Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, June 27, 2023, 12:59 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Situation in Russia (Movements of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group, Impact on the Situation in Ukraine, and Other Related Matters)
NHK, Iwasawa:I would like to ask about the armed rebellion staged by Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group in Russia. Prigozhin claims that his intention was not to overthrow the Putin administration. On the other hand, President Putin has vehemently condemned the armed rebellion. What is your view of the rebellion’s impact on the situation in Ukraine? In addition, the counter-terrorism operation regime was lifted yesterday in Moscow City and Moscow Oblast. Do you intend to continue to issue warnings to Japanese nationals in Russia?
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs:The Government of Japan will continue to follow the situation in Russia with grave concern, with respect to the movements of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group. As to the incident’s impact on the situation in Ukraine, I would like to refrain from answering based on speculation.
For Japanese nationals, we have been issuing the Level 4 “Evacuate and avoid all travel” warning for areas near Russia’s border with Ukraine and the Level 3 “Avoid all travel” warning for the rest of Russia. In addition, we are continuing to urge Japanese nationals to consider leaving the country on commercial flights.
In any case, the Government of Japan will continue to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals.
Asahi Shimbun, Uechi:I have a related question on the situation in Russia. What is the Government of Japan’s understanding on the moves of the Wagner Group and its military buildup? Please share with us your analysis of the future impact as well. Furthermore, some U.S. media have reported that the United States will postpone sanctions on entities and individuals linked to the Wagner Group. Please also share with us any views the Government of Japan has about sanctions on entities and individuals linked to the Wagner Group.
Minister Hayashi:As I stated earlier, the Government is following the movements of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group with grave concern.
During the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk held on June 24, the G7 again exchanged views on urgent challenges the international community is facing, including the situation in Russia, and the G7 confirmed to continue to coordinate closely.
However, I would like to refrain from answering about what intelligence the Government is aware of.
In addition, regarding sanctions on entities and individuals linked to the Wagner Group, the Government of Japan has already imposed sanctions on entities and individuals, including the Wagner Group private military company and Prigozhin himself. Japan will continue to deal with the situation appropriately in coordination with the G7 members.
Response to Disnformation regarding ALPS Treated Water
Kyodo News, Katsurada:I have a question related to ALPS treated water. On June 22, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a press release regarding the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea, in which MOFA denied some foreign media reports stating that the Government of Japan made a political donation to the IAEA and claimed that this was “disinformation.” As the planned start date for the discharge approaches, how does MOFA intend to address such reports and seek understanding on the position of the Government of Japan?
Minister Hayashi:As is stated in the press release already issued, the basis for the reports you just referred to, which is a document of unknown origin claiming to be a record of a meeting with a MOFA senior official, has absolutely no basis in fact.
We consider the spread of such malicious disinformation to be a threat to freedom, democracy, and other universal values upon which our society is built. The Government of Japan remains strongly opposed to such irresponsible disinformation.
With regard to the safety of discharging ALPS treated water into the sea, the Government of Japan will continue to provide scientifically based explanations in a courteous and highly transparent manner, and continue to make efforts to further deepen the understanding of the international community.
France’s Posture toward China
Sankei Shimbun, Okada:I have a question regarding France’s posture toward China. When President Macron paid a state visit to China in April, the President made a controversial statement concerning the situation in Taiwan, saying that Europe should not follow either the United States or China. He also reportedly expressed reluctance to establish a NATO office in Tokyo, which is under consideration by the organization. Some note that France is moving closer to China while distancing itself from the U.S.’s hardline policy toward China. Please tell us how the Government of Japan views President Macron’s moves and your thoughts on them.
Minister Hayashi:Japan would like to refrain from commenting on the foreign policies of other countries. In last month’s G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué, the G7 members confirmed that they stand prepared to build constructive and stable relations with China, recognizing the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing their concerns directly to China.
Additionally, Japan and France regularly maintain communication regarding not only our bilateral relationship but also regional affairs, including China, among other matters. I myself hosted a G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in London on June 21. In addition, on June 22, I held a Japan-France Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Paris with Foreign Minister Colonna of France, and we concurred to cooperate with each other.
Japan intends to continue to work closely with the G7 members and like-minded countries, while also taking into account the G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué.
Pan Orient News, Azhari:Thank you. Pan Orient News, Arab in Japan. Former Nissan President Carlos Ghosn sued Nissan for 1-billion-dollar compensation. Obviously, this is not a diplomatic issue but a legal issue.
However, how is the Japanese Government's position on this, how do you view this lawsuit in terms of Lebanon-Japan relations? How would this current relations be impacted by this lawsuit if any? Thank you.
Minister Hayashi:We are aware of the reports you are referring to.
However, as you just stated, the case you mentioned concerns a lawsuit between a civilian and a private company. Therefore, due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting from the Government’s standpoint.
That said, defendant Ghosn’s illegal escape from Japan is deeply regrettable and can never be overlooked by the Government of Japan. The defendant should stand trial in Japanese courts, and we have repeatedly made related requests to the Government of Lebanon on various occasions.
To comment on Japan-Lebanon relations in this context, Lebanon plays an important role for peace and stability in the Middle East region, and Japan has extended various support to the country, including for efforts related to Syrian refugees. Japan intends to continue to implement necessary measures to provide such support in coordination with the Government of Lebanon.
Mainichi Shimbun, Kawaguchi:I would like to ask about a bilateral meeting held during your visit to the United Kingdom. On June 21, you held your first Foreign Ministers’ meeting with Minister Hasler of Liechtenstein. First, please explain the significance of holding the first-ever meeting in the history of the two countries, and secondly, please explain your intentions for further building the bilateral relationship.
Minister Hayashi:On June 21, on the margins of the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in London, Japan and Liechtenstein held the first-ever Foreign Ministers’ meeting since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1996.
During the meeting, we mentioned the importance of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution that would mandate a meeting of the UN General Assembly if a member of the Security Council casts a veto, which was an initiative led by Liechtenstein, as well as shared the view to continue to cooperate and coordinate on the reform of the UN and affirmed that like-minded countries will continue to be united in their response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
I believe we were able to have meaningful discussions that will lay the foundation for future bilateral cooperation with Liechtenstein, a partner that shares fundamental values with Japan.
Japan-Central Asia Relations
Kyodo News, Katsurada:I have a question on Central Asia. The Japan-Central Asian Countries Parliamentary Friendship League of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan recently held a meeting with Prime Minister Kishida and handed a proposal to the Prime Minister requesting the regular holding of a summit meeting between Japan and the five Central Asian countries. According to reports, the Prime Minister stated that he would instruct MOFA to make relevant preparations. What is MOFA currently considering regarding preparations? Furthermore, China has been enhancing its engagement with Central Asia, such as holding a leader-level summit with the region at around the same time as the G7 Hiroshima Summit. Please share with us your thoughts on the importance of this region.
Minister Hayashi:In 2004, Japan, ahead of other countries, launched the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue as a framework for dialogue with the five geopolitically important Central Asian countries, and the two sides have deepened their partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation based on friendship and mutual trust.
As Central Asian countries have been affected in various ways by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, it has become more important than ever to cooperate and coordinate with these nations. It is critical to work together with Central Asian countries, especially to uphold the free and open international order based on the rule of law.
In this context, last December, the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries visited Japan for the first time together, and the Ninth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue was held in person in Tokyo. At the meeting, we concurred to strengthen coordination, with particular emphasis on “investment in people” and “quality of growth.”
The Government of Japan will continue to make effective use of this dialogue framework and a range of other opportunities to further develop the relationship between Japan and its important partners, the Central Asian countries.
As for the proposal from the parliamentary league you mentioned, the Prime Minister stated that he would carefully consider the proposal, including the possibility of holding a summit meeting with the five Central Asian countries. MOFA, for its part, will also carefully consider the matter.
Meeting between Mr. MATSUDA Kuninori, Ambassador of Japan to Ukraine, and Ukrainian Government Officials
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto:My question is about the situation in Ukraine. After the Washington Post reported on May 15 that Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, maintained secret communications with the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, Chief Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, was said to have been seriously injured in a Russian military attack. Chief Budanov had not appeared in public after he was transported to a hospital in Germany on May 29, and there were even rumors of his death. On June 21, however, a photo was released showing Chief Budanov standing next to Mr. MATSUDA Kuninori, Ambassador of Japan to Ukraine. Did the ambassador visit Chief Budanov to show the world that he was alive? Please tell us the purpose of the visit. Furthermore, who instructed the ambassador to visit Chief Budanov? Was it you or Mr. MORI Takeo, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs? Additionally, did the ambassador make the visit at the request of the United States or NATO members? I would appreciate it if you can clarify these points.
Minister Hayashi:Ambassador Matsuda, as the ambassador of Japan to Ukraine, ordinarily exchanges views and holds discussions with Ukrainian government officials, experts, and others as part of his diplomatic activities.
On June 20, Ambassador Matsuda exchanged views with Chief Budanov, head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. This exchange of views was also conducted as part of such diplomatic activities.