Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Takeshi Osuga
Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 4:33 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) Agreement
Mr. Takeshi Osuga, Foreign Press Secretary: Based on the Cabinet decision regarding signing the First Protocol to Amend the Japan-ASEAN AJCEP Agreement yesterday, Minister Kono signed it on February 27, today.
This protocol for amendment will add provisions regarding trade in services and movement of natural persons and investment to the current Agreement that focuses on trade of goods.
As the process going forward, the Agreement is planned to be signed by the ASEAN member states taking the opportunity of the Seventh Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional Ministerial Meeting on March 2 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Following this, through the announcement of the finalization of necessary domestic procedures between Japan and at least one of the ASEAN member states, the Agreement will enter into force between the announced countries on the first day of the month after next.
Amidst the worldwide spread of protectionist movements, the conclusion of this protocol for revision can be considered to further maintain and strengthen the free trade system following the TPP11 and the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Going forward, Japan will continue to actively undertake strengthening of the trade system based on free and fair rules.
(2) Japonismes 2018
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: Japonismes 2018, this century’s largest overseas project for introducing Japanese culture, will end at the end of this month following its opening in July last year.
The attendance for the project, which was implemented throughout France centered on Paris, is over three million people, a number which far exceeds the population of Paris. For example, the team Lab digital art exhibition that opened in summer last year recorded about 300,000 visitors, and ranked 4th for the highest attendance for an exhibition in Paris in 2018.
In addition, many French media outlets covered Japonismes, and the number of pieces of coverage exceeded 1,600. The results of the participant questionnaire filled out by about 10,000 people were that 86% said they “began to feel that they want to learn more about Japan,” and 96% said they “began to feel a larger affinity with Japan.” I recognize that Japonismes 2018 helped many foreign people centered in France learn about Japanese culture, and was an opportunity to experience it. Please see the official Japonismes 2018 website for details of the results.
Furthermore, the number of French tourists visiting Japan in 2018 was higher than 300,000 people, a 13.5% increase over the previous year, so it seems that Japonismes 2018 served as one form of motivation to visit Japan for many French people.
Although Japonismes 2018 will end this month, two projects for Japanese culture communication and exchange respectively will be implemented: Japan 2019 in the United States from March to the end of this year, and Asia in Resonance 2019 in 10 ASEAN countries and Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will continue its efforts to communicate Japanese culture overseas and create momentum toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
(3) Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS 2018)
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: From February 28 to March 7, 159 U-19 female soccer players and related people will visit Japan from seven ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam) to participate in the Japan-ASEAN Sports Exchange (Girls’ Soccer).
The group will visit Okinawa Prefecture, and a joint practice and exchange match and other events will be held with players from eight countries including Japan under the cooperation of the Japan Football Association. In addition, during their stay, the players from all the countries will tour historic buildings, have cultural experiences, and more.
Through this program, it is expected that the participants will deepen their friendships, and that each of the participants from overseas will deepen their understanding of Japan and become active communicators of Japan’s charms after they return to their countries.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask about the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. There is a view that a declaration of the end of the war will be issued during the meeting, so what is Japan’s view on what the declaration should be? Also, some people are voicing concerns that this will affect the United States Forces Korea, the United States Forces Japan, and the United Nations forces, so what is your view on this?
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: The second U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting is just about to start, so I would like to refrain from commenting based on speculation about the future movements and results. However, Japan strongly expects that this summit meeting will lead to the resolution of the abductions issue as well as the issues of weapons of mass destruction and missiles.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I wanted to ask you about a declaration of the end of the war.
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: Japan is not one of the parties concerned for the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, so I would like to refrain from commenting about the content based on speculation.
NHK, Nishii: I believe Director-General Kanasugi is on location, so what kinds of reports is he making to the MOFA regarding the current state of activities there?
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: Director-General Kanasugi is visiting Hanoi. He is conducting information gathering and other activities.
NHK, Nishii: What do you mean specifically by information gathering?
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: I would like to refrain from commenting on the details any further.
Visit By a High Russian Official to the Northern Territories
Kyodo News, Nakakuki: In regard to the visit by a high Russian official to Shikotan Island, there was an explanation at the Chief Cabinet Secretary press conference that “a protest was lodged that it was incompatible with Japan’s legal position and unacceptable.” Can you please explain what specifically Japan’s legal position is?
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: I believe that has been explained repeatedly in press conferences, so I would like to refrain from giving a detailed explanation of the legal position in case it negatively affects the negotiations.
Confinement of a Japanese National in Venezuela
Nikkei Shimbun, Kohara: There are reports that a Japanese woman who entered Venezuela from Brazil cannot leave the country. Can you please tell us the status of the response by the MOFA?
Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: I am aware of the reports. The Embassy of Japan in Venezuela has confirmed that a Japanese national, a female traveler in her 40s, is in Bolívar state in Venezuela. The embassy is providing necessary support to the extent possible to contact the Japanese national and her family and other support from the viewpoint of protecting Japanese nationals.