Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, March 8, 2022, 5:07 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Situation in Ukraine (Sanctions Against Russia and Belarus / Provision of Defense Equipment to Ukraine)
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Firstly, I would like to speak about the situation in Ukraine.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia infringes upon Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, constitutes a serious violation of international law prohibiting the use of force, and undermines the foundation of the international order that forbids unilateral changes to the status quo by force. It is absolutely unacceptable that Russia has been expanding its invasion of Ukraine despite the strong condemnation by the international community. Japan condemns this in the strongest terms.
Following the attack on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on March 4, Russia also attacked the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology on March 6. Such brutality by Russia is utterly unacceptable for Japan, which experienced the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
In addition, Belarus has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the use of areas within its borders. Japan cannot overlook Belarus’ blatant participation in the invasion.
Based on the current situation surrounding Ukraine, it was decided in the Cabinet meeting today for Japan to impose additional sanctions. Specifically, we have decided to freeze the assets of people related to Russia and Belarus, prohibit the export of oil refining equipment and the like to Russia, prohibit exports to organizations related to the Armed Forces of Belarus, and prohibit exports of general items considered to contribute to strengthening the military capabilities of Belarus.
It is also important to demonstrate our solidarity with Ukraine. From this perspective, after this press conference, I will sign an exchange of notes with Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Korsunsky so that Japan could provide to the Government of Ukraine non-harmful materials within the scope of the Self-Defense Forces Act and the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology specifically including bulletproof vests, helmets, cold weather clothing, tents, and cameras, as well as hygiene materials, emergency rations, and power generators.
We will provide as quickly as possible the necessary materials to support the people of Ukraine who are directly facing difficulties. Japan stands with the people of Ukraine who are earnestly acting to protect their sovereignty, territory, country, and families.
Japan will continue to work in cooperation with the international community, including the G7, to improve the situation. That is all from me.
The Situation in Ukraine (Russia’s Violations of International Law)
Nikkei Shimbun, Miki: I would like to ask about the situation in Ukraine. You mentioned the attack on the nuclear power plant. Russia’s violations of international law have been successively pointed out. It is being said that Russia’s attacks on the nuclear power plant and civilian facilities, use of fuel-air explosives, and other such actions clearly violate the Geneva Convention. What is the Government of Japan’s view on this point? There are also reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin an investigation. I assume that it will take a certain amount of time. The problem is that there would be no quick judgment that Russia has committed war crimes. What is your view on that point?
Minister Hayashi: Firstly, the fact that Russia dispatched its armed forces into Ukrainian territory without Ukraine’s consent and conducted military actions constitutes illegal use of force forbidden by Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.
In addition, under international humanitarian law, military actions should be limited to military objectives. Although the individual details of the situation are not necessarily certain, if Russia has conducted attacks in violation of this principle on military objectives, then in addition to Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, it would also constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.
The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Joint Statement issued on March 4 indicates deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian toll taken by Russia’s continuing strikes against the civilian population of Ukraine’s cities and reemphasizes that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law.
Japan takes it very seriously that there have been many civilian casualties in Ukraine.
You mentioned the ICC. I am aware that the ICC Prosecutor has already begun an investigation regarding the situation in Ukraine under the ICC’s system punishing violations of international humanitarian law.
In any event, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force. It is an act that undermines the very foundation of the international order. It constitutes a blatant violation of international law. As such, it is unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest terms.
Northern Territories Issue
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: Regarding Russia, I would like to ask about the issue of the Four Northern Islands. Yesterday during the meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Kishida stated that the Four Northern Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan. During the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors as well, you made the same statement. You have said that the phrase “islands over which Japan has sovereignty” has been used until now from a diplomatic perspective. I would like to ask two questions. Japan has brought back the phrase “an inherent part of the territory of Japan” after quite some time. Please tell us the reason behind this decision. In addition, does this diplomatic perspective come from the fact that Japan-Russia relations are currently quite difficult? Please answer these two questions.
Minister Hayashi: The Northern Territories are islands over which Japan has sovereignty, and are an inherent part of the territory of Japan. There is no change to Japan’s position on this. I have been using the phrase “islands over which Japan has sovereignty” from a diplomatic perspective.
Taking into account the current situation, we are not in a situation to speak about the prospects for the peace treaty negotiations. There is no change to Japan’s position of resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty. However, once again, we are currently not in a situation in which we can speak about the prospects for the peace treaty negotiations. Based on this recognition and other aspects, as I said before, I am stating that the Northern Territories are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, and islands over which Japan as a sovereign nation has sovereignty.
Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: I have a follow-up question. You have not used the phrase “inherent part of the territory of Japan” for a while. However, I believe that previously the Government of Japan used the phrase “illegal occupation” regarding the Northern Territories. The phrase “illegal occupation” is still used on the MOFA website and elsewhere. Is it your recognition that the Northern Territories are currently under illegal occupation by Russia?
Minister Hayashi: It is my recognition that Russia’s occupation of the Northern Territories has no legal basis. It is illegal in the sense that it has no legal basis whatsoever.
Statements by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Situation in Ukraine, Japan-China Relations)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask two questions together regarding the press conference by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China. At his press conference yesterday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang expressed China’s willingness to carry out mediation for the current situation between Russia and Ukraine. Please tell us your reaction to this. Moreover, regarding Japan-China relations, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang mentioned “remaining discord and challenges in the relationship.” Please tell us your take on this and your view on future diplomacy toward China.
Minister Hayashi: Firstly, I am aware of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang’s statement about mediation.
I would like to refrain from commenting one by one on statements by various countries regarding the situation in Ukraine. In any event, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force. It is an act that undermines the very foundation of the international order. It constitutes a blatant violation of international law. As such, it is unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest terms.
It is important now for the international community to unite in taking resolute actions to fully defend the foundation of the international order. In cooperation with relevant countries, we will call on China as well to take responsible actions.
I am also aware of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang’s statement regarding Japan-China relations.
Japan and China are neighboring countries, and thus there are various unresolved issues between us. At the same time, Japan-China relations are important for not only our two countries but also for the peace and prosperity of the region as well as the international community.
While Japan states what should be stated and requests China to take responsible actions, I believe it is important to build through bilateral efforts “constructive and stable Japan-China relations” for cooperation concerning various shared challenges.
Russia’s Restrictions on Reporting News
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to return to Russia. I would like to change the subject and ask about the passage of the law strengthening information control in Russia. If the Russian authorities decide that something is untrue, they can impose imprisonment of up to 15 years on journalists. This has temporarily interrupted news reporting in Russia by the domestic and foreign media, including Japan. Please tell us your reaction to this.
Minister Hayashi: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an act that undermines the very foundation of the international order. It constitutes a blatant violation of international law, and we condemn it in the strongest terms.
Amidst this situation, we are strongly concerned about the passage of the law that restricts the freedom of the press in Russia, as well as the situation in which foreign media have been forced to suspend their activities in Russia due to the law. The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement issued on March 4 condemns the widespread use of disinformation by the Russian Government and its affiliated media and proxies to support its military aggression against Ukraine.
Russia’s Natural Gas Projects (Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2)
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: During his press conference on March 7, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno indicated the stance that Russia’s LNG projects Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 are important projects for stable energy supply, and that Japan will carefully make a decision about withdrawal. What is your opinion about withdrawal? Furthermore, have people related to U.S. energy resources from the Government of the United States urged or requested the Government of Japan or MOFA to withdraw from the projects? Please tell us.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware of the reports that the United States is considering introducing a ban on oil imports from Russia.
Based on the situation going forward in cooperation with the international community including the G7, Japan will continue to appropriately consider and respond with measures considered to be effective.