Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary OHTAKA Masato
Thursday, June 4, 2020, 4:34 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Intensification of Demonstrations Throughout the United States
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: In regard to the series of incidents in the United States, I would like to ask about the incident involving Mr. George Floyd, the African American man who died after being subjected to violence by a white police officer. As the Press Secretary, do you believe this incident was a hate crime with the background of racial discrimination? Please tell us your personal reaction to this.
Mr. OHTAKA Masato, Press Secretary: This was a very tragic incident. It is my understanding that the U.S. authorities are conducting various necessary investigations. I am also paying attention to the protest demonstrations taking place throughout the United States.
I believe that it would not be appropriate to state my personal view regarding such an incident. Firstly, speaking generally, I believe that protest demonstrations are a strength of democracy. In other words, everyone has freedom of expression and peaceful protests are a right protected in democratic countries. However, I believe that excludes destructive actions, such as those that cause injury and damage to other people in many senses.
We have not confirmed any direct harm to Japanese nationals thus far in connection with the ongoing protests in the United States. However, as we have stated, it seems that some Japanese companies and stores have received damage. Although it is not the case that Japanese companies are being targeted, there will be no change to our stance of continuing to exert all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and companies by gathering and communicating information with a sense of urgency. In any event, this incident is receiving attention in many different senses, and I would like to state that the Government of Japan is also paying attention.
Kyodo News, ONOZUKA: In relation to this incident, will the Government of Japan issue any comment or statement that states racial discrimination is unforgivable?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: As I stated at the beginning, this was a truly tragic incident, but the U.S. authorities are now conducting various investigations. I will only say that the situation is as such.
Kyodo News, SAITO: I would like to confirm one point about this matter. Is it correct to understand that at the current stage, MOFA and the Government of Japan are not clearly stating a stance on whether the incident involving Mr. George Floyd was a so-called hate crime rooted in discrimination?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I am not sure whether or not this directly answers your question but as I stated just now, this was a tragic incident. We believe that the U.S. authorities are currently conducting investigations, and we will pay attention to the developments going forward.
Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula (Movement Toward Liquidation of Seized Assets of a Defendant Japanese Company)
Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), Yoo: Regarding the seizure of Japanese assets in relation to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, there have been reports that a court in the Republic of Korea (ROK) has begun the procedures for public notification of documents related to the sale of seized assets. According to the reports, the court sent the documents related to the seized assets to Japan’s MOFA last year, but the documents were sent back. The ROK court then sent the documents to MOFA again, but there was no reply. The view in the ROK is that MOFA is retaining the documents. Can you please confirm if that is true?
Press Secretary OHTAKA: I would like to refrain from disclosing the Government of Japan’s response to specific procedures by the court in the ROK. However, I have heard that some aspects of the reports you mentioned are not necessarily true. The judgment by the ROK Supreme Court and the related judicial procedures concerning the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula are clear breaches of international law. As has been stated, Japan’s position is to refrain from commenting each time such reports appear.
In any event, liquidation of the assets would cause a serious situation, and Japan has been repeatedly pointing out in a strong manner that it should be avoided, including, for example, during the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk conducted this week. We will continue to strongly request the ROK to remedy the situation.
Intensification of Demonstrations Throughout the United States
Kyodo News, SAITO: Excuse me, but I would like to return again to the previous matter of the United States. For example, in relation to the matter of Hong Kong and the national security law, the Government of Japan carried out a process in which Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs AKIBA summoned Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou to convey Japan’s worries and concerns. However, by contrast, Japan has not issued any kind of statement in relation to the United States so far.
From a third-party standpoint, the Hong Kong issue is similarly a human rights issue. The Government of Japan has explained that Hong Kong’s case is a major international human rights issue based on the spirit of the International Covenants on of Human Rights, which is beyond the issue of intervention in domestic affairs. Thus Japan expressed its stance on the matter.
However, Japan has not expressed its stance about the issue in the United States, so there is a slight difference in the response compared to the Hong Kong issue. If you can give an explanation, it would be helpful to hear the reasoning behind this.
Press Secretary OHTAKA: You made various statements about two issues: the issue in Hong Kong and the issue in the United States. These are fundamentally two different issues. I am not sure about the value of comparing the two issues.
In regard to Hong Kong, as Japan has repeatedly stated, we are seriously concerned about the decision made by China’s National People’s Congress regarding policies toward Hong Kong in the midst of strong concerns expressed from the international community and the people of Hong Kong and about the current situation in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for Japan with which Japan maintains close economic ties and people-to-people exchanges. It is the long-standing policy of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system which Hong Kong has been enjoying and the democratic development of Hong Kong under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework. Japan has clearly conveyed its views to China. We have also conveyed our views to countries besides China. For example, during Minister Motegi’s recent Telephone Talk with Foreign Secretary Raab of the United Kingdom, a former colonial power, both ministers shared their deep concerns. They agreed on the importance of closely cooperating, including within the G7 framework, and conveying their concerns to China. In any event, Japan’s position is to cooperate with the related countries, and to have the international community work together to appeal to China about the Hong Kong issue.
At any rate, I do not believe that the two issues you mentioned should be compared.