Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa

Friday, January 14, 2022, 2:16 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Emergency Grand Aid for the Philippines

Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, I have an announcement about the emergency grand aid to the Philippines.

On January 14, the Government of Japan decided to extend emergency grant aid of 13 million US dollars as humanitarian assistance in response to the damages in the Philippines caused by last month’s Typhoon Odette.

In the Philippines, nearly 8 million people were affected and approximately 1.4 million houses were damaged, but the provision of non-food essential items is still not enough in the affected areas.

In response to those situations, on December 23, the Government of Japan implemented the provision of emergency relief goods such as power generators and tents through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Based on the subsequent local needs for assistance, this time the government will provide assistance in the fields of food, housing, non-food essential items, health, water and sanitation through appropriate international organizations. By providing these assistances, Japan will maintain close cooperation with the Philippines, aiming to realize the recovery of the affected areas as quickly as possible. That is all from me.

Passing of Former Prime Minister KAIFU Toshiki

Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: Former Prime Minister Kaifu passed away. During his tenure, it was a turning point in international affairs with the end of the Cold War and the outbreak of the Gulf War. Please tell us your thoughts on the role that Prime Minister Kaifu played in Japanese diplomacy as well as his achievements and historical significance.

Minister Hayashi: I have been informed of the passing of former Prime Minister Kaifu, and I would first like to express my sincere condolences.

As you have just touched on, the period from 1989 to 1991, when former Prime Minister Kaifu was in office, was a time when the international community experienced historic changes, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the declaration of the end of the Cold War, and the outbreak to the end of the Gulf War.

Against this background, Prime Minister Kaifu at that time decided to dispatch the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) to the Persian Gulf as the JSDF’s first overseas mission. In addition, although it was ultimately rejected, he submitted the Draft Act on Cooperation with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations to the Diet, thereby opening up the channel for discussions on Japan’s participation in international cooperation activities. In this way, former Prime Minister Kaifu endeavored to respond to the changing security environment.

Amidst the current situation in which the international community once again faces major changes, we have renewed our determination, based on the efforts of our predecessors including former Prime Minister Kaifu, to advance our diplomatic endeavors to protect Japanese nationals in a resolute manner.

U.S. Proposal to Strengthen Sanctions Over North Korea

Jiji Press, Tanaka: I would like to ask a few questions about the proposed sanctions in response to the missile launch by North Korea. The United States is proposing the strengthening of the United Nations (UN) sanctions against North Korea, but how will Japan respond to this? Please also tell us if the Government of Japan has any intention of imposing its own tougher sanctions. In addition, against the United States’ imposition of more severe sanctions, North Korea defended that the missile launch was its legitimate right to self-defense. Can you please tell us your thoughts on this?

Minister Hayashi: Firstly, regarding the United States’ proposal for strengthening sanctions against North Korea submitted to the UN Security Council, Japan supports the position of the United States to resolve the nuclear and missile issues of North Korea.

Japan has been working on the enhancement of the effectiveness of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and we will continue close cooperation with the U.S. to realize the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Moving to the question of Japan’s sanctions, the measures that Japan has taken so far include asset-freezing of individuals and organizations involved in activities that were prohibited by relevant UN Security Council resolutions, banning the entry of North Korean citizens, and prohibiting import and export with North Korea. We will continue to ensure the effectiveness of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and thoroughly implement those measures.

Under these policies and approaches, we will conduct an extensive review of specific responses from the standpoint of determining what is most effective to comprehensively resolve various issues of concern such as abductions, nuclear and missiles issues.

I am aware that the statement by a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson against the U.S. sanctions has been published. While I would like to refrain from commenting on every announcement by the North Korean side, Japan’s stance on the United States’ additional measures on the sanctions over North Korea is as I mentioned earlier. Since Japan supports the United States’ stance to resolve the nuclear and missiles issues with North Korea, we will continue close cooperation with the U.S. to realize the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Novel Coronavirus (Border Measures)

TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask about the border measures. Currently, all those who re-enter or return to Japan are required to quarantine for 14 days after entering Japan. Among them, returnees from countries designated concerning the Omicron variant are required to stay at designated facilities for 3-10 days.

Meanwhile, the Advisory Board of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare pointed out the short incubation period of the Omicron variant from infection to onset. Considering this information, currently, the Government of Japan is working to urgently decide on cutting the quarantine period from the current 14 days for those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

If the Government is examining based on objective evidence such as the short incubation period, then it seems possible to shorten the quarantine period of the border measures. Please tell us what is being considered now regarding the quarantine period and any relevant possibilities.

Minister Hayashi: In response to the Omicron variant, Japan has taken the strictest border measures among other G7 countries, considering that an extremely careful response should be taken. The Government of Japan will continue to maintain the framework of the current border measures such as the 14-day stay at home and staying at designated facilities depending on the level of risks identified while continuing to respond as necessary from a humanitarian perspective and a national interests’ perspective.

Relevant ministries will discuss any further responses regarding border measures.

Radio France, Nishimura: About the previous question, I would like to ask about the border measures. According to the announcement, the Government of Japan will respond to the new entry of foreign nationals as necessary from a humanitarian perspective and a national interests’ perspective. Could you clarify what the government means by a humanitarian perspective? For example, a female foreign national working in Japan went back to her home country to give birth, but she would have to return to Japan to return to work or for other reasons. While she can re-enter Japan, her baby is refused entry due to the status of new entry of foreign nationals. If this case is not considered as humanitarian “special exceptional circumstances,” then please explain what could be considered as such circumstances.

Minister Hayashi: I understand that the question is about the criteria for cases requiring humanitarian consideration. Up to now, we have allowed entry into Japan by people who require humanitarian consideration based on individual circumstances, having taken necessary infection prevention measures. Therefore, we will continue with these necessary and appropriate measures, while taking individual circumstances into account. Meanwhile, we will consider responses to the new entry of foreign exchange students on the basis of the situation that some students are about to graduate or advance to the next grade.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference

Chugoku Shimbun, Higuchi: I would like to ask about the NPT Review Conference. It has been reported that the fourth postponement of the conference had been decided, but there has been no announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Could you first confirm that the postponement means you will be aiming to hold the event in August and clarify how aware you are of the relevant facts? In addition, the NPT Review Conference has long been the only valuable forum for discussion involving nuclear states. However, there is concern that the discussions on nuclear disarmament will stagnate, since the conference has been repeatedly postponed. Similar concerns have also been expressed by places that were affected by nuclear bombs. The Mayor of Hiroshima and the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that were scheduled to give a speech at the postponed conferences have expressed their intention to publish the content of their speeches, representing a growing call for the discussion to be moved forward. What are your thoughts on these concerns? Please answer both questions.

Minister Hayashi: On December 30 (New York Time), 2021, the United Nations decided to postpone the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, originally scheduled to take place from January 4, due to the upsurge in novel coronavirus cases in New York. As we have always stated, the NPT Review Conference, in which both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states participate, is a valuable opportunity for the international community to move ahead toward a world without nuclear weapons. Thus, it is extremely regrettable that the decision was made to postpone the Review Conference. However, considering the rapid spread of novel coronavirus cases in New York, it was unavoidable.

In any event, the Government of Japan believes that it is important that the NPT Review Conference be held as soon as possible in an appropriate form, and that the discussions in the conference contribute to a meaningful outcome. We will continue to firmly work on this issue. The timing of this conference will continue to be discussed among the signatory countries, but nothing has been decided at this point.

Support Fund for Lebanon

Pan Orient News, Azhari: I have question about West Asia. France said yesterday that UAE (the United Arab Emirates) will join the French-Saudi Fund to support Lebanon. Is Japan willing to join this initiative given that you have been extending aid to Arab countries including Lebanon and you have special issues between Japan and Lebanon.

Minister Hayashi: Thank you for the question. I am aware of the news report regarding the announcement by France, but the details of the Fund you mentioned have not been clearly announced yet. Therefore, we believe that it is not yet the right time to make any close examination on the matter.

In any event, the Government of Japan considers that peace and stability in Lebanon are extremely important for the Middle East as a whole, and from this perspective, we will continue to provide any necessary support to the people of Lebanon.

Northern Territories Issue (Military Exercises by the Russian Military)

Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: I would like to ask about the Northern Territories. Since this month, Russia has been actively conducting military exercises in the waters surrounding the Northern Territories. Could you tell us the Government of Japan’s responses to and views on this? Please also tell us your thoughts on the influence of the recent modernization and strengthening of armaments that Russia has been advancing on Japan’s security and peace treaty negotiations.

Minister Hayashi: Japan has been lodging protests against the strengthening of armaments by the Russian military on the Four Northern Islands, which is incompatible with Japan’s position on the islands and is unacceptable. We are continuously monitoring moves made by the Russian military in the Northern Territories and are currently gathering information, and we will continue to respond appropriately.

Regarding the second question, I have already stated Japan’s position on the strengthening of armaments by the Russian military on the Four Northern Islands. If I were to say anything further, I believe that what is fundamentally important is resolving the Northern Territories issue itself. In this sense, the Government of Japan will continue with the current approach and persistently work on the negotiations with Russia under the basic policy to resolve the issue of the attribution and conclude a peace treaty.

Passing of Former Prime Minister KAIFU Toshiki

Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: I would like to ask just one question about former Prime Minister Kaifu.

Minister Hayashi: About Prime Minister Kaifu?

Hokkaido Shimbun, Bun: Yes. In 1991, then Prime Minister Kaifu and then President Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, who visited Japan, issued the Japanese-Soviet Joint Communique in which the four islands of the Northern Territories including the Kunashiri and Etorofu islands were clearly stated for the first time. It was Prime Minister Kaifu’s achievement. Another achievement of issuing the Joint Communique was that a framework that led to the development of the current exchanges without visa requirements was also announced in it. Please tell us your thoughts on former Prime Minister Kaifu’s achievements in Japan’s diplomacy with Russia, if any.

Minister Hayashi: I mentioned earlier the dispatch of the JSDF to the Persian Gulf and submission of the Draft Act on Cooperation with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations to the Diet as some of the achievements of former Prime Minister Kaifu. In addition to these, his achievements included the ones that you have just mentioned. In fact, the Kaifu Cabinet was formed in August, and he responded to the declaration of the end of the Cold War between the leaders of the United States and the former Soviet Union in December. As I stated earlier, it was a time of upheaval. I understand that the achievements mentioned clearly show that former Prime Minister Kaifu appropriately and firmly responded to that upheaval.

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