Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, June 13, 2023, 2:20 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Northern Territories Issue (Request to the Prime Minister from the Governor of Hokkaido and the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands)
Hokkaido Shimbun, Araya: I have a question concerning the Northern Territories. Earlier today the Governor of Hokkaido, the President of the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands, and others visited the Prime Minister’s Office and requested the early return of territories and the early resumption of the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, among other items. I believe you were also there. Could you please share your comments regarding their requests? The former islanders and others have also requested the Government’s support, including for the early resumption of the Visits to the Graves and memorial services at sea. Please tell us how the Government intends to engage in this matter.
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs:Today, there was a meeting between Prime Minister Kishida and the Governor of Hokkaido, the representative of the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands, and others. A request was made to the Prime Minister for the resolution of the Northern Territories issue, among other items.
The main points conveyed by the Prime Minister were as follows:
“Japan-Russia relations are facing difficult circumstances due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. However, there is no change to the Government’s intention to adhere to its policy of resolving the issue of attribution of the four islands and concluding a peace treaty.
The restart of programs, including the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, is one of the highest-priority issues in the future relations between the two countries. Japan will continue to urge the Russian side to restart the programs, placing particular focus on the Visits to the Graves.
The Northern Territories issue is one that concerns the entire nation. The Government and people must work together to tackle it.”
I feel exactly the same way as the Prime Minister and will continue to make all possible efforts.
Nuclear Disarmament (Increase in China’s Nuclear Warhead Arsenal)
Kyodo News, Katsurada:I have a question about nuclear disarmament. On June 12, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute announced its finding that China’s nuclear warhead arsenal increased by 60 warheads from January of last year to an estimated 410 warheads as of January of this year. It also stated that nuclear-armed states, including G7 members, “continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals.” The situation revealed by the institute contradicts the G7’s commitment to nuclear disarmament, which was confirmed at the Hiroshima Summit. Please tell us what Japan considers as the nuclear disarmament challenges going forward.
Minister Hayashi:I would like to refrain from answering about each content related to announcements made by private think tanks.
That being said, it appears that China has increased its nuclear warhead arsenal rapidly in an opaque manner, and is also developing and deploying various means of delivery, thereby continuing to enhance the capabilities of its nuclear arsenal.
As the international security environment becomes ever more severe, the path to a world without nuclear weapons has become even harder. However, precisely because of this severe situation, we need to reaffirm the importance of realizing a world without nuclear weapons, and once again foster the momentum of the international community for nuclear disarmament and steadily make realistic and practical efforts.
In this context, as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Japan intends to lead international efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons. Building on the outcomes of the G7 Hiroshima Summit, Japan will continue and strengthen its realistic and practical efforts by implementing the initiatives under the “Hiroshima Action Plan” one by one.
Japan’s Diplomacy toward the Middle East
Pan Orient News, Azhari:Thank you. Azhari, Pan Orient News, Arab in Japan. Prime Minister Kishida reports the plans to visit our countries in the Middle East next month. Although it’s not officially announced, it marks the first visit by the Prime Minister after the G7. What is Japan’s political approach toward that region, the Middle East, which provides nearly 100 percent of Japan’s crude oil.
China made the breakthrough recently, a role to reconcile between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Is Japan planning to make any similar breakthrough in the region? Thank you.
Minister Hayashi:Nothing has been decided with regard to the schedule of Prime Minister Kishida’s overseas visits.
That being said, oil-producing countries in the Middle East and Japan have fostered friendly relations over many years. In recent years, we have striven to build comprehensive relations that extend beyond traditional energy cooperation to encompass a wide range of sectors, such as clean energy including hydrogen and ammonia, as well as industrial diversification. These matters were also discussed during my meeting yesterday with H.H. Sheikh Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.
Additionally, regarding the recent announcement of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Japan appreciates that an agreement was reached as a result of a series of diplomatic efforts by various countries.
Japan will continue to make efforts to further strengthen its relations with Middle Eastern countries, which are also important from the perspective of energy security.
The Return of the United States to UNESCO
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoda: I have a question related to UNESCO, from which the United States has already withdrawn. It has been revealed that the United States recently informed UNESCO of its wish to rejoin the organization. Please share any reactions from the Government of Japan.
Minister Hayashi:The Government of Japan welcomes UNESCO’s announcement yesterday, June 12, that the United States plans to return to UNESCO.
UNESCO plays an ever more important role in education, sciences, culture, and other areas amidst the mounting issues that undermine international regulations.
Against this backdrop, the return of the United States holds vital significance for UNESCO to address these issues more actively and effectively.
Japan has been making proactive diplomatic efforts to enable the early return of the United States to UNESCO, and we intend to continue to play a leading role.
Classified Documents Taken by Former U.S. President Trump
Jiji Press, Tanaka:I would like to ask about the indictment of former President Trump of the United States on charges of taking classified documents. According to the indictment, the documents taken by former President Trump included information regarding the potential vulnerabilities of allies and the defense and weapons capabilities of foreign countries. Do you know if the information included anything related to Japan? Sloppy information management by an ally can put Japan’s security at risk. What are your views on this?
Minister Hayashi:I would like to refrain from commenting on each individual matter concerning the domestic trials of other countries.
That being said, generally speaking, Japan and the United States are conducting appropriate management of information pertaining to Japan-U.S. diplomatic communication.
Japan-U.S.-Philippines Security Cooperation
Reuters, Murakami:It has been reported that Japan, the United States, and the Philippines will launch a new framework for senior officials’ consultations to strengthen their security cooperation. May I ask again why cooperating with the United States and the Philippines is important for Japan? In addition, how does the Government of Japan intend to deepen the trilateral security relationship? Please share your thoughts.
Minister Hayashi:To realize peace and stability in the region, it is important to engage in various forms of cooperation with countries sharing common values and principles. While the consultations framework you just mentioned has not been decided, the leaders of Japan and the Philippines concurred at their summit meeting in February to advance consideration to promote Japan-U.S.-Philippines security cooperation.
As the international community faces a historic turning point, Japan will seek to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law. To this end, Japan will maintain communication with the United States and enhance Japan-Philippines cooperation.
Situation in Ukraine (Destruction of the Nordstream Pipeline)
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto:I have a question related to the Ukraine issue. On June 6, the Washington Post published a scoop, reporting that the United States had advance intelligence of the Ukrainian military’s plan to attack the Nordstream pipelines and that the CIA shared this intelligence with European countries last June. If this is true, it means that the Ukrainian military conducted an act of terrorism, and that Western countries had prior knowledge but did not stop the attack, while after the explosion, argued that it was Russia’s self-staged crime. This will therefore mean that the political and moral responsibility of Western countries will be called into question. Furthermore, it will raise questions about the legitimacy of Japan’s support to Ukraine. Please share with us your thoughts on this matter and whether this intelligence had also been shared in advance with Japan.
Minister Hayashi:Regarding the incident involving the natural gas pipeline, which is a critical infrastructure, I view it with concern, including its potential impact on the energy supply and the environmental impact on the surrounding waters.
In any case, we are aware that the relevant countries are continuing their investigations into the cause of the incident and other matters, and I would like to refrain from commenting on individual reports.