Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Sunday, December 11, 2022, 2:10 p.m. Yamagata Grand Hotel
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, I visited Miyagi Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture for the second part of the “Local to Global” project, which aims to promote the attractions of local regions of Japan worldwide. In Miyagi Prefecture, I exchanged views with the governor, mayors, and the local business community and was able to deepen discussions about promoting Japan’s local attractions, so to speak, Japan’s diplomacy. In particular, the G7 Sendai Science and Technology Ministers’ Meeting is planned to be held in Miyagi Prefecture in May next year, and we had meaningful discussions on subjects such as public-private partnership, expanding inbound demand, and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, including utilizing such opportunities.
In addition, here in Yamagata Prefecture, I held a roundtable dialogue with young people and others who are actively contributing to a wide range of fields. Yamagata is working hard to develop global human resources. For example, it recently held the YAMAGATA Youth Summit 2022. Thus, we held meaningful exchanges of views today as well. I also noted the fact that Yamagata is the birthplace of Ambassador ADACHI Mineichiro, the first person born in Asia to serve as the President of the Permanent Court of International Justice, as well as the importance of an international order based on the rule of law.
In this regard, Japan will become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from January next year. We are considering holding an open debate on the theme of “rule of law” in New York in January, the month of Japan’s Presidency. We intend to make 2023 a year in which all countries unite under the idea that “rule by force” is not acceptable, and we will play an active role to that end.
Based on the knowledge and views I have gained and heard from local people during my visit, I intend to continue to personally take the lead in promoting the attractiveness of Japan’s local regions worldwide and attracting inbound demand, and I hope this will lead to further revitalization of the regions.
Reporter: I would like to ask about today’s roundtable dialogue. With regard to inbound demand, this is one of the fields that Yamagata Prefecture is focusing on, because inbound demand has an extremely large economic effect on the local regions of Japan and for Yamagata Prefecture. First, I imagine that during today’s roundtable dialogue, you heard from a variety of people with different positions and backgrounds. Could you please share with us your thoughts, such as any comments that left strong impression on you?
Second, going forward, how do you intend to utilize what you heard today when promoting Japan’s local regions overseas and encouraging inbound demand?
Minister Hayashi: In today’s roundtable dialogue, the theme was “Yamagata to the World,” and I was able to hold discussions on promoting attractions of Yamagata and about Japan’s diplomacy policy with six locals based in Yamagata who are actively contributing to fields such as international exchange, tourism, culture, start-ups, and agriculture. I was able to hear many encouraging statements and feel anew Yamagata’s attractions and potential.
Similar to my own experience when I was young, some of them pointed out that studying abroad reminded them of the attractions of their home prefecture of Yamagata. If you stay in the same place for a long time, you end up taking the local attractions for granted. However, they told me, for example, that when they went overseas, it gave them a point of comparison and they were able to look at Yamagata from the outside. In doing so, they realized that there were wonderful aspects to daily life in their home prefecture of Yamagata, and they were able to be active in a wide range of fields based on these experiences.
In addition, I also spoke with a person from a bio-startup. I have known for a long time about what the bio-startups here have been doing, but today I heard about how they are expanding their business from clothing to a wider range of materials. They are also being used in food products, replacing what was originally animal protein. I was very impressed with the fact that they are expanding in a variety of directions.
We have a network of embassies, consulates, and permanent missions across different countries, as well as our ambassadors to those countries, and I think we need to firmly consider how they can help further expand this kind of attractiveness.
Reporter: I have a question on North Korea. North Korea launched a ballistic missile on November 3 and Yamagata Prefecture was one of the regions where J-ALERT was issued. The residents of the prefecture feel that the threat of North Korea is extremely close. I would like to ask you for your thoughts and initiatives, as foreign minister, with respect to providing peace of mind against this threat.
I have another question. In recent years, people of Yamagata Prefecture living on the side facing the Sea of Japan have been struggling with the issue of fisheries operators engaging in illegal fishing using foreign vessels. I would like to ask you about how you will approach this issue and for your thoughts on this subject.
Minister Hayashi: First, I would like to state that North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities pose a serious and imminent threat to Japan’s security, to the peace and security of the region and the international community and are utterly unacceptable.
We have been strongly urging, and will continue to urge, North Korea to immediately and fully implement relevant UNSC resolutions and to take concrete actions to comprehensively resolve issues of concern such as the abductions, and nuclear and missile issues.
In response to this, Japan will continue to aim for the denuclearization of North Korea and the complete implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions, while conducting close Japan-U.S. cooperation and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation as well as cooperating with the international community.
In addition, I recognize that illegal fishing operations by North Korea and others in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are a serious issue. I will continue to work together with the relevant ministries and agencies, the Japan Coast Guard, and the Fisheries Agency to resolutely respond to this issue and prevent illegal operations by foreign fishing vessels and the like inside Japan’s EEZ.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the government’s diplomacy and security policy. I have two questions and will ask them together.
As you mentioned earlier, the government plans to hold an open debate on the rule of law in the UNSC in January next year. Please tell us about efforts to engage with Russia and China, which are permanent members of the UNSC, participation by countries from outside the UNSC, and what are being considered regarding the attendance of government officials including yourself.
I would also like to ask about the three documents, including the National Security Strategy, that the government is currently revising. The ruling party has decided to clearly state that Japan will possess counterstrike capabilities in the three documents. Regarding such counterstrike capabilities, there remains ambiguity around the mechanisms for controlling their use, and there are also concerns that they will increase tension in the region. Now that you have proposed possession of counterstrike capabilities, how do you intend to move forward with diplomacy with neighboring countries?
Minister Hayashi: Regarding your first question, Japan will become a non-permanent member of the UNSC from January next year and we are considering holding an open debate on the theme of “the rule of law” in New York in January, the month of Japan’s Presidency. We are currently making coordination on efforts to engage with Russia and China as well as the participation of countries from outside the UNSC, among other matters. Furthermore, nothing has been decided at this point regarding the attendance of the top three political executives, including myself.
Regarding your second question, at a time when technologies such as missiles and the like are changing and evolving at a rapid pace, the security environment surrounding Japan is rapidly becoming more severe. Against this backdrop, we are considering so-called “counterstrike capabilities” in order to secure the lives and livelihood of its people. It goes without saying that diplomatic efforts are essential, but at the same time, I think that we cannot avoid strengthening the defense capabilities to back up that diplomacy. I think that presenting a structure that enables us to thoroughly protect the lives and livelihood of the Japanese people will in turn increase the persuasiveness of our diplomacy.
In addition, I think that giving thorough explanations to other countries in order to maintain transparency, for example by clarifying the specific stance in our defense policy, is important, and I will continue to do so proactively.