Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister KAMIKAWA Yoko

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 5:37 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

Presentation of a Letter of Appointment as Special Assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Dr. SEN Genshitsu

Ms. KAMIKAWA Yoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have an announcement at the outset.

Today, I presented a letter of appointment as Special Assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Dr. SEN Genshitsu, the 15th-generation Iemoto (Grand Master) of the Urasenke school of tea. We asked Dr. Sen to become a Special Assistant for the first time in 2017. Since then, we have asked to renew his term every year, and this year was the seventh time.

As the 15th-generation Iemoto of the Urasenke school of tea, and even after he transferred the Iemoto position, Dr. Sen has been introducing tea ceremony, which embodies the spirit of Japanese culture and the soul of Japan, to the world for over half a century. He has devoted himself to deepening mutual understanding and conducting international cultural exchanges through chado (way of tea; commonly referred to as the Japanese tea ceremony in English), and has contributed immensely to Japan’s peace diplomacy.

Whenever I visited other countries as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I saw firsthand the powerful appeal that Japanese culture has to people around the globe and how Japanese culture with its rich offerings are cherished by people of all backgrounds worldwide. Various foreign ministers have also expressed great interest in Japanese culture, including tea ceremony and washoku, Japan’s traditional food.

Japanese culture is a source of soft power in Japan’s diplomacy. With the cooperation of Dr. Sen, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will further engage in programs to promote Japanese culture and carry out cultural diplomacy through reciprocal exchanges with various countries.

That is all from me.

The Passing of the President of Iran and Others Due to a Helicopter Accident

NHK, Igarashi: I would like to ask about Iran. On the 20th, memorial gatherings were held across Iran for President Raisi and everyone else on board who died in a helicopter crash in Iran. Additionally, it has been decided that an election to choose a new president will be held on the 28th of next month. Can the Government of Japan share its comment and its expectations for the impact on Middle East diplomacy?

Minister Kamikawa: We are aware of the Government of Iran’s announcement that this helicopter crash resulted in the passing of President Raisi, Foreign Minister Abdollahian, and others on board the helicopter.

I first met Foreign Minister Abdollahian on the occasion of the Japan-Iran Summit Meeting in September 2023. Since then, we held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Geneva in December 2023 and two telephone talks, during which we engaged in a series of candid dialogues. I am deeply saddened by his sudden passing.

I would like to express my deepest condolences to the Government of Iran, the people of Iran, and the bereaved families, and to offer my sincere prayers for the repose of the souls of President Raisi, Foreign Minister Abdollahian and others who passed away.

Japan attaches importance to peace and stability in the Middle East. We will continue to make active diplomatic efforts toward easing tension and stabilizing the situation in the region by taking advantage of the favorable relationships we have built with Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, and working with the countries concerned.

We are aware that an Iranian presidential election is scheduled to be held on June 28 in response to the passing of President Raisi. We will continue to closely follow the situation, including developments surrounding the election.

Applications for Arrest Warrants against the Israeli Prime Minister and Others by an International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor

Anadolu Agency, Mercan: I would like to ask about the Middle East crisis. ICC Chief Prosecutor Khan has announced that he will apply for arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Gallant. Chief Prosecutor Khan stated that he has reasonable grounds to believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant bear criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip from October 20 of last year. How does Japan assess ICC Chief Prosecutor Khan’s applications?

Minister Kamikawa: We are aware that, on May 20, the ICC’s Prosecutor Khan announced that he filed applications for warrants of arrest before Pre-Trial Chamber I in the situation in Palestine against Hamas’ Yahya Sinwar, Head of the Political Bureau in the Gaza Strip, Commander-in-Chief Mohammed Deif of the military wing, and Ismail Haniyeh, Head of the Political Bureau, as well as Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Gallant.

We understand that Pre-Trial Chamber I will review the applications, the evidence submitted by the prosecutor, and other information and determine whether or not to issue the arrest warrants.

In any case, Japan will continue to closely follow the developments with serious concern as a state party to the ICC, considering also the impact that this matter may have on the situation surrounding Israel and Palestine.

End of the Term of President Zelenskyy of Ukraine

Independent Web Journal, Hamamoto: I have a question about the situation in Ukraine. The term of President Zelenskyy, who has advocated that Ukraine fight to protect freedom and democracy in the world, ended yesterday. He has not held elections on account of the state of emergency and has eliminated opposing politicians one after another. It seems there is no reason for Japan to support Ukraine, which is neither free nor democratic and has no rule of law. In addition, if the emergency clause insisted on by the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) is introduced into the constitution, Japan could find itself in the same situation as Ukraine. Do you believe that dangerous state emergency powers that led to the emergence of the Nazi Hitler regime should be introduced into the constitution?

Minister Kamikawa: My understanding is that relevant Ukrainian laws and regulations concerning martial law stipulate that, if the Ukrainian President’s term expires during martial law, then the term is extended until the inauguration of the president who is elected after the martial law is lifted, and that the holding of a presidential election under martial law is prohibited. I also understand that this martial law is regularly approved by the Ukrainian parliament.

That being said, it cannot be forgotten that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is the reason Ukraine is in its current situation.

Japan’s posture has not changed. We will continue severe sanctions against Russia and strong support for Ukraine while working with various countries, including the G7 and the Global South countries, in order to achieve a just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible, based on the view that the security of Europe and Indo-Pacific are inseparable.

Minister Kamikawa’s Remark in Shizuoka

Asahi Shimbun, Matsuyama: I would like to ask about domestic affairs. On the 18th, during a campaign speech in support of the LDP-endorsed candidate for the Shizuoka gubernatorial election held in your hometown of Shizuoka City, you stated, “How can we women call ourselves women without giving birth to this person?” You subsequently retracted this remark. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi said in his press conference yesterday that you had phoned him on the 19th. Can you tell us about what the two of you discussed? Did you receive any kind of warning from the Chief Cabinet Secretary? He also mentioned that he would like you to continue to fulfill your duties as Foreign Minister. Please share your thoughts on your future as Minister.

Minister Kamikawa: I took seriously the comments that the remark may be interpreted in a way it does not match my true intention, and therefore, I have retracted it. I explained my view to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi.

I will continue to carry out the duties assigned to me as Foreign Minister with unwavering dedication, in order to pass on to future generations Japan that has great and bright potential and is respected and needed by the world.

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: I have a question about the remark you made in your hometown on the 18th and retracted. This remark has sparked a debate over the media’s coverage, among ruling and opposition party members, experts, and general readers who have described the coverage as distorted reporting, selective reporting, or taking words out of context. An article that is often referred to is an English-language article by Kyodo News. The headline reads, “Japan minister queries women’s worth without birth in election speech.” The article states that you equated childbirth with the election of a new governor. LDP House of Representatives member SUZUKI Takako, former State Minister for Foreign Affairs, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the article requires an apology and correction and that its deletion would not resolve the misunderstanding. So, such have been the reactions and debate. As I was not there when you made the remark, I would like to confirm with you once again. Did you make such a remark that could lead to this kind of English-language coverage? In addition, I would like to hear your view on this English-language article, including the reactions it has generated.

Minister Kamikawa: What I intended to say by the remark was that the power of women can change the future. I took seriously the comments that the remark may be interpreted in a way it does not match my true intention, and therefore, I have retracted it. I believe this speaks to everything.

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