Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko

Friday, March 15, 2024, 3:00 p.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) Foreign Minister Kamikawa’s Visit to the U.S.

Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs:I have three announcements.

First, I will visit New York, the U.S., from March 17 to 20.

Japan holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) this month for the second time during its term as a member of the UNSC. On March 18, I will host a ministerial meeting at the UNSC on the theme of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

The path toward a world without nuclear weapons is becoming more severe amid an increasingly acute international security environment. At the UNSC meeting, with the participation of nuclear weapon States, we aim to have substantive discussions among the members, to pursue concrete actions for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

In addition, during my visit to New York, I plan to hold bilateral meetings with attending ministers from UNSC Member States and exchange views on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) with United Nations (UN) agencies, among other activities.

(2) Diplomacy toward the Middle East

Minister Kamikawa:Second, more than five months have passed since the terror attack by Hamas and others occurred on October 7 of last year and fighting began in the Gaza Strip. In light of the constantly changing situation, I myself have been at the forefront and have continued to make diplomatic efforts as one of the top diplomatic issues. Nevertheless, there is a dire humanitarian situation on the ground.

Japan has temporarily suspended funding to UNRWA, taking into account that it comes from taxpayers’ money as well as the seriousness of the situation involving the alleged involvement of UNRWA in the terror attack.

It is widely recognized in the international community that UNRWA plays a vital role in assisting Palestine refugees. It is crucial that UNRWA itself advances initiatives that will enable the fulfillment of its role as soon as possible.

On the issue of UNRWA, Japan has been in continuous communication with the UN, UNRWA, and relevant countries through various channels. We have also been considering our measures based on the progress of the UN investigation and the independent review, and on UNRWA’s own efforts.

We have been working with the relevant parties as such. With the independent review group due to submit an interim report shortly, I held a telephone talk with Chair of the group Colonna yesterday and reiterated Japan’s position, including on the need to strengthen UNRWA’s governance.

I myself have vigorously continued to communicate with the relevant parties, and will consider Japan’s measures in an even more timely manner.

Our immediate priority is to deliver relief supplies as soon as possible to each and every person facing hardship in Gaza, including women and children. At this time, international partners are working together closely to deliver relief supplies, including food through the World Food Programme (WFP) and sanitation and hygiene supplies through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), while also making use of the shelters and health centers run by UNRWA. In this manner, effective humanitarian assistance will be implemented by leveraging the respective strengths of multiple international organizations.

For the first round of Japan’s food assistance to WFP funded by the supplementary budget, procurement of food was completed in Jordan this Monday, March 11, and is at the checkpoint for cargo entering Gaza.

Furthermore, Japan is providing support in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) to contribute to Egypt’s acceptance of critically ill patients and newborns from the Gaza Strip.

We will be tracking the progress of such Japanese funding and carefully monitoring how Japan’s assistance is bringing benefits to the areas.

Additionally, to deliver supplies to as many people as possible who need assistance, Japan will participate in the maritime humanitarian corridor initiative led by Cyprus, the U.S., and the United Arab Emirates.

Above all, it is critical that a humanitarian ceasefire would be swiftly achieved, which would secure an environment in which humanitarian assistance activities can be carried out and would also lead to the release of the hostages, and that a sustainable ceasefire would be achieved. We will continue to call on all parties to act immediately from a humanitarian perspective, and on this basis, implement measures by working even more closely with the countries concerned for realizing a two-state solution.

To this end, we have recently dispatched State Minister for Foreign Affairs Tsuji to Palestine and Israel, and have decided to dispatch Mr. UEMURA Tsukasa, Representative of the Government of Japan and Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace, to the Middle East region soon.

Before that, we plan to dispatch Mr. ANDO Toshihide, Director-General of Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, to Egypt and Türkiye next week.

I will continue to make diplomatic efforts at the forefront toward the release of the hostages, improvement of the humanitarian situation, and calming down of the situation as soon as possible.

(3) “Golgo 13’s Security Guidelines for Japanese SMEs Abroad”

Minister Kamikawa:Next, my third announcement.

Ensuring the safety of Japanese citizens traveling and residing abroad is one of the most important responsibilities of the Government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been exerting all efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens, including providing support for the evacuation of Japanese citizens from Sudan, Israel, and Palestine last year.

As part of such efforts, we have created an expanded version of “Golgo 13’s Security Guidelines for Japanese SMEs Abroad,” which has been distributed to you. These are the guidelines. We have also made posters like this one.

I understand these guidelines have received very favorable reviews since the first edition was created in 2017. Considering the recent affairs, they now include a new episode on safety measures that Japanese citizens should take for evacuation in an emergency. In this introductory episode, I appear as Foreign Minister Takakura. We published 32,000 copies this time, and we will be distributing them widely, including to representatives of private companies. The guidelines will also be available on MOFA’s website from today.

In addition, we have made PR posters featuring Golgo 13 on Tabi-Regi, which I just showed, and on the Overseas Residential Registration. We would like to ask everyone to view the posters and register on Tabi-Regi or the Overseas Residential Registration based on their length of stay.

As cross-border travel recovers quickly, MOFA will make further efforts to enhance the safety measures for Japanese citizens abroad. I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Saito Production and to everyone involved who helped revise the guidelines. Thank you very much.

That is all from me.

UNSC Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Role and Outcomes)

Yomiuri Shimbun, Kamimura:I would like to ask about the details of the UNSC ministerial meeting mentioned at the outset. You will be chairing this meeting on the theme of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Japan is both a beneficiary of the U.S. nuclear umbrella and a country that has suffered atomic bombings during war. Considering this country background, please share with us the role Japan hopes to play in this meeting.

Minister Kamikawa:As I stated in my opening remarks, we perceive that the path toward a world without nuclear weapons is becoming very severe. To realize a world without nuclear weapons, we need to, above all, steadily advance realistic and practical efforts involving nuclear-weapon States.

At the upcoming meeting, Japan, as chair, will aim to accelerate substantive discussions between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States, taking advantage of the UNSC as a forum in which nuclear-weapon States participate.

Building on the discussion at this meeting, as well as on achievements such as the outcomes from the G7 Hiroshima Summit last May, we will implement measures one by one under the “Hiroshima Action Plan” and translate them into concrete actions for realizing a world without nuclear weapons.

UNSC Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (Outcome Document)

Chugoku Shimbun, Miyano:I have a follow-up question. As you just noted, Japan has already expressed that it will attach importance to the outcomes of the “Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament” from the G7 Hiroshima Summit. This vision lists, for example, increasing the transparency of nuclear weapons, commencing negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), and bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force as soon as possible. In which of these areas will you aim to deliver outcomes at the meeting? Do you intend to compile the outcomes into a document or statement?

Minister Kamikawa:This year is a critical time when the NPT Review Conference is in its interim year. This month, when Japan holds the UNSC presidency, we plan to host the first UNSC open meeting on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation under Japan’s chairmanship. With the participation of nuclear-weapon States, we will have discussions toward the realization of a world without nuclear weapons. We believe this will be highly meaningful.

There was a question on outcomes. We consider it vital to accelerate substantive discussions between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States. In addition, we intend to translate them into concrete actions under the “Hiroshima Action Plan,” while building on the “G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament” as a solid platform.

Chugoku Shimbun, Miyano:The UNSC consists of the five major powers possessing nuclear weapons as well as states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Prime Minister Kishida emphasizes the importance of the TPNW as “an exit to a world without nuclear weapons.” Does the Government intend to refer to the TPNW during the meeting?

Minister Kamikawa:The TPNW is an important treaty that can be described as an exit to “a world without nuclear weapons.” However, not one nuclear-weapon State is participating in the treaty, and a pathway to the “exit” has still not been laid down. Japan, as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, must seek to involve nuclear-weapon States.

From such perspectives as well, we consider that, during this month when Japan holds the UNSC presidency, it will be very meaningful to hold discussions toward the realization of a world without nuclear weapons at the UNSC, with the participation of nuclear-weapon States.

Regarding the outcomes of the meeting and the messages Japan will send out, I would like to refrain from speculating at this time. I intend to accelerate substantive discussions between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States and translate them into concrete actions under the “Hiroshima Action Plan.”

Nippon Steel Corporation (NSC)’s Acquisition of United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel)

NHK, Igarashi:I would like to ask about NSC. On March 14, U.S. President Biden issued a statement on NSC’s plan to acquire the U.S. leading steel manufacturer, U.S. Steel. President Biden indicated he was against an acquisition by a foreign company, stating, “it is vital for [U.S. Steel] to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated.” It is extremely unusual for a sitting president to directly refer to a private company’s acquisition plan. Please tell us your reaction and how you intend to address this matter.

Minister Kamikawa:We are aware of the statement you referred to. However, as this matter concerns the business of an individual company, I would like to refrain from making comments.

In any case, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is stronger than ever. The two countries will continue to work together to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region, maintain and strengthen the free and open rules-based economic order, and advance and deepen our cooperation on economic security.

Russia Presidential Election

Kyodo News, Katsurada: I would like to ask two questions related to Russia.

Voting for the presidential election began today. Voting also takes place in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine that Russia unilaterally declared to have annexed. Please share your thoughts on this.

Furthermore, during a recent press conference, Ambassador to Russia Muto announced Japan’s intention to advance cultural exchanges with the country. What is your view on the purpose and effectiveness of cultural exchanges with the general population of Russia? Please also tell us again your opinion on the importance of cultural diplomacy.

Minister Kamikawa: There were several questions. I would like to answer one at a time. The first was about my thoughts on the presidential election.

A Russian presidential election is to be held from today, March 15, to 17. Russia has announced that this “election” will be also held in the Ukrainian regions it “annexed” illegally.

Russia’s “annexation” of these regions into its own territory is a clear violation of international law that infringes upon Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is also inconsistent with relevant UN General Assembly resolutions, and Japan considers it is absolutely unacceptable. Likewise, we will never recognize Russia’s holding of a “presidential election” in these regions. This was affirmed in the G7 Leaders’ Statement on the occasion of last month’s G7 Leaders’ Video Conference.

There was also a question on cultural exchanges. The first was about the purpose and effectiveness of cultural exchanges with the general population of Russia. Japan is coordinating with the international community including the G7 and is implementing severe sanctions against Russia and providing strong support for Ukraine to realize a just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible.

At the same time, we believe that the current circumstances make it important to maintain contact with the Russian civil society and to provide them with opportunities to have international perspectives.

Based on this idea, we carry out cultural and people-to-people exchange programs that help promote understanding of Japan at the grassroots level, including Japanese language education and small-scale Japanese cultural programs.

We understand that many other G7 members are also implementing similar programs based on the same idea.

In addition, there was a question on the importance of cultural diplomacy as a whole. We view that cultural diplomacy is essential for expanding the breadth of mutual understanding between Japan and other countries and cementing Japan-Russia relations through people-to-people exchanges.

MOFA has been solidly communicating the allure of Japanese culture to various countries, making use of channels such as Japan’s diplomatic missions overseas, the Japan Foundation, and the JAPAN HOUSE hubs. We will continue such efforts going forward. At the same time, we will encourage cultural, intellectual, and people-to-people exchanges with a variety of countries and endeavor to create a platform and foundation for promoting an understanding of Japan and for building peaceful and stable relationships.

Diplomacy toward the Middle East (Funding to UNRWA)

Asahi Shimbun, Matsuyama: I would like to confirm what you said about UNRWA in your opening remarks. You stated earlier that considerations will be made in a timely manner for resuming Japan’s funding to UNRWA. The independent review group is due to release its interim report by the end of this month. In terms of the schedule, is Japan thinking of resuming its funding after this report is released? Please share with us any scheduling matters that are under consideration.

Minister Kamikawa:We will implement measures in a prompt and timely manner amid the circumstances I explained earlier. We are advancing measures recognizing that Gaza is currently in an extremely serious situation. As things are moving quickly, I would like to refrain from disclosing at this time about how we will be doing so. In any case, we are keenly aware that the situation is dire and will be making a decision in consideration of such factors.

Japan-U.S.-Philippines Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Asahi Shimbun, Matsuyama: Please allow me to ask another question. The Government of the U.S. announced that U.S. Secretary of State Blinken will visit the Philippines on March 19 and hold meetings with President Marcos and the Philippine Foreign Minister. There are also reports that a trilateral summit meeting between Prime Minister Kishida, President Biden, and President Marcos is scheduled to be held during Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to the U.S. in April. Do you have any plans to visit the Philippines as a part of your upcoming overseas visit to the UN?

Minister Kamikawa:On your question, there are no plans to hold a Japan-U.S.-Philippines Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

Grant Aid to Ukraine

Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto:My question is about the situation in Ukraine. Japan has decided to provide a grant aid of 69.0 billion yen to Ukraine, as well as a grant aid of 57.8 billion yen in January and another grant aid of 15.8 billion yen in February. Japan has fiscal deficits and the world’s largest accumulated debt. I believe the Japanese people’s anger is on the brink of exploding against the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), which is constantly embroiled in allegations of slush funds and tax evasion. Why do the Government and the Kishida administration continue to shoulder European and U.S. expenses and disperse funds to Ukraine using taxpayers’ money?

Minister Kamikawa:Russia’s aggression against Ukraine shakes the very foundation of the existing international order. It is important to recognize that “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” which Prime Minister Kishida has repeatedly conveyed.

With this in mind, I have consistently advocated that any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force must not be tolerated, and that the current severe international situation requires like-minded countries to demonstrate unity by continuing to provide strong support for Ukraine.

Japan must continue to work with other countries, including the G7 and the “Global South” countries, and fulfill its role as a responsible major power.

We will continue to provide detailed explanations and make efforts to gain the public’s understanding of the significance of such support.

“Golgo 13’s Security Guidelines for Japanese SMEs Abroad”

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa:I have a question about the security guidelines mentioned in your opening remarks. You appear at the beginning of the guidelines as Minister Takakura. In the Minister’s office at MOFA, you are asking Duke Togo to take safety measures for overseas Japanese citizens and SMEs. Have you ever appeared in a manga before? Even if that was or was not your first time, I would appreciate it if you could comment on your appearance in a manga.

Minister Kamikawa:I believe I have never appeared in a manga before.

“Golgo 13” is a highly popular manga that I am, of course, very familiar with. While diplomacy may seem a little inaccessible from everyone’s perspective, the manga explains about MOFA in an easy-to-understand, persuasive manner with stories. Especially in that regard, I admire the late Mr. SAITO Takao for his tremendous contribution.

I showed the booklet earlier. It is a great honor to appear in the guidelines with such a background.

I believe this is soft power in a sense. There are soft power and hard power, and this is soft power. There is an array of fields even within soft power. Manga as a medium has global influence and has many fans from all generations, especially “Golgo 13.” Therefore, I am very grateful for its contribution in this manner.

Diplomacy toward the Middle East (Participation in the Cyprus Maritime Humanitarian Corridor)

Mainichi Shimbun, Murao:I would like to ask about the maritime humanitarian corridor from Cyprus that was referred to in your opening remarks. You vowed that Japan will participate in the initiative. Could you tell us what form of participation is envisaged?

Minister Kamikawa:Delivering assistance to each and every person in the Gaza Strip, including necessary food, medicine, and sanitation and hygiene supplies, has been facing rigorous border restrictions. Therefore, this attempt is meant to supplement the distribution via land routes with a variety of sea routes and ensure that assistance can be delivered to each person as quickly as possible. Japan is considering what it can do now by working together with other countries on such initiatives.

With regard to the feasible form of participation, the framework for cooperation itself is now being considered, and Japan will be fulfilling its role within such schemes.

In any case, we intend to verify all possibilities for delivering assistance to the ground and implement them in a timely manner.

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