Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko

Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

The 15th Japan International MANGA Award Ceremony

Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: Firstly, I would like to report about the 15th Japan International MANGA Award Ceremony.

The handouts have been distributed to you. The Japan International MANGA Award was established by Minister ASO Taro in 2007 to expand international exchange and mutual understanding through world-famous MANGA culture.

This year, which marks the 15th anniversary, 483 entries were received from 76 countries and regions, which was the highest number of entries ever. As a result of the rigorous screening carried out by the selection committee, a total of 14 winners were selected, including conferring the Gold Award to a work by a Dutch artist, and Silver Awards to works by artists from Ukraine, Taiwan, and Spain.

The 15th Japan International MANGA Award Ceremony is planned to be held in a hybrid format this week on Friday, March 4. State Minister for Foreign Affairs SUZUKI Takako plans to attend the ceremony on behalf of Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa who is the chair of the executive committee, and manga artist SATONAKA Machiko plans to attend as chair of the selection committee. In addition, the Gold Award and Silver Award winners plan to attend online from all over the world. Unfortunately, artist Nataliia Rerekina and original author Gilbert Brissen, who are from Ukraine and won a Silver Award, have declined to participate in the ceremony.

MOFA hopes to celebrate their win by sending them their trophies and certificates when the situation in Ukraine is settled. We strongly hope that day comes as soon as possible.

On February 28, we received a message from artist Nataliia Rerekina who said, “We are fine. Thank you for your worries! I believe that the war will soon be over and I will be able to draw manga again!” In order to cheer on global manga creators who do not lose their appetite for creativity even when faced with hardship, MOFA will continue to build momentum for international exchanges through manga.

After this press conference, we will issue the news coverage guideline for the ceremony. I hope you will cover at the venue. That is all from me.

The Situation in Ukraine (Ensuring the Safety of Japanese Nationals Staying in Ukraine)

Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask about the announcement this morning that the Embassy of Japan in Kiev was temporarily closed and moved to Lviv. I would like to ask the number of Japanese nationals currently in Ukraine. In addition, I have heard that the majority of the Japanese nationals staying in Ukraine are in Kiev. After the embassy is moved, how will it support their evacuation from Lviv? It is also being said that the Russian Armed Forces’ encirclement of Kiev is drawing closer. It seems it would be extremely dangerous to leave Kiev at this point. How is the embassy calling on those Japanese nationals in Kiev? Is the embassy firstly specifically asking them to remain in the country?

Press Secretary Ono: The Government of Japan has been exerting all efforts to protect Japanese nationals. However, the invasion by Russia has been expanding considerably and the situation in the capital city of Kiev has been growing increasingly tense in an extreme and rapid manner. Due to this, today, March 2, we temporarily closed the Embassy of Japan in Ukraine in Kiev and moved the embassy’s duties to the liaison office in Lviv.

The Government of Japan’s policy is to continue duties to protect Japanese nationals at the liaison office in Lviv, the Embassy of Japan in Poland, and the newly opened liaison office in Rzeszow. We will firmly work as much as possible on ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals and supporting their departure from Ukraine while maintaining close contact with them.

The current number of Japanese nationals staying in Ukraine, as of February 28, was 120 people. So far, we have not received any information on deaths or injuries among Japanese nationals.

In any event, ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals is one of our important duties. Our policy is to continue to work to protect Japanese nationals, including confirming the safety of each individual, toward firmly ensuring their safety.

The Situation in Ukraine (Recruitment for a “Volunteer Army” by the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan)

Kyodo News, Ogasawara: In relation to the situation in Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan is recruiting so-called “volunteer soldiers,” and about 70 Japanese nationals have volunteered. Please tell us what MOFA knows about this matter. If those Japanese nationals wishing to travel to Ukraine, will MOFA approve of it? Please tell us about the Government of Japan’s response policy going forward, including this issue.

Press Secretary Ono: I am aware that the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan is making such a call.

However, as Foreign Minister Hayashi stated in his press conference yesterday, MOFA has issued a recommendation to evacuate from all of Ukraine, and our policy is that we would like Japanese nationals to suspend travel to the country regardless of the purpose.

As for your second question, which I believe was about cases of Japanese nationals going to Ukraine, generally speaking, MOFA issues individual alerts in cases when we are aware of people planning to travel to regions that have an evacuation recommendation in place.

Kyodo News, Ogasawara: I would like to ask a relevant question. In relation to MOFA’s response through now, did you receive an advance explanation or consultation from the Ukraine side regarding the recruitment? Does the Government of Japan intend to request the Ukraine side to stop such recruitment?

Press Secretary Ono: I would like to refrain from answering about the details of our specific communication with the Ukraine side as this is diplomatic communication. In any event, we have pointed out that we already issued an evacuation recommendation, and have already made a proper request.

This evening, the Ukrainian Ambassador in Japan will meet with Foreign Minister Hayashi. I would like to refrain from answering now based on speculation about what they will discuss in the meeting. In any event, taking such opportunities, we will firmly convey our overall posture to Ukraine and that we will do all we can to support them. We will also convey our position on various issues.

Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: What was the specific content of the request you gave to the Embassy of Ukraine? If Japanese nationals travel to Ukraine to participate in the volunteer army, are there any legal grounds to stop them?

Press Secretary Ono: Firstly, as I stated before, I would like to refrain from answering about the specific content of communication with the Embassy of Ukraine as this is diplomatic communication.

Regarding our response to people who actually travel to Ukraine, as I stated before as well, generally speaking, MOFA issues individual alerts in cases when we are aware of people who travel to regions that have an evacuation recommendation in place.

Generally speaking, measures based on the Passport Act apply for such cases, and we would make decisions based on individual circumstances. I would like to refrain from speaking about how we would respond to such cases based on speculation at this point.

Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: On the Passport Act that you just mentioned, specifically speaking, is it correct to understand that if the Government of Japan becomes aware of people planning to go to Ukraine to be “volunteer soldiers,” it could deny requests for issuance of passports to such people?

Press Secretary Ono: In any event, including the possibility of what you just mentioned, we would make decisions based on individual circumstances, so I cannot speak based on speculation at this stage.

The Situation in Ukraine (Reaction by China)

Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: What is MOFA’s analysis of China’s response to the invasion of Ukraine?

Press Secretary Ono: I would like to refrain from commenting one by one on the responses and statements of third-party countries regarding the situation in Ukraine.

If I were to say anything further, it would be that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo, and is an act that undermines the foundations of the international order, which includes Asia and is not just limited to Europe. It constitutes a blatant violation of international law. As such, it is unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest terms.

From this perspective, Japan believes it is important for the international community to unite in taking resolute actions.

Airspace Violation by a Presumed Russian Aircraft

Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: The Joint Staff of the Ministry of Defense announced an airspace violation by a Russian helicopter this morning. Please tell us if you lodged a protest using diplomatic channels.

Press Secretary Ono: Today, March 2, at around 10:23, it was confirmed that a presumed Russian helicopter violated Japan’s airspace over our territorial waters off the Nemuro Peninsula in Hokkaido.

Due to this, Japan lodged a severe protest to Russia through diplomatic channels that an airspace violation occurred, and strongly requested prevention of recurrence.

To be more specific about the diplomatic channel, on March 2 in Tokyo, the Deputy Director-General of the European Affairs Bureau of MOFA lodged a protest to the Vice Consul of the Embassy of Russia in Japan.

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