Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) The Passing of SAITO Takao

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I have two announcements.

As you all know, I have also received the news of the passing of Mr. SAITO Takao, the creator of Golgo 13, on September 24. I would like to comment on this on behalf of MOFA and express our sincere condolences.

Mr. Saito has provided great support to strengthen safety measures for Japanese nationals traveling and staying abroad. This includes his Golgo 13 being featured in the “Golgo 13 Overseas Safety Manual for Japanese Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises,” which was created in 2017.

The manual widely raised Japanese nationals’ interest in overseas safety measures, given the extremely high level of popularity and wide range of readership of Golgo 13, and its persuasive content that features a crisis management professional Duke Togo, the protagonist of Golgo 13, providing instructions on safety measures.

The Golgo 13 comic books are very well-known among wide-ranging readers with over 300 million copies printed, and with a Guinness World Record. Since the publication of the manual in March 2017 by MOFA, over 190,000 printed copies have been distributed, the video edition has been viewed over 970,000 times, and the online edition has been accessed over 3.07 million times.

In March 2021, a new episode was created and announced on terrorism countermeasures amidst the novel coronavirus crisis. Mr. Saito also agreed to and cooperated with this initiative. It is currently available on MOFA’s Overseas Safety Website.

I would like to again express our deep respect and gratitude for Mr. Saito’s achievements and support for the Government of Japan, including MOFA, and express our sincere condolences.

(2) Japan-U.S. Exchange Project

Press Secretary Yoshida: As for the second issue, I would like to make an announcement on a Japan-U.S. exchange project utilizing facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

Since the previous fiscal year, MOFA and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have been jointly implementing an exchange project for local junior high and high school students as well as children of U.S. Forces members in regions where there are facilities and areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

The first program was implemented in December 2020 in Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture. Several media outlets covered the program.

For FY2021, the first program will be carried out in Iwakuni City on October 2 and 3. Programs are then scheduled to be held sequentially in municipalities of Sasebo, Misawa, and Yokosuka.

Of course, as we are still in the midst of the novel coronavirus crisis, thorough countermeasures will be taken, including having participants wear masks, completely conduct disinfection, and avoid closed, crowded, and close-contact settings. Additionally, the local junior and high school students will have exchanges in English with the children of U.S. Forces members at school facilities in areas of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

MOFA expects that this exchange project will be useful in promoting mutual understanding between the U.S. Forces in Japan and the local community, and lead to developing human resources who will be active in the international community in the future. That is all for me.

Situation in Afghanistan

NHK, Watanabe: Firstly, one month has passed since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan. During this period, Japan has been conducting various operations to evacuate Japanese nationals and the like. Please explain to us the current situation following this one month, including on the Taliban’s authority, what stance Japan will take in its involvement, how the Government of Japan will respond, and the evacuation of local staff members working at the embassy, JICA and the like from the country, and the people who have come to Japan.

Press Secretary Yoshida: In the period between the fall of Kabul on August 15 and the withdrawal of the U.S. military at the end of August, many people were evacuated from Afghanistan, including foreign nationals staying in the country and Afghani people who wished to be evacuated. About one month has passed since the end of the evacuation operations for the time being.

As stated, the situation in Afghanistan is still fluid. There are not as many reports coming out recently compared to before, but we believe the situation is still unpredictable.

In early September, the Taliban inaugurated the “interim administration” and announced the names of the ministers and others. Since then, additional clan members have been appointed to minister positions.

Rather than the composition of minister positions of the administration or what is being said by the administration, Japan will monitor what actions the Taliban actually takes.

Above all, I cannot help but say that although the Taliban made public statements about inclusivity and women’s political participation in regard to the composition of the interim administration, the expectations for that and the Taliban’s commitment have not been fulfilled. We will monitor what actions the Taliban actually takes.

In particular, as I have repeatedly stated until now, Japan wishes to see a nation-building in Afghanistan that protects the lives and assets of people in the country, including all Afghani people, restores the social order, protects fundamental human rights including women’s rights in particular, and ensures inclusive political processes including for diverse peoples and religious denominations. Japan will continue our diplomatic efforts while closely cooperating with relevant countries.

In particular, various discussions were held at the United Nations General Assembly, and as already announced regarding the growing humanitarian support needs in Afghanistan and surrounding countries, the Government of Japan has clarified its policy of providing new humanitarian support in health, food, agriculture, education, and other such fields, and how Japan is prepared to provide support totaling $200 million within this year.

It will be necessary to ensure the safe access of humanitarian support personnel for provision of humanitarian support through international organizations and the like. Japan will urge the Taliban in cooperation with relevant countries and the international community.

Moreover, the Government of Japan will continue to exert all efforts and provide necessary support to ensure the safety and evacuation of the small number of Japanese nationals still in Afghanistan as well as local staff members of the embassy, JICA, and the like. We are making diplomatic efforts, including negotiations with the Taliban, in close cooperation with relevant countries including particularly the United States and Qatar, as well as countries neighboring Afghanistan.

The Government of Japan intends to pursue the safest, fastest evacuation method for these people. We have already provided support for those entering Japan, including local JICA staff members and those who left Afghanistan by land via neighboring countries and have come to Japan.

Regarding the future outlook, since there are concerns over possible effects on the safety of the people concerned, it is not possible to say anything in advance. We will continue to provide information in an appropriate manner once we can confirm the safety.

We are currently maintaining regular contact with local staff members and Japanese nationals in Afghanistan. We are confirming their safety and other matters. However, as I have stated before, the current situation is still extremely fluid. Leaving Afghanistan by land is not necessarily safe, so we cannot recommend it. We will continue to gather information and analyze the evacuation methods, and provide support whenever it is necessary.

The current situation is as I have just stated. We will continue to grasp the situation and exert efforts to support evacuation and ensure safety based on the understanding of what I have stated at the beginning.

The Passing of SAITO Takao

Mainichi Shimbun, Miyajima: In relation to Mr. SAITO Takao, will it still be possible to obtain a copy of the Golgo 13 manual? In addition, I believe the manual is published on the website, but will it still continue to be viewable even after Mr. Saito has died? Please answer these two questions.

Press Secretary Yoshida: We have heard that, as per Mr. Saito’s wishes, the publisher will continue to serialize the Golgo 13 even after his death. Therefore, we will continue to utilize the Overseas Safety Manual. Accordingly, we will continue to provide this information to the people of Japan in its current printed form as well as in an electronic form.

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