Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 4:22 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Philippines

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, March 19, toward starting the system for Specified Skilled Workers in April this year, a memorandum of cooperation will be signed between the related Japanese ministries and agencies and the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines with aims including the elimination of malicious intermediary organizations. Japan is conducting discussions toward creating memorandums of cooperation with nine countries, and this memorandum of cooperation with the Philippines is the first to be signed. Through this memorandum of cooperation, I expect quick sharing of information such as on malicious intermediary organizations, and the implementation of discussions for correcting the issues obstructing the appropriate application of the system.

In addition to the planned signing with Cambodia on March 25, signing and exchange are planned for memorandums of cooperation with Nepal and Myanmar soon. It is planned to sign memorandums of cooperation with the other countries as soon as the discussions are concluded.

(2) The second “Think of Okinawa’s Future in the United States” program (TOFU program)

Minister Kono: The 24 high school and university students from Okinawa Prefecture participating in the second TOFU program are scheduled to be dispatched to the United States from March 20-27.

This program dispatches young people who will shoulder the future of Okinawa to the United States. In addition to aiming to provide opportunities for English education through exchanges of views with people concerned and various visits, it is not limited to just increasing English skills as language study. By having the participants directly view our ally the United States as it is now, I expect that they will broaden their outlook regarding Japan’s role in the international community, use the visit to enable growing to become human resources who can think about the future of Okinawa from a wider perspective, and become helpers for the internationalization of Okinawa. The participants will visit Washington D.C. and New York, and are scheduled to visit U.S. federal government organizations and the United Nations Headquarters.

I believe I met the program participants last year in the United States.

(3) Regional Revitalization Support: Joint Reception with the Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture

Minister Kono: On March 25, as part of the “Regional Revitalization Support Utilizing the Iikura Guest House for External Communication Project,” a joint reception is scheduled to be held with the Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture at the Iikura Guest House. It is targeted at diplomatic corps in Japan, foreign chambers of commerce in Japan, overseas press, and others, and aims to convey the diverse charms of the regions such as culture, history, and industry, both inside and outside Japan. I believe it was in June 2018 that the “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition to widely introducing such historic culture, it is also aimed at extensively introducing the prefecture’s products such as wagyu beef, marine products, and fruit.

Signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Philippines

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: This is in relation to the agreement on the system for Specified Skilled Workers you explained in your opening remarks. In the sense of accepting such foreign people, there are many previous examples from municipalities throughout Japan, and there is also the example of the national government concluding an agreement to protect various intern trainees accepted independently. It would be important for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to gather such examples and consider the policy, but I believe MOFA does not really have regional branch offices and exchanges have been sparse. As many foreign people will be accepted going forward, do you have any thoughts about cooperation with municipalities?

Minister Kono: I believe MOFA will primarily conduct various exchanges with other countries. Under the current technical intern trainee system, there are extremely malicious intermediary organizations, such as ones that take deposits of money overseas, and currently efforts are being undertaken to prevent that at the origin countries such as Viet Nam. MOFA is working with foreign countries, rather than regional municipalities and others, to create a framework so such issues do not arise. In terms of inside Japan, I believe that the response will be by various ministries and agencies centered on the Immigration Bureau.

Act on Names and Locations of Overseas Diplomatic Establishments and Salary of Diplomats Serving Overseas Diplomatic Establishments

NHK, Koizumi: The amendment of the Act on Names and Locations of Overseas Diplomatic Establishments and Salary of Diplomats Serving Overseas Diplomatic Establishments passed in today’s plenary session of the House of Representatives. I believe that the “vu” sounds in the Japanese spellings of the country names of Saint Christopher and Nevis and Cabo Verde will be gotten rid of in the act. I would like to ask you again about your reaction to the amendment of this act and the effect on diplomacy. Also, many country names were changed in 2003 and I have heard you had strong thoughts on this, so can you please base your answer on that?

Minister Kono: In the past, MOFA did not use the Japanese spelling (“Yorudan”) of Jordan when writing “the Embassy of Japan in Jordan, and “the Embassy of Japan in the United Kingdom” for the one in England (Igirisu in Japanese). Norway was written as “Nooruuee” instead of “Noruuee,” Viet Nam was written as “Betonamu” instead of “Vietonamu,” and New York as “NyuuYooku” instead of “Nyuu Yooku.” The names were written different from the typical way in Japanese so sometimes changes to the names were requested. MOFA at the time was stubborn and would not accept it and even said things like, “If we change the Japanese spelling from “Jorudan” to “Yorudan,” Japanese tourists overseas will get lost.”

When I became Parliamentary Vice Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications appointed a fixed number of personnel, and the written request for a Cabinet meeting to discuss this was rejected. I looked at the world map at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and there was no country called Jorudan. When it was said that the table in the act was strange and this was rejected, then-State Minister for Foreign Affairs Sugiura rushed in and said, “They’ll all be fixed, so please somehow have a Cabinet meeting request for discussions,” and the reply was, “Go ahead.” Minister Shikata, now at the Japanese Embassy in China, was in charge and fixed all the names.

After that, if country names and place names are changed, they are changed in accordance with the local place’s pronunciation. This time the unfamiliar names using a consonant with an “u” sound will later be changed to familiar names. There will be a change to the country name of Swaziland and it was decided to change two country names with an “u” sound with a consonant.

White Paper on Antiterrorism Measures in Xinjiang

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about the human rights issue for the Uyghur people in China. The State Council Information Office issued a white paper with the theme of "the Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang." The white paper states that about 13,000 people it calls terrorists have been restricted, 2,000 explosive devices have been seized, and over 4,800 cases of illegal religious activities were cracked down on. What is your view on whether Japan, which respects democracy and freedom of thought and speech, needs to convey concerns regarding this issue to China?

Minister Kono: From the viewpoint of antiterrorism measures, there are also portions that are being called human rights violations. The Government of Japan will closely monitor this and will raise the issue with China if necessary.

Regulation of Social Media

Jiji Press, Echigo: In relation to the terrorism in New Zealand, Prime Minister Morrison of Australia stated in relation to this incident that the suspect used social media to broadcast the entire incident and the streaming of this was a problem. He also stated that he wants discussions in the G20 about strengthening restrictions so video streaming of such incidents and crimes does not occur on social media. What are your thoughts on this, since Japan holds the G20 presidency?

strong>Minister Kono: I have not directly read or heard Prime Minister Morrison’s statement. I believe that how to regulate social media is a very difficult issue and that it does not mean one incident changes an international trend. There are also aspects that have been made convenient by social media and naturally there are also portions that have developed difficult circumstances. There are countries that are wondering what to do about fake news or are saying they will regulate it, but there are various issues such as how to judge whether something is fake news, so I believe it is necessary to have discussions. However, I cannot say anything about whether there would be discussions about jumping in one direction.

Act on Names and Locations of Overseas Diplomatic Establishments and Salary of Diplomats Serving Overseas Diplomatic Establishments

NHK, Koizumi: I have one more question regarding the amendment to the act from before. To add to what you stated earlier, can you please comment a little more on the effects on diplomacy and the recognition of regular people?

Minister Kono: There is a considerable number of Japanese people who think that because there is an embassy in “Jorudan,” that is a different country from “Yorudan,” and I believe that there are people who would realize that the Japanese spelling with kanji characters for the United Kingdom referred to that if you told them. If it was said that there is a merit for the people of Japan to use names different from generally-used names, there is absolutely no merit, so MOFA should standardize the names so they are easy to understand and generally familiar. This is not limited to country names and place names, and there have been various discussions on people’s names such as Japanese spellings of “Kashogi” or “Kaashokushi” for Khashoggi. “Kashogi” would be the preference if the view was that there should be a spelling as close as possible to the original name’s pronunciation, but now there is the opinion that if it is changed people will think it is a different person, so I think it is particularly difficult for people’s names. In the case of North Korea, hangul characters are used so it is not very standardized for how to write some people’s names in kanji characters. In order for there to be no misunderstandings among Japanese people, MOFA will work together with the media, various publications, and others so that many Japanese people can understand about country names and people’s names.

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