Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Friday, February 10, 2023, 11:00 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Support for the Damages Caused by the Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have one announcement.
In response to the enormous damages in Türkiye and Syria due to the major earthquake on February 6, which had its epicenter in southeastern Türkiye, we would like to once again express our heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives and their families, and our sympathy for the people who were injured.
As a country that has experienced many major natural disasters in the past, including the Great East Japan Earthquake, we can easily imagine how difficult the situation is for the local people. We will continue to share the suffering of these people and overcome difficulties together.
On February 8, I had a telephone talk with H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye and explained that the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Urban Search and Rescue Team dispatched by the Government of Japan is already undertaking rescue activities, and that Japan is ready to provide any further assistance that Türkiye needs.
The Government of Japan will provide the maximum possible assistance to the people in the affected areas. As part of the assistance, on February 10, upon the request of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, we decided to provide emergency relief goods (tents, plastic sheets, blankets, sleeping pads) to Syria through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). We are also in the final phase of coordination with the Government of Türkiye regarding the urgent provision of emergency relief goods to Türkiye.
Furthermore, on the evening of February 10, we have also decided to dispatch the JDR Expert Team and Medical Team, which consist of about five members including medical professionals, to Türkiye to confirm the current state of medical care and assistance needs in the disaster affected area. Thereafter, we are planning to dispatch a medical team with many more members as soon as possible.
The Government of Japan will continue to provide further necessary support based on the local needs.
That is all from me.
Treatment of Russian and Belarusian Athletes at International Competitions
Jiji Press, Tanaka: I would like to ask about the Olympic Games. The International Olympics Commission (IOC) issued a statement that it would consider allowing individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in international sports competitions as neutral athletes. The backlash in response to this is widespread in European countries and the United States, and some countries have suggested boycotting the Games. Please tell us the stance of the Government of Japan.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that the ways in which Russian and Belarusian athletes are treated will be decided by international sports federations for each sport on their own responsibility based on the policy of the IOC and other factors.
In any case, the Government of Japan will continue to support the people of Ukraine who continue struggling to protect their country against the outrageous act of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Support for Ukraine (Handover of Broadcasting Equipment)
NHK, Iwasawa: I would like to ask about Japan’s support for Ukraine. Today, the Government of Japan announced the provision of broadcasting equipment to the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (PBC). However, amidst the prolonged Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which will soon be one year since its outset, please tell us your views on the aim and expected effects of this support.
Minister Hayashi: On February 9, a ceremony was held in Kyiv, Ukraine, to hand over broadcasting equipment to PBC, with H.E. Mr. MATSUDA Kuninori, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Ukraine in attendance.
Since Russian attacks on the Kyiv TV tower last March, PBC has been using mobile relay equipment, which is usually used for on-site coverage, as an alternative to the TV tower for transmitting broadcast signals nationwide. PBC is currently using smartphones for on-site coverage. However, filming by smartphones is easily affected by the network environment, and has significant restrictions on editing.
In response to this situation, the Government of Japan, through JICA, provided PBC with several mobile relay equipment for its main office in Kyiv and branches in Ukraine.
Since January 2017, the Government of Japan has been supporting PBC in establishing a reporting system for disasters and emergencies, strengthening its TV-program production capacity, and enhancing its ability to operate and maintain its broadcasting equipment. This equipment will contribute to the establishment of an accurate, impartial, and fair reporting system for PBC during wartime and thereby strengthen democracy in Ukraine.
As this year’s G7 Presidency, Japan will continue to contribute even more to the restoration and reconstruction of Ukraine in cooperation with the G7 countries and the international community, by providing support to the people of Ukraine, who are facing a national crisis, while appropriately grasping the needs of Ukraine.
Efforts to End Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: I would like to ask about the issue of Ukraine. According to an article, published by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, it is expected in August 2022 that 5 billion people will fall into starvation if an all-out nuclear war breaks out between the United States and Russia and a “nuclear winter” with plummeting temperature occurs. In particular, Japan, which is an island nation with a low food self-sufficiency rate, is predicted to face a situation where almost all of its population will starve to death. Diplomacy to protect the survival of the people of Japan should seek a way to end armed support and a ceasefire to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from escalating into war. Please tell us your thoughts on this.
Minister Hayashi: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force, which is an outrageous act that undermines the very foundation of the international order, not only in Europe but also in Asia. In addition, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a serious violation of international law that infringes upon Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Japan strongly condemns those actions.
As the invasion becomes more prolonged, we will promote sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine ever more emphatically to stop Russia’s aggression as soon as possible. As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Japan absolutely cannot accept Russia’s nuclear threat. There is no question that Russia should never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances. We will show our strong will at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano, and the G7 Hiroshima Summit.
Advocacy for the Rights of LGBT
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask about eliminating discrimination against sexual minorities. The G7 Leaders’ Communiqué released during the G7 Summit 2022 contained the statement, “We reaffirm our full commitment to a sustained focus on realizing equality between women and men as well as transgender and non-binary people, and to ensuring that everyone – independent of their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation – has the same opportunities and is protected against discrimination and violence.” On the other hand, in Japan, delays in action in this area, such as delay of the deliberation of the LGBT bill , have been pointed out. Could you tell us how the Government of Japan will respond to the current situation and engage in communication with other countries during the G7 Hiroshima Summit in May?
Minister Hayashi: We believe that there should be no discrimination or prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Government of Japan will continue to take seriously the voices of various people and work toward realizing a society in which diversity is respected, and all people value each other’s human rights and dignity and enjoy vibrant lives.
I believe that the Government of Japan, which will hold the G7 Presidency this year, must continue efforts to provide careful explanations both within and outside Japan with regard to this matter. I will firmly fulfill my responsibilities as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: I would like to ask a related question. At the press conference held on February 7, you stated that “[…] aside from Japan, the G7 countries have some form of laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as laws allowing same-sex marriage or partnership systems.” How do you see the current situation in which Japan is the only G7 country that has no such laws or systems? As you have just mentioned, the Government of Japan considers that there should be no discrimination or prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the government will provide careful explanations about its stance both within and outside Japan. However, despite the lack of relevant laws and systems in Japan, do you think that other countries will be convinced?
Minister Hayashi: The situations in other G7 countries is as I explained previously.
One example of Japan’s efforts is the establishment of the United Nations LGBT Core Group, which was later renamed the LGBTI Core Group, with other United Nations Member States for the purpose of protecting the human rights of sexual minorities in the international community, following the adaptation of the Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity approved at the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in 2008. Japan has been participating in this group as a member since its establishment and has been taking part in the LGBTI Core Group’s joint statements and events hosted by the group at the United Nations.
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: In relation to your answer, please clarify whether the Government of Japan can gain an understanding of other countries even in the absence of relevant domestic laws and regulations.
Minister Hayashi: As I have just answered, we are making those efforts under the circumstances we are in.