Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 10:46 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dispatch of the Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team in Response to the Damages Caused by the Earthquake in Southeastern Turkey
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to express our sincere condolences for those who lost their lives as well as to their families, and our sympathy for the people who were injured in Turkey and neighboring countries such as Syria due to the major earthquake that occurred in Southern Turkey yesterday, February 6.
Representing the Government of Japan, Prime Minister Kishida and I respectively have sent messages of condolences to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
In addition, on February 6, upon the request of the Government of Turkey, the Government of Japan decided to dispatch the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Team to Turkey in order to carry out search and rescue operations. The team departed for Turkey last night.
The Government of Japan will continue to work to further grasp the damage conditions and consider necessary support based on the needs of the Government of Turkey.
Northern Territories Issue
NHK, Iwasawa: I would like to ask about Japan’s diplomatic policy toward Russia. Today, February 7, is Northern Territories Day. I would like to ask about the resumption of exchange programs, including visa-free exchanges, and the Government of Japan’s efforts toward the return of the North Territories. Furthermore, it will soon be one year since the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Please tell us your thoughts on the approach to Russia, including the continuation of sanctions against it.
Minister Hayashi: Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is an outrage that shakes the very foundation of the international order, and is absolutely unacceptable. In cooperation with the international community including the G7, Japan will continue to take measures such as the adoption of strong sanctions against Russia in order to stop its aggression against Ukraine.
At the same time, with regard to matters that need to be addressed by Japan and Russia as neighboring countries, such as economic activities including the fishing industry as well as matters related to maritime security, Japan will respond appropriately in its foreign policy as a whole from the perspective of what will contribute to our national interests.
Additionally, with regard to the Northern Territories issue, Japan will firmly maintain its policy of concluding a peace treaty through the resolution of the territorial issue. Furthermore, the resumption of programs, such as the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, is one of the highest priorities for Japan-Russia relations. The Government of Japan strongly hopes that we can reach a situation in which the programs can be resumed as soon as possible.
Hokkaido Shimbun, Tamamura: I would like to ask about the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, which you just mentioned as being top priorities. Please tell us if the Government of Japan is approaching the Russian side towards the resumption of the Visits to the Graves. If it is not, please tell us the reason.
Minister Hayashi: Unfortunately, I must say that we are not in a situation in which I can speak about the future prospects of the Four-Island Exchange Program.
However, there is no change in our desire to somehow respond to the wishes of the elderly former islanders. The resumption of programs, including the Visits to the Graves in the Northern Territories, is one of the highest priorities in Japan-Russia relations.
With regard to your question, I would like to refrain from responding as this is a matter of diplomatic communication. The Government of Japan strongly hopes that we can reach a situation in which the programs can be resumed as soon as possible.
Matter of the United States Shooting Down the Chinese High-Altitude Surveillance Balloon
Kyodo News, Ueda: I would like to ask about the Chinese spy balloon. Secretary of State Blinken of the United States postponed his visit to China, which was planned for February 3, due to the issue of the spy balloon. Please tell us the Government of Japan’s reaction to the spy balloon, and how the postponement of Secretary Blinken’s visit to China will effect on the schedule for your visit to China.
Minister Hayashi: On February 5, the Government of the United States announced that it shot down a high-altitude surveillance balloon.
We believe that it is unacceptable for any country to violate the sovereignty of another country. We are aware that with regard to this case, the Government of the United States explained that China committed an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty, and that the United States took deliberate and lawful action to protect U.S. sovereignty and the American people. Japan fully understands the position of the United States.
I believe that it is important for China to be held fully accountable for this matter.
In addition, with regard to my visit to China, during the recent Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Foreign Minister Qin again extended an invitation. However, nothing has been decided at this point. We will continue to coordinate the specific timing based on various circumstances.
Earthquake Damage in Southern Turkey (Further Support from Japan)
Asahi Shimbun, Uechi: I would like to ask about the earthquake in Turkey, which you mentioned in your opening remarks. Is the Government of Japan considering specific supportbesides dispatching the JDR Team?
Minister Hayashi: We will conduct consideration on necessary support based on aspects such as the damage situation and the needs of the Government of Turkey.
Discriminatory Statement Against Sexual Minorities (Effects on the G7 Hiroshima Summit, Situations of Efforts in Various Countries)
Mainichi Shimbun, Takeuchi: I would like to ask about the discriminatory statement by the former Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister. The former Executive Secretary was dismissed due to his discriminatory statement regarding sexual minorities such as LGBTQ people and the approach to same-sex marriage. In response to this matter, foreign media is pointing out that Japan is lagging behind in its response to sexual minorities, including the fact that it is the only country among the G7 to not recognize same-sex marriage. What are your thoughts on how this will affect the G7 Hiroshima Summit, as Japan holds the Presidency of the G7, which shares fundamental values such as freedom and human rights? In addition, some people are calling for prohibition of discrimination, including discrimination against sexual minorities, and legislation such as for same-sex marriage. Please tell us your thoughts on how to explain the Government of Japan’s approach to legislation to various countries.
Minister Hayashi: I believe that there should be no discrimination or prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Government of Japan will continue to take the voices of various people seriously and work toward realizing a society in which diversity is respected, and all people value each other’s human rights and dignity and enjoy living vibrant lives.
I believe that the Government of Japan, which will hold the G7 Presidency this year, must continue efforts to explain thoroughly both within and outside of Japan with regard to this matter. I will firmly fulfill my responsibilities as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Kyodo News, Ueda: In relation to the question just now, it has been pointed out that all the G7 countries with the exception of Japan have already put in place laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people as well as legal protections for same-sex couples. If you know of any information about the situations of efforts by various countries, please tell us.
Minister Hayashi: It is difficult to make comparisons between the measures by various countries and the current situation in Japan as circumstances vary in each country. We are aware that, apart from Japan, the G7 countries have some form of laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as same-sex marriage laws or partnership systems.