Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, December 27, 2022, 10:57 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Effects of the Rapid Spread of COVID-19 in China
NHK, Imai: I would like to ask about the spread of COVID-19 infections in China. The infections are rapidly spreading in various parts of China. Amidst this situation, the Government of China announced yesterday that it would review its border measures for COVID-19 and eliminate the measure requiring quarantine after entering the country from January 8. What is the Government of Japan’s view on this situation?
In addition, there have been some reports of effects such as antifebrile and antigen test kits are sold out or prices are soaring at drugstores in provincial cities and rural districts in China. The Lunar New Year will be in January, and there are concerns that the number of infected people will further increase due to the increased movement of people. What specific response are you considering to take to ensure the health and safety of Japanese nationals?
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Government of Japan is diligently gathering information on the situation of COVID-19 infections in China. We are monitoring the effects on people’s lives, including Japanese residents in China, the activities of Japanese companies, and the Chinese economy.
Under these circumstances, we will make an appropriate decision in close cooperation with relevant ministries by balancing prevention of the spread of infections and socioeconomic activities, while considering the situations of infections and needs both inside and outside Japan as well as the border measure conditions of major countries.
Furthermore, in the case of the new occurrence of a situation designated by the WHO as a “Variant of Concern” (VOC), we will of course take a flexible response.
Cross-Taiwan Strait Situation, Visit to China by Foreign Minister Hayashi
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask two related questions regarding China. On December 25, the Chinese military conducted military drills in the sea and airspace near Taiwan. This was described as a response to provocation by the United States and Taiwan. What is the reaction of the Government of Japan? In relation to this, please also tell us what is being worked out regarding your visit to China following the drills.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware of the Chinese side’s announcement and the Taiwanese side’s announcement regarding the Chinese military’s activities, which you just pointed out. However, I would like to refrain from commenting in detail on each of such moves.
In any case, the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait is important for Japan’s security as well as the stability of the international community as a whole. Japan’s consistent position has been that we expect the issue surrounding Taiwan to be resolved peacefully through dialogue. We have shared the view on the importance of the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait with the United States, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, the G7, and other countries.
I believe it is important to directly convey this position to China, and to clearly communicate the shared position of various countries. We will firmly continue our diplomatic efforts while monitoring developments in cross-Strait relations.
Additionally, nothing has been decided at this point with regard to my visit to China. We will continue to work on the specific timing.
New Framework of Grant Aid to Support Strengthening of Security Capabilities
Pan Orient News, Azhari: Japanese media reported that the Foreign Ministry will extend 2 billion yen to so-called "like minded" countries for military purposes. Will those "like minded" countries include Middle East states and that they would get Japanese funds for military purposes?
Minister Hayashi: As Japan finds itself in the most severe and complicated security environment since World War II, it is essential for us to drastically strengthen our own defense capabilities as well as enhance the security and deterrence capabilities of like-minded countries in order to prevent unilateral attempts to change the status quo, ensure the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region in particular, and create a security environment desirable for Japan.
In order to achieve this objective, separate from ODA which aims for the socioeconomic development of developing countries, Japan has decided to introduce a new grant aid framework to support troops and others by providing materials and equipment based on the security needs of developing countries. 2023 MOFA budget allocated two billion yen for this purpose.
With regard to the details such as the target countries will be further discussed within the Government based on the needs of other countries and other such matters on the occasion of the approval of the budget.
Japan’s Border Measures for People Entering the Country from China
Asahi Shimbun, Nohira: I would like to ask a question in relation to the question at the beginning on the border measures in China. You mentioned earlier that Japan will respond flexibly if there is a new VOC. Many people are expected to visit Japan for the Lunar New Year. As many people are expected to visit Japan combined with the easing of border measures, some people, such as Democratic Party for the People’s leader Tamaki have said that Japan should implement border measures before the Lunar New Year. With regard to this point, are you considering some sort of measures before the Lunar New Year?
Minister Hayashi: With regard to our border measures going forward, as I mentioned before, we will make an appropriate decision in close cooperation with relevant ministries by balancing prevention of the spread of infections and socioeconomic activities, while considering the situations of infections and needs both inside and outside Japan as well as the border measure conditions of major countries.
In addition, China has issued a notice that it will ease its quarantine measures. The Government of Japan will continue to monitor the effects of China’s infection control measures, including its border measures, and the notice, on China’s economy, people’s lives, private exchanges, and other such matters.
Car Theft and Traffic Accident Caused by a Member of the U.S. Marine Corps
Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: A member of the U.S. Marine Corps from the United States’ Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni broke into a repair shop, stole a new car, and caused a rear-end collision, but has not been arrested or made to pay compensation under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The repeated misconduct of U.S. soldiers and the absurdity of the failure to punish them, which have occurred in Okinawa, are also occurring on the mainland. The revision of the three security documents clearly entrust command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to the U.S. military. This constitutes surrender of sovereignty. There is apprehension that if the vertical integration of Japanese and U.S. forces continues, the lawlessness of U.S. soldiers will be spurred on. I believe that the SOFA should be drastically reviewed and made into an agreement with equal terms. What is your view on this?
Minister Hayashi: It is regrettable that on December 3, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps stole a car and caused a traffic accident in Iwakuni City. The Government of Japan is strongly urging the U.S. side to enforce discipline and sincerely respond to the injured parties. With regard to this case, I am aware that the police are conducting a necessary investigation in cooperation with the U.S. authorities.
Incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel provoke great concern to people in local communities, and this is unacceptable. We will continue to take various opportunities to request the U.S. side to ensure the prevention of incidents and accidents.
The Japan-U.S. SOFA is a major legal framework, including the agreed minutes to the Agreement. The Government of Japan has been dealing with each specific issue through the most appropriate measures to effectively and quickly respond depending on the situation.
By accumulating such measures, we will constantly pursue the ideal state of the Japan-U.S. SOFA.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe: In a recently broadcasted television program… excuse me, I would like to ask about UN Security Council (UNSC) reform. In a recent television program, you mentioned combining Japan’s position as a non-permanent member of the UNSC and its position as G7 President for UNSC reform. What exactly do you envision for this? Please also tell us again your thoughts on the necessity of UNSC reform.
Minister Hayashi: As G7 President starting in January 2023, Japan will lead the course of discussions regarding response to various issues of the international community. At the same time, we will join the UNSC, which has been unable to effectively deal with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and contribute within the UNSC to make it fulfill its essential responsibilities.
I believe that we should flexibly combine both in maintaining the world order based on “the rule of law”. Japan’s holding of the public debate on the theme of “the rule of law “as the UNSC President on January 12 is a part of this.
In addition, multilateralism is truly essential for “the rule of law”. It has become extremely necessary to regain trust in the United Nations, which is at the core, so UNSC reform is an important part of this. The statements I made, which you just introduced, are related to this.
In any case, I believe that there should not just be discussion for the sake of discussion when it comes to UNSC reform. Action should be started toward realizing reform. Japan will continue to work on strengthening the functions of the UN, including UNSC reform, in cooperation with the G4 (Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil), and many countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and African countries.