Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Friday, November 26, 2021, 11:11 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Attendance at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference by Foreign Minister Hayashi
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have one announcement at the outset.
I plan to visit Geneva from November 29 to December 1 to attend the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference and hold meetings with dignitaries participating from other countries and international organizations.
At this Ministerial Conference, which is taking place for the first time in four years, participants will discuss the role of the WTO as a trade organization, in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, along with the discussions on negotiations over the fisheries subsidies rules, an announcement will be made on the progress in the negotiations on electronic commerce, which will contribute to the realization of the concept of Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) in the digital economy led by Japan.
Japan intends to contribute to making concrete progress toward the maintenance and strengthening of the rule-based, free, and open multilateral trading system through attending this Ministerial Conference. That is all from me.
Attendance at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference by Minister Hayashi
Mainichi Shimbun, Kaite: Regarding what you have announced in your opening remarks, as far as I know, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs or the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs to attend many of the past WTO Ministerial Conferences. This time, however, you will attend the conference yourself, and you have chosen it as your first overseas visit. Please clarify your reasons and aims related to these decisions.
Minister Hayashi: The Government of Japan is deeply aware of the importance of the WTO and has been making efforts to promote the maintenance and development of this organization, which is at the center of the multilateral trading system.
Meanwhile, Japan is also aware of the recent situations surrounding the WTO in which its rule formation function is paralyzed and part of the dispute settlement system has stopped functioning. Given these situations, Japan is concerned that this may cause a decrease in the centripetal force of the WTO, potentially leading to undermining the multilateral trading system. In that sense, by attending this Ministerial Conference, which is being held for the first time in four years, the Government of Japan intends to contribute to making concrete progress toward the maintenance and strengthening of the rule-based, free and open multilateral trading system.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Japan’s Response to the Disembarkation on Takeshima)
Sankei Shimbun, Chiba: I would like to ask about the Takeshima dispute. we have learned that responding to the disembarkation on Takeshima by the chief of the ROK police, the Research Commission on Foreign Affairs of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and others have established a team to discuss countermeasures against the ROK’s action such as submitting the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and imposing economic sanctions against the ROK. Please tell us what countermeasures, including filing an ICJ lawsuit, the Government of Japan is considering and in what way.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that the views you have just mentioned were expressed during the joint meeting of “the Special Committee on Territorial Land, the Foreign Affairs Division and the Research Commission on Foreign Affairs” of the LDP the day before yesterday.
I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan regarding each of the views expressed. However, I would like to confirm that the Government of Japan considers the recent incident involving the disembarkation on Takeshima absolutely unacceptable, considering that Takeshima is indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based on international law, and therefore strongly protested against the Government of the ROK.
Based on Japan’s consistent position on various issues including the Takeshima dispute, the Government of Japan will continue to strongly urge the ROK to take appropriate actions, and this stance will remain unchanged.
Provision of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccines through the COVAX Facility
Tribune News, Susilo: On the issue of COVAX, 64.99% of people in high-income countries have received novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. However, only 6.48% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated. While over 80% of the COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to G20 countries, low-income countries received only 0.4% of the total amount of vaccines available. There are 56 countries failed to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO)’s target to vaccinate 10% of their population by September 2021, and nearly 80 countries may not be able to reach the goal of vaccinating 40% of the population by the end of the year. Meanwhile, 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to help developing countries could go unused in FY2021 in G7 countries, and the amount that will be wasted could increase to 800 million doses by mid-FY2022. What kind of roles do you think Japan, as one of the donor countries, can play to resolve this issue?
Minister Hayashi: Concerning the provision of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, I understand that in addition to the coordination between the COVAX facility and recipient countries and regions, the Government of Japan is conducting coordination concerning specific quantities and provision schedules with relevant organizations including the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, also reports regularly to donor countries including Japan.
Japan has also been actively participating in the Gavi Board Committees and is involved in the governance process of Gavi as a main donor of the COVAX facility. We will continue to respond in cooperation with the international community to ensure the swift and appropriate provision of vaccines through the COVAX facility.
Minister Hayashi’s Diplomatic Vision
Asahi Shimbun, Sato: Following the announcement made in the opening remarks on your scheduled attendance at the WTO Ministerial Conference, I recall that you said at your inaugural press conference on November 11 that you would lay a path to a new frontier in Japanese diplomacy. Starting with your first foreign visit this time, how will you develop your vision of Japan’s diplomacy to reach your goal? Please tell us your overall vision, including any ideas regarding possible regions for your future foreign visits, if any.
Minister Hayashi: Thank you. About my decision to select Geneva as my first foreign visit, it is as I answered earlier, and I intend to continue to conduct active diplomacy, considering the importance of each conference and meeting. As I also said previously, I intend to promote unwavering diplomacy. Based on this way of thinking and the three forms of resolution, which Prime Minister Kishida has already stated, I intend to take steady steps. However, since I have just started my service as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the goal is still a long way off.
COVID-19 (Japan’s Response to COVID-19 Variants)
Jiji Press, Tanaka: I would like to ask about Japan’s response to COVID-19 variants. A new variant was detected in South Africa and other Southern African countries. Due to concerns over potentially enhanced transmissibility of this variant, the Government of the United Kingdom has taken precautionary measures such as travel restrictions. Could you please tell us how the Government of Japan is currently reviewing the situation including border measures?
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that the Government of the United Kingdom introduced new travel restrictions on arrivals from six African countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, and from midday, on Friday, November 26, local time, non-UK and Irish residents who have been in these countries will be refused to enter the UK in principle, and a temporary ban on commercial and private planes traveling from the six countries will also come into force. In addition, I am also aware that the Government of the United Kingdom issued an order requiring the UK and Irish residents arriving from these countries to isolate in a government-approved facility, effective from 4 a.m. on November 28.
In Japan, the new entry of foreign nationals from all countries and regions, including these six countries, into Japan is suspended in principle, unless special exceptional circumstances are found. The most important point in crisis management is to assume the worst. Therefore, concerning border enforcement, the Government of Japan takes a stance to flexibly respond to worsening situations such as the spread of infections of new variants, and will also address the situation concerning the new variant promptly and appropriately.
Negotiations on Host Nation Support (HNS) for the U.S. Forces in Japan
Kyodo News, Maeda: I would like to ask a question on the Host Nation Support (HNS) for the U.S. Forces in Japan. Regarding the arrangement that requires the Government of Japan to fund part of the expenses related to the U.S. Forces in Japan, I think that the Government of Japan may receive severe criticism from the public amid the tough domestic financial situation. Please tell us how the Government of Japan recognizes the significance of bearing the HNS expenses, and what outcomes the government is seeking through the current negotiation.
Minister Hayashi: As the security environment surrounding Japan is growing increasingly severe, the Government of Japan recognizes that the expenses related to the U.S. Forces in Japan play an important role in ensuring their smooth and effective operation, which is indispensable for the security of Japan. Currently, based on the agreement reached in February this year, the Governments of Japan and the United States have continued negotiations to reach a special agreement after April 1, 2022, but I would like to refrain from stating anything further regarding the details of the negotiations as they involve matters related to the other side. In conducting negotiations, Japan intends to continue to respond appropriately in light of the increasingly severe security environment in the region and the tough financial situation in Japan.
Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games
TV Asahi, Sawai: There has been a trend of countries considering diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Games, mainly in Europe and North America, and following this trend, a prudent stance on Minister Hayashi’s visit to China is emerging mainly among the conservatives within the LDP. In response, the Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated yesterday that “Genuine Olympic Games should be free from political interference. Those who boycott Winter Olympic Games will be standing in opposition to the Olympic spirit. In addition, China supported the Tokyo Olympic Games with our full strength, so the respective countries should fulfill their responsibilities.” Could you please explain your view on this remark, and once again tell us Japan’s response to the Beijing Games?
Minister Hayashi: I am aware of the remarks by the Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that you have just mentioned, but I would like to refrain from commenting on each of these remarks. About the response by the Government of Japan to the Beijing Games, we will decide at a suitable time, after a sufficient and comprehensive review of various elements. However, at this point, nothing has been decided yet. In any event, Japan expects that the Beijing Games will be held as an event for peace according to the principle of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.