Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa

Thursday, January 12, 2023, 3:43 p.m. New York

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: As President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), I hosted an open debate on “The Rule of Law Among Nations.” This theme was chosen because we believe that the rule of law is precisely what is needed in today’s world, which is faced with various challenges.

First, Russia’s aggression is a serious challenge to the international order based on the rule of law, including the United Nations Charter, and Japan strongly condemns it. Japan requests Russia to sincerely implement series of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions and the order on the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In the face of this situation, it is time for the international community to unite.

However, that is not the only issue facing the UNSC. The world is in the midst of conflict, violence, terrorism, and geopolitical tension from Africa to the Middle East, Latin America, and the Indo-Pacific. The rule of law, not the rule by force, is essential everywhere in the world, whether on land or sea. That is the reason why Japan called for “Uniting for the rule of law” at today’s meeting. This is Japan’s guiding policy for the next twoyears in the UNSC term, and today was the kick-off.

During the open debate, I emphasized the following three essential elements of the rule of law. The first point is complying with agreements. This means adhering to the UN Charter, the UN resolutions, international judgments, and the like. No arbitrary interpretations of international law are permit table. The second point is not allowing the rewriting of national borders through force and coercion. The third point is to cooperate against the violations of the UN Charter.

The meeting was attended by 77 countries, including UN Secretary-General Guterres, ICJ President Donoghue, Professor Akande of the University of Oxford, and the foreign ministers of three countries. Many countries agreed with the issues that Japan raised, and we are grateful for the strong statement that was issued.

There were basically no objection among the various countries on the importance of the rule of law. Many of the small and medium-sized countries in particular concurred with the numerous points I stated, including the importance of the rule of law, which left a strong impression. I expect that today’s meeting will further deepen the international community’s recognition of the importance of the rule of law, not the rule by force.

In addition, the rule of law is not unrelated to UNSC reform. Promotion of the rule of law is the foundation for multilateralism, and cannot be separated from it. The reform of the UN, the stronghold of multilateralism, and the UNSC, the UN’s essential organization, are urgent tasks. I stated this point as well at the meeting. I would like to strengthen efforts toward realizing reform at the earliest possible date.

Next, I would like to briefly speak about bilateral meetings and the like. Today, I held meetings with UN Secretary-General Guterres, UNGA President Kőrösi, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Thomas-Greenfield, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Regional Integration Soares of the Republic of Cabo Verde, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Cassis of Switzerland, and Minister of State Sayegh of the United Arab Emirates.

During these meetings, we concurred on the importance of strengthening UN functions, including UNSC reform, in order to strengthen multilateralism, and of closely cooperating for various UN-related meetings, including the 2024 Summit of the Future. In addition, we held candid exchanges of views on regional and international affairs such as North Korea, Ukraine, the Middle East, and Africa, and agreed to work together.

Moreover, prior to the meetings, I held informal talks with ministers including Minister of Foreign Affairs Holguín of Ecuador, Minister of Foreign Affairs Leyva of Colombia, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary Rutley of the United Kingdom. I confirmed our unanimous recognition of the importance of the rule of law. In addition, First Deputy Foreign Minister Dzhaparova of Ukraine, who also participated, expressed expectations for Japan’s leadership as the G7 Presidency and international cooperation in the UN, and we concurred on cooperating for this.

It was a short but condensed visit to New York. For the next two years, Japan will cooperate with the other members of the UNSC and actively contribute so that the UNSC fulfills its essential responsibilities. That is all from me.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: I would like to ask about your outreach to countries with neutral positions. You mentioned countries that take neutral positions during the open debate. Among ASEAN and African countries, the number of countries that take neutral positions towards Russia and China is not small. Amidst this, how will you leverage Japan’s diplomatic strengths that are different from western countries, and how will you encourage such neutral countries?

Minister Hayashi: Unilateral changes to the status quo by force are unacceptable anywhere in the world. I hosted the open debate on the rule of law today from that perspective. The rule of law is a principle of international law that is more important for vulnerable countries as well as small and medium-sized countries than for the major powers. We will continue efforts to share this recognition with as many countries as possible.

At the same time, these so-called countries with neutral positions are facing various difficulties concerning climate change, food and energy crises, global health, development, and other such issues. Japan will extend our support for resolving these issues while closely working with these countries. Amidst this, we will promote multilateralism and the free and open international order based on the rule of law.

Reporter: As a UNSC member, how do you intend to deal with China and Russia, which are considered to be the cause of the UN’s dysfunction? Furthermore, though you named Russia in your speech, you avoided calling out China by name. Please tell us the reason for this. Is it correct to understand this as a message expressing your desire to build stable, constructive relations, including your visit to China?

Minister Hayashi: First, with regard to facing Russia and China, Japan, as the G7 host country, will lead the creation of the flow of discussion in the international community from January 2023. We will powerfully show to the world the G7’s strong determination to protect the international order based on the rule of law, including response to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

At the same time, Japan has joined the UNSC in the UN. The UNSC has not been functioning effectively against Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as well as North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities. Japan will contribute so that the UNSC, including China and Russia, fulfills its essential responsibilities. In addition, through strengthening the roles of the UNGA and Secretary-General, we will promote the strengthening of functions of the UN and aim to maintain and strengthen the international order based on the rule of law.

In addition, with regard to China, I did not mention China in my statement. However, at today’s meeting , when I spoke about the importance of the rule of law, I pointed out geopolitical tensions, including in the Indo-Pacific, and emphasized upholding agreements including international rulings as well as not allowing the rewriting of national borders by force or coercion. I believe that this is applicable everywhere in the world, including East Asia.

As for relations with China, as I have consistently stated, it is the Government of Japan’s position that it is important for Japan to state what should be stated and request China to take responsible actions, while promoting efforts by both sides to establish a “constructive and stable Japan-China relationship” in which both sides firmly engage in dialogue, including on various pending issues, and cooperate on various common challenges.

Reporter: Although this may overlap with what you just stated, I would like to ask about UNSC reform. I believe you mentioned the necessity of UNSC reform in your speech today. You stated that Japan will make efforts toward UNSC reform as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. On the other hand, Japan will also hold the G7 Presidency this year, as you just stated. Do you intend to raise UNSC reform during G7 discussions as well?

Minister Hayashi: Japan places great importance on UNSC reform. I mentioned the importance in my speech today. In the future, Japan will persistently work toward realizing UNSC reform at an early stage in cooperation with many countries, including the G4 countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and African countries.

Additionally, as Japan holds G7 Presidency from January this year, we will lead the creation of the flow of discussion in the international community. We will powerfully appeal to the world the G7’s strong determination to protect the international order based on the rule of law, including responding to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Reporter: I would like to ask about the former civilian workers in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs has disclosed that it is considering a plan in which an existing foundation under the umbrella of the Government of the ROK would make payments to the plaintiffs. Please tell us your reaction to this, as well as how the Government of Japan will respond.

Minister Hayashi: I would like to refrain from commenting on every movement within the ROK and every statement by the ROK side.

In any case, during the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting in November 2022, the two leaders concurred again to swiftly resolve the pending issues between the two countries, and diplomatic authorities have been communicating.

Based on the foundation of our friendly cooperative relations built up since the normalization of relations between Japan and the ROK in 1965, we will closely communicate with the Government of the ROK toward restoring healthy Japan-ROK relations and further developing those relations.

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