Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Saturday, February 12, 2022, 6:25 p.m. Honolulu
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: We held the Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today in Honolulu, Hawaii. The details are as stated in the joint press conference held just now. We had a very substantial discussion centered on response to North Korea with Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and we agreed to conduct even closer Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.
Before the trilateral meeting, I had a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Chung from around 12 p.m. for approximately 40 minutes. We reaffirmed the importance of Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation for regional stability, including response to North Korea, and had a candid discussion on bilateral relations.
My meeting with Foreign Minister Chung today was in-person. I again stated that Japan-ROK relations continue to be in an extremely difficult situation due to domestic developments in the ROK regarding the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and the issue of comfort women. I renewed my call for the ROK to take appropriate actions based on Japan’s principled positions on issues between our two countries, including these issues of concern, insisting that the ROK side needs to deal with them with its responsibility.
Furthermore, regarding the nomination of “Sado Island Gold Mines” to UNESCO, I stated that the ROK’s assertions are unacceptable and regrettable, and once again protested against the ROK side. In addition, I reiterated that Japan will engage in calm and respectful discussions to ensure that the profound value of the Sado Island Gold Mines as cultural heritage will be recognized in the UNESCO arena and will hold discussions sincerely with the ROK side.
I believe it was extremely meaningful that I confirmed the further deepening of trilateral Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and bilateral Japan-ROK cooperation from the diplomatic perspective of strengthening regional deterrence, including strengthening trilateral security cooperation and fully implementing the United Nations Security Council sanctions in responding to North Korea. That is all from me.
Reporter: You confirmed the strengthening of cooperation regarding North Korea during the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today, and you stated during the joint press conference afterward that diplomacy is important. North Korea is currently not showing signs to resume negotiations. How will you bring North Korea back to the negotiation table?
Minister Hayashi: North Korea’s series of actions, including its recent repeated missile launches, pose a threat to the peace and stability of the region and the international community. I would like to refrain from answering declaratively about North Korea’s aims, but during the meeting, we shared serious concerns about North Korea’s actions under shared recognition. Additionally, during the meeting, we agreed to conduct even closer Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation from the perspective of strengthening regional deterrence, including strengthening Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation, and fully implementing the United Nations Security Council sanctions. At the same time, we shared the recognition that diplomacy is important in such situations. Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is essential for the denuclearization of North Korea in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. We would like to conduct even closer Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation based on the results of the meeting.
Reporter: You just re-emphasized that Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is essential to respond to North Korea. However, is it possible to expect smooth cooperation in responding to North Korea while Japan-ROK relations are worsening? Is it possible now? During the previous Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation, it was not possible to hold a joint press conference on the Takeshima issue. This time, the joint press conference was held. Please tell us your impression and the atmosphere between you and Foreign Minister Chung during your discussions.
Minister Hayashi: I believe that the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the joint press conference today, which you mentioned, were good opportunities to affirm Japan-U.S.-ROK solidarity, including the agreement to strengthen Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation. We will firmly deepen Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation centered on our response to North Korea.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the situation in Ukraine. During your overseas visits, the Government of Japan raised the Travel Advice and Warnings for all of Ukraine to Level 4: Evacuate and Avoid All Travel, which is the highest of all four levels, on February 11.
Please tell us the reason for raising the level at this time, and your recognition of the current situation in Ukraine. Was there coordination on the recognition of the situation during your meetings today?
Minister Hayashi: The situation continues to be unpredictable in which there are growing tensions due to the buildup of the Russian military in the border area with Ukraine. In addition, the neighboring country of Belarus has begun military exercises with Russia and Russian military vessels recently entered the Black Sea. Although there have been developments in diplomatic efforts by relevant countries, there is a growing possibility that the situation could suddenly worsen. Therefore, we have raised the Travel Advice and Warnings for all regions of Ukraine, including the capital city of Kiev, to Level 4: Evacuate and Avoid All Travel. We are requesting all Japanese nationals staying in Ukraine to immediately evacuate using the safest means, including commercial flights. We will continue to exert all efforts to appropriately grasp the situation on the ground and ensure the safety of Japanese nationals residing in Ukraine.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the border measures. Prime Minister Kishida has stated that there will be a consideration on the relaxation of Japan’s border measures that will expire at the end of February. Some people have the view that Japan’s measures are too strict compared to other countries. What are your thoughts on the reason behind considering the relaxation of the measures and their necessity?
Minister Hayashi: Regarding the future border measures, it is as Prime Minister Kishida stated in his press conference on February 12. As a basic way of thinking, as the situation changes, we are currently considering the relaxation of the border measures by comprehensively taking into account factors such as the accumulation of scientific knowledge of the Omicron variant including its subvariants, changes in infection conditions inside and outside Japan, and the conditions of overseas border measures.
Reporter: I would like to ask two questions about the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The press release we received earlier states that you and Foreign Minister Chung exchanged views on cross-border travel. What specifically does this refer to? In addition, I believe you also held a telephone talk with the ROK recently on February 3. You have just held a bilateral meeting, so is it your assessment that Japan-ROK relations are gradually seeing some progress?
Minister Hayashi: Firstly, during our discussion on cross-border travel, I explained Japan’s current border measures, as I replied to the question earlier. Although Japan-ROK relations are in a difficult situation, I believe we were able to have a candid discussion regarding our response to North Korea.
Reporter: President Biden of the United States and President Putin of Russia held a telephone talk recently. What is your assessment and reaction to this?
Minister Hayashi: It was difficult to hear your question due to the bad connection. I am not sure if I could grasp the meaning of your question, but I believe it was about the U.S.-Russia Summit Telephone Talk. I would like to refrain from commenting about meetings between third-party countries. However, we appreciate that diplomatic efforts are being made, as stated during the joint press conference.
Reporter: Firstly, I would like to ask for your assessment of the results of a series of overseas visits. Secondly, what specifically is presumed when you say security cooperation, and was that discussed today?
Minister Hayashi: In terms of my series of overseas visits, firstly in Australia, through my frank exchange of views at the in-person Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Melbourne, I was able to build personal relationships of trust, and the foreign ministers agreed to closely cooperate, including to further advance various forms of practical cooperation toward the success of the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Summit Meeting to be held in Japan in the first half of this year. I also held the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, a courtesy call on Prime Minister Morrison, the Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the Japan-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and had candid and substantial discussions regarding bilateral relations and regional affairs. Since coming to Honolulu, I attended the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, in which we held a substantial exchange of views regarding regional affairs and global issues, centered on our response to North Korea, and agreed to promote Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation at multiple levels. In addition, during the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, we reaffirmed the importance of Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation for regional stability, including our response to North Korea, and held a frank exchange of views regarding bilateral relations. We will continue to discuss security cooperation specifically between our diplomatic and defense authorities.