Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato
Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 3:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japanese Language Training for Diplomats and Civil Servants
Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: MOFA implements a program each year in cooperation with the Japan Foundation to provide foreign governments with Japanese language training for diplomats and other civil servants. There are 31 participants this year from various countries who are receiving training at the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai in Sakai for an eight month period from September to May. The participants will visit MOFA tomorrow, November 7, around evening time, and will pay a courtesy call to State Minister for Foreign Affairs SUZUKI Keisuke. If you have time, please cover this opportunity.
This training has been conducted since 1981. Then-Prime Minister SUZUKI Zenko announced the intention to start the training when he visited the ASEAN countries in 1981, and thus this scheme was started that year targeting the Asia-Pacific region. It has been mainly implemented widely targeting countries that do not have a system for Japanese language training for their diplomats. In addition to Japanese classes, the eight-month training period has a very fulfilling content including lectures by experts on matters in many areas concerning Japan, various cultural experiences, trips to Japan’s local regions, exchanges, and more.
In recent times when there is a need for Japan to strengthen its communications ability, I believe this program that fosters diplomats and others with a deep understanding of Japan is extremely significant. I myself have also directly visited and observed the training onsite.
This is the 39th time the training is being held. Civil servants besides diplomats became able to participate in 1997, but in any case this is the 39th time since the very beginning when diplomats were targeted. A total of over 1,000 people have participated thus far. It is extremely important to implement this people-to-people exchange scheme for many years. Although there have been ups and downs, it is my very strong belief that it is extremely significant for Japan that over 1,000 people have received the training over 39 years.
Many of the participants are active at embassies in Tokyo. I have high expectations for their many activities going forward.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Proposal by National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang)
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: I would like to ask about the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Yesterday, National Assembly Speaker Moon announced the idea to compensate the former civilian workers by soliciting donations from companies and individuals in Japan and the ROK. What is your frank reaction to this? What are your thoughts on this idea calling for compensation using the money of Japanese companies and individuals?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: It is my understanding that what you mentioned is something explored by the National Assembly of the ROK. In that sense, as this concerns discussions in the legislature of another country, I believe I should refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan. In any event, although I will not repeat the details today, I would just like to say that the position of the Government of Japan regarding the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula is consistent.
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: This idea also calls for using the remaining money from the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which was established in the ROK based on the Japan-ROK agreement concerning comfort women but was dissolved in July. I believe this money was originally contribution from the Government of Japan. What is your perception of such an idea?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: That aspect also concerns discussions in the legislature of another country in the same way, so I believe it would be best to refrain from commenting. In any event, although I will not speak in detail today about the position of the Government of Japan on the comfort women issue, I would just like to say that our position has been consistent.
Communication between the Leaders of Japan and the ROK at the ASEAN-Related Summit Meetings
Sankei Shimbun, HARAKAWA: There is an outline on the MOFA website for the series of ASEAN-Related Summit Meetings held in the suburb of Bangkok, Thailand on November 4 as well as the series of bilateral summit meetings Prime Minister Abe held during the slots. What is the reason for not including the approximately 11 minute conversation between Prime Minister Abe and President Moon Jae-in of the ROK on the MOFA website?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: As you stated, several bilateral summit meetings were held using the opportunity of the ASEAN-Related Summit Meetings. With regards to the communication between the two leaders of Japan and the ROK, it occurred before the ASEAN Plus Three Summit Meeting in the leaders’ waiting room, and Prime Minister Abe shook hands with the leaders there including President Moon, and he and President Moon then sat down and had a conversation in a natural manner, so I believe it can be said that the conversation between the leaders of Japan and the ROK was not a formal meeting.
Japan-ROK Relations (Proposal by National Assembly Speaker Moon)
NHK, WATANABE: In regard to Japan-ROK relations, National Assembly Speaker Moon spoke about the idea mentioned earlier by the reporter from Kyodo News during a lecture at Waseda University yesterday. This would be an action by the legislature. I believe that Japan’s stance has been that it would not make a move until the ROK side changed the situation. Although this is an action by the legislature, what are your thoughts on the ROK side taking some kind of action?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: As I stated earlier, this is an action within the legislature of the ROK, so in that sense I believe that it is true that discussions are taking place. Although I will not comment on behalf of Japan on each individual action, in any event, Japan is naturally monitoring future developments in the case that the ROK side takes action. At any rate, Japan’s position has been fully, clearly conveyed to the ROK side consistently. I believe the situation will develop going forward fully based on that, or taking that into account.
NHK, WATANABE: Although I believe it is certainly true that it is difficult to comment on this, for example, there has also been action by the members of the Japan-Korea and Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Unions . For example, National Assembly Speaker Moon met yesterday with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General NIKAI, and also met with Secretary-General KAWAMURA of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union. This idea emerged between the legislatures of both countries, so I believe it will affect or possibly affect the Government. Does MOFA welcome discussions themselves?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: Regardless of whether the word “welcome” would be used, as we have stated up until now, the current position of the Government of the Japan is that it is important to have communications in various forms, specifically bearing in mind between the diplomatic authorities of our two countries at various levels. Thus, I believe that conducting various communication itself is not inconsistent with that. However, as Foreign Minister MOTEGI mentioned yesterday, I believe the content is important.