Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato
Wednesday, December 18, 2019, 4:30 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Timing of Beginning Issuance of 2020 Passports
Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: I would like to speak about one matter in my opening remarks. It is in relation to passports. In December 2018, then-Foreign Minister Kono announced that issuance would begin for a new version of Japanese passports (2020 passports) with higher security around in March 2020, next year.
On the other hand, the number of passport applications this year increased more than expected, and the inventory of booklets of the current passport, the so-called 2013 passport, are expected to run out more quickly than initially assumed. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, the timing of the issuance of new passports, which had been stated as March 2020, may have to be made earlier. I would like to explain that point to you.
Specifically, when the inventory of the current passport runs out in a passport office in any prefecture, receipt of applications for issuance of the new passport will begin simultaneously throughout Japan. That is all from me.
“Escort ” of Five Japanese Fishing Boats to Hurukamappu Port on Kunashiri Island
Jiji Press, MARUHASHI: In regard to the case of the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia escorting five fishing boats belonging to fishery cooperatives in Nemuro and others that was revealed this morning, can you please tell us what you know about the situation up until now?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I believe that there have been explanations at other press conferences and occasions about this case up until now, so my answer will be a little repetitive. Today, December 17, five octopus fishing boats, which were operating in the waters around the Four Northern Islands as prescribed under the “Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Russian Federation on some matters of cooperation in the field of fishing operations for marine living resources ,” were escorted to Hurukamappu Port on Kunashiri Island to receive a detailed inspection from the Federal Security Service of Russia. It is my understanding that they are still being detained now.
In regard to this case, Japan made a request to the Russian side that it is unacceptable for Russia to conduct so-called “escorts” based on the “Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Russian Federation on some matters of cooperation in the field of fishing operations for marine living resources” as well as Japan’s position concerning the Four Northern Islands, and it was requested for the crews to be able to quickly return to the port from a humanitarian perspective.
Although I cannot speculate on the outlook for this, the Government of Japan will continue to urge the Russian side to allow the crews and the ships to quickly leave the port from a humanitarian perspective.
NHK, TAKANO: The Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held tomorrow. Will a request or protest be made on that occasion?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: Do you mean at the meeting?
NHK, TAKANO: Yes.
Press Secretary OHTAKA: Of course, as Minister MOTEGI always states, it is not possible to speculate about what kind of meeting it will be, so I would like to refrain from commenting about the content of the meeting. In any event, the Government of Japan is urging the Russian side to allow the crews and ships to quickly leave the port, and will continue to do so. There is no change to that.
NHK, TAKANO: This incident has just happened, and while their quick release is being requested, does that mean that Minister MOTEGI might not mention it when meeting the Russian foreign minister?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I believe that there is no question that this is a very important meeting for Japan and Russia, but as I have stated, I would like to refrain from speculating on the content of the meeting, including what kind of conversational flow it will have, because it is difficult to be certain until the talks are carried out.
NHK, TAKANO: When you say it is difficult to be certain, do you mean that it is a light request or a protest?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I certainly do not believe that this is a light case.
NHK, TAKANO: So why don’t you know?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I mean that I cannot speculate on the content of the meeting in general, as I have stated up until now.
Yomiuri Shimbun, GOTO: You stated earlier that Japan made a request, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga used the phrase “strongly protesting” in a press conference this morning. Are requests and protests different? Does this mean that ultimately Japan made a request, and not a protest?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: To explain in a little more detail, from December 17 to 18, the Director of the Russian Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan made a request to the councilor level of the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, the Consulate-General of Japan in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk made a request to the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk diplomatic mission and the Sakhalin Oblast border security agency, and the Embassy of Japan in Russia made a request to the department in charge at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. I believe that saying that a request was made to the Russian side based on Japan’s legal position, it also means that a protest was made.