and diplomatic authorities will continue,” he added.

On the March 2021 expiration of a Japan-U.S. special pact on Japan’s host-nation support for U.S. troops in the country, Motegi said, “Negotiations (on the fate of the pact) have yet to start.”

“I think the costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan are being shared appropriately between Japan and the United States based on a bilateral agreement,” he said.

Motegi said that Japan will judge “comprehensively” how to respond to a U.S. call for participation in a maritime coalition aimed at protecting commercial ships in and around the Strait of Hormuz, an initiative proposed by Washington.

Motegi showed eagerness to hold talks “as early as possible” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is in charge of Japan-Russia territorial and peace treaty negotiations.

The territorial spat over four Russian-controlled northwestern Pacific islands has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. The islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of the war.

Motegi said, “Japan needs to make proactive efforts to resolve the issue of abductions” of Japanese nationals by North Korea decades ago. “Based on a level-headed analysis, we should act boldly without missing any chance.”

Asked whether he will run in the next leadership election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Motegi said he has much work to do as foreign minister now, likening himself to a climber aiming to reach the top of a steep mountain.

“I look forward to seeing the view from the summit, he said.

Abe’s current final three-year term as LDP president is set to end in September 2021.

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