Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, March 7, 2023, 3:20 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Issue of Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula
NHK, Iwasawa: I would like to ask about the issue of Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula. You held a telephone talk with Foreign Minister Park Jin of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on March 5, the day before the ROK announced its solution to this issue. What kind of conversation did you have in preparation for the announcement on the following day?
In addition, do you intend to invite the ROK Foreign Minister to Japan or visit the ROK in response to yesterday’s ROK’s announcement?
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: During the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting in November 2022, the two leaders reaffirmed to pursue an early resolution of the pending issues between the two countries, and the foreign ministers of Japan and the ROK have been closely communicating. The Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk on March 5 was part of that.
Foreign Minister Park Jin and I communicated while appreciating the talks between the diplomatic authorities of our countries so far. I would like to refrain from giving any further details, including Foreign Minister Park’s statements, as this is a matter of diplomatic communication.
In addition, nothing has been decided regarding a visit to Japan or mutual visits that you asked in your question.
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask follow-up questions Please tell us if you believe the issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula has been resolved as a result of the ROK’s announcement of a solution to the issue, and whether you think it will no longer a need to continue the talks between the two countries’ diplomatic authorities regarding the issue.
Furthermore, what specifically do you have in mind in terms of expansion of exchanges in the political, cultural, and economic fields, which you mentioned yesterday?
Minister Hayashi: he Government of Japan values the measures announced today by the ROK government, as a move towards restoring Japan-ROK relations, which had been severely strained due to the ROK Supreme Court ruling in 2018, to a sound footing.
We expect that the Government of the ROK will make every effort to gain the understanding of the plaintiffs and steadily implement this measure while carrying out domestic processes.
I did not have any specific projects in mind when I mentioned expansion of exchanges in the political, economic, cultural, and other fields. Rather, I expressed my expectations to further advance sound Japan-ROK relations, based on the platform on which the friendly and cooperative bilateral relations have been built since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1965.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: In relation to that, I would like to ask about the irreversibility of the measure announced by the ROK side. Agreements between Japan and the ROK have been overturned in the past. Please tell us your view on how to ensure the irreversibility of the measure this time.
Minister Hayashi: The Government of the ROK will make all efforts to gain the understanding of the plaintiffs regarding the measure announced yesterday. We expect that the Government of the ROK will carry out domestic processes and steadily implement the measure going forward.
Asahi Shimbun, Uechi: I would like to ask a follow-up question. You stated yesterday that the Government of Japan has entirely upheld the government’s positions on history. Is it correct to understand that the administration confirmed that it will continue to carry on the “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” regarding Japan’s colonial rule and aggression?
Minister Hayashi: As I stated yesterday, the Government of Japan has entirely upheld the positions of previous cabinets on history, including the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration announced in October 1988. On this occasion, we have reaffirmed that point.
JoongAng Ilbo/JTBC, Kim: I would like to ask two questions. During your press conference yesterday, you stated that the Government of Japan does not take particular positions on voluntary contributions by private companies. Were you talking about the two so-called defendant companies, namely Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel Corporation? In other words, private companies are said to be participating in various forms of future-oriented business through Keidanren and the rest of the financial world. Does the Government of Japan have no intention of preventing these two companies from providing contributions? That is my first question.
My second question is about the “right to indemnity,” in which the third party’s debt is taken over. It is being said that there would still be a “right to indemnity” in a legal sense with regard to this matter. Is it correct to understand that the Government of Japan recognizes the existence of this “right to indemnity”?
Minister Hayashi: First, with regard to the “right to indemnity,” the Government of Japan is not in a position to respond to the position of the measure announced by the Government of the ROK under ROK’s domestic law. If I were to say anything further, it would be that I am aware that the use of the “right to indemnity” is not assumed in consideration of the intent of this measure.
In addition, as for contributions, as I stated yesterday, the Government of Japan does not take any particular positions. I was talking in general terms, and my statement would apply to all companies.
House of Representatives By-Election in the Yamaguchi 4th Constituency
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: I would like to change the subject and ask about the House of Representatives by-election in the Yamaguchi 4th constituency that will be held on April 23. On the 5th, Prime Minister Kishida visited the constituency and attended an assembly for the expected candidate. Although the number of electoral constituencies is set to decrease in the future. What are your thoughts on the importance of this by-election? In addition, please tell us how you will provide support.
Minister Hayashi: As a member of the House of Representatives who is part of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), I will firmly provide support for the House of Representatives by-election to be held on April 23 in Yamaguchi Prefecture, including two electoral constituencies and other electoral districts, both of which are important elections for the LDP.
National People’s Congress (NPC) of China (Press Conference by Foreign Minister Qin Gang)
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. In the press conference on March 7, Foreign Minister Qin Gang of China stated that he would abide by the principle that Japan and China should “be partners, not threats,” which was agreed upon between the Governments of Japan and China. He also stated that Japan should not follow the United States in terms of putting pressure on China. He also urged Japan to properly handle in a responsible manner regarding the discharge into the ocean of the ALPS treated water from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. On the other hand, he did not mention an in-person meeting between you and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, which came up in a question. Please tell us your reaction to the statements by Foreign Minister Qin, as well as about what arrangements have been made in terms of the timing of your visits to China.
Minister Hayashi: I will not comment one by one on the statements made by Foreign Minister Qin. There are various possibilities for Japan-China relations, as well as many challenges and pending issues. At the same time, Japan and China both have major responsibilities for the peace and prosperity of the region and the world amidst the changing global affairs.
Japan will state what should be stated and strongly request China to take responsible actions, while working to build a “constructive and stable Japan-China relationship” through the efforts of both countries, in which both sides firmly engage in dialogue such as dialogue at the summit level, including on various pending issues, and cooperate on common issues.
In addition, regarding the handling of the ALPS treated water, Japan has taken measures in compliance with international law through now and taken into account the maximum consideration for the possible impact on the environment as well as human health and safety based on international practices. We have also explained these measures to the international community including China, in a transparent and sincere manner based on scientific evidence.
While receiving reviews by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in which Chinese experts participate, Japan will continue to take every opportunity to provide explanations to the international community in a high transparent manner based on scientific evidence and will continue to work to foster understanding.
Nothing has been decided about my visit to China.
NPC of China (China’s National Defense Budget)
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: In relation to this, I would like to ask about China’s national defense budget. During the NPC meeting on March 5, it was decided to increase China’s national defense budget by 7.2% over the previous year. What is your view on China’s accelerated reinforcement of its military? What will be your approach to China?
Minister Hayashi: As you just stated, China has been increasing its defense spending at a continuously high level and building up its military power extensively and rapidly without transparency. These military developments in China are a matter of serious concern to Japan and the international community, and are the greatest strategic challenge ever faced in securing the peace and stability of Japan and the international community as well as strengthening the international order based on the rule of law. I believe that Japan should respond to this challenge with our comprehensive national strength and in cooperation with allies and like-minded countries.
At the same time, Japan will maintain the positive momentum gained at the Japan-China Summit Meeting held in November 2022. As we do, we will state what should be stated and strongly request China to take responsible actions, while building a “constructive and stable Japan-China relationship” through efforts by both countries, in which both sides firmly engage in dialogues, including at the summit level, on various pending issues, and cooperate on common issues.