Press Conference, 12 February 2008
- Attendance of Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura at the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy
- Statements on the Union of Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
- The Invitation Program of Young People for Sri Lanka's Peace Process Promotion
- Questions concerning the possible Japanese-language proficiency requirements for foreigners
- Questions concerning the Union of Myanmar
- Follow-up questions on the possible Japanese-language proficiency requirements for foreigners
- Question concerning the Japanese Government's response to recent comments by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the Commonwealth of Australia
I. Attendance of Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura at the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy
Deputy Press Secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming.
I have several announcements to make at the outset.
First, over the past weekend, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura participated in the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy. It was the first time for a Japanese cabinet minister to take part in that conference. On Sunday, 10 February, Foreign Minister Koumura delivered a policy speech on Japan's efforts in building stability in the world. The English text is already made available at www.securityconference.de , and will appear on our web site at mofa.go.jp shortly afterwards.
While attending the Conference, Foreign Minister Koumura held bilateral meetings with his German counterpart, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vice Chancellor, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and India's National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan.
Mr. Taniguchi: Second, also over the weekend, the Press Secretary issued two statements, one on Timor-Leste and the other on Myanmar.
In the statement on Timor-Leste, it was made clear that Japan strongly condemns the attack on Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao.
On Myanmar, the statement stressed that the country's reconciliation process should involve all the parties concerned. The full texts of these two statements will be uploaded in English soon.
Mr. Taniguchi: Third, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is inviting nine Sri Lankan young men and women, five Tamils, two Sinhalese, and two Muslims, from eastern Sri Lanka to Japan from today, Tuesday, 12 February, for a week at the Invitation Program of Young People for Sri Lanka's Peace Process Promotion. The name of the initiative, once again, is the Invitation Program of Young People for Sri Lanka's Peace Process Promotion.
By participating in this program, these future leaders of Sri Lanka will learn the nation-building process by deepening their understanding of local governance in Japan and build mutual confidence among the ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.
This invitation program is implemented as part of the program which will invite a total of 500 young Sri Lankans to Japan in the next five years. Prime Minister Fukuda proposed this idea to his Sri Lankan counterpart, President Rajapaksa, when he visited Japan last December. The invitation programs in kind were carried out in November 2004 and February 2006, and this is the third time in series.
Q: Good afternoon. I have questions regarding the immigration laws. In France, our government, as well as Japan, is at the moment thinking about granting visas to people who get language skills first. I heard there is the same kind of project in Japan. For France the aim is really to lower immigration entries. What are the motivations for Japan, and what kind of visas will it be? Is it for long-term residents or is it for short-term residents?
Mr. Taniguchi: Speaking of people from France, many people in Japan are being reminded of two outstanding individuals: Carlos Ghosn and Philippe Troussier. Those people are not going to be required to undergo any linguistic test or examination. They can come to Japan and start working instantaneously. The same applies to other professionals like bankers, dealers and traders who would find job opportunities in Tokyo's central district, in the financial center.
The idea is to open the entry door a little bit wider to other categories. By "other" I mean other than professionals like bankers or coaches of professional football, and so on. That said, the idea is still hotly debated at the intra-government level, especially between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But we are not spending that much time. We are going to come to a tentative conclusion sometime by the end of March. But how soon we can implement that is going to be a matter of the pace and tempo with which we can solve minute details about what sort of arrangement can be provided to what sort of people. So I am not sure how soon we can implement this program, but that is basically the situation.
Q: When you say it would not concern bankers or automotive company CEOs, then what kind of jobs or what kind of population are you talking about?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, even in terms of professionals or people with some kind of expertise - suppose, under the current framework, you have got to prove you have in the past 10 years' worth of work experience as a consultant, let's imagine. Then, the idea is not to de-incentivize those people from coming to Japan, but incentivize those people to come to Japan. Therefore, probably, the entry barrier is going to be lowered from 10 years to five years depending on the linguistic skill you have. So that applies to the professionals, people with expertise. For those in other categories, people engaged in rather more simplistic kinds of work, it will affect the easiness for them to enter Japan if the applicant can prove that he or she is capable in the Japanese language.
Q: Some people say this measure is also part of the wish of Japan to take care or protect itself against some terrorist actions or things like that. Is this kind of motivation behind it, like knowing better who is coming into your country?
Mr. Taniguchi: That is not necessarily the case. The Japanese Ministry of Justice already started to require bio ID when non-Japanese visitors enter Japan - you probably have gone through the same procedure, like fingerprinting or face photo. The idea of that initiative, of course, was to check the inflow of people so that any dubious potentially terrorist sort of people could not come into Japan. So that is more to do with preventing those people from entering Japan.
But the linguistic part, the language initiative, is rather to incentivize people not only to come to Japan, but also to feel more relaxed in their working conditions and environment. The two initiatives are totally different from one another.
Q: I just have a last question, and then my colleagues could ask you questions as well. Japanese is not an easy language, like I would say French is not an easy one as well. Don't you fear that asking people to have linguistic skills in Japan is going to have people say, "OK, I will go someplace else," and not try to come to Japan.
Mr. Taniguchi: That is the last kind of scenario that the Japanese Government wants. Therefore, we have to stress once again, and again and again, that the new initiative is not to dis-incentivize people from coming to Japan, but to incentivize, encourage people from abroad to come to Japan. So the idea is, if you speak Japanese it will be made easier for you to find job opportunities in Japan. So that is the basic outline.
Q: In terms of language skills, what kind of level are you thinking about?
Mr. Taniguchi: It is another matter of concern. It is one area that we have to spend a lot of time on, because at the moment the Japan Foundation is conducting the language examination only once a year or so. The frequency is much less than would be required. But we have to work together with the Japan Foundation, which is the body implementing the linguistic examination. So, ranging from that to many other minute details, we have to work out many things in order for it to be implemented.
Q: While we are on the topic, a related question. You mentioned intra-governmental discussions: how frequently are these held?
Mr. Taniguchi: Rather more frequently than you could imagine, because we are thinking of coming up with a tentative proposal by the end of March. Overall direction will be set sooner rather than later, within this fiscal year - that is, obviously, by the end of March.
Q: Is this a regular meeting?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, it is an ad hoc meeting, so it is not the regular kind of meeting between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Q: Do you know anything about the pace, and how many meetings have been held?
Mr. Taniguchi: Well, I do not know. I will have to check it out.
Q: Can you confirm that?
Mr. Taniguchi: Yes, I can.
Q: A totally different question now: Myanmar. The UN has been told elections in 2010, and I would like to know a little bit about Tokyo's response to that. Will this affect Tokyo's current, I believe, freeze on new development aid?
Mr. Taniguchi: When a Japanese video-journalist was shot and killed last year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry came to a decision that major donation programs would be put to a halt, except for a very minor level, small-scale, grass-roots grant aid, that is to go through channels of NGOs and other third-party organizations directly to grassroots-level people. That decision is not going to be changed.
As is evident in this press statement that I introduced shortly ago, the Japanese Government is of a view that any reconciliation in the country should involve all the parties, of course including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. Currently the Japanese Government is hoping the Special Envoy to the United Nations Secretary-General will play as much a role as he could possibly play in convincing the Naypyidaw government of the grave importance for them to engage as many parties as possible.
Q: Has Tokyo decided on what level of democratization or what stage this process reaches when Japan can finally decide to lift its freeze on aid?
Mr. Taniguchi: We have not come up with any such concrete linkage or thought of linking two processes, so my answer is: there is no such plan yet.
Q: You mentioned the Japan Foundation's role in this immigration measure. Very concretely, how would it work? Is that like your embassies or consulates would check the level of people before granting a visa?
Mr. Taniguchi: The honest answer is: I don't know yet. The Japan Foundation is not a government body: it is an independent administrative agency, partially supported by taxpayers' money. The Japan Foundation's prime role is to enhance Japanese-language education as much as possible, just like Academie Francaise. The frequency of the Japanese-language test normally is once a year, which is far less than sufficient. In order for the Japanese Government to implement this program to require newly entering people to go through the language test it will of course take much, much more effort to be done by the Japan Foundation. So we have to work it out. No concrete picture has emerged yet.
Q: Because when you talk about the yearly test: this is conducted in any country where the Japan Foundation has some kind of representation? Is there one in Paris, for example?
Mr. Taniguchi: In Paris, I understand, it is a regular event.
Q: Okay, thank you.
VII. Question concerning the Japanese Government's response to recent comments by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the Commonwealth of Australia
Q: What is Tokyo's response to the comments by Prime Minister Rudd of Australia on Japan's criticism of photographs that Sydney released at the weekend, which they claim was a lactating whale mother and cow.
Mr. Taniguchi: Okay. The Australian Government's customs ship is shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet. The visual image was taken by the Australian authority. I understand Prime Minister Rudd expressed his grave concern about the matter. But I have to say, what the Japanese whaling fleet is doing in the Antarctic region is scientific by nature, by the definition given by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). It is not commercial whaling because the product derived from the captured whale has to be processed in accordance with, once again, what the IWC stipulates in its convention. So, while I understand why Prime Minister Rudd and many Australian people are concerned about this matter, I should only stress again two things. One, the activity that the Japanese whaling fleet is engaged in is not commercial but scientific. That is the first part. Secondly, to people in Australia, I should only reiterate what Prime Minister Rudd himself said, that the bilateral relationship is first class, it is among the best that both nations have with any other country in the world, and my request is that this issue be taken into a broader context.
Back to Index