Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 1:29 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-U.S. Critical Minerals Agreement (CMA)
NHK, Iwasawa: I would like to ask about the Japan-U.S. trade agreement. An act passed last year by the Biden administration included a tax incentive for consumers who purchase EVs. However, there were conditions, including critical minerals used in the storage batteries, and the Government of Japan has been requesting a review of the act You have also mentioned this before in foreign ministers’ meetings. What were the circumstances of the subsequent talks with the United States, and the outcomes of the negotiations on the agreement?
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: With regard to the tax incentives for EVs under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, Japan is concerned that the tax incentives are not consistent with the initiatives for supply chain resilience that Japan, the United States, and other like-minded countries, are cooperating to promote. We have conveyed our view to the United States through various channels, including at the summit level.
Amidst this, based on the discussion at the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting in January, Japan and the United States have been holding talks to prepare a document determining cooperation on strengthening the supply chain of critical minerals. As a result of these talks, we have recently reached an agreement on the content of the “Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States on Strengthening Critical Minerals Supply Chains.” The agreement has been signed today at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington D.C. between Ambassador of Japan to the United States TOMITA Koji and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
Facing the prospect of a significant increase in demand for EV batteries, it is urgent to secure critical minerals which are essential to the production of clean vehicles. The Agreement is envisaged to build robust supply chains through coordination between Japan and the U.S. and among like-minded countries with strengthened cooperation for ensuring sustainable and equitable supply chains for such critical minerals.
In addition, following the necessary process of the United States, Japan is expected to become a “signatory to an FTA with the United States” under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. As a result, it is expected that relevant critical minerals extracted or processed in Japan will qualify for tax credits under the EV tax incentives of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Russia’s Decision to Deploy Tactical Nuclear Weapons to Belarus
Asahi Shimbun, Uechi: I would like to ask about Russia’s announcement of its policy to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. What is your recognition of the threat of use of nuclear weapons by President Putin, and how do you analyze Russia’s aims? Also, in the case of deployment, would Japan consider strengthening sanctions against Belarus?
Minister Hayashi: As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during the war, Japan considers the threat, much less the use, of nuclear weapons by Russia to be absolutely unacceptable.
I am not in a position to comment on the background of Russia’s decision. However, I condemn the reported statement by President Putin regarding the decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, as it will further escalate the situation as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine.
Japan will continue to demand Russia and Belarus to cease such actions that may increase tensions, and will continue to monitor the situation with keen interest.
With regard to sanctions against Belarus, Japan has implemented sanctions on individuals including President Lukashenko, sanctions on organizations, as well as an export ban, due to the current situation surrounding Ukraine. We will continue to appropriately respond in cooperation with the international community, including the G7.
Detainment of a Japanese National in China
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask about the case in which a Japanese male employee of Astellas Pharma Inc. was detained in China. Please tell us an update on the current situation, including the man’s health conditions after his detainment, whether the Government of Japan has been able to directly meet with him, and whether there was any explanation from China regarding the circumstances leading up to his detainment.
Minister Hayashi: We have had no direct contact with the Japanese national since he was detained. From the perspective of protecting Japanese nationals, we will continue to strongly demand the Chinese side for his early release and consular visits.
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: I would like to ask a related question. What are your thoughts on the impact of this incident on Japan-China relations? In addition, at the Japan-China Summit Meeting in November last year, Prime Minister Kishida made a request to the Chinese side regarding incidents of Japanese nationals being detained, but similar incidents continue to occur. What is your reaction to this situation? Please tell us whether or not you are thinking of making a high-level request to the Chinese side in the future.
Minister Hayashi: There are many challenges and pending issues between China and Japan, including this matter. Precisely because of these challenges and pending issues, I believe that it is important to state what needs to be stated to China and to engage in candid exchanges.
To this date, the Government of Japan has requested China at various levels and through various opportunities to implement the early repatriation of detained Japanese nationals and ensure transparency in judicial processes. Recently, Prime Minister Kishida and I made such requests based on Japan’s position, with Prime Minister Kishida made a request during the Japan-China Summit Meeting in November 2022, and I made a request during the Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk in February 2023.
Amidst this, we take very seriously the fact that a similar incident has occurred again. Japan will continue to strongly demand the early release of detained Japanese nationals at various levels and through various opportunities.
Russia’s Drill with Firing of Cruise Missiles in the Sea of Japan
TBS, Nakajima: The Russian military has launched anti-ship cruise missiles in the Sea of Japan. Such military activities have been increasing in the vicinity of Japan. Please tell us your reaction, and whether the Government of Japan is considering any kind of response.
Minister Hayashi: I am aware that on March 28, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that it had implemented a drill in which missile boats from its Pacific Fleet launched cruise missiles in the Sea of Japan.
I am also aware that according to Russian press reports, the Pacific Fleet conducted this drill in Peter the Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok. We have not received any information that any damage was caused.
Amidst Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, the Russian military is becoming increasingly active in the Far East, including in the vicinity of Japan. The Government of Japan will continue to monitor such moves by the Russian military.
Start of Online Applications for Passports
NHK, Iwasawa: I would like to ask about online passport applications. Yesterday, online application for new passport issuance and renewals have begun. Please tell us about the current situation, including the latest number of online applications compared to the number of applications made in person at counters. In addition, please tell us what efforts MOFA will make to ensure smooth applications.
Minister Hayashi: Online passport applications began yesterday, and we have already received 776 applications in one day.
At this point, more people are applying in-person at counters than online, but we will continue to firmly carry out public relations activities to promote the use of online applications.
We will continue to steadily promote online consular services in order to further improve convenience for the people of Japan and to streamline administrative work.