Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Norio Maruyama
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 4:35 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Japan's Friendship Ties Program
Mr. Norio Maruyama, Foreign Press Secretary: Under JENESYS2017, the Japan's Friendship Ties Program, 24 university students and others from India, 18 media personnel and others from Malaysia, and about 100 media personnel from China are currently visiting Japan from this week to next week.
The Indian students are visiting Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Shimane prefecture, the Malaysian group is visiting Tokyo and Miyagi prefecture, and the Chinese personnel are visiting Ishikawa, Shizuoka, and Hyogo prefecture.
There are many programs, with some involving home stays in local areas with opportunities to interact with people living there. Through such programs, it is expected that participants will gain a multi-faceted understanding of Japan and actively promote Japan’s charms.
(2) The Japan House Advisory Board
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: The Japan House Advisory Board is taking place in Tokyo on October 23.
The board will review progress at Japan House in São Paulo, which was launched in April 2017, and discuss the state of preparations for sites planned to open next in London and Los Angeles as well as the business plan going forward, and other matters.
Participants in the meeting are planned to include Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials; Kenya Hara, the chief creative director of Japan House; and domestic experts who are members of the advisory board. Other planned attendees are the person holding the director and secretariat head positions at the São Paulo, London, and Los Angeles locations and important members from local secretariats.
Announcement of the Liberation of Raqqa, the Main Base of ISIL
NHK, Tsuji: Although the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary also spoke about this at today’s press conference, please explain the Japanese Government’s position regarding media reports on the fall of Raqqa.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I am aware of media reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the liberation of Raqqa, the main base of ISIL, on October 17 local time. ISIL had dominated Raqqa since 2014 as its capital, and progress in liberating Raqqa is an important first step toward peace and stability in Syria. However, ISIL still controls territory in Syria and severe humanitarian conditions are continuing, including large numbers of refugees and internal evacuees.
Japan supports the fight against terrorism by the international community and intends to continue to contribute in non-military areas, such as humanitarian assistance, while working closely with related countries and international organizations toward realization of peace and stability in Syria. Further, in addition to ISIL countermeasures, it is necessary to make more effort going forward in development of political solutions in order to solve the Syrian crisis. Japan intends to promote dialogue among Syrians as well.
Asahi Shimbun, Matsui: I have a question about UNESCO. The UNESCO Executive Board is expected to begin discussing system reforms to the Memory of the World Register soon. Please review the Japanese Government’s current stance again and address whether Japan might exit too following the US withdrawal from UNESCO.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Japan believes that system reforms are needed urgently. We have been consistently working to ensure that the Memory of the World Register, the program currently being discussed, is implemented in accordance with the original intent and purpose behind the establishment of UNESCO, namely to promote friendship and mutual understanding among member countries.
Regarding the US withdrawal, Japan is aware of the announcement in a statement by the Department of State on October 12 that “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.” This is a decision made by the Government of the United States and as such I would like to refrain from making any comment on behalf of the Government of Japan. I understand, however, that U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018 and that the United States will maintain a relationship with UNESCO as a non-member observer state. The Government will continue to cooperate with the US side on UNESCO.
Reporter: On the possibility of a withdrawal by the Japanese Government, some academics are asserting that Japan should withdraw if documents related to comfort women are registered. What are your thoughts on this point?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: While I would like to refrain from answering a hypothetical question, Japan intends to continue efforts to ensure that the Memory of the World Register adheres to UNESCO’s original intent and purpose of promoting friendship and mutual understanding among member countries.
National Congress of the Communist Party of China
Jiji Press, Utsumi: The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is held once every five years, started today. In his opening remarks, General Secretary Xi Jinping clarified China’s goal of becoming a major power that leads the world. What were your thoughts about this Political Report and how does Japan intend to proceed in the Japan-China relations in this context?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Regarding the Political Report conducted during the morning of October 18, Japan is aware that General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping gave his report, and is paying close attention to this. However, I would like to refrain from commenting in detail on content from an activities report by the political party of another country.
As to your question about the Japan-China relations, Japan and China have significant responsibility in ensuring peace and prosperity in the international society as the two major countries in this region. It is essential to build a stable cooperative relationship. In particular, Japan must work closely with China in dealing with North Korea because China is the chair country of the Six Party Talks and a permanent member of the UN Security Council and accounts for 90% of trade with North Korea.
This year is the 45th anniversary of normalization of diplomatic relations and next year is the 40th anniversary of conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China. Although difficult issues exist because Japan and China are neighboring countries, Japan sees these anniversaries as opportunities and intends to seek further improvement in relations from a broad perspective in keeping with the concept of a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interest” by properly handling outstanding concerns while also promoting cooperation and people-to-people exchanges in all areas.