Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki
Wednesday, April 28, 2021, 3:46 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: Please excuse me for my long absence. I look forward to your cooperation like before. I just wanted to say that before starting. I do not have anything in particular to announce.
Prime Minister Suga’s Appearance on the Cover of Newsweek Magazine
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: Prime Minister Suga will appear on the cover of Newsweek set for release on April 30. When was the last time a Japanese prime minister appeared on the cover of such a well-known magazine overseas? Also, what are your thoughts on the significance of this for MOFA?
Press Secretary Yoshida: Your question is about the English edition of Newsweek set to be released on April 30, for which there is also a Japanese edition. As you pointed out, it is my understanding that an interview with Prime Minister Suga, which was conducted during his recent visit to the United States, will be printed in the magazine.
I do not know when a Japanese prime minister last appeared on the cover of a globally influential magazine. In any event, I do not really remember such a case of one country’s leader appearing on the cover of a magazine such as Newsweek with a main interview being published.
It is my understanding that the dedicated coverage for this issue of Newsweek included exchanges about Japan-U.S. relations, relations with neighboring countries, and other such matters. Prime Minister Suga is the first foreign country leader to visit the United States and hold a meeting with President Biden in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C. since the inauguration of the Biden administration. The interview was conducted immediately after the meeting with President Biden. I believe that this is an extremely precious opportunity to convey the various important matters confirmed between the leaders of Japan and the United States.
In particular, I believe that Prime Minister Suga stated that the Japan-U.S. Alliance, among countries which share the universal values of freedom, democracy, and respect for fundamental human rights, is the important foundation for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and presents various opportunities to spread the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision. Furthermore, he emphasized that the Japan-U.S. Alliance can contribute to global peace and prosperity.
In addition, it was introduced during the interview that although Prime Minister Suga had met with President Biden twice by video teleconference, they built up relations on a personal level through the in-person meeting. It is my understanding that the interview article fully conveys the atmosphere of the summit meeting and the outcomes.
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: In regard to this point, what were the details leading to Prime Minister Suga appearing on the cover of such an important overseas magazine? Was it the result of some sort of urging by MOFA?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe that you reporters and others related to the media know that the details of individual interviews are not made clear.
From what I know, Newsweek requested the interview, and as a result of coordination including for the Newsweek side’s schedule, the arrangements were made alongside the opportunity presented by Prime Minister Suga’s visit.
Water Treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) (Tweet by the Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
NHK, Watanabe: Spokesperson Zhao Lijian of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted an English tweet on Twitter saying that HOKUSAI Katsushika would be extremely worried if he were still alive, using an ukiyo-e print by Hokusai edited to include the treated water from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. I believe that this is an issue that that will also arouse criticism in Japan. As Japan’s Press Secretary, what is your view of this response by China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson on this matter? I believe that Japan is responding using diplomatic channels, but can you give a comment on this point?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I believe that Foreign Minister Motegi was also asked a question in relation to the caricature of the ukiyo-e print by HOKUSAI Katsushika in his press conference yesterday. As Foreign Minister Motegi explained, we immediately issued a severe protest about this matter and requested the deletion of the tweet through diplomatic channels.
We have been providing detailed information on the ALPS treated water to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the most influential international organization related to atomic energy in the world. We have also been repeatedly holding explanatory meetings for diplomatic corps in Tokyo.
Thus, Japan has been actively responding with high transparency to the international community, including China. Amidst this, we believe it is extremely regrettable that the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s tweet has one-sided, inflammatory content without any scientific basis despite Japan’s sincere efforts.
We wonder how the international community views making such personal tweets by a person in a position of responsibility to his country of China, one of the top major powers in the world.
In any event, we will continue to firmly provide explanations with high transparency about the matter of the ALPS treated water, no matter what reactions there are. We will also properly object to such regrettable conduct.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Oyabu: In relation to this matter, have you confirmed at the present point whether the caricature has been deleted from Twitter?
Press Secretary Yoshida: I myself have not confirmed that. I have not heard that it has been deleted at the present point. So I have not confirmed that myself.
Diplomatic Bluebook 2021 (Descriptions of China and the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about a different subject. The 2021 edition of the Diplomatic Bluebook was announced. It describes the ROK as an “important neighboring country,” and China as “one of the most important bilateral relationships” of Japan. China is also a neighboring country of Japan. What is the difference between “important neighboring country” and “one of the most important bilateral relationships”?
Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to your question about the Diplomatic Bluebook, firstly, generally speaking, the Diplomatic Bluebook introduces an overview of Japan’s diplomatic activities within the year of its release based on the international situation at the time.
In relation to your question about the descriptions of the ROK and China, their relations with Japan and situations are different. It is my understanding that there are appropriate descriptions of the two countries from the perspective of wanting to use expressions based on the truth of their recent situations which are very complex – in a good and bad sense – as neighboring countries of Japan.
Specifically, in relation to your question about how their descriptions are different comparatively, I believe the situations of the two countries are different if we presume to compare them.
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: In that case, if we just look at the wording of “most important” for China and “important” for the ROK, it seems that China is more important than the ROK. Is that not the case?
Press Secretary Yoshida: There are over 190 countries in the world, not just the ROK and China. We believe that our bilateral relations with all countries are important.
Japan’s bilateral relations with China and the ROK, which are our closest neighboring countries in geographical terms, have of course had their ups and downs, but there is no change to the fact that they are most important despite this.
Rather than writing expressions with the aim of stating which country is more important, which you asked about, expressions are used based on the countries’ overall relations with Japan, and there is also a space limit in terms of how much can be written.
Water Treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to return to the matter of the treated water in Fukushima mentioned earlier. If we look at the response to this issue by the ROK, for example, we can see that during the visit to the ROK by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry, the ROK raised Japan’s response and Mr. Kerry properly made a statement. The response by the Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry is the same. Although it is probably true that there are concerns in neighboring countries about the geographic proximity, I believe this issue is becoming some kind of a political issue and being discussed in a way that reflects diplomatic relations. Amidst this, I believe that rather than just fishermen in Fukushima, this is an issue for all of Japan. There are really people who will be harmed as a result of this issue. Please tell us whether the Government of Japan will make some sort of external efforts with determination going forward to prevent this as much as possible.
Press Secretary Yoshida: The ROK and China have reacted in their own ways to Japan’s decision on the ALPS treated water. We are not in the position to speculate on their intentions or considerations behind their reactions. I therefore believe it would not be appropriate to comment on whether there is any kind of political background to their reactions. As I stated before, the Government of Japan intends to provide detailed explanations with transparency using all opportunities as this is an issue of extremely high interest to the international community. Going forward, we will implement a maximal response in order to ensure transparency even more firmly while receiving the cooperation of the IAEA and others.
Through this, we will exert all efforts to receive understanding based on the truth and science about this issue, as it is related to safety.
Although it is of course not possible now to anticipate the future response, it will take some time until the treated water is actually diluted and falls below a certain criteria before it is released into the ocean. Until then, with the cooperation of international organizations such as the one I mentioned before, we will provide explanations to various countries, and in some cases will even more firmly provide explanations and urge certain countries. We will firmly respond while keeping in mind that we can precisely receive objective assessments from countries that do not neighbor Japan.
Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy (Question About Myanmar)
Asahi Shimbun, Abe: I would like to ask about the opinion survey on Japan’s diplomacy conducted in March. I would like to ask about a question in the opinion survey. The question on the Government of Japan’s response to Myanmar begins with the premise that Japan has built up its own position of offering support for a long time and persistently urging changes in a way that is different from western countries, and then asks whether the respondent thinks that Japan should actively participate while using its own communication channels. I believe that since the question is premised on Japan actively participating in regard to Myanmar, then it would lead the respondent to give an affirmative answer. I have doubts over whether such a question method is appropriate. What is your view?
Press Secretary Yoshida: The Domestic Opinion Survey on Japan’s Diplomacy, which had its 2021 results announced yesterday that you asked about, contains basic questions for fixed point observations and issues that MOFA feels the people of Japan are interested in at that time. As the situation in Myanmar is garnering attention this year, a question about Myanmar was added to the opinion survey this year.
There are probably various assessments about the method of asking the question. If this is the case, we will fully take what you just pointed out into consideration when implementing the next opinion survey.
On the other hand, it is not the case that we intended to prompt a certain answer by using that question method. The truth is that the question was written from the perspective of wanting to hear the respondents’ opinions after providing an explanation of the Government of Japan’s recognition of diplomacy related to Myanmar. Accordingly, we did not intend to predetermine the survey results. If points are made about whether the question method was appropriate, we will precisely take them into consideration going forward.