Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko

Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Greeting by the New Press Secretary

Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: My name is ONO Hikariko, and I was appointed Press Secretary yesterday, January 11.

I am aware that as Press Secretary, one of my important duties is to clearly explain MOFA’s policies and measures and actively convey relevant information. I hope to provide cooperation and support to all of you reporters through these regularly-held press conferences.

I only received an official announcement of my appointment last evening, and although I have experience with press conferences in the public relations field, this is my first time holding this kind of press conference. Particularly, in the beginning, I believe there may be times when I cause inconvenience depending on the situation due to my lack of experience. I will work to be helpful to you all as quickly as possible.

(2) Lowering of the Age Eligible to Apply for Issuance of a Passport Valid for 10 Years

Press Secretary Ono: Moving on, I have one announcement today.

It is about lowering the age-eligible to apply for the issuance of passports and perform other procedures.

From April 1, 2022, the age-eligible to apply for the issuance of a passport valid for 10 years, and for performing other procedures, will be lowered from 20 to 18.

This change accompanies the lowering of the age of adulthood from April 1, 2022, due to the revision of the civil code, and is due to the entry into force of the partial revision of the Passport Act on the same day.

In addition, due to the lowering of the age of adulthood, the age at which it is not necessary to have a legal guardian’s permission to apply for passport issuance and the like will be lowered from 20 to 18.

Please inquire with the Passport Division of the Consular Affairs Bureau for details about this issue. That is all from me today.

World Cultural Heritage (Selection of the “Sado Complex of Heritage Mines, Primarily Gold Mines” (Sado Mines) for Candidacy Recommended by Japan)

Niigata Nippo, Endo: Thank you. Congratulations on your appointment.

Press Secretary Ono: Thank you.

Niigata Nippo, Endo: Excuse me for asking about a completely different topic. I would like to ask about the Sado Mines, which was selected at the end of last year by the Council for Cultural Affairs to be Japan’s recommended candidate for World Cultural Heritage.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson of the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) issued a comment requesting that the Sado Mines’ candidacy be withdrawn because Korean workers were forced to work in the mines. What is the Government of Japan’s response to this, and what is the Government’s recognition of whether there was forced labor as the ROK side is arguing? Please answer these two points.

Press Secretary Ono: Yes. You asked about the Sado Mines.

Regarding this issue, in response to the Council for Cultural Affairs selecting the Sado Mines to be Japan’s recommended candidate for World Cultural Heritage in 2022 on December 28, 2021, the Government of Japan is currently going through comprehensive consideration.

On the position of the ROK, we are aware of the point you mentioned. We have already appropriately lodged a protest regarding Japan’s specific position on the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula.

Because this is a diplomatic exchange, I would like to refrain from answering the details here. That is the current situation.

Novel Coronavirus Cases Among the U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ)

Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask about the novel coronavirus cases among the USFJ. It has come to light that the USFJ was exempted from pre-departure testing from September 2021. Was the Japanese side notified in advance?

Press Secretary Ono: I do not necessarily have the information on this point at the moment. We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are engaged in various forms of communication now.

However, I do not have an answer on this matter right now.

Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: Does that mean you do not know whether or not there was advance notice, or that you cannot disclose the answer?

Press Secretary Ono: We received an explanation from the U.S. side that although they had been previously conducting pre-departure testing, vaccinated people were exempted from pre-departure testing from September 3, 2021, based on the U.S. Department of Defense’s global policy following the progress in vaccinations in the United States and the improving infection conditions around the world.

However, we have lodged protests about this, including at the level of Foreign Minister Hayashi, as has already been explained in various ways. As a result, the U.S. military has been conducting pre-departure tests for all people entering Japan from USFJ facilities and areas since December 26, 2021.

In addition, the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee’s statement issued on January 9 confirms that the United States will maintain strict pre-departure and post-arrival testing procedures.

In any event, as I stated before, there is no change to the Government of Japan’s policy of continuing to further strengthen Japan-U.S. cooperation regarding this matter toward preventing the spread of novel coronavirus and alleviating local concerns.

Japan-China Relations (50th Anniversary of the Normalization of Japan-China Relations)

TV Asahi, Sawai: I look forward to your tenure as Press Secretary. I would like to ask about Japan-China relations. This year marks the start of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations. However, concerning matters including China’s human rights issues and China’s intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, the Government of Japan has decided to not dispatch any government dignitaries to the Beijing Olympic Games next month. In addition, public opinion regarding China is rising, including Chairperson TAKAICHI Sanae of the Policy Research Council of the Liberal Democratic Party stating on television yesterday that she would like to have a vote at the beginning of the next ordinary session of the Diet on a resolution condemning the human rights situation. It seems like we cannot expect meetings at the summit or ministerial level to be held.

Japanese Ambassador to China Tarumi issued a statement at the beginning of the year calling for the promotion of dialogue and exchanges leading to the future in this important anniversary year. What specific activities will MOFA conduct this year which marks the 50th anniversary?

Press Secretary Ono: You asked about Japan-China relations. As Japan and China are neighboring countries, there are various challenges. We recognize that China’s expansion of its military capabilities lacks transparency, the unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea including the situation of the Senkaku Islands, and the expansion and increase of military activities near Japan are matters of strong concern for security in the region including Japan and the international community.

During his first telephone talk since his appointment with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in November 2021, Foreign Minister Hayashi firmly conveyed these unresolved issues from the Japanese side. Specifically, Foreign Minister Hayashi expressed serious concerns regarding the situation surrounding the Senkaku Islands, as well as situations such as those in the East China Sea, South China Sea, Hong Kong, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and strongly called for the prompt removal of import restrictions on Japanese food products.

On the other hand, needless to say, we recognize that Japan-China relations are increasingly important not only for Japan and China but also for the peace and stability of the region and the international community. The Kishida administration has decided that as Japan cooperates with countries with which we share universal values, we will use high-level opportunities to resolutely state what needs to be stated and request China to take responsible actions, but at the same time continue the dialogue and cooperate on various common challenges.

As you just pointed out, this year is the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations. Strongly keeping this fact and the basic position I just mentioned in mind, we will firmly build constructive and stable Japan-China relations. Japan would like to approach this issue based on such policy for now.

Any other questions? In that case, I would like to end the press conference.

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