Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Thursday, November 11, 2021, 10:27 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Aspirations as Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: My name is HAYASHI Yoshimasa and I have been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. I look forward to working with you.
I have previously served as Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense in the House of Councilors, and Chairperson of the Research Commission on Foreign Affairs and Economic Partnership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). I have engaged in dialogues with various countries, including diplomacy as a member of the Diet and through a variety of opportunities. It is a great honor to have been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I feel a sense of self-renewal.
Currently, the international community is in the midst of change that marks a new epoch. Challenges are growing increasingly severe against the universal values and international order that have supported the peace and prosperity of the international community until this day. Economic factors have also begun to greatly influence national security.
Amidst these changes, as raised by Prime Minister Kishida, the efforts of those who came before us have led to trust in Japan. Based on these strides, I will promote diplomacy with three forms of determination: the determination to protect universal values, the determination to protect Japan’s peace and stability, and the determination to contribute to humanity and lead the international community.
To be specific, I believe it is important to further deepen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy and security, and strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities.
I will also continue to firmly advance initiatives aimed at realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” In addition, I will lead the international community by further strengthening cooperation with the United States, Australia, India, ASEAN, and Europe toward building a free and open international order based on fundamental values and principles, including the rule of law.
Concerning relations with neighboring countries and others, I will work to build stable relations while resolutely directly responding to difficult issues. I will also firmly respond to the unresolved abductions, nuclear, and missile issues concerning North Korea.
Furthermore, aimed at rule-making and building of the international order that responds to the new age, I will show leadership in economic diplomacy as well as global scale issues such as climate change, the novel coronavirus, and disarmament and non-proliferation, and enhance Japan’s presence in the international community.
While building relationships of trust with foreign ministers of various countries, I will lay a path to a new frontier in Japanese diplomacy, based on what we have achieved in Japanese diplomacy thus far. That is all from me for my opening remarks.
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: You have experience serving as the Chairman of the nonpartisan Japan-China Parliamentarians’ Friendship League, and you have visited China and held meetings with dignitaries of the Chinese Communist Party. Although there are high expectations for the communication channels you have, there are also people, centered on conservatives in the LDP, who are considerably wary of your stance towards China.
What are your thoughts about this? How will you deter China, which is rising militarily? How do you think Japanese diplomacy will need to face China when Japan has contradictory relation with China who also has a very strong economic connection?
Minister Hayashi: I believe that Japan-China relations are growing increasingly important not only for Japan and China, but also for the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community. As Prime Minister Kishida also stated, I believe that we should resolutely state what needs to be said and request China to take responsible actions, but at the same time continue the dialogue and cooperate on various common challenges.
As Prime Minister Kishida stated in the recent Japan-China Summit Telephone Talk, I believe it is important to build constructive and stable Japan-China relations. Furthermore, regarding my position as Chairman of the Japan-China Parliamentarians’ Friendship League which you pointed out, I have decided to resign from my position to avoid causing unnecessary misunderstanding as I perform my duties as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
NHK, Aoki: I have a question related to that. You mentioned that you would like to avoid causing unnecessary misunderstandings. Specifically, what kind of misunderstanding did you have in mind and for what reason did you decide to resign from your position as Chairman?
Minister Hayashi: As I have just stated and as asked in the previous question, I am aware that various opinions have been indirectly conveyed through reports and the like. As I have just mentioned, I have decided to resign to avoid causing such misunderstanding.
Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Li: Concerning that, the Kishida administration’s stance on China has not been very clear. For example, specifically what kind of relations were you referring to when you mentioned “constructive and stable relations” just now? To add to that, next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations. How does Japan want to advance relations with China? How will Japan handle a visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping of China?
Minister Hayashi: China has already become the world’s second-largest economy. China’s actions in various aspects have increasing influence on the international community. I believe it is important for China to take responsibility and meet the international community’s expectations by the international community’s rules.
In that sense, as I mentioned earlier, we have the recognition that Japan-China relations have become increasingly important for not only Japan and China but also the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community.
Therefore, Japan’s basic view is that we should resolutely state what needs to be said and request China to take responsible actions, but at the same time continue the dialogue and firmly cooperate on various common challenges.
Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Li: What about a visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping?
Minister Hayashi: Yes. In regard to a visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping, I believe we need to assess the situation, including the novel coronavirus. We are currently not at the stage of coordinating a specific schedule.
Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: I would like to ask a related question about China. Before you assumed your position as Minister for Foreign Affairs, you stated that you are well-versed in China rather than someone who will pander to China. I believe you stated that it is useful to be well-versed in China. But it is a little difficult to understand the difference between being well-versed in China and pandering to China. What specifically does each term mean? What do you think the benefits or merits are for being well-versed in China?
Minister Hayashi: I believe I made that statement on a television show. I would first like to state that I said that as a Diet member and not as the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
This is a matter of expression, and I believe there are various definitions. As I stated before and as stated by Prime Minister Kishida, we will resolutely state what needs to be said to China. I also said that we will request China to take responsible actions. Even if I am well-versed in China, this is something I am capable of doing.
At the same time, to continue the dialogue and cooperate on various common challenges, I believe it is better to know the other party well rather than knowing nothing about them. In any event, this is a matter of definition of an expression and I would like to leave it at that.
Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about the so-called “2+2.” Following the “2+2” held in March 2021, I believe that preparation is underway to hold the next meeting within the year. What policy will you take in approaching this meeting? What points do you wish to confirm? What is the current state of coordination?
Minister Hayashi: As for the state of coordination, nothing has been decided at this point on the specific schedule of the next “2+2.”
As confirmed at the “2+2” in March, I would like the diplomatic and defense authorities of Japan and the United States to continue vigorous discussions and confirm results in regard to matters such as the strengthening of deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and deepening defense cooperation.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
YTN (ROK), Lee: The Government of Japan’s stance on unresolved issues such as the comfort women issue has been that the ROK should offer solutions while saying that these issues cannot be left as-is.
What efforts has the Government of Japan made until this day, and how does Japan intend to work on these issues? The Government of Japan is requesting solutions that it can accept, but what are the specific conditions?
Minister Hayashi: You asked about Japan-ROK relations. I believe that Japan-ROK cooperation and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation are essential for regional stability, including our response to North Korea.
I believe that Japan-ROK relations are in an extremely difficult situation due to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the so-called comfort women issue that you mentioned, and they cannot be left as-is.
I believe that the foundation of relations between countries is to keep the commitments made between those two countries. I will strongly request the ROK to respond in an appropriate manner based on Japan’s consistent position to restore healthy Japan-ROK relations.
In regard to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, I will strongly request the ROK to swiftly present a solution acceptable to Japan. I will also strongly request the ROK to take appropriate measures as a state in regard to the judgment on the comfort women lawsuit.
No First Use (NFU) of Nuclear Weapons
Chugoku Shimbun, Higuchi: You have indicated your resolve regarding nuclear disarmament in your opening remarks. In his press conference yesterday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno showed a negative view of NFU of nuclear weapons. It has been reported that MOFA also conveyed a negative view on this issue when the Obama administration in the United States considered NFU. What are your current thoughts on NFU? I believe that this would probably relate to deterrence capabilities. I believe that there are strong views that NFU has a certain level of significance in cities that have experienced atomic bombing. Please share your thoughts.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that Japan and the United States have close and extensive exchanges of views regularly on various issues concerning security and defense cooperation. I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of the exchanges and the details of our future response due to the nature of the matter directly related to Japan’s national security and because it concerns Japan’s relations with the United States.
In regard to declarations on NFU, generally speaking, I believe that it would not be meaningful unless all nuclear-weapon states make such a declaration at the same time in a verifiable manner.
In the current security environment, I believe it would be difficult to fully expect that Japan is secure by relying on the NFU concept without any method to verify the intentions of the countries concerned.
Yonhap News Agency, Lee Sewon: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. Since December 2019 during the time of the Abe administration, an official Japan-ROK Summit Meeting has not been held. It also seems that communication between the countries’ diplomatic authorities has not been very smooth. Please tell us how you will promote communication and high-level talks with the ROK as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister Hayashi: It is as I have answered the earlier question. Furthermore, to state my view on Japan-ROK relations as a whole, since the ROK is an important neighboring country, I believe that Japan-ROK relations, which are in an extremely difficult situation, cannot be left as-is. At the same time, to repeat what I stated earlier, I believe that the foundation of relations between countries is to keep the commitments made between the two countries. I believe that the ROK needs to take appropriate responses to the difficult issues that exist between Japan and the ROK. I would like to accelerate talks and communication between our diplomatic authorities to restore healthy Japan-ROK relations and have cooperation in a wide range of fields.
Japan-Russia Relations (Northern Territories Issue)
Hokkaido Shimbun, Furuta: I would like to ask about the Northern Territories issue. The former islanders are getting older, and their average age is now over 86 years old. Their calls for a swift resolution are growing day by day. Please tell us what your policy is in approaching the attributions negotiations and the negotiations for concluding a peace treaty. Please tell us if you have had an encounter with Russia during your career.
Minister Hayashi: There is no change to Japan’s stance of placing importance on Japan-Russia relations. I will further develop Japan-Russia relations as a whole to contribute to our national interests in wide range of fields such as government, economy, and culture, including the issue of concluding a peace treaty.
Regarding the peace treaty with Russia, the policy is to resolve the attributions issue and conclude a peace treaty without leaving it to future generations. There have been various agreements made between Japan and Russia, including the agreement in Singapore in 2018, and I will firmly work on this issue based on those agreements.
In addition, when I was Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, a plan had been made for me to visit Russia and have a talk with Russia’s Minister of Agriculture. However, a diplomatic issue came up right before that, and I was unable to go. I do have experience of having several meetings with Russian dignitaries visiting Japan.
Human Rights Diplomacy
TV Asahi, Sawai: I look forward to your tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would like to ask about human rights diplomacy. The Kishida administration has appointed former Defense Minister NAKATANI Gen to be the first-ever special advisor on international human rights issues. Amidst growing international awareness of human rights issues, including the military coup d’état in Myanmar and the human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, how do you intend to cooperate with the Special Advisor?
Furthermore, Mr. Nakatani established a nonpartisan parliamentary association and has stressed the necessity to come up with a structure to pinpoint people and organizations involved with human rights violations and impose sanctions. In his press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Kishida was asked about a Japanese version of the Magnitsky Act and answered that the Government of Japan will make a decision going forward. Please tell us whether you think it will be an option for Japan to have a structure for imposing sanctions against human rights violations like in the United States and Europe.
Minister Hayashi: In regard to human rights issues, I believe that it is important for universal values in the international community of freedom, respect for fundamental human rights, and the rule of law to be ensured in all countries and regions. I would like to firmly raise my voice against serious human rights violations based on such a view and engage in close bilateral dialogues and cooperation with countries making efforts for democratization and protection of human rights to encourage their independent efforts.
In addition, I believe we must firmly turn our eyes to human rights issues accompanying companies’ economic activities. Through such efforts, I would like to advance human rights diplomacy in Japan’s manner.
Regarding the appointment of Special Advisor Nakatani which you asked about, the Kishida Cabinet places importance on protecting universal values as I have mentioned, and the appointment of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Human Rights Nakatani is a part of such efforts. I will work in cooperation with him in his new position to advance initiatives across ministries and agencies in particular.
Policies on Japan’s Diplomacy
Independent Web Journal, Chiura: I would like to ask your thoughts on Japan’s position within the economic zone and security zone that extends across Asia and Eurasia. The conditions for the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement were met on November 2, and the Agreement will enter into force on January 1, 2022, among Japan and the other nine signatory states that have deposited their instrument of ratification, acceptance, or approval. Moreover, the United Kingdom began its application in June to newly join the TPP11 Agreement which has been led by Japan after the withdrawal of the United States. In September, China applied to join. If the RCEP and TPP11 fully enter into force, then enormous and powerful trade economic zones will emerge encompassing so-called authoritarian countries and democratic countries, and it seems that China, which is surpassing other countries in economic scale, will be at the center.
On the other hand, there are also U.S.-centered security zones, such as the Quad, which advocates the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and encircles China, and Five Eyes that share confidential information with each other. There have also been increasingly active moves made by France, Germany, and other countries sending naval fleets to East Asia and holding joint military exercises with the Self-Defense Forces.
It seems that the China-centered economic zones and the U.S.-centered security zones are incompatible. Amidst such an environment, what path should Japan take?
Minister Hayashi: As I stated before, I believe the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy and security, and the foundation of the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the international community. The Japan-U.S. Alliance is becoming even more important amidst the increasingly severe regional security environment, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo. As you pointed out, in addition to the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the Quad has emerged, as well as AUKUS, although Japan is not a member at the outset.
On the other hand, as you pointed out, as the world’s second-largest economy, China’s actions have increasing influence on the international community in various aspects. Therefore, I believe it is important for China to take responsibility and meet the international community’s expectations by its rules. As you have mentioned about RCEP and others, I welcome that such an agreement was made. I also believe that it is important for the respective countries to firmly take responsibility based on the view I have just stated.
TPP11 (Participation by the ROK)
Segye Ilbo (ROK), Kim: The Government of the ROK is currently considering its participation in the CPTPP. What is the Government of Japan’s position on the ROK’s participation in the CPTPP? Is there a possibility that the political and historic issues between Japan and the ROK could be a barrier to its participation? In addition, former Foreign Minister Motegi never met with ROK Ambassador Kang, and never even proposed a meeting. Do you plan to meet with the ROK Ambassador?
Minister Hayashi: You mentioned the CPTPP. I am aware of the requests to join made by China, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and others, but I am not aware of the ROK. I would like to assess relevant information on this matter.
Since I have just been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, there is no planned meeting with the Ambassador at this point.
Middle East Diplomacy
Pan Orient News, Azhari: My question is about the Middle East. What is the main drive for Japan’s diplomacy, in other parts of the world than East Asia, the United States, namely toward the Middle East and Africa. The Middle East is a crucial source for Japan’s energy security and there are many wars raging all the time. So do you have new drive toward that area in the new diplomacy of the government of Kishida-san.
Minister Hayashi: Thank you. Excuse me, I am answering in Japanese, so that other people might understand.
Japan relies on the Middle East for about 90% of its crude oil imports. I believe that peace and stability in the Middle East are extremely important from the perspective of energy security. The stable supply of oil from the Middle East is indispensable for not only Japan but also the stability and growth of the global economy including Japan. There are still ongoing unstable and tense situations in the Middle East, including the situation in Afghanistan as well as the situation in Israel and Palestine. Additionally, we are monitoring developments in the negotiations concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the recent rise in the price of crude oil.
Furthermore, in regard to the recent steep crude oil price rise, in cooperation with the ministries and agencies concerned, we are coordinating with related international organizations to urge oil-producing countries, including in the Middle East, to increase their production. We are strengthening initiatives aimed at stabilizing the energy market.
Japan is an ally of the United States, and we also have built friendly relations with various Middle Eastern countries. We will leverage this environment and actively promote diplomatic efforts, including urging relevant countries at various levels to ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the Middle East.
Revision of the National Security Strategy
Nikkei Shimbun, Miki: I would like to ask about the revision of the National Security Strategy. Prime Minister Kishida announced that the National Security Strategy, which is the basic policy for diplomacy and defense, will be revised. What points do you think should be emphasized in the discussions as they are fully conducted?
Minister Hayashi: The National Security Strategy was formulated for the first time in 2013 in Japan. Seven and a half years have passed since then, and the global power balance has changed in that time. There has particularly been an acceleration of military expansion in the vicinity of Japan. In addition, there are increasing threats of attacks in new fields such as cyber. Major changes are occurring in the security environment surrounding Japan.
Amidst such an environment, I believe it is important for Japan to lead the international community to protect the universal value of democracy as well as Japan’s peace and stability.
In that sense, I believe it is necessary to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in a robust manner, strengthen defense capabilities such as maritime security capabilities and missile defense capabilities including even more effective measures, and resolutely work on issues in the new era such as economic security.
From this perspective, recently Prime Minister Kishida instructed the revision of the National Security Strategy, and discussions have already begun among the relevant ministers. MOFA will also consider cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies.