Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 6:24 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: At the outset, I have one announcement.
It is about the issuance of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce. Today, ministers of Japan, Australia and Singapore, co-conveners of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce, have issued a joint statement concerning the relevant negotiation.
This statement is very meaningful as it highlights the progress achieved to date and the way forward towards the conclusion of the negotiation for the e-commerce field which has gained significance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the 12th Ministerial Conference has been postponed, the negotiation on e-commerce remains to be one of the key areas in the WTO. I believe it is important to continue delivering results, aiming for further progress in the negotiation next year.
In addition, Japan has been advocating the concept of “Data Free Flow with Trust” (DFFT) and sees significant value in realizing this concept. From this perspective, while maintaining inclusiveness for more participating Members, Japan, as a co-convener of the initiative, will continue to accelerate the negotiation to achieve a high-standard rule-making, including the rules of free flow of data. That is all from me.
The Summit for Democracy (Joint Statement on Export Control)
Sankei Shimbun, Chiba: During the Summit for Democracy last week, the Government of the United States announced that four countries would establish the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative for export control on advanced technologies for which there are concerns about being used for human rights abuses. The Government of Japan did not participate this time. Please elaborate on the background and reason for that.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that during the Summit for Democracy, the United States, Australia, Denmark, and Norway announced a joint statement committing to working to establish a code of conduct on export control of technologies used for human rights violations.
Japan closely cooperates with its ally the United States and like-minded countries and has firmly raised our voice against serious human rights violations. We support the United States’ motive behind the proposal.
On the other hand, since we are in the midst of close examination and consideration of its content, Japan does not participate in or endorse the initiative at this point. We will consider how we respond based on the discussions going forward.
Consideration on Improvement of the Self-Defense Forces Act
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoda: During the recent Diet deliberations, Prime Minister Kishida mentioned the consideration of the review of the Self-Defense Forces Act taking into account the repatriation of Japanese nationals from Afghanistan. Please tell us your view on this issue as the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister Hayashi: While many Japanese nationals are active overseas, the national government naturally has to exert all efforts for the protection and evacuation of our nationals when they are exposed to emergencies. MOFA as well is sure to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and others.
Recently, due to the recent case of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Kishida instructed the Ministry of Defense (MOD) to consider whether Section 4 of Article 84 of the Self-Defense Forces Act regarding the transport of Japanese nationals residing abroad and others could be further improved. Please inquire with the MOD for further details. We will also cooperate well for the necessary consideration.
Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (Diplomatic Boycott)
Asahi Shimbun, Nohira: I would like to ask about the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Until now, you have explained that Japan will decide on a diplomatic boycott at an appropriate time. Members of the ruling and opposition parties have been saying one after the other that Japan should announce its stance quickly. What is your reaction to these calls? Please tell us again around when do you think is the “appropriate time”.
Minister Hayashi: We will decide the Government of Japan’s response to the Beijing Winter Games by comprehensively taking into account the various circumstances at an appropriate time going forward.
In any event, Japan expects that the Beijing Winter Games will be held as an event for peace in line with the purpose and spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting
Pan Orient News, Azhari: My question is about your meetings in G7 in the latest trip. I am wondering if you discussed the situation in the Middle East there, and also Afghanistan and Iranian nuclear issue. And did you reach any conclusion on that.
Minister Hayashi: Thank you. During the recent G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting, candid discussions were held regarding the situation in the Middle East, including Afghanistan and Iran.
On the issue of Afghanistan, the G7 agreed on the need to further step up our response, including support for basic services through non-state channels due to the worsening humanitarian crisis.
We also stressed the importance of inclusive and representative politics, respect for human rights, in particular those of women, girls and minorities, countering terrorism and enabling safe passage for those who wish to leave Afghanistan. We agreed to keep these priorities at the center of any engagement with the Taliban.
In addition, regarding Iran, the G7 welcomed the resumption of negotiations in Vienna on restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and agreed that Iran should stop its nuclear escalation and quickly reach an agreement.
Situation in Taiwan
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: During the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on December 11, Chairperson TAKAICHI Sanae of the Policy Research Council of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) asked whether you believe it would be an interference in China’s domestic affairs for Japanese politicians, including ministers, to make statements, and for the Government of Japan to move forward with preparations premised on a contingency between China and Taiwan. In response, you answered that you do not believe that indicating just an interest in important issues not only for Japan but also the international community itself would constitute so-called “interference in another country’s domestic affairs.” However, Chairperson Takaichi’s question was premised on the statement by former Prime Minister Abe that a Taiwan contingency would also be a contingency for Japan. He stated this during a symposium held in Taiwan, one of the parties concerned in China-Taiwan relations.
A contingency, in this case, would practically mean a war, in other words, a confrontation between China and Taiwan, the United States military, and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF). This would be a serious development that could turn into an all-out war, with the battlefields being not just the Strait of Taiwan, but also the U.S. military bases and SDF bases throughout Japan. The statement that a Taiwan contingency would also be a contingency for Japan sounds like Japan would also go to war if a war broke out between Taiwan and China. Don’t you think that affirming such remarks sends a message to China and the world that Japan would participate in the war? If Japan-China diplomatic relations fell into the worst situation due to this statement, please tell us your view on how to take responsibility.
I also have a complementary question. On December 11, during the dinner banquet for the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held at the Liverpool Beatles Museum in the United Kingdom, you performed “Imagine” by John Lennon. I believe it is an anti-war song that calls for imagining a world without country borders, which are the source of war. What do you think is the significance of this song amidst the current situation in which conflict between the United States and China as well as Japan and the United States is deepening? That is all. Thank you.
Minister Hayashi: Firstly, the Government of Japan’s consistent position has been that the peace and stability of the Strait of Taiwan are important for the security of Japan as well as the stability of the international community and that we expect that issues surrounding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
This recognition of the importance of the peace and stability of the Strait of Taiwan is also growing in the international community. As I also answered in the Diet yesterday, the Government of Japan does not believe that indicating just an interest in important issues not only for Japan but also the international community itself would constitute so-called “interference in another country’s domestic affairs.”
Concerning the issue of the Beatles Museum before the G7 dinner banquet, we took a commemorative photograph of the members in the reproduction of John Lennon’s room with the round glasses he wore when he was alive and the replica of the white piano he played “Imagine” on. A museum staff member said that someone could sit at the piano and play. I am a huge Beatles fan, so I gathered my courage and played a verse from the song. The lyrics of “Imagine” include the content as you described. It is one of my favorite songs.
Northern Territories Issue (Four-Island Exchange Program)
Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: I would like to ask about a “visa-free exchange” on the Four Northern Islands. It will be the 30th anniversary next year. Please tell us your thoughts on the significance and results of what we have continued in the last 30 years.
Minister Hayashi: The so-called “visa-free exchange,” in other words the Four-Island Exchange Program, was started to contribute to promoting mutual understanding and thus resolving issues in time until Japan and Russia settle the issue of concluding a peace treaty, including resolving the Northern Territories issue. It has not been possible to hold the exchange last year and this year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Through the Four-Island Exchange Program, about 25,000 people have come and gone until this day, and it has an important significance that there has been the steady promotion of mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the residents of the Four Northern Islands. We will continue coordination with the people concerned toward swiftly implementing the exchange.
Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: This is a related question, but as for the promotion of understanding of the Northern Territories issue, please tell us your thoughts on the challenges in the past 30 years in terms of whether or not the goals and principle first raised has been achieved, as there is no momentum now for Russia to return the Northern Territories.
Minister Hayashi: As I stated before, there has been steady promotion of mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the residents of the Four Northern Islands through the Four-Island Exchange Program. In that sense, although the Northern Territories issue has not been resolved yet as just stated, I believe that we must continue to persistently work on this as the greatest unresolved issue in Japan-Russia relations.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference
Chugoku Shimbun, Higuchi: I would like to ask about the upcoming NPT Review Conference, which will be held in three weeks. You have previously indicated your strong will for the Conference to produce results. Prime Minister Kishida also made a statement on increasing transparency on nuclear capabilities at a public-private meeting last week, again indicating strong will for the NPT. At this point, do you intend to attend the Conference and send a strong message? I believe it would be extremely difficult to produce results given the current global situation, so specifically what approach do you intend to take? Please answer these two questions.
Minister Hayashi: The NPT is the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation framework. The NPT Review Conference, which is also participated in by nuclear-weapon states, is a valuable opportunity to move toward a “world without nuclear weapons.” We are currently considering who to attend from Japan.
It is necessary to have the participation of both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states to advance disarmament. The Government of Japan has been working on building a shared foundation by specifically suggesting guidelines for joint actions that should be immediately undertaken by the international community and calling for future-oriented dialogue through efforts such as submitting draft resolutions on nuclear disarmament to the United Nations General Assembly.
At the previous NPT Review Conference held six years ago, a final document was not adopted because it was not possible to get around the gap between related countries concerning the concept of establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. We will work closely with related countries so that the next NPT Review Conference can achieve significant results toward a “world without nuclear weapons.”
Novel Coronavirus (Effects on In-Person Diplomacy)
Kyodo News, Maeda: I would like to ask about the effects of the Omicron variant on in-person diplomacy. Since the confirmation of the Omicron variant, many ASEAN countries have participated online in the WTO meeting and the recent G7 meeting. What are your thoughts on the effects of the Omicron variant on in-person diplomacy, and about developing future diplomacy under the current situation?
Minister Hayashi: I would like to refrain from answering based on speculation concerning the effects of the current novel coronavirus conditions on individual diplomatic schedules.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that I believe it is important for dignitaries of various countries to directly meet, hold thorough discussions on issues faced by the international community over plenty of time, and deepen mutual understanding. I keenly felt that particularly at the G7 this time.
In any event, we will appropriately respond based on the border measures and infection control measures of various countries, including Japan.