Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko
Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) The Situation in Ukraine (Additional Sanctions by the United States Against Russia and Belarus)
Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: I have two announcements at the outset.
The first is about the situation in Ukraine.
As the United States has implemented wide-ranging sanctions against Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are aware that the United States has recently announced new sanctions.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an act that undermines the foundation of the international order. It is a blatant violation of international law and we strongly condemn it. Japan also cannot overlook the blatant participation by Belarus in the invasion.
Japan shares the recognition with the United States and others that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is supported by severe restrictions on human rights, including regulation of freedom of speech, within Russia and Belarus.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan has swiftly coordinated tough measures in close cooperation with the international community, including the G7.
We will continue to expand the scope of sanctions on individuals related to Russia and Belarus. We will continue to work in cooperation with the international community, including the G7, toward improving the situation.
(2) Second Japan Alumni Conference
Press Secretary Ono: The second is about the Second Japan Alumni Conference.
This morning, MOFA and the Japan Association for Promotion of Internationalization (JAPI) jointly held the Second Japan Alumni Conference online. “Japan alumni” with an experience of studying abroad in Japan who came from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean region, and Oceania gathered in the conference.
The Japan Alumni Conference is held with the objectives of rekindling the connection with and interest in Japan among Japan alumni who have returned to their countries, as well as strengthening networks and activating exchanges among the Japan alumni. This is the second time that the Conference is held, following the Conference in March 2021.
Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Uesugi is attending the Conference. In addition, a video message from Prime Minister Kishida will be screened and there will be reports on activities given by participant representatives on the theme of “Sustainable Operation of the Japan Alumni Conference: Ideas and Future-Oriented Issues in Various Countries.”
The Conference will be divided into two parts in consideration of time differences. Japan alumni representatives from a total of 50 countries plan to participate this time. The part for Asia, Europe, and the Middle East will be held this afternoon. The Conference is private, but we plan to issue a press release when the conference is over, so please have a look.
That is all from me
North Korea’s Missile Launch
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: It is being reported that this morning, North Korea conducted a failed missile launch. Please tell us the facts that MOFA is currently aware of. Furthermore, have you contacted North Korea through diplomatic channels to lodge a protest, etc? Please answer these two points.
Press Secretary Ono: I am aware of the reports you pointed out.
The Government of Japan conducts information gathering and analysis regarding North Korea’s military movements with serious concern.
I would like to refrain from answering about the specific content of the information due to the nature of the matter. At this point, I know that we have not confirmed the flight of the ballistic missile.
Regarding the point you mentioned, we will appropriately respond based on the results of the information gathering and analysis.
Protection of Japanese Nationals Residing in Russia
Freelance, Azumi: I would like to ask about Japanese nationals residing in Russia. There are currently people who wish to leave Russia and go overseas but cannot. These people are living with financial concerns. For example, there is the issue of proof of vaccination being necessary in the case of leaving via third-party countries. There is also the issue of whether people are vaccinated with valid vaccines. Or another example is when people try to return to Japan via Finland, there are cases of entry into Finland not allowed because the Sputnik vaccine is not valid there. I have heard that the local consulate issued a notice to Japanese nationals. What kind of help are these people receiving? Furthermore, this is already being reported on the news and elsewhere but the ruble’s value has fallen considerably and it cannot be exchanged for the Japanese yen. Credit cards also cannot be used. What will you do to provide economic support in cases of people facing considerable struggles with their livelihoods?
I believe that there is a legal clause concerning the duties of consuls regarding those returning to Japan who needs national assistance. I believe that it states that the government provides loans for the repatriation of people who are facing livelihood difficulties. It might be difficult to say that the Japanese nationals directly fall under this category. However, during this time when there is no peace, do you intend to respond to the situation using a broad interpretation or analogical interpretation?
Press Secretary Ono: As Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno explained in his press conference, it is the Government of Japan’s fundamental responsibility to firmly respond to protect Japanese nationals.
The situation in Russia is still fluid. Japan will continue to carefully follow the situation in Russia, swiftly respond, and exert all efforts to protect the safety of Japanese nationals residing in Russia.
For example, we have received reports that airline ticket prices have risen drastically, and there are places where that seems to be the case. We have also received reports that it is very difficult because the price for some flights has risen considerably more. We are providing support through embassies and consulate-generals to extensively share options for commercial flights to Japanese nationals who wish to leave the country.
Freelance, Azumi: I have a follow-up question. It seems that on March 11, the Consul General in Vladivostok held an online meeting for about 60 Japanese nationals residing there. Various questions were asked during the online meeting. Regarding the money, someone stated that even if money could be sent from Japan, they could not convert it, and asked the Consulate-General for help. It seems that the Consulate-General immediately refused, saying that they want to help but cannot.
After that, regarding tickets, for some reason, an employee from a Japanese airline company joined the online meeting with the Consul General, and that person stated that it would cost 300,000 yen for economy class, 500,000-600,000 yen for business class, and 1.1 million yen for first-class tickets to Japan. A Japanese national later did a research and found that there were other flights for about 80,000 yen. This seems to lack care towards Japanese nationals residing abroad facing livelihood difficulties. What about this point?
Press Secretary Ono: Firstly, about your first question on credit cards, airline companies that currently fly from various cities in Russia, for example, I am aware of the method of purchasing airline tickets in Japan and then sending them by email as e-tickets. We are making such suggestions.
This may overlap a little with my reply earlier, but it is the Government of Japan’s fundamental responsibility to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals residing overseas. I myself am not aware of the communication in Vladivostok. The entire Government of Japan will continue to carefully pay attention to the situation in Russia as much as possible, swiftly respond, and provide support to leave the country, such as information sharing, in a way that helps everyone. I believe that is our basic responsibility.
Freelance, Azumi: Excuse me, I believe that the FY2021 supplementary budget formulated in December 2021 includes a budget of 800 million yen for strengthening the system to protect Japanese nationals via diplomatic missions. Is that not the budget for times such as now?
Press Secretary Ono: I do not have specific information with me regarding the issue you just pointed out, so I would like to refrain from answering.
Online Speech to the Diet by President Zelensky of Ukraine
NTV, Mori: Japan has apparently been approached about President Zelensky of Ukraine making a speech to the Japanese Diet. This is an issue related to the Diet, but could you please tell us the status of coordination as well as the significance of making a speech to the Diet?
Press Secretary Ono: I am aware of the reports you pointed out.
This is a matter related to the legislature, so I believe I am not in the position to comment on behalf of the Government.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that communication between the governments of Japan and Ukraine has included the telephone talk on February 25 between Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Kuleba of Ukraine, in which Foreign Minister Hayashi conveyed that Japan strongly condemns Russia and stands with Ukraine, and also explained Japan’s support for Ukraine as well as sanctions against Russia.
Foreign Minister Hayashi also spoke with Foreign Minister Kuleba during the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meetings held on February 19 and 27. In addition, at the summit level, Prime Minister Kishida held telephone talks with President Zelensky on February 15 and 28 as well as March 4.
As such, Japan has shown solidarity with Ukraine at a high level from an early stage before and after the start of the invasion by Russia.
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I have an additional question regarding the question just now. There are reports that the Government of Ukraine side expressed its wish for President Zelensky to give a speech through MOFA. Firstly, is it true that MOFA received and conveyed the message from the Government of Ukraine that President Zelensky is prepared or wishes to give a speech in the Diet?
Press Secretary Ono: The point you raised in your question is part of diplomatic communication, so I would like to refrain from answering.