Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Friday, March 18, 2022, 1:30 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Visit to the Republic of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates by Foreign Minister Hayashi
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Firstly, I am planning to visit the Republic of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East from March 18 to March 21.
During this visit, I seek to reaffirm the coordination between Japan and each country in terms of the following three points: the situation in Ukraine; the stabilization of the international oil market; and the strengthening of bilateral relations.
Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, has facilitated the Russia-Ukraine Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Antalya, which I am visiting this time, and Minister Çavuşoğlu has been visiting Russia and Ukraine this week. Meanwhile, the UAE holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member of the Council. I will specifically reaffirm with these two countries the close coordination and cooperation in our responses in the international arena to defend the foundation of the international order.
Regarding Japan’s efforts toward the steep oil price rise in response to the situation in Ukraine, I will confirm our coordination with the UAE for the stabilization of the international oil market.
In terms of our bilateral relations with each country, Japan will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Turkey in 2024, while this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE. I will have an in-depth discussion with these two countries on the further deepening of our existing cooperative relationships. That is all from me.
The Situation in Ukraine (U.S.-China Summit Meeting)
Asahi Shimbun, Nohira: The U.S.-China Summit Meeting will be held today. It will be the first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it is expected that the U.S. side will warn its Chinese counterpart against its intention to help Russia. What is your view on this meeting?
Minister Hayashi: I am aware of the announcement by the White House that President Biden and President Xi Jinping will hold a meeting on March 18 U.S. time and plan to exchange views on U.S.-China relations, the situation in Ukraine, and other matters.
I would like to refrain from commenting on the meeting between third-party countries based on speculation. However, regarding Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the international community must unite in taking resolute actions to fully defend the foundation of the international order and call upon China to take responsible actions.
The Situation in Ukraine (Spelling of “Kiev”)
Mainichi Shimbun, Kaite: At the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) meeting this morning, it was pointed out that, in 2015, the former Ukrainian ambassador requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in writing to change the spelling of the capital city of Kiev to Kyiv, which is the Ukrainian spelling. At the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s press conference on March 15, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno stated that the Government of Japan had not received such a request from the Ukrainian side regarding any issues with the spelling of the capital’s name. Is the point raised at the LDP meeting not consistent with the remark by Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno? Please clarify.
Minister Hayashi: At this point, we have not confirmed the fact that MOFA had received the request that you just mentioned.
Nonetheless, the Government of Japan will continue to hold discussions on various occasions as to what spellings and names will be appropriate to use.
Mainichi Shimbun, Kaite: I would like to ask one more question. Some point out that MOFA has been changing the names of major Ukraine cities to the Ukrainian spellings since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Could you confirm if that is true, and if so, please explain the reason why Kiev was not changed at that time?
Minister Hayashi: From the perspective of operational necessity, MOFA has been using Katakana notation for the names of places in Ukraine based on how they are spelled in Ukrainian, except for Kyiv, which had already been well-established as a convention at that time.
The Situation in Ukraine (Suppression of Free Speech and Human Rights Violations in Russia)
Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: I would like to ask about Russia. Amidst the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, there are concerns about the suppression of free speech and human rights violations in Russia. What are your thoughts and reaction to it? Could you please also tell us your understanding of how such domestic systems are supporting the continuation of the invasion?
Minister Hayashi: Russia has passed a law that restricts the freedom of the press, and following this, foreign media have been forced to suspend their activities in Russia. In addition, strict crackdowns are also taking place on protest demonstrations in Russia.
I understand that these crackdowns are closely related to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by the Government of Russia. The Government of Japan is strongly concerned about the restriction on the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Russia and condemns such actions.
We will continue to clearly convey the stance of Japan through various opportunities and means while making efforts to further raise international public opinions.
Budget Related to the Economic Cooperation with Russia
Kyodo News, Maeda: I would like to ask about the budget for economic cooperation with Russia. The budget for FY2022, which is being debated in the Diet, accounts for 2.1 billion yen in expenses for economic cooperation with Russia. Some members of the opposition party mentioned that the budget should be removed. How will the Government of Japan respond?
Minister Hayashi: Since it is difficult to accurately forecast the development of the situation in Ukraine and the outlook on the relevant international debate, these budgets must be reviewed based on the situation going forward. For this reason, we do not see it necessary to revise the budget.
Support for Moldova
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about the support for Moldova. At the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held on March 17, a decision was made to establish a Moldova Support Group. In addition, you are serving as Chairman of the Japan-Moldova Parliamentarians’ Friendship League. Based on your position as Chairman, please tell us your determination on how you would like to demonstrate leadership in supporting Moldova.
Minister Hayashi: A few years back, before I was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Japan-Moldova Parliamentarians’ Friendship League was launched and I was given an opportunity to take the position of Chairman. Since then, I have been deepening our friendship with Moldova through conversations with the Ambassador of Moldova in Japan and various forms of exchanges such as online opinion exchanges with their parliamentary delegation.
Amidst these developments, I have been able to participate in some of the online meetings as a member of the Parliamentarians’ Friendship League even after I became the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Moldova is a country that shares universal values with Japan. In this difficult situation, a number of so-called refugees are coming into Moldova. Under such an extremely significant impact from the current situation, the country is facing issues.
In response to the situation, the ministers at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on March 17 discussed and decided on the launch of a G7-led support team for Moldova. I feel that this is a perfectly timely response to the situation. As the G7 and also in cooperation with other participating countries and relevant international organizations, we will firmly advance these efforts.
Novel Coronavirus (Compulsory Masks In and Outside the Facilities of the U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ))
Kyodo News, Maeda: I would like to ask about the rules related to wearing masks by the USFJ. The USFJ previously stated that wearing masks would continue to be compulsory both inside and outside USFJ facilities when lifting the restrictions on off-base activities that were imposed due to the spread of novel coronavirus infections. However, apparently, the rules related to wearing masks were partly lifted on March 14. Could you please tell us if the Government of Japan has received any reports regarding this matter and if the government has responded by protests and other means?
Minister Hayashi: In accordance with the new rules on mask-wearing by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing masks is no longer compulsory in the USFJ facilities and areas if the infection situation in the surrounding municipalities of the USFJ facilities and areas have improved, but the wearing of masks continues to be required outside of facilities and areas. These are the explanations that we have received.
In response to these explanations, the Government of Japan has been discussing the relevant measures with the U.S. side while explaining how mask-wearing is perceived as a necessary approach in Japan.
As a result, we received explanations from the USFJ that, as of March 18, the policy was implemented that “the personnel of the USFJ is recommended to wear masks when interacting with Japanese employees within the USFJ facilities and areas.”
The Government of Japan will continue to work closely with the Government of the United States toward preventing the spread of infections and alleviating local concerns through the Subcommittee on Quarantine and Health.
Kyodo News, Maeda: In relation to what you have just mentioned, starting today, the personnel of the USFJ are encouraged to wear a mask when interacting with Japanese employees. Under the current condition, does the Government of Japan not intend to request anything further?
Minister Hayashi: As I stated earlier, we have just received explanations. Therefore, Japan and the U.S. will continue to work closely toward preventing the spread of infections and alleviating local concerns through the Subcommittee on Quarantine and Health and other routes.
The Situation in Ukraine
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: I would like to ask about the situation in Ukraine. Currently, criticizing Russia is a dominant trend around the world. However, Mr. Orbán Viktor, Prime Minister of Hungary, states that “Central Europe is only a chessboard for big powers” and “We will not send any troops or weapons to the battlegrounds.” Please tell us your reaction to this remark. The Government of Japan is supporting Ukraine by granting equipment and goods such as bulletproof vests, but does the government not consider an option for maintaining a neutral position and not becoming involved in the war?
Minister Hayashi: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine constitutes illegal use of force forbidden by Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, and it is a violation of international law.
The Government of Japan believes that we must take resolute actions to protect the very foundation of the international order and show clearly that this kind of outrage by Russia comes with a heavy price. Japan will continue to cooperate with the G7 and the international community to appropriately respond to the situation to urge Russia to stop the invasion and heed the voice of the international community.