Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato

Wednesday, January 8, 2020, 4:30 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Implementation of the Screening Test for Applicants for the 2020 Junior Professional Officers (JPO) Dispatch

Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: The Junior Professional Officers (JPO) system is one of the systems that dispatches Japanese personnel to international organizations such as the United Nations. Today, advance registration will begin for people who would like to be dispatched as JPO in 2020. Although the actual application documents will begin to be accepted from February 1, advance registration has become possible on the internet ahead of that.

The Government of Japan provides considerable support through various policies to Japanese people who wish to become international civil servants as JPO. In that sense, I believe it can even be said that without this system, it would be difficult for Japanese people to be active at international organizations.

We will continue to firmly carry this out. I introduced this today because I would like young Japanese people to utilize this system.

Situation in the Middle East (Protecting Japanese Nationals)

Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: In relation to Iran and the United States, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated that the Government will exert every effort to protect Japanese nationals. If MOFA has any future measures, can you please introduce them?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: Of course, within Prime Minister Abe’s instructions, exerting all efforts to protect Japanese nationals is included. MOFA has been working through now continuously using all efforts to protect Japanese nationals. Region-wide Safety Information, consular emails, and more regarding Iraq are being issued, and alerts are being sent to Japanese nations living in the Middle East. We will continue to exert every effort to protect Japanese nationals while monitoring the situation. We have also been continuously updating the various information we send out, as we always do. Considering the current situation, if any new developments occur that require further updates, we will of course update the information as necessary.

Mainichi Shimbun, TADOKORO: Following the missile launch by Iran today, was a consular email sent out in the region? Do you have a specific grasp of anything?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: I am not yet aware of anything specific. As I just stated, efforts are of course being made for constant reviews, so it is my understanding that consideration is being conducted at various related bureaus and divisions as part of that.

Situation in the Middle East (Attack by Iran on U.S. Bases in Iraq)

NTV, SATO: Iranian state TV recently reported that 80 people died and 200 people were injured among the U.S. forces in today’s attack. Can you please tell us the Government of Japan’s current grasp of the state of damage and other matters?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: Regarding the situation, various information gathering is still being conducted in general. I believe that there are such reports, but as information gathering is still being generally conducted, please consider that this is not a situation in which I can comment on each specific matter.

Situation in the Middle East (Dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to the Middle East)

NTV, SATO: I would like to ask one more question. I believe that the time for dispatching the SDF to the Middle East is approaching soon. Given the current situation, do you believe that the SDF should be dispatched as planned?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: As has been stated, from the perspective of what would be an effective response to ensure safe navigation of Japan-related ships in the Middle East, in order to strengthen the information-gathering system, the Government of Japan decided to dispatch the SDF vessels and aircrafts. Japan’s position is to continue to make thorough efforts to gain the understanding of related countries regarding the purpose and other matters concerning the SDF activities, and to continue to make persistent diplomatic efforts to ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the region while closely cooperating with related countries. In any event, the Government of Japan intends to monitor the situation in the Middle East with a high sense of urgency. There is no change to the fact that it is necessary to strengthen the essential information gathering system, so please consider there have been no change in the policy as mentioned at present.

NTV, SATO: Sorry, I would like to ask one more question. Can you please tell us if Prime Minister Abe or Foreign Minister Motegi plans to have a telephone talk or other communication with the United States or Iran?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: At present, I have not heard anything specific.

Situation in the Middle East (Attack by Iran on U.S. Bases in Iraq)

NHK, WATANABE: The United States killed an Iranian general and Iran has carried out a retaliatory attack. How does the Government of Japan evaluate these respective military actions? Also, you mentioned “diplomatic efforts,” so what diplomatic efforts are being conducted now? This overlaps with the previous question, but what is being thought of, including telephone talks? I would like to ask about what diplomatic efforts are being conducted, how the Government of Japan evaluates the military actions of both sides, and if Japan will indicate any position.

Press Secretary OHTAKA: In regard to your first question, as has been stated, Japan is not directly related to this, and is not necessarily in the position to have a full grasp of the detailed facts. I would, therefore, like to refrain from commenting about our evaluations of various matters. However, in any event, Japan will persistently continue its diplomatic efforts in order to ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the Middle East while closely cooperating with related countries. At present, I cannot yet predict what we will specifically do when undertaking persistent efforts. However, Japan will do what we can, and at the very least, as I stated earlier, we will exert all efforts to continue diplomatic efforts as much as possible while clearly stating our position, which is that any further escalation of the situation must be avoided.

Defendant Carlos Ghosn’s Departure from Japan and Arrival in Lebanon

Kyodo News, HARA: I would like to change the subject and ask two questions regarding the case of the fleeing of defendant Carlos Ghosn. The first concerns the situation in which the Japanese justice system is receiving some criticism from the international community. How will the Government of Japan respond to and refute this? Also, the Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon held a meeting yesterday with the President of Lebanon, and I believe the Ambassador received the answer that Lebanon will cooperate with the investigation of the facts behind the case. My second question is, what specifically will the cooperation be?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: I would like to begin by answering your second question. As stated, Ambassador Okubo met with President Aoun of Lebanon on January 7 local time, and they had various discussions regarding the case of Mr. Ghosn’s departure from Japan. Ambassador Okubo stated that Mr. Ghosn’s illegal departure from Japan and arrival in Lebanon is deeply regrettable and can never be overlooked by the Government of Japan. He requested that the Government of Lebanon should provide all necessary cooperation on this matter, for which Japan has grave concern, including ascertaining the facts behind this case.

In response, as stated earlier, President Aoun explained that the Government of Lebanon did not have any involvement in the incident whatsoever, stated that Lebanon attaches importance to the relations with Japan, and, in response to the request for cooperation from Japan, promised that Lebanon would spare no effort in providing unstinting cooperation.

It is difficult to state anything further than that because this concerns diplomatic discussions. In any event, as I stated, Japan requested necessary cooperation including ascertaining the facts behind the case, and President Aoun answered that Lebanon would provide various forms of unstinting cooperation. This was a statement with the meaning of general cooperation by the President, the highest position in Lebanon, so I believe that it probably has major significance. It is a fact that Lebanon made such a statement.

Also, in regard to your other question, as the Ministry of Justice has been stating up until now about Japan’s position, on December 31, Mr. Ghosn, who had been released on bail, made an announcement that he had arrived in Lebanon. The facts behind the case are of course still being confirmed, but it has been confirmed that there is no record of Mr. Ghosn leaving Japan, and it is believed that he used some sort of improper method to illegally leave Japan. It is Japan’s position that it is truly regrettable that such a situation has occurred.

It is my understanding that Mr. Ghosn’s bail has been revoked by the court. In any event, it is Japan’s position that it is necessary for Japanese criminal procedures to be properly conducted. Going forward, we will closely cooperate with related countries and international organizations while coordinating with the related authorities. If there are any questions regarding the Japanese justice systems from various countries or companies, I believe that the Government of Japan must provide careful explanations. However, it is Japan’s position that our procedures are appropriate and appropriately utilized. We will exert all efforts for careful explanations to make that understood.

NHK, WATANABE: I would like to ask about the fleeing of Mr. Ghosn. Firstly, in regard to the meeting yesterday between Ambassador Okubo and President Aoun, by “unstinting cooperation,” what level of depth seems to have been acquired, including detaining him without an extradition treaty with Japan? What is your sense of that? Do you think President Aoun was speaking generally, or he meant that there will be more close cooperation? In addition, the Government of Turkey has detained people related to the aircraft Mr. Ghosn used to leave Japan. People from the United States are involved this time. In that sense, I do not know if it is going to be at the country level or an individual level, but is Japan considering sending some sort of inquiry to the Government of the United States?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: I would like to begin with your second question. You made various points about the current situation in Turkey, but the facts are still being confirmed. Also, I believe various countries are of course related to this, so we are taking various opportunities to reach mutual understanding with them. However, I cannot explain the content to you all yet. In any event, I believe that we will be able to come to a mutual understanding as necessary. However, at the current stage I cannot speak specifically about that.

Also, in regard to what President Aoun meant by cooperation, we cannot truly know unless we ask him. As the ones who received his reply, we could probably interpret the extent of the unstinting cooperation that he mentioned in many different ways. However, we would like to interpret his phrase “unstinting cooperation” as-is.

In any event, I would like to refrain from making various comments regarding specific future developments and so on of this case. Generally speaking, I believe that there are various aspects Japan needs to analyze and consider.

sossiyskaya Gazeta, Lenin: I would like to ask about Carlos Ghosn. According to the mass media, there are three people related to this case. Two are Americans and the other is of a non-Japanese nationality. Does MOFA and the Government of Japan have any specific information?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: It is currently difficult to answer about individual matters. In any event, please understand that we are currently confirming the facts behind the case including who was specifically involved, as you asked, and how Mr. Ghosn departed Japan.

Prime Minister Abe’s Visit to the Middle East

Japan Times, YOSHIDA: Speaking of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East, it is said to be either postponed or suspended, so what is the current situation now? Has any sort of notification been made to the other countries?

Press Secretary OHTAKA: A decision will be made about Prime Minister Abe’s visit through careful consideration while ascertaining the situation.

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