Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko
Thursday, October 12, 2023, 5:34 p.m. Bangkok, Thailand
Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs:From October 8 to 13, I visited the four Southeast Asian countries of Brunei, Viet Nam, the Lao PDR, and Thailand, for my first bilateral visit since assuming office as Minister for Foreign Affairs. During the visit, I was able to directly feel the proof of the close relationship we have as true friends with “heart-to-heart” relations. It was a very meaningful visit towards preparation for the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in December this year.
I held lengthy, intensive discussions with the respective foreign ministers, as well as meetings with heads of state, other ministers, and assembly members. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to listen to members of Japanese companies that are operating locally.
This region and the international community are facing new common challenges including climate change, and a severe security environment. Against this backdrop, we exchanged views on wide-ranging areas aimed at increasing our resilience and creating a new future. It is especially important that we work together to advance collaboration between the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and provide support for increasing connectivity throughout ASEAN. Additionally, cooperation in new fields including green transformation initiatives towards realizing net-zero carbon emissions, such as the Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC), as well as digital transformation and infectious disease control, along with science and technology cooperation, is important. In particular, promoting connectivity, which encompasses various aspects, was a key issue that was discussed in all the countries I visited. In addition, I spoke in depth about mainstreaming Women, Peace, and Security (WPS).
I also saw firsthand the steady progress made by Japan’s assistance for the development of legal systems, which I have been deeply involved in since I was Minister of Justice. In Lao PDR, I held in my hands the civil code that was completed with Japanese assistance. In light of the current international situation, these visits reaffirmed for me that the rule of law serves as the foundation for protecting the interests of each country in a world of complex intertwined interests.
Additionally, I strongly felt the importance of people-to-people exchanges in order to cooperate with each country in educating children who will shape future generations and developing human resources through this visit. By linking bilateral cooperation and Japan-ASEAN cooperation, we will make efforts to ensure that we contribute to peace and prosperity in this region and the broader international community.
Incidentally, during this visit, I stopped at bookstores in between meetings and purchased books about each country’s topics, such as culture and history. I have been exposed to the printed cultures of various regions as a member of the Parliamentary Association on Printed Culture, and I hope to continue going to bookstores during my visits to benefit my diplomatic activities.
Continuity is essential in diplomacy. Based on the discussions that were held during this visit, I will have further discussions in the lead-up to the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in December to deliver tangible outcomes.
To close, I would like to touch upon the situation in the Gaza Strip and Palestine, which is becoming increasingly severe. I am deeply saddened by the attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants, which have claimed the lives of so many innocent civilians. Japan strongly condemns such attacks. People from Thailand are also among the victims, with some being kidnapped and held as hostages.
Japan unequivocally condemns these terror attacks. Firstly, we must prevent the loss of any more lives due to further escalation of the situation and ensure the release of the numerous civilians being held hostage as soon as possible.
As such, during this visit to Southeast Asia, I held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and later I will be holding telephone talks with the foreign minister of Egypt and the minister of state of Qatar. Final arrangements are also being made for a telephone talk with the foreign minister of Israel. I will continue to reach out to the various parties concerned. In addition, during this visit, I have been issuing various instructions to relevant departments in Tokyo to respond to the situation, including securing means for leaving Israel, while receiving updates as needed, so as to take all possible measures to protect the Japanese people.
I will take all possible measures to ensure the safety of the Japanese people while engaging in utmost diplomatic efforts towards calming down the situation as soon as possible.
Reporter:I would like to ask about your overall assessment of this overseas visit and the importance of ASEAN unity. Some have said that ASEAN’s responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the situation in Myanmar are lacking unity. I believe this overseas visit was an opportunity to urge ASEAN members to foster unity and emphasize its importance. What was their response, and what kind of efforts will be necessary going forward?
Minister Kamikawa:Japan has consistently been strongly supporting ASEAN centrality and unity, and always standing by and supporting the growth of ASEAN. In view of the current international situation, maintaining and strengthening ASEAN unity remain one of our top priorities. Japan intends to continue to provide such support.
The Commemorative Summit to be held in December in Tokyo will be a crucial opportunity for both sides to build on the mutual trust that has been cultivated over many years, and jointly set out the future direction of Japan-ASEAN relations and a new vision for cooperation in anticipation of our common issues. I recognize that the summit is one of the most important diplomatic events that are scheduled for the remainder of the year.
My priorities include further strengthening the economic ties between Japan and ASEAN, advancing the rule of law, vigorously promoting the WPS agenda, enhancing ASEAN connectivity that encompasses a range of aspects, and joining together in increasing resilience and finding solutions to global issues, to which each country expressed their support.
I was able to have candid exchanges of views on these issues during this visit. I have renewed my determination to work with ASEAN in continuing to support its efforts and ensuring that this region is free and open based on the rule of law.
Reporter:During your visit, you held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Jordan, the UAE, and other countries regarding the situation in Israel and Palestine. These talks were held after former Foreign Minister Hayashi visited the Middle East in September, when Japan and Arab countries confirmed to strengthen cooperation to support Palestine. What is the role that the Government of Japan is expected to play and should play in your opinion? Please also tell us if the Government intends to engage in efforts to mediate a ceasefire.
Minister Kamikawa:As I stated in my opening remarks, in response to the situation in the Gaza Strip and Palestine, I held telephone talks with the foreign ministers of Jordan and the UAE during my visit to Southeast Asia, and we confirmed to coordinate with each other towards calming down the situation as soon as possible. In addition, I later plan to hold telephone talks with the foreign minister of Egypt and the minister of state of Qatar. Final arrangements are also being made for a telephone talk with the foreign minister of Israel.
There have already been numerous deaths and injuries on the ground and the situation remains totally unpredictable. Firstly, we need to ensure the safety of civilians, including the immediate release of the numerous civilians being held hostage. Furthermore, diplomatic efforts are required towards calming down the situation as soon as possible.
Many countries have been making countless efforts towards realizing peace in the Middle East. Japan, too, has made concrete efforts, including the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative. Moreover, Japan has developed friendly relations with Middle East countries and the region, including Israel and Palestine. These efforts are Japan’s important legacy.
Building on these achievements made by our predecessors, Japan will fulfill its role towards realizing a just and lasting peace while working closely with relevant countries, including reaching out to various parties.
Reporter:I have a question related to the situation in Israel and Palestine. Five Western countries, including the United States, France, and Germany, have expressed their united support for Israel. As you just mentioned, Japan is conducting its own diplomacy in the Middle East. As this year’s G7 Presidency, what position will Japan assume in dealing with this issue?
Minister Kamikawa:The brutal, indiscriminate attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants this time cannot be justified, and Japan unequivocally condemns them. In particular, the attacks to, and kidnapping of, innocent civilians cannot be justified on any grounds. The situation on the ground is evolving rapidly, and it is critical that the safety of civilians is ensured, including the immediate release of the numerous civilians being held hostage, and that the situation is calmed down as soon as possible.
From this viewpoint, the Government of Japan will take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals while making use of bilateral meetings and various other channels and schemes, including the United Nations and the G7, and continuing efforts towards calming down the situation as soon as possible.
Reporter:State Secretary Blinken of the United States and Foreign Secretary Cleverly of the United Kingdom have visited Israel, respectively. Do you have any plans to visit Israel or Palestine? Furthermore, Prime Minister Kishida and you expressed “deep concern” over the attacks by Israel. However, yesterday, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Okano stated, “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people under international law.” May I interpret that the Government of Japan has stepped up its stance? Please explain again the stance of the Government of Japan.
Minister Kamikawa:As I stated at the beginning, I am deeply saddened by the attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants, which have claimed the lives of so many innocent civilians. Japan strongly condemns such attacks.
It is critical to ensure the safety of civilians, including the immediate release of the numerous civilians being held hostage, and to calm down the situation as soon as possible. This is the basic view of Japan. As the situation on the ground evolves rapidly, Japan has been communicating its view to the world according to the situation at that time.
Vice-Minister Okano’s statement at a talk with Ambassador Cohen of Israel is based on such views of the Government of Japan.
At this time, nothing has been decided about my visits. In short, I will continue to coordinate with other countries and the international community and maintain close communications, including reaching out to various parties. I will take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals while continuing diplomatic efforts towards calming down the situation as soon as possible.