Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Thursday, July 29, 2021, 3:29 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Northern Territories Issue (Visit to Etorofu Island by the Prime Minister of Russia)

NHK, Watanabe:I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. Recently, Prime Minister Mishustin of Russia visited Etorofu Island. On the island, in front of press corps and executives of a local fisheries company, he talked about the idea of setting up a zone with preferential treatment in terms of tariffs and taxes. Before the Prime Minister’s visit, President Putin had mentioned in a meeting with Russia’s Security Council that Prime Minister Mishustin had such proposals. Does MOFA recognize Prime Minister Mishustin’s comment to be identical to the proposals hinted by the President?

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: I have noted that Prime Minister Mishustin of Russia has visited Etorofu Island on July 26. I would first like to say that this visit by the current Prime Minister of Russia is extremely regrettable, as it is incompatible with the Government of Japan’s consistent position on the Northern Territories and hurts public sentiment of the Japanese people.

As stated, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori summoned Ambassador Galuzin and strongly lodged a protest by asserting Japan’s position. A statement by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu was also issued.

First of all, I would like to reiterate that the visit to Etorofu Island by the Prime Minister of Russia does not contribute to the Japan-Russia relations at all.

On top of that, in regard to the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, Japan urges the Russian side to act in a constructive manner for the future progress of Japan-Russia relations, towards advancing the peace treaty negotiations.

With regards to the connection between the comment by the Prime Minister of Russia on Etorofu Island and the statement by President Putin earlier, which you asked about, I would like to refrain from answering on behalf of Japan based on speculation, but I would like to take note of that fact that President Putin referred to the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, as we have been vigorously conducting consultations with Russian side regarding the joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands, as mentioned earlier, on the premise that they do not infringe Japan’s legal position.

On the other hand, regarding the proposals made by the Prime Minister of Russia, there is no change to Japan’s position of continuing consultations with Russian side regarding joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands on the condition that they do not infringe Japan’s legal position. Since I am not aware of the detailed content of the Prime Minister’s statement, I would like to refrain from commenting.

NHK, Watanabe:In that case, I believe that the creation of a special economic zone, which the Russian Prime Minister proposed on Etorofu Island in front of press corps, is completely different from the joint economic activities, as it would be done under Russia’s legal framework. I believe that is why he mentioned about inviting investment from Japan and western countries. Can we assume that Japan does not accept such proposals made by the Russian side on Etorofu Island? I believe that the proposal would be premised on Russia’s legal framework, but is that correct?

Press Secretary Yoshida:It seems like Prime Minister Mishustin of Russia visited Etorofu Island and mentioned a tariff-free zone system and tax exemption measures, but I am not aware of the detailed content. It is not necessarily certain whether that would be consistent or not with the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands which we have been discussing with Russian side. Therefore, I believe it would not be appropriate for me to comment one by one on the various statements made by the Russian side.

On the other hand, what I wanted to emphasize here is that the joint economic activities we have been discussing until now have the basic principle of not infringing on Japan’s legal position. We will continue discussions with Russian side based on our consistent position regarding the joint economic activities.

Japanese Personnel at International Organizations

Jiji Press, Kondo:I believe that the liaison meeting of relevant ministries and agencies on sending Japanese nationals to senior positions in international organizations was held for the first time in February, and recently for the second time. Please tell us again the significance of sending Japanese nationals to international organizations. Furthermore, please tell us your thoughts on the current situation in which there is no Japanese national serving the top position of an international organization and what you think is in the background.

Press Secretary Yoshida: Sending Japanese nationals to serve in senior positions at international organizations has been an important issue that MOFA and the entire Government of Japan have been making effort on. Firstly, when we think of the roles played by senior positions within international organizations, not necessarily limited to top positions, it goes without saying that it is desirable for the presence of the people of Japan to be reflected in a manner that is fitting for Japan’s contribution within the international community. Discovering and training human resources who can contribute to international organizations and the international community is being promoted based on the idea that it is appropriate for Japan’s current standing in the international community, not necessarily to pursue Japan’s national interests.

You mentioned that there is currently no Japanese national serving in the top positions of international organizations. Strictly speaking, although that is true for the United Nations “family” of specialized agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was for many years under the leadership of Director General AMANO Yukiya, who passed away. Furthermore, although they are not in the top positions as I mentioned earlier, there are Japanese people working in very high-level senior positions at the United Nations, including Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs NAKAMITSU Izumi, a deputy director level position. Secretary General MIKURIYA Kunio, who once worked at the Ministry of Finance, serves in the top position at the World Customs Organization (WCO), although it is not part of the United Nations family.

Therefore, it is not necessarily true that there is no Japanese national serving in senior positions or that there is no top level human resource. However, Japan’s presence is still not reflected enough and there is much to be done, and therefore the Government of Japan’s basic stance on this issue is to train and discover such human resources with the cooperation of not only MOFA, but also relevant ministries and agencies, as well as through public-private cooperation.

Decision on the State of Conservation of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution

TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask about the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. The World Heritage Committee recently adopted a unanimous resolution stating that the explanation on the cultural site is insufficient. Please tell us your reaction. In addition, I believe that a response will be asked for, so please explain how the Government of Japan will respond.

Press Secretary Yoshida:UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee adopted the resolution on the state of conservation of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution on July 22. In regard to the decision that you mentioned in your question, I should first point out that it includes that the Committee “[t]akes note with satisfaction that the State Party has met a number of its commitments and complied with a number of aspects of the Committee’s relevant decisions.” I believe this part shows that the effort made by Japan until this day has been evaluated properly.

On the other hand, as you pointed out, the decision also states “the State Party has not yet fully implemented the relevant decisions.” Japan has been taking the resolutions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee seriously, and the Government of Japan has been sincerely implementing measures that we promised. Having that said, bearing in mind the resolution which was adopted recently, I would like to state that there is no change whatsoever to our position of sincerely implementing UNESCO’s resolutions and recommendations.

TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask an additional question. You stated that Japan will sincerely implement the resolutions and recommendations, so will any additions be made to the exhibitions at the Industrial Heritage Information Center?

Press Secretary Yoshida:Several points are made in the resolution. Firstly, the Industrial Heritage Information Center in Shinjuku, which I hope you will all visit, exhibits materials that show the wartime situations, and wide range of materials and publications that enable understanding of the times. Furthermore, the statement made by the Japanese Ambassador to UNESCO at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List in 2015 is accurately displayed on a panel, and there are displays that enable understanding of requisition policies at the time. These features were recognized in the inquiry report which became the basis for the resolution.

The Industrial Heritage Information Center has been open for just over a year. Our policy is to enrich the exhibition content with the advice of experts.

Amidst this situation, as I stated earlier, the Government of Japan has taken the resolutions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee seriously and has been sincerely implementing them. There is no change in our thinking to continue to do so.

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