Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato
Thursday, April 16, 2020, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy
Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: I would like to speak about one matter during my opening remarks. I believe the materials have already been distributed. MOFA conducts a domestic opinion survey on Japan’s diplomatic policies each fiscal year, in which about 1,000 men and women at or over the age of 18 throughout Japan are asked for their opinions by telephone. The FY2019 Domestic Opinion Survey was conducted in March 2020 and the results have been compiled.
The detailed content will be uploaded to the MOFA website. The main points of the results are that, for example, 85% of respondents believe that the security environment surrounding the East Asian region is becoming increasingly severe, and 74.8% of respondents, a very high number, were positive in their evaluation of Prime Minister Abe’s “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map.”
Three years have passed since the inauguration of the Trump administration, and “security,” “people-to-people and cultural exchanges,” “economy, trade and finance” and “energy and environment” all accounted for over 70% of the total responses to the question allowing multiple answers about which areas Japan-U.S. relations should be strengthened in. This shows that there are expectations for strengthening relations in wide-ranging areas.
In regard to the situation in the Middle East where tensions are growing, about 70% of respondents indicated that they think Japan should involve itself towards easing tensions. For efforts toward development cooperation and global issues, there was a high ratio of 75% of responses of “education,” “disaster risk reduction,” and “environment” as the major challenges that Japan needs to prioritize under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy (“Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map,” Middle East Diplomacy)
Asahi Shimbun, SATO: In regard to the opinion survey, I would like to ask about your perception of these results. You stated that 74.8% of respondents had a positive evaluation of “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map.” It seems that 75% of respondents in the FY2018 opinion survey and 79% of respondents in the FY2017 opinion survey also supported it. Can you please tell us your perception of the fact that there was a high number this year as well? Also, in relation to the 11th question concerning opinions on rising tensions in the Middle East, is it correct to understand that this question was included due to rising tensions in the Middle East due to matters such as the Iran situation? I would like to confirm these two matters. Thank you.
Press Secretary OHTAKA: A question on “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map” has actually been asked in the past three opinion surveys. A high number of respondents have positively evaluated it in the survey each year. “Diplomacy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map” has been implemented over several years as part of Japan’s diplomacy, and I believe that this survey reconfirms the people’s support for it.
In regard to Middle East diplomacy, as you stated, tensions are rising. This situation, which generally attracts the attention of the world, of course involves Iran, and Japan Self-Defense Force assets have also been dispatched. Prime Minister Abe also went to three Middle Eastern countries during his recent overseas visits. The Government of Japan strongly recognizes this as an important issue, and I believe the survey confirmed that this recognition is also considerably shared among the people.
Republic of Korea (ROK) Legislative Election
Sankei Shimbun, RIKITAKE: The ruling party won a complete victory in the ROK legislative election held yesterday, April 15. I believe that the biggest pending issue between Japan and the ROK will be the liquidation of the assets of Japanese companies going forward in relation to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Based on the result of the election, what is the analysis on how the ROK will respond to this issue?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: This is unquestionably a matter concerning the domestic affairs of a foreign country, so I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government. In that sense, I would also like to refrain from commenting at the present stage regarding what is predicted and so on.
However, in any event, the severe situation of Japan-ROK relations is continuing, and there is no change to Japan’s policy of continuing to urge the ROK side to take appropriate responses to the various pending issues between Japan and the ROK.
Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy (Japan-U.S. Relations, Japan-U.S. Security Treaty)
Yomiuri Shimbun, MORIFUJI: I would like to return to the matter of the domestic opinion survey. There was a question about the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and 68.9% of respondents indicated that they “highly value” or “somewhat highly value” them. What are your thoughts on this response? Also, in response to the question on which areas Japan-U.S. relations should be strengthened, 78.8% of respondents answered “security” this year and 60% answered “security” in the 2018 survey two years ago. The number of people who answered “security” in response to the similar question rose considerably this year, so what is the analysis of that? Can you please tell us your reaction on whether this indicates a little concern about security between Japan and the United States as the Trump administration continues?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: Firstly, in regard to Japan and the United States, as has been stated, this is the 60th anniversary since the signing of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and this should be commemorated. Since the Treaty was concluded in 1960, the security environment surrounding Japan has greatly changed. Amidst this, the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements have always been the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy and security, and diplomacy is being advanced under this way of thinking. Including that, I believe that this opinion survey confirmed that there is continued high recognition that security cooperation under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is extremely important. In a sense, although I believe there are various analyses of this, as I just stated, the fact that the security environment of East Asia is growing increasingly severe could of course be one reason concerning the background for this.
In particular, speaking of the security environment surrounding Japan, various issues are steadily arising including North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile development, the development of China’s military force which lacks transparency, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other such weapons, and increasingly serious terrorism threats. Speaking further, various issues are also arising such as increasing activity in new domains such as cyberspace and space development through development of various technologies and other factors, so Japan’s security environment is growing increasingly severe. We believe that this is not only the recognition of Japan itself, but should also be the recognition of various countries in the region including the United States. We believe that this view is also shared by the people of Japan.
Emergency Economic Measures (Supplementary Budget)
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: I would like to ask about the supplementary budget. In the MOFA portion, 2.4 billion yen is allocated for expanding communication of information. Along with the aim of expanding communication of information on the internet in order to clear up negative impressions of Japan concerning novel coronavirus infections, what other specific aims are there?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: It is necessary to accurately communicate to the world Japan’s views and policies taken during the novel coronavirus situation. If circumstances permit, the Olympic Games are of course planned to be held next year, and we believe it is necessary to communicate various forms of information toward that. This is a very major issue, and in that sense, it is necessary to gain an accurate grasp of the international public opinion and what is being reported as much as possible, and firmly think about, create, and communicate PR content. The distributed content will of course include content distributed through various advertising media. Based on the current situation, it will be necessary to focus considerably on such content going forward, and that recognition is reflected in the budget.
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: Your answer was not very specific. Can you please tell us which means of communication are allocated for within the 2.4 billion yen? Also, can you tell us which negative impressions of Japan you have in mind to clear away, such as Japan’s response to the cruise ship or some people’s view that there has been too little PCR testing in Japan?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I have absolutely no intention at the present stage of narrowing down what the specific content is speculated to be. Because there are various reports about Japan around the world and various impressions of Japan are being formed as a result, Japan will communicate necessary content according to the situation at the time.
Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy (Middle East Situation)
Mainichi Shimbun, KATO: I would like to return to the opinion survey. In relation to the question about the Middle East, there was also a question about involvement in the Middle East in the survey two years ago, and at that time 14.8% of respondents said that they did not think Japan should strengthen its involvement. About 25% of respondents answered negatively about Japan’s involvement in the current survey. Do you believe that this shows the public’s sense of caution regarding matters such as the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to the Middle East?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I do not have the materials on hand now. However, in general, the survey receives responses from 1,000 people, and I believe their respective responses are based on various situations and incidents at the time and their various views.
Streaming of Minister Motegi’s Press Conferences
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: In relation to a different matter, Minister Motegi’s press conference will be streamed online starting from tomorrow. Can you please tell us the aim of this?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I believe that Minister Motegi will explain the details tomorrow. Simply stated, as a state of emergency has been declared, teleworking and other such efforts are being actively recommended, and the world is united in working on countermeasures against the novel coronavirus, so there is an increasing need for Japan to firmly communicate. Also, as online communication using methods such as social media now account for an extremely large proportion of communication, MOFA and the Foreign Minister intend to actively conduct communication.