Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Takeshi Osuga

Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 4:34 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Public Opinion Survey on Foreign Policy

Mr. Takeshi Osuga, Foreign Press Secretary: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) conducts a public opinion survey in Japan on foreign policy each fiscal year. The results of the FY2018 survey that took place at the end of March 2019 have been compiled, and I would like to report a portion of them.

In regard to items asked every year, firstly the survey found “favorable” assessment by 75.6% of respondents regarding “Diplomacy Taking a panoramic perspective of the World Map.” In regard to another item asked every year, “the security environment surrounding the East Asia region,” 86.7% of respondents answered that it is “becoming increasingly severe.” For the survey this time, there were also questions on the “points that should be used to appeal to the world for holding the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games,” “areas of interest among the agenda items for the G20 Osaka Summit” to be held this year in June, and “areas that Japan should particularly concentrate on in diplomacy with Africa” in relation to TICAD7 in August.

Furthermore, in regard to the policy to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission decided at the end of last year and to resume commercial whaling, there was favorable assessment by about 67% of respondents, which greatly exceeded those who answered, “Do not really approve.”

The details of the latest survey results will be presented on the MOFA website later.

Northern Territories Issue (Giving Up on an Agreement in Principle at the G20 Summit)

Kyodo News, Hara: There are reports that the Government of Japan has decided it would be difficult to advance negotiations for concluding a peace treaty at the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting scheduled to take place at the G20 Summit in June, shifted to a policy of hurrying implementation of the joint economic activities. What are the facts of the matter?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: I am aware of the reports, but as I am always saying, I would like to refrain from responding because commenting on Japan’s negotiation policy and way of thinking outside the negotiations could have a negative impact on those negotiations.

If I were to say anything else, at their Summit Meeting in Singapore, Prime Minister Abe and President Putin shared the strong determination to absolutely resolve the Northern Territories issue themselves without leaving it to the next generation.

In any event, under the basic policy of resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty, the Government of Japan’s position is to continue to persevere in the negotiations.

Case Concerning Former Ambassador to Iran Kinichi Komano

Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: I would like to ask about the case in which criminal charges were filed by a female staff member after she alleges she was sexually harassed by the former Ambassador to Iran. At Minister Kono’s press conference yesterday, he stated that MOFA warned the former Ambassador, so is it correct to understand that this means that MOFA acknowledges that sexual harassment took place?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: I am aware that criminal charges have been filed against Former Ambassador to Iran Komano. Through the present, MOFA has sincerely taken measures as much as possible, including cooperating with the police as in this case, based on the intention of the victims who sometimes arise in cases. In regard to your other point, I would like to refrain from commenting as the police procedure is ongoing.

Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: There are also reports of suspicions about the former Ambassador to Kenya, who has already resigned. Can you please explain MOFA’s reaction to the continuance of such cases, as well as if there are any initiatives such as measures by MOFA for preventing recurrence?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: As Minister Kono stated at the press conference yesterday, sexual harassment is something that cannot be forgiven, and MOFA handles cases in which sexual harassment is confirmed with severe punishment.

To explain general measures, efforts are exerted to above all else create an atmosphere in which it is easy to have consultations regarding sexual harassment through the establishment of a consultation service regarding sexual harassment, implementing an annual survey in which it is possible to report work conditions at overseas diplomatic missions in particular, sending reminders concerning sexual harassment prevention once per month through the LAN system, and implementing training on sexual harassment prevention. Based on the current case, we will exert efforts to raise awareness among staff by further enhancing the training content for all staff including those in top positions, and handle cases of confirmed sexual harassment with severe punishment.

Writing Names of Japanese People Using the English Alphabet

Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: At the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors yesterday, Minister Kono stated that his name is written in the order of surname and then first name on his business card in English, and indicated that this is an idea the entire Government needs to consider. Can you please tell us if there is currently a standardized rule at MOFA for writing Japanese names using the English alphabet, whether going forward names on staff business cards in English will be written in the order of surname and then first name, or whether such a response is being considered?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: Currently nothing has been decided regarding handling names written using the English alphabet. It is my recognition that this is a matter that needs to be fully discussed by the people concerned going forward.

Public Opinion Survey on Foreign Policy

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: I would like to hear your answer if it is possible. As you mentioned in your opening remarks when you introduced the results of the public opinion survey on foreign policy, over 86% of the respondents answered that the situation in East Asia is becoming increasingly severe. What are the thoughts of MOFA on the main background factors for this?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: The details will be in the materials to be announced later. There were many different questions and we would like this to be referenced, and would also like the numbers for questions posed in the same way last year to be referenced on the MOFA website. To speak about the prevailing opinion, I recognize that the severity and uncertainty of the security environment are increasing due to various factors including North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, China’s strengthening military capacity that lacks transparency, the situations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism that is becoming increasingly serious, and matters happening in new areas, namely cyberspace and outer space. I believe the results this time reflect this.

The Republic of Korea (ROK)’s Import Restrictions on Fishery Products, Report By the Appellate Body of the World Trade Center (WTO)

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: I have one more question. In regard to the Appellate Body of the WTO issuing a report last week with content that negated the major judgment by the initial panel, there was a discussion in the Liberal Democratic Party’s Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and people related to the fishing industry voiced their concerns of financial damage caused by misinformation. Based on this and following the judgment by the Appellate Body, what explanations and public relations efforts are being considered to be taken either externally or internally by MOFA?

Foreign Press Secretary Osuga: Firstly, since the result was issued last week, what we are emphasizing is that there was no change in the Appellate Body from the panel in acknowledging the truth that Japanese food products fully clear the safety numerical standards established by the ROK. In that way, we will explain this point to all countries even more than until now and exert even more efforts for measures against financial damage caused by misinformation. At the Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue held in Beijing on Sunday as well, I appealed for the restrictions to be quickly repealed on a scientific basis, and I will continue to work on this.

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