Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko

Thursday, September 14, 2023, 11:29 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Video) Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs

Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs:I have been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am the first female Foreign Minister since Ms. KAWAGUCHI Yoriko was minister approximately 20 years ago. I have been given an opportunity to play a critical role, and I look forward to serving in this capacity.

I am determined to firmly carry on Japan’s diplomatic achievements made by my predecessors, including former Minister Hayashi, and to make utmost efforts to tackle important issues.

Now the international community is at a historic turning point, and Japan bears a responsible role in leading it as the G7 Presidency and as a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) member. Next week is the crucial High-level Week of the UN General Assembly. I will fully prepare myself to showcase Japan’s presence on the grand stage of the UN and build relationships of trust with my counterparts around the world. In addition, Japan will continue to lead the international community with the diplomacy that only Japan can do.

My priorities as Foreign Minister are threefold as follows.

The first is to firmly protect Japan’s national interests. I will defend Japan’s territorial land, sea, and airspace by coordinating diplomacy and defense, with the Japan-U.S. Alliance as the foundation of our security.

The second is to increase Japan’s presence. We will exert leadership in the international community on a range of urgent global issues by making the most of our soft power, including scientific and technological capabilities, and by promoting Universal Health Coverage, including infectious disease control.

The third is to listen to the voices of the people. To ensure that Japan’s diplomacy gains the support of the Japanese people, I will advance evidence-based diplomacy, therefore the diplomacy that is understood and supported by the people, while standing with them and fully incorporating their voices.

To pursue such substantial diplomacy, it is essential to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s foreign policy implementation structure, including the staffing, financial basis, digital transformation, and promotion of work style reform. As a female cabinet member, I also intend to apply my perspective as a woman in shaping the organization and advancing work style reform. I will ensure that the environment is conducive for staff to fully unlock their capabilities and work together on diplomatic matters.

Key diplomatic events are coming up between now and the end of the year, such as the APEC Leaders’ Meeting and the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit. It is precisely because these are turbulent times that it is crucial to uphold high ideals without being swept away by currents and to conduct diplomacy with a forward-thinking perspective, not only in the immediate term but with the long term in mind as well. With the proverb “hotei banri” (meaning “the phoenix takes a breath and flies a thousand miles”) re-etched in my heart, I, as the new Foreign Minister of Japan, will implement various initiatives to further advance Kishida diplomacy.

That is all from me.

Circumstances and Significance of Changing the Foreign Minister

Asahi Shimbun, Matsuyama:Please allow me to ask you again some questions on this occasion. Firstly, you were selected as Foreign Minister, but when did Prime Minister Kishida first tell you, and what did he say to you?

Secondly, former Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa is also in the Kouchikai faction. What is the significance of you, another Kouchikai member, succeeding the important post of Foreign Minister?

Thirdly, the Foreign Minister was changed while Japan is serving as this year’s G7 Presidency. Please share with us any pressure this presents for you. Thank you very much.

Minister Kamikawa:Regarding when Prime Minister Kishida told me about the apponintment, I was informed when the series of personnel appointments were being made. Prime Minister Kishida told me earlier that he hoped that I would work on Japan’s diplomacy, building on the relationships that we have forged with various countries.

I would like to refrain from making comments on the significance of switching from Minister Hayashi at this time.

The international community is at a historic turning point. Under these circumstances, former Minister Hayashi made significant achievements in the response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the G7’s efforts, and other initiatives. I personally feel a great sense of responsibility in being appointed as Foreign Minister at this time, but, above all, I am committed to making full use of my perspective as a woman in pursuing foreign policy, shaping the organization, and advancing work style reform, while following the footsteps of former Minister Hayashi.

Coming up next week is the crucial UN High-level Week. For Japan, it is an opportunity to showcase Japan’s presence on the very important and grand stage of the UN. With a limited time, I will fully prepare myself to be able to do so. Furthermore, I am determined to build relationships of trust with my counterparts around the world.

As a Female Cabinet Member

New York Times, Ueno:I would like to ask a question on work style reform and a woman’s unique perspective. Specific examples may include increasing the number of recent graduate female hires for career-track and general-track positions or increasing the number of women appointed as ambassadors. If such measures are possible, what significance will they have domestically and internationally? How will they impact the presence of Japan?

Minister Kamikawa:Firstly, regarding my appointment as a female cabinet member, I believe there is a significant gender gap in Japanese politics. My affiliation, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, has a numerical goal to increase the ratio of female Diet members to 30%, while the Prime Minister himself has stated that promoting the empowerment of women is of the highest priority. In this context, I have become one of the female cabinet members, and I take its meaning very seriously.

Regarding work style reform, which I myself also referred to earlier, just now you mentioned some specific examples of addressing this issue from a woman’s unique perspective. As I heard that such initiatives had been taken under the former minister as well, I will get a sufficient explanation about them and start considering what needs to be done, how, and the order of priority.

Furthermore, in the international community, Japan is a non-permanent member of the UNSC. In this capacity, Japan will steadily advance efforts for “Women, Peace and Security” (WPS), which was recognized in 2000 by a UNSC resolution.

This issue spans a broad range of fields. I intend to listen to many voices and address this issue from a woman’s perspective.

Japan-China Relations

Kyodo News, Katsurada:I have a question about Japan-China relations. The two countries are currently clashing over the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea. In this situation, Deputy Director-General of the Information Department Mao Ning of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China mentioned the need for a constructive and stable relationship during her press conference yesterday. Please tell us about your vision for Japan’s diplomacy with China as Foreign Minister?

Minister Kamikawa:There are a number of challenges and concerns between Japan and China, but with regard to Japan-China relations as a whole, Japan will firmly maintain and assert our position and strongly call on China’s responsible actions, while at the same time, continue dialogue including on the concerns and cooperate on matters of common interest. I think that it is important that both Japan and China accelerate their efforts to build a “constructive and stable relationship.”

This has been the consistent approach of the Kishida administration, and I intend to follow it in building the Japan-China relationship.

Japan’s Diplomatic Posture toward Russia

Hokkaido Shimbun, Araya:I would like to ask questions about Japan’s diplomatic posture toward Russia. Russia has intensified its hardline posture following the invasion of Ukraine, including canceling visa-free exchanges on the Northern Territories in protest against Japan’s sanctions. How do you perceive Russia’s diplomatic posture toward Japan, and what is your plan for Japan’s diplomacy toward Russia? In addition, former Minister Hayashi had stated that the resumption of the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories was one of the highest priorities. Do you agree? Could you share your thoughts on the approach toward resuming these visits? Also, do you have any plans to visit places like Nemuro?

Minister Kamikawa:Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is an outrageous act, which shakes the very foundation of the international order. Japan has been and will continue to coordinate with the international community, including the G7, in making diplomatic efforts, such as imposing strong sanctions against Russia.

At the same time, Japan and Russia are neighboring countries. With regard to matters that need to be addressed by Japan and Russia as neighboring countries, including economic activities such as the fishing industry, as well as matters related to maritime security, Japan will respond appropriately in the context of its foreign policy as a whole from the perspective of what will contribute to the national interests of Japan.

With regard to the Northern Territories issue, I will adhere to the policy of resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty.

In addition, the resumption of the Four-Island Exchange Program, including Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, is one of the highest priorities of Japan-Russia relations. Hoping to somehow respond to the wishes of the elderly former islanders, I will continue to urge Russia to resume the program with a particular emphasis on the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories.

I will consider my visit plans appropriately in light of my diplomatic schedule and other factors.

Russia-North Korea Summit Meeting

NHK, Igarashi:I have a question related to the summit meeting between North Korea and Russia. General Secretary Kim Jong-un expressed support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while President Putin indicated that Russia would supply missile-related technologies, giving the impression of military cooperation between the two countries. Could you once again explain your view and how the Government of Japan intends to respond?

Minister Kamikawa:I am aware that a Russia-North Korea Summit Meeting was held in Amur Oblast, Russia, on September 13.

As I mentioned last night, the Government of Japan is not in a position to answer about the details of the Russia-North Korea Summit Meeting or its outcomes. We are monitoring the situation with concern, including possible violation of relevant UNSC resolutions that impose a total ban on the procurement of weapons and related supplies by North Korea.

Furthermore, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable, and Japan has been calling on third parties not to assist the Russian military and its affiliated forces. In this regard, Japan is monitoring the related moves with concern.

In any case, Japan will continue to gather and analyze relevant information and coordinate closely with the United States, the Republic of Korea, and other members of the international community, including for ensuring the full implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions.

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