Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary ONO Hikariko
Wednesday, December 21, 2022, 3:55 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Situation in Afghanistan (The Taliban’s Suspension of Higher Education for Women)
Ms. ONO Hikariko, Press Secretary: I have four announcements at the outset today.
The first is about the situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s suspension of higher education for women.
On December 20 local time, the Taliban announced the suspension of higher education for women in Afghanistan.
The Taliban decided to suspend secondary education for women in March 2022. Japan is deeply concerned and strongly condemns the further strengthening of limits on the rights of women and girls imposed by the Taliban despite the repeated urging of Japan and the international community.
It is a fundamental right for all Afghans to have equal access to education, regardless of gender. This is essential for Afghanistan’s future economic development.
In cooperation with the international community, Japan will continue to call on the Taliban to fully and promptly resume education for women and girls, and will continue our efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
(2) Commemorative Events for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation
Press Secretary Ono: The next announcement is the start of applications for accreditation of commemorative events for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.
On the occasion of the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in 2023, with the participation and cooperation of a wide range of relevant parties, we will begin accepting applications for commemorative events in Japan and ASEAN member states for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation from the perspective of further boosting friendly relations between Japan and ASEAN member states.
Events that are accredited as 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation commemorative events may use the official logo and catchphrase, and will also be listed in the list of commemorative events on the website.
(3) The 16th Japan International MANGA Award Winner Announcement
Press Secretary Ono: The third is the announcement of the 16th Japan International MANGA Award Winner.
Every year, MOFA confers the Japan International MANGA Award in order to commend foreign manga artists who have contributed to the promotion of manga culture overseas and international cultural exchanges through manga.
This year marks its 16th anniversary and the Ministry received a record number of503 entries from 77 countries and regions. Since the 14th Japan International MANGA Award, we have been accepting manga submissions in both printed and electronic form due to the spread of COVID-19. This year, as in the previous year, we received a record-high number of entries.
As a result of the impartial review by the selection committee carried out this month, “In summer” by seong ryul from the Republic of Korea (ROK) was selected as the Gold Award winner. A total of 15 works were selected, including three Silver Award winners and 11 other works.
The 16th Japan International MANGA Award ceremony is scheduled to be held in March 2023.
Manga has become a catalyst for interest in Japanese culture and the Japanese language in many countries and regions. From this perspective, MOFA will continue to promote the spread of manga in the international community and cultural exchange through the Japan International Manga Award.
(4) Request Concerning CNN’s Report on Hashima Island
Press Secretary Ono: Lastly, I would like to address CNN’s report on Hashima Island.
On December 20, MOFA lodged a protest against CNN and requested revision of relevant passages due to CNN’s recent online travel feature that contains nonfactual, unsubstantiated content regarding Hashima Island, one of the assets of the “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution.”
MOFA will continue to respond appropriately if we find any reports based on factual errors.
That is all from me.
Declassification of Diplomatic Records (Gulf War)
TV Asahi, Sawai: I would like to ask two questions related to today’s declassification of diplomatic documents from 1991.
My first question is about the discussion that took place during Prime Minister Kaifu’s visit to the United States. The vivid discussion between the leaders of Japan and the United States at the time of the Gulf War has been released. It is clear that there was strong pressure from the U.S. side, including the contribution of funds and the dispatch of minesweepers. Please tell us your impression of this. Furthermore, the Gulf War was a major event that led to the subsequent overseas dispatch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and other such matters. Please tell us the significance of declassification of such diplomatic documents.
Press Secretary Ono: The main objective of the declassification of diplomatic records is to provide opportunities for study of the historic results of diplomatic activities of the Government of Japan in the past. I would like to refrain from commenting on each of the interpretations on record items.
If I were to say anything further, it would be that the declassification of diplomatic records takes into account the fact that diplomatic records are shared intellectual resources of the people of Japan, with whom the sovereign power resides, and can be used proactively by them. Documents are released after 30 years have passed following their creation or acquisition.
I hope that you all and researchers will study the content of the records.
Declassification of Diplomatic Records (Japan-Soviet Union Summit Meeting)
TV Asahi, Sawai: On a related note, there was also declassification of the discussion at the Japan-Soviet Union Summit meeting during the first visit to Japan by former Soviet President Gorbachev. However, the content of the discussion cannot be deciphered well because the blacked-out section is quite conspicuous, especially the remarks of President Gorbachev. What are the criteria for blacking out text? In addition, have you had negotiations in advance with other governments regarding content to be declassified?
Press Secretary Ono: As I stated earlier, generally, the objective of the declassification of diplomatic records is to provide opportunities to study historic results of diplomatic activities of the Government of Japan in the past. From this perspective, the Government of Japan believes that diplomatic records should be declassified to the extent possible. The parts that are not made public are rigorously reviewed to the minimum necessary through discussions with outside experts, taking into consideration the passage of time and the current global situations on a case-by-case basis.
On the other hand, some diplomatic activities must be kept secret for reasons of national security, relations of trust with other countries, and diplomatic negotiations, and other such reasons. Even documents that are more than 30 years old may have to be kept secret because their disclosure would affect current diplomatic negotiations or for other reasons.
Furthermore, depending on the content, it is not unusual internationally to withhold some of the contents of documents, even if they are over 30 years old. Japan's Public Records and Archives Management Act also stipulates this.
We will continue to declassify diplomatic records to the extent possible and promote diplomacy based on public understanding and support.
Furthermore, with regard to the record of the Japan-Soviet Union Summit Meeting that you just asked about, we have not made any coordination with the Russian side.
Formulation of the new National Security Strategy
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: Last week on Friday, December 16, there was the Cabinet decision on the new three security documents of Japan. There have been reactions from various countries. Particularly with regard to the formulation of the National Security Strategy for the first time in nine years, has the Government of Japan created an English translation or other translations for foreign countries, and how have you provided notification to foreign governments? Please tell us about such measures, if you are taking any.
Press Secretary Ono: In formulating the new National Security Strategy, the Government of Japan has been providing explanations on the changes in the security environment surrounding Japan and Japan’s security policy in response to such changes to government officials, experts, and others in various countries through diplomatic channels and other means.
As a result, so far, for example, we have received a message from President Biden of the United States stating that he welcomes Japan’s contributions to peace and prosperity. In addition, we received a comment from Foreign Minister Wong of Australia that she welcomes Japan’s announcement of its National Security Strategy, and a comment from Foreign Minister Joly of Canada that she welcomes Japan’s new National Security Strategy and increased defense budget.
MOFA intends to continue its efforts to gain understanding of various countries.
Request Concerning CNN’s Report on Hashima Island
Asahi Shimbun, Aibara: I would like to ask a different question. With regard to your fourth announcement on the report by CNN during your opening remarks, what specific report contained nonfactual content? Has CNN made any reaction to Japan’s protest?
Press Secretary Ono: There are two problematic passages. The first is the description of Hashima Island as if it were a “forced labor camp.” That is completely contrary to the facts.
The second passage is the statement alleging that more than 1,000 Korean and Chinese civilians and prisoners of war died on the island. This statement lacks any basis. We recognize that there were people, including Japanese nationals from outside Hashima Island, who experienced accidents and disasters or even died in coal mines, factories, and other industrial facilities at that time on the island, regardless of their place of origin. However, there are no reliable materials indicating such a number.
As for CNN’s reaction, I would like to refrain from speaking about the details due to our relationship with them.
Ballistic Missile Launches by North Korea
Kyodo News, Kinashi: I would like to ask about missile launches by North Korea. On December 20, Deputy Department Director Kim Yo-jong of the Workers’ Party of Korea indicated the possibility of launching ICBMs on a normal trajectory rather than a lofted trajectory. If North Korea were to launch ICBMs on a normal trajectory, they could reach the U.S. mainland. If that is the case, I believe that military tensions will rise extremely high. What is the Government of Japan’s view on North Korea, which continues such threats?
Press Secretary Ono: Japan constantly strives to gather and analyze information with serious interest on North Korea’s moves, including its military developments. I would like to refrain from commenting one by one on such moves, including what you pointed out.
In any case, North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles with unprecedented frequency and forms pose a serious and urgent threat to Japan’s security as well as to the peace and security of the region and the international community, and are absolutely unacceptable.
The Government of Japan will continue to make all efforts to conduct necessary information gathering and analysis and to implement vigilance and surveillance activities. We will also continue to conduct close Japan-U.S. cooperation and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
Situation in Afghanistan
Mainichi Shimbun, Aoki: With regard to the situation in Afghanistan which you mentioned in your opening remarks, Japan has been repeatedly urging the Taliban, but in what ways have Japan urged them? Please also mention if there are any specific actions that Japan will take in the future. In addition, please tell us if the Taliban has made any sort of reaction.
Press Secretary Ono: The Government of Japan will continue to cooperate with the international community to urge the Taliban in the same way we have done through now, including practical communication, with regard to respecting the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities, building an inclusive political system, and ensuring that Afghanistan does not become a terrorism hotbed.
I would like to refrain from stating any further details as this involves diplomatic communication.
Russia’s Aggression Against Ukraine (Peace Talks)
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yokobori: The leaders of the United Kingdom, the three Baltic states, and 10 European countries held a meeting and shared the position that they would not support peace talks as long as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine. Some expressed their concerns about the lengthy military conflict and called for a ceasefire. Please tell us again Japan’s stance on peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, particularly as Japan will hold the G7 Presidency next year.
Press Secretary Ono: With regard to peace talks, we are aware that the Ukrainian side has clarified its position toward peace, including President Zelensky mentioning the 10 points for the Peace Formula. We recognize the importance of Russia immediately stopping its aggression against Ukraine. As the 2023 G7 President, Japan will continue to powerfully promote sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine in cooperation with the international community, including the G7.