Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Sunday, February 5, 2023, 6:10 p.m. ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Okayama
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting Okayama Prefecture today with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Takei for the third round of the “Local to Global” Project that aims to promote the attractiveness of regional areas of Japan worldwide. In Kurashiki City, nine ambassadors to Japan and I visited charm-filled sightseeing spots with long histories and textile-related industrial facilities unique to Okayama, which made me feel again their potential.
In addition, we held exchanges of views with the Governor of Okayama Prefecture, the Mayor of Kurashiki City, and members of the local business representatives, and had deep discussions on promoting the attractiveness of Japan’s regional areas and about Japan’s foreign policy. In particular, Kurashiki City is scheduled to hold the G7 Kurashiki Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in April 2023. We held significant discussions on public-private partnerships and the expansion of inbound tourism demand, including leveraging opportunities such as the G7 meeting.
Moreover, until just a while ago, I held a round-table dialogue with people here in Okayama City, including youths, who are active in diverse fields. We had a very significant discussion on expansion of inbound tourism, overseas expansion of Japanese agricultural products and technologies, and other such matters. Among people who participated in the round-table dialogue, there was a person who is involved in support activities for Ukraine. I expressed appreciation for the active efforts of the people of Okayama Prefecture in supporting Ukraine, including the acceptance of Ukrainian evacuees.
The Government of Japan has been promoting the acceptance of Ukrainian evacuees into Japan, and more than 2,200 Ukrainian evacuees have entered Japan. In addition, the Government of Japan has provided a total of approximately $1.5 billion in assistance to Ukraine and its neighboring countries. In cooperation with the international community, the Government of Japan will continue to stand with and provide assistance to the Ukrainian people who are facing difficulties. Based on the knowledge and views of the local people that I have heard through this visit, I will continue to take the lead with public-private partnerships to leverage the vitality of Japan’s regional areas for foreign policy as well as to stimulate inbound tourism demand by promoting the attractiveness of regional areas of Japan worldwide. That is all from me.
Reporter: As you mentioned, Kurashiki City, which you visited today, is scheduled to hold the G7 Kurashiki Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting. Please tell us your thoughts on what will be communicated to the world through the 2023 G7 Summit and related ministerial meetings in light of matters such as Russia’s prolonged aggression against Ukraine.
In addition, it will soon be one year since the start of Russia’s aggression. As it is expected that evacuees from Ukraine to Japan will have to continue such a lifestyle for a prolonged period of time, please tell us the status of consideration for matters such as new support measures.
In addition, Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister Arai has been dismissed due to a discriminatory statement surrounding same-sex marriage. Please tell us your thoughts as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, which is the host country for the G7 Summit this year, on how this issue will be handled.
Minister Hayashi: Yes, first, in terms of the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is now undermining the very foundation of the international community. I believe that the international community is at a historic turning point. Amidst this situation, the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Karuizawa, Nagano, and the G7 Hiroshima Summit will be held. We would like to powerfully show the world the G7’s strong determination to resolutely reject unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and threats through nuclear weapons as Russia has done, as well as to defend the international order based on the rule of law.
In addition, in the Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting, the G7 will gather to discuss that theme. I was very impressed today when I visited Ivy Square, which was covered with ivy all over the place. I heard that the management of the time had the area covered in ivy in consideration of the workers’ environment, to ensure that the area did not become too cold. I thought it was wonderful to hold the Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in such a place where the tradition are preserved.
I will also answer about it being one year since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. Japan places importance on providing humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people facing difficulties in Ukraine and its neighboring countries. We have stood with and steadily implemented support for the Ukrainian people. As part of this, Japan has accepted and supported people who evacuated from Ukraine to third-party countries in cooperation with the relevant ministries and agencies. As I mentioned earlier, more than 2,200 Ukrainian evacuees have entered Japan. The Government of Ukraine has repeatedly expressed gratitude for this support for the evacuees. As for MOFA, in order to quickly advance the acceptance of Ukrainian evacuees who wish to travel to Japan, we are providing and disseminating information to evacuees, and simplifying the application documents for visas as much as possible to swiftly conduct reviews and issuance. In cooperation with the international community including the G7, Japan will continue to appropriately grasp the needs, stand with and support the Ukrainian people who are facing difficulties, including the evacuees.
In addition, with regard to the matter of the statement by the Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister which you mentioned, I believe that what Prime Minister Kishida yesterday. As the Prime Minister stated, the Government of Japan’s basic policy is to respect diversity, to value human rights and dignity of all people, and to continue to listen to various people and work toward realizing a harmonious society in which people enjoy vibrant lives. I believe that the Government must continue its efforts to again carefully explain this both within and outside the country.
I will firmly fulfill my responsibilities in my position as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Reporter: Now that your visit is over, please tell us your impressions of Okayama and Kurashiki.
Minister Hayashi: Yes, first, with regard to Okayama, as I stated earlier, I was able to directly hear from people active in various fields about their views and experiences in their daily lives in the local area, and thought was wonderful that they are promoting the local attractions. I could sense the solid future of Okayama. I believe that the international exchanges and cultural activities rooted in warm feelings, advanced technologies, and agricultural endeavors were what I was greatly resonate with.
In addition, as for Kurashiki, in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, which has a harmonious mixture of traditional Japanese merchant houses and western-style buildings, I enjoyed the extremely beautiful townscape that was bathed in weather apropos for Okayama, the Land of Sunshine. I also visited the textile-related industrial facilities and sensed that Kurashiki has been shaped as a “textile town interweaving Japanese and Western textures” over its long history. Furthermore, because the area was created through land reclamation, choosing what to produce on the land with salt left behind, such as cotton and rush, led to the flourishing of the textile industry based on the cotton, and the city developed amidst that history.
I requested the nine ambassadors who accompanied me to upload wonderful attractions they saw on social media and elsewhere to share to the world. I believe that this was extremely important, and was a significant opportunity.
Reporter: As you mentioned in your opening remarks, there is the idea to use the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting held in Kurashiki City as a stepping stone to promote inbound tourism and attract international conferences. What support can MOFA provide for such an initiative?
Minister Hayashi: As I explained in detail, through this visit, I fully sensed the abundant tourism resources related to nature, history, food, culture, and more in Kurashiki and Okayama. Additionally, private companies and organizations, including the textile-related industries, are active on the world stage, and I felt that the cities have strengths in these areas. MOFA will leverage these strengths to promote the attractiveness of Japan’s regional areas and support the expansion of inbound tourism and attraction of international conferences through visa easing measures in cooperation with relevant agencies and ministries, including the Japan Tourism Agency.