Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko
Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Situation in Ukraine (Expulsion of Russian Diplomats)
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask about the invasion of Ukraine. European countries are currently deciding one after the other to expel Russian diplomats. Is Japan considering expelling them? Please tell us if consideration is being made in any way.
Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: Japan takes extremely seriously the fact that a large number of civilians in Ukraine have been killed as a result of the acts of the Russian forces, and is deeply shocked by this revelation. The killing of innocent civilians is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and absolutely unacceptable. Japan vehemently condemns it.
The truth about these atrocities must be uncovered and Russia must be held strictly accountable. From this perspective, a Statement by Foreign Minister Hayashi was issued on April 4. As you pointed out, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, some western countries have moved to expel Russian diplomats. I am aware that on April 4, Germany decided to expel about 40 diplomats and France decided to expel 35 of them.
Concerning sanctions against Russia, so far Japan has flexibly taken tough measures in cooperation with the international community, including the G7. As for further sanctions, we will appropriately respond while firmly cooperating with the international community, including the G7, as we ascertain the entire situation going forward.
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: In relation to my previous question, there are three past examples of Japan expelling diplomats. My first question is, what views and criteria were these expulsions based on? Russian diplomats continue to be expelled from Europe. In the sense of maintaining channels of dialogue, diplomats at the Embassy of Russia in Japan would play a certain role. There are things that Japan has to engage in a dialogue. Taking into account the current situation, what is the Government of Japan’s view on having a balance in terms of expelling diplomats?
Press Secretary Ono: Yes. There are past examples of Japan requesting the deportation of foreign embassy personnel stationed in Japan. However, there were various reasons depending on the individual cases, so I would like to refrain from speaking about them with sweeping generalizations. One example was on May 30, 2012, when Japan requested the then-Syrian Ambassador to Japan to voluntarily leave Japan to express our protest to the Government of Syria.
The Situation in Ukraine (Killing of Civilians)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoda: During his press conference today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno declaratively stated that the killing of many civilians in Ukraine is a “war crime.” Please tell us the background for the Government of Japan declaring that it is a “war crime.”
Press Secretary Ono: Japan’s statement on the situation now is as I stated earlier. Japan has referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ICC Prosecutor has begun an investigation in cooperation with the Ukrainian side. Japan has high expectations for the progress of the investigation by the ICC Prosecutor and will attentively observe it.
The Situation in Ukraine (Expulsion of Russian Diplomats)
Freelance, Azumi: In relation to the expulsion of ambassadors mentioned earlier, I have heard that the United States, France, Germany, and Italy have expelled them. There are also reports that the United Kingdom may have expelled some Russian diplomats. Although this is unconfirmed, if it becomes clear that the majority of the G7 has expelled diplomats, will Japan not have to keep pace with this?
Press Secretary Ono: Our sanctions against Russia are as I stated earlier. Japan is flexibly taking tough measures as much as possible in cooperation with the international community, including the G7. At this point, I would like to refrain from speaking based on speculation about what we will do in terms of further sanctions going forward. As I stated before, Japan will appropriately respond while ascertaining the situation going forward.
The Situation in Ukraine (Protecting Japanese Nationals)
Freelance, Azumi: I would like to change the subject and ask about the protection of Japanese nationals in Ukraine. Recently, 20 Ukrainian evacuees were transported to Japan from Poland. There are reports that a Japanese national married to a Ukrainian with Japanese children inquired at the embassy, but was refused because Japanese nationals were not allowed to board. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno stated that this was “under coordination,” and Foreign Minister Hayashi said the same in response to a question in his April 3 press conference. Ultimately, the Japanese national was not allowed to board the airplane. What was the reason for Japanese nationals not being able to board?
Press Secretary Ono: Regarding the people who boarded the government airplane recently, this was implemented from a humanitarian perspective in order to lend a helping hand to people who earnestly wished to travel to Japan but had difficulty securing a means of travel through their own efforts, among the Ukrainian evacuees who consulted about traveling to Japan at the Japanese embassies in Poland and Ukraine.
I know that there was no specific request from Japanese nationals considered to be having difficulty securing a means of returning to Japan from Poland through their own efforts.
On the other hand, one of MOFA’s important duties is firmly protect the lives and health of Japanese nationals staying overseas and promote their interests. As we always keep this basic principle at heart, the Government of Japan as a whole will continue to work as one to exert all efforts for evacuations and other matters based on the situations of individual Japanese nationals staying overseas.
Freelance, Azumi: I have heard that Ukrainians who earnestly wished to travel to Japan but could not do so through their own efforts were allowed to board the reserve airplane from a humanitarian perspective. Given that 20 foreign nationals were allowed to board the reserve airplane, surely there was some more leeway. Was there really no inquiry? There are reports that there was an inquiry and that it was refused by the embassy. Was there actually no inquiry? Or was there a person who inquired, but it was not the case that the person could not travel to Japan through their own efforts, for example? In other words, was the person considered to have the resources to travel?
Press Secretary Ono: I would like to refrain from answering about details of discussions with Japanese nationals. I know that there was no specific request from Japanese nationals considered to be having difficulty securing a means of returning to Japan from Poland through their own efforts.
Reducing Dependence on Russian Energy
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yoda: I would like to ask about energy. It seems that based on Prime Minister Kishida’s announcement of the policy to not withdraw from Sakhalin-I and Sakhalin-II, it is difficult for Japan to stop using energy from Russia. Please tell us your reaction to this, as well as whether there is a policy to work toward stopping use of Russian energy.
Press Secretary Ono: Japan relies on imports from abroad for most of its energy, including oil and natural gas. Russia accounts for about 4% of the import volume for crude oil, and about 9% of LNG.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an outrage that undermines the foundation of the international order, and Japan has severely condemned it on multiple occasions. Japan has been implementing tough sanctions in cooperation with the international community so that Russia stops its invasion immediately.
Additionally, as ensuring stable energy supply and energy security are one of the national interests that need to be protected the most, Japan’s consistent policy has been to appropriately respond in cooperation with the international community, including the G7. We have taken a series of measures under such a basic policy.
Japan’s policy is to advance further efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy, as stated in the G7 Leaders’ Statement, while fully ensuring stable energy supply. MOFA will work in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry under that basic policy.
Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Summit Meeting
Mainichi Shimbun, Aoki: Concerning the “Quad” consisting of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States, I believe preparation is now underway to hold the summit meeting in Japan. There were originally reports that the meeting would be held in July. Please tell us the state of coordination.
Press Secretary Ono: The Japan-Australia-India-U.S. (Quad) Leaders’ Video Conference was held in March. During the meeting, the leaders decided to hold the next meeting in person within a few months in Tokyo and affirmed that they would closely cooperate toward its success.
Based on this, we are currently coordinating the appropriate schedule for the Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Summit Meeting and U.S. President Biden’s visit to Japan. Nothing has been decided on the specific schedule so far.