Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Sunday, April 2, 2023, 3:11 p.m. Beijing
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This visit to China is the first by a Japanese Foreign Minister in three years and three months. I just held my first in-person Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with H.E. Mr. Qin Gang, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, for approximately 180 minutes, including a small-group meeting for 60 minutes. Afterwards, we held a working lunch for 45 minutes.
I think it is significant that Minister Qin and I held candid, face-to-face discussions today over several hours, including on various issues of concern.
At the outset, I stated, among other matters, that while Japan and China share various possibilities, we face many challenges and serious concerns, and that the Japan-China relationship is now standing at a critical juncture. I hope that both sides will continue making efforts to put the common understanding shared by the two leaders into practice. Minister Qin indicated that he was of the same view.
Following these remarks, I first made a protest regarding the recent incident of the detention of a Japanese national in Beijing and strongly reiterated Japan’s resolute position on this matter, including the Japanese national’s swift release.
In addition, I reiterated Japan’s serious concerns about matters such as the situation in the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, and the intensification of Chinese military activities near Japan, which include joint exercises with Russia. We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining communication, including in security-related areas. From this standpoint, we shared our appreciation for the resumption of the Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs, which is to be held in person for the first time in four years, and welcomed the operationalization of the hotline between defense authorities of the two countries under the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism on March 31. Furthermore, I highlighted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. I also reiterated Japan’s serious concerns over the situation in the South China Sea.
I clearly reiterated Japan’s position regarding the discharge of ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) treated water into the ocean. Moreover, I again expressed Japan’s serious concerns with regard to situations including in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
In terms of promoting economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, over which our leaders shared views at their meeting in November 2022, I pointed out the need to ensure an appropriate environment, and strongly urged China to ensure a transparent, predictable, and fair business environment and guarantee the safety and legitimate economic activities of Japanese companies. I also expressed strong concerns regarding increased attempts to force technology disclosures and transfers of technology. I also strongly called for the prompt lifting of import restrictions on Japanese food products.
With regard to regional situations, I referred to Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to Ukraine, and called on China to play a responsible role in maintaining international peace and security. We also exchanged views on the regional situation, such as the response to North Korea including the abductions issue, the nuclear and missile programs, cooperation in the forum of the United Nations, and also on international issues.
Regarding regional cooperation, today, we particularly exchanged views on the importance of the trilateral Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) processes, and concurred to resume trilateral processes, including at the leader and foreign ministerial levels.
In addition, Minister Qin and I concurred on continuing close communication at all levels, including at the leader and foreign ministerial levels.
Later today, I will pay a courtesy call on H.E. Mr. Li Qiang, Premier of the State Council, and hold a meeting with H.E. Mr. Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. I hope to exchange views taking into account the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting I just had, and from an even broader perspective. That is all from me.
Reporter: You just explained about today’s meeting, but could you tell us what in particular were the major outcomes of the meeting? Conversely, what challenges have come to light?
Minister Hayashi: At the meeting, I strongly reiterated Japan’s position on the immediate issue of the detention of a Japanese national as well as on security-related areas. At the same time, because our countries face these issues, both sides need to continue communicating, including at the high level. Minister Qin and I exchanged candid views that covered those issues, and concurred on continuing close communication at all levels, including at the leader and foreign ministerial levels. In relation to this, we also exchanged views on the importance of the trilateral Japan-China-ROK processes and concurred to resume trilateral processes, including at the leader and foreign ministerial levels, which I think was an important outcome of the meeting. We will continue to state what should be stated and request China to take responsible actions, while closely communicating with China to promote efforts to establish a “constructive and stable Japan-China relationship” in which both sides firmly engage in dialogue, and cooperate on various common challenges.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the detention of the Japanese national that you mentioned. Could you please tell us in more detail how you reiterated Japan’s position to China, as well as what their response was and whether any concrete progress was made toward the swift release of the Japanese national?
Minister Hayashi: At today’s meeting, I made a protest to Minister Qin and strongly reiterated Japan’s resolute position on this matter, including the Japanese national’s swift release. I would like to refrain from answering any further about our discussion, including my counterpart’s remarks, as it was a diplomatic discussion, as well as about the outlook and other aspects due to the nature of the matter. The safety and security of Japanese nationals overseas is a matter of extremely high priority for MOFA, and we will continue to do our utmost to protect Japanese nationals.
Reporter: Japan will host the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this month and the G7 Summit in Hiroshima next month. As the G7 Presidency, how will Japan utilize the outcomes of this visit to China for discussions at the meetings?
Minister Hayashi: At the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the G7 Hiroshima Summit, we intend to discuss a range of issues facing the Indo-Pacific region, including China. During this visit to China, as I stated earlier, I held candid discussions with China based on a common awareness of the issues shared by G7 members, including international issues such as Ukraine and the response to North Korea. As the G7 Presidency, Japan will fully take into account such discussions in leading the discussions of the G7 process.
Reporter: Outside of Japan, the U.S.-China friction is becoming more intense. If their confrontation heightens any further, Japan may suffer [inaudible] on the front line. What role can Japan’s diplomacy fulfill in the U.S.-China relations? In this context, what discussions will the Government of Japan hold at the meetings and how will you gain China’s understanding on issues over which Japan and China have differing views, such as treated water fromnuclear power plant, export controls on semiconductors, and restrictions on group tours to Japan?
I would also like to ask a follow-up question regarding the detention of the Japanese national. The detainee is an individual who has long led the business community in Beijing. The reason for the detention is completely unknown, raising concerns among Japanese nationals in China that they may be next. Some companies are refraining from making business trips to China, and there are fears that the situation could shake the foundation of the Japan-China economic relationship. What are your thoughts regarding the impact of the detention on the overall Japan-China relationship?
Minister Hayashi: A stable U.S.-China relationship is vital for the international community. Japan will continue to call on China to fulfill its responsibility as a major power, while advancing our cooperation in a range of areas with the strong relationship of trust between Japan and our ally the United States. In addition, with regard to the discharge of ALPS treated water into the ocean, I protested China’s remarks to the international community that are not based on scientific evidence, and requested that China make conclusions that are based on such evidence. I also stated that Japan’s export controls on semiconductor manufacturing equipment are not targeted at specific countries, and that Japan will continue to address the matter appropriately, under our policy of implementing strict export controls in a manner consistent with international rules, and with the view of maintaining international peace and security. We did not discuss restrictions on group tours.
While there are differences in opinion between Japan and China, including those issues, I believe Minister Qin and I were able to deepen our mutual understanding through today’s in-person discussions, and we intend to continue close communication at various levels.
Regarding the detention incident, as I just mentioned, I made a protest to Minister Qin and strongly reiterated Japan’s resolute position on this matter, including the Japanese national’s swift release. Japan is calling on China for the swift release of the Japanese national, the swift realization of consular visits, and more generally, transparency in the judicial process. Japan will persistently continue to reach out to China at various levels, taking into account the range of issues that were mentioned earlier.