Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko

Tuesday, December 26, 2023, 11:17 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Video) Press Conference by Foreign Minister Kamikawa
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Kanji of the Year and Next Year’s Resolution

Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have two items.

First, I would like to begin this last press conference of the year by reflecting on this past year and sharing my Next Year’s resolution.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I grapple with rapidly changing situations around the world, including Ukraine and the Middle East. Amidst these significant changes, I believe that strongness and flexibility are essential to steadfastly protect Japan’s national interests and increase its presence. Therefore, I have chosen the kanji of “” (shinayaka, meaning resilience) as my kanji of the year. (Holding up the calligraphy) This is the character.

We saw the character “” used often this year, such as in the economic security term, “supply chain resilience.” Personally, I believe this notion of “resilience” also applies to the way our democracy works.

The true value of democracy is now being tested across the world. The democratic system, which consolidates diverse opinions, seems almost inefficient at first glance compared to the authoritarian system. Yet, I believe that democracy embodies “resilience” in respecting diversity and inclusivity, which is fundamentally important for safeguarding peace and the freedoms of individuals. Protecting democracy is a key task of Japanese diplomacy.

That being said, the following are the specific diplomatic initiatives I intend to continue to strengthen in the coming year.

First, I will keep working to maintain and strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law. I will further advance the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” and expand practical cooperation. In addition to providing Official Security Assistance (OSA) and strengthening economic security and cybersecurity, I, who have long advocated judicial diplomacy, will actively pursue initiatives related to the “rule of law.”

The second is initiatives to open up a frontier in economic diplomacy. Building on the trust that post-war Japan has established by contributing to the region and the world through development assistance and private-sector activities, we will promote public-private partnerships that also make use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) while tapping into the growth of the Global South. In doing so, I will demonstrate Japan’s global presence with a more robust and resilient economic power.

Furthermore, I will make Japanese diplomacy stronger and more resilient by engaging in new fields of diplomacy, including women, peace and security (WPS), and involving a wide range of stakeholders.

In 2024, important elections will be held in many countries and regions, and international situations will enter a critical juncture. At a time when the world is at a historic turning point, I will ensure that Japan rides the significant tides of change and that Japan’s security and prosperity are protected. To this end, next year, I will continue advancing Japanese diplomacy that steadfastly meets the high expectations and trust placed by the international community, without forgetting the importance of “flexibility.”

(2) 17th Japan International MANGA Award Winner Announcement

Minister Kamikawa:Next, my second announcement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) established the Japan International MANGA Award in 2007, and awards outstanding overseas manga works in the name of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

This year, the 17th edition of the award received a record number of 587 entries from 82 countries and regions. Entries are received every year from a wide range of regions, including Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe. This year, entries were received for the first time from four African countries: Ethiopia, Comoros, Senegal, and Rwanda.

For the Gold Award, the selection committee chose Wind Chaser Under the Blue Sky by Chien Jason from Taiwan. The Silver Award went to three works from Spain, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. In addition, two Special Encouragement Award winners and five other winning works were announced.

We will invite the Gold Award winner and Silver Award winners to Japan through the Japan Foundation and hold an awards ceremony in Tokyo in March 2024.

Whenever I visited overseas, I witnessed the widespread popularity of manga firsthand, especially young people’s passion for manga, and how manga helps them become interested in Japanese culture in many countries and regions. As a member of the Parliamentary Association on Character-and-Type Culture, I will seek to promote manga through the Japan International MANGA Award and promote international exchanges through manga, an outstanding form of print culture.

That is all from me.

Sorry, I would like to make one correction. There were two Special Encouragement Award winners and “nine” other winning works. I misread the last one. I would like to make a correction and apologize for that.

Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction

Kyodo News, Katsurada: I have a question concerning next year’s diplomatic schedule in relation to your opening remarks. The Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction is scheduled to be held on February 19. Please share with us the expected outcomes from this conference.

In addition, the Government of Japan still has called for Japanese nationals to evacuate and avoid all travel to Ukraine, and attacks on the capital Kyiv are increasing. When calling on Japanese companies to invest in reconstruction, how does the Government intend to support them?

Minister Kamikawa:The first question was about the expected outcomes from the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is an outrageous act, which shakes the very foundation of the international order. Japan has responded to this issue as its own issue, with the recognition that the security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific are inseparable.

In addition, we need to continue to provide strong support to Ukraine to ensure that it achieves a just and lasting peace at the earliest possible date. We consider that it is necessary from the current stage to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in order to enable the Ukrainian people to envision their short-, medium-, and long-term future.

Private sector engagement is essential to meet the enormous reconstruction needs in Ukraine. Further engagement by various Japanese companies is important for Japan to provide strong support for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

From this perspective, we are preparing for the Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction on February 19, 2024, as an opportunity to ensure that it gives further impetus for collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors for recovery and reconstruction, and, at the same time, to build international momentum for providing support for Ukraine.

The next question was about the Government’s support for Japanese companies while calling on them to invest in reconstruction.

Travel advice and warnings are issued for countries and regions where particular caution is considered necessary when traveling to or staying there, based on a comprehensive assessment of the security situation that takes into account the threats to the lives and physical well-being of Japanese nationals. Currently, a Level 4 “Evacuate and avoid all travel” travel advice and warning remains in effect for all of Ukraine.

While it is true that trade with and investment in Ukraine during wartime pose high risks for private companies, the need to promote the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine is widely shared among the international community, including the G7.

The Government is fully aware of such risks. We intend to work in cooperation with the Ukraine side as well in exploring ways to facilitate necessary corporative activities even under these challenging circumstances, giving top priority to the safety of Japanese nationals.

Official Security Assistance (OSA)

Asahi Shimbun, Matsuyama: My question overlaps slightly with your opening remarks. It is about OSA. In August, MOFA will reportedly elevate the Security Cooperation Division, the division in the Foreign Policy Bureau that administers OSA. Can you tell us if the reports are true and the expected size of the elevated division?

In addition, MOFA allocated 5 billion yen for OSA in the initial draft budget for fiscal year 2024. This is 3 billion yen more than the OSA budget in the previous fiscal year 2023 budget. On the other hand, the ODA budget has decreased. Japan has considered economic and social development assistance for developing countries as a symbol of Japanese diplomacy. What kind of diplomacy does Japan aim to achieve by enhancing OSA, which is aimed at strengthening security capabilities?

Furthermore, the revisions of the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and its Implementation Guidelines were recently approved by the cabinet. Some note that the expansion of arms supplies under OSA, which has been made possible by the revisions, will increase tensions in the region, contrary to its purpose. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister Kamikawa:Let me first present the facts. OSA aims to create a desirable security environment for Japan, and contribute to maintaining and strengthening international peace and security, by enhancing the security and deterrence capabilities of recipient countries.

OSA has become ever more important amid the increasingly severe international situation. For its part, MOFA will aim to further strengthen OSA strategically.

From this perspective, the draft government budget includes 5 billion yen for OSA, which is approximately 2.5 times this fiscal year’s amount. Furthermore, we will elevate MOFA’s Security Cooperation Division to strengthen our organizational structure for implementing OSA appropriately. While the ODA budget has decreased, this does not change the importance of ODA at all. We will seek to make effective and strategic use of ODA.

We view that the MOFA budget should be considered comprehensively based on the circumstances, including the issues facing Japan and the situation of MOFA.

While the ODA budget decreased in the fiscal year 2024 draft budget, both ODA and OSA are important diplomatic tools. As for the comment on ODA diminishing in importance as a result, I would like to strongly emphasize that its importance has not changed at all.

How should we improve the security environment in Japan in view of the international situation? Or what type of readiness is required for such new situations? These questions need to be examined strategically within our larger diplomatic vision. They will be considered carefully, including for consistency with the Government’s overall approach.

Japan International MANGA Award’s Gold Award-Winning Work

Kyodo News, Katsurada: I have a question about the Japan International MANGA Award you announced in the beginning. Could you please explain the selection reason for the Gold Award-winning work?

Minister Kamikawa:I understand that the Gold Award-winning work is an inspiring story of two young men from Japan and Taiwan, who fostered their friendship through their passion for short-distance running, and their families, during the last years of World War II.

When I had a look at the work, I could tell that the artist put great intensity into each pen stroke. That was my personal impression.

I understand that members of the selection committee, including Chairperson SATONAKA Machiko, a manga artist who was selected as one of the recipients of the Person of Cultural Merit award this year, particularly praised the story’s composition and the splendid drawings of short-distance runners running side by side with a moving locomotive and chose this work for the Gold Award.

As the birthplace of manga culture, Japan will continue to confer the Japan International MANGA Award and contribute to the further development of manga culture around the world.

Safe Operations around the Four Northern Islands

Hokkaido Shimbun, Araya:I have a question concerning the safe operations of Japanese fishing vessels in the waters around the Four Northern Islands. The negotiations between the Japanese and Russian Governments to determine the operational situation have had no prospect of resuming since July of this year, when Russia told Japan that it would not attend the negotiations. Could you please share the current status and outlook of the negotiations, as well as the measures under consideration to break the deadlock? Do you have any plans to provide explanations to the local people?

Minister Kamikawa: In January of this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia notified the Japanese Embassy in Russia that it was unable to arrange the dates for the intergovernmental consultations on fishery operations under the Framework Agreement Concerning Operations in the Waters Around the Four Northern Islands.

It is unacceptable that Russia took such a measure, despite the fact that Russia is fully responsible for the current situation in Ukraine. Japan has coordinated with Russia at various levels to allow Japanese fishing vessels to conduct operations as early as possible under the framework agreement. Nevertheless, at this point in time, we have not received a positive response from the Russian side on conducting operations.

The Government will continue to urge Russia so that operations can be conducted as early as possible under the framework agreement.

With regard to providing explanations to the local people, most recently, the Deputy Director-General / Deputy Assistant Minister of the European Affairs Bureau visited Hokkaido and provided explanations to the fishermen concerned on December 15th. We will continue to closely communicate with the local people concerned.

Arctic LNG 2 Project

Hokkaido Shimbun, Araya: I would like to change topics. According to some Russian media reports, Japanese and other foreign companies with stakes in Arctic LNG 2, a Russian LNG development project in the Arctic, announced the suspension of their participation in the project due to U.S. sanctions. I believe the Government of Japan considers Arctic LNG 2 to be an important project for maintaining Japan’s stakes in energy. Please share with us what the Government is aware of and how it will be addressing the matter.

Minister Kamikawa:We are aware of the reports you are referring to.

That being said, this matter involves dealings between private companies, and the Government would like to refrain from commenting about their factual aspects.

In any case, the Government of Japan will consider the matter comprehensively and address it appropriately to ensure that Japan’s stable energy supply is not compromised.

Situation surrounding Israel and Palestine (Egypt’s Ceasefire Proposal)

Pan Orient News, Azhari: My question is about the situation in Gaza. Does Japan support the Egyptian initiative announced recently on Gaza which calls for a humanitarian truce during which an exchange of prisoners of war on both sides is done? This is followed by establishing a Palestinian national dialogue that paves the way for Palestinian general and presidential elections. And the third level of the Egyptian proposal is a complete and comprehensive ceasefire, while Israeli occupation military withdraws from Gaza, and this gives a hope for the whole situation to end the genocide against Palestinians by Israeli military.

Minister Kamikawa:We are aware of the reports on Egypt’s proposal that you referred to.

However, I would like to refrain from commenting on each activity of another country.

In any case, it is first and foremost important to improve the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza and ensure humanitarian access. We are aware that Egypt and other relevant countries and organizations are making tireless diplomatic efforts, including to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Japan will continue to make persistent and active diplomatic efforts more than ever, toward the immediate release of hostages, improving the humanitarian situation, and calming down the situation as soon as possible, while closely communicating with relevant countries and organizations.

Situation surrounding Israel and Palestine (Japan’s Position)

Anadolu Agency, Mercan: Twenty thousand innocent civilians have lost their lives due to Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip. Is there a way to find out whether Japan has directly or indirectly provided financial support for Israel’s attacks on Gaza? What potential efforts can we expect in the new year from Japanese diplomacy or the private sector to resolve the Middle East crisis? Will Japan continue to not urge Israel for a ceasefire? Does Japan intend to join the U.S.-formed Operational Prosperity Guardian in response to the Houthi attacks on the Red Sea in the Middle East?

Minister Kamikawa:First, there was a question on Japan’s position and diplomatic efforts concerning the current situation surrounding Israel and Palestine.

Japan’s position is as I have repeatedly stated.

The Government has been tirelessly engaged in bilateral diplomatic discussions, as well as constant discussions with relevant countries in the international arena, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

In my role as chair, I compiled the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement twice, on November 8 and 29. I have also made diplomatic efforts, including adopting UNSC resolutions and calling on relevant countries to take various actions, such as during the Cairo Summit for Peace, my visits to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, the Global Refugee Forum held in Geneva, and numerous telephone talks.

Japan has coordinated and negotiated tirelessly to ensure that the UNSC can fulfill its responsibilities and express its intention in appropriate manners. In this respect, Japan welcomed the recent adoption of the UNSC resolution that focuses on the protection of children in the Gaza Strip, and calls for humanitarian pauses and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages by Hamas and others.

Japan will continue to make persistent and active diplomatic efforts toward the immediate release of the hostages, improving the humanitarian situation, and calming down the situation as soon as possible, while continuing to closely communicate with the countries and international organizations concerned, and while urging all parties to comply with international law, including international humanitarian law, and to act in good faith based on relevant UNSC resolutions.

Japan has consistently supported a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict and the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish an independent state. We have provided political and economic assistance for a long time to the Palestinian people who strive to realize the establishment of their independent state.

With a view to realizing a “two-state solution,” we will continue to hold discussions with Israel, Palestine, and other countries concerned and make efforts to promote confidence-building between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides through our own efforts, including the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative.

Lastly, there was a question on assistance through NGOs.

The Government is currently providing humanitarian assistance totaling USD 75 million in response to the critical humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Of this amount, approximately USD 4.4 million is to be provided through the Japan Platform (JPF), as part of Japanese NGO cooperation in areas such as food, daily necessities, health and medical care, water, and sanitation.

Japan will continue to promptly and constantly explore assistance that aligns with local needs.

Also, finally, there was a question on the incident in the Red Sea. We have been in various communications with the countries concerned, including the United States, and are considering the matter carefully in light of the existing framework.

I would like to refrain from answering about the details as our counterparts are also concerned.

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