Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, January 19, 2018, 10:35 a.m.   Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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Japanese

Opening Remarks

Visit to Japan by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian of the French Republic

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Le Drian will pay a working visit (invitation by Minister for Foreign Affairs) to Japan from January 26 to 29 upon my invitation.

During his stay in Japan, we are holding the Fourth Japan-France Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting together with Defense Minister Onodera and French Minister for the Armed Forces Parly. Additionally, Minister Le Drian and I are holding the Seventh Japan-France Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.

Japan hopes to strengthen the “exceptional partnership” between our two countries since this year marks the 160th anniversary of Japan-France friendship. Japonism 2018 will also take place in France, and in this regard we hope to deepen strategic and cultural ties between Japan and France.

First Year of the Trump Administration

Reporter: Tomorrow marks one year since the inauguration of the Trump administration in the US. Please explain your impression of the first year and how Japan intends to interact with the US considering domestic and overseas criticism of the Trump administration.

Minister Kono: President Trump and Prime Minister Abe have held frequent summit meetings and telephone talks, and the Japan-US Alliance has never been stronger.

In the face of the North Korean crisis, Japan will continue to support the US policy of keeping all options on the table. At the recent meeting in Vancouver, the international community was able to send a very strong message that nuclear weapons cannot be accepted on the Korean Peninsula, and that the international community should apply maximum pressure to ensure that North Korea follows a path of denuclearization. Japan and the US intend to continue collaborating to offer their full support.

Escort of Japanese Fishing Boat to Russia

Reporter: It is reported that a Japanese fishing boat operating in Nemuro Bay in Hokkaido was escorted to Russia yesterday. Please explain what you know thus far and the Japanese Government’s response.

Minister Kono: I understand that an investigation is taking place regarding an alleged false entry in the operating ledger. The government continues to look into the facts and plans to respond appropriately.

Comments by North Korea’s Foreign Press Secretary

Reporter: I have a question about North Korea. Local media reported comments by North Korea’s Foreign Press Secretary criticizing Prime Minister Abe’s obsessive calls for stronger pressure on North Korea during his overseas visit. What is your view of these comments?

Minister Kono: I believe North Korea is reacting to the very strong message of the international community agreeing to put maximum pressure on North Korea.

North-South Working-Level Talks

Reporter: I would like to ask about the dialogue between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and North Korea. Working-level talks have been taking place regarding participation in the Olympic Games. This includes forming a joint team in some events. The discussions appear to be moving forward at a fairly quick pace. What is your view of the current state of the North-South dialogue?

Minister Kono: The current North-South dialogue is limited to the Olympic Games. As the Games begin soon in the first half of February, it seems decisions about the format of participation must be made fairly quickly in order for it to actually happen.

Reporter: Concerns have emerged about appeasement by the Moon Jae-in Government in this dialogue process. What is your view of these concerns?

Minister Kono: The ROK participated in the meeting in Vancouver and confirmed in a Japan-US-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and in other venues that maximum pressure should be applied, that North Korea has become highly skilled in its efforts to avoid sanctions, and that Japan, the US, and the ROK should take the lead in providing technical assistance so that sanctions can be implemented effectively. We intend to proceed with these efforts.

Abductions Issue

Reporter: I would like to return to the topic of North Korea. The above-mentioned criticism also included an assertion that the abductions issue has already been resolved. Please explain your thoughts on this point.

Minister Kono: We maintain the position contained in the Stockholm Agreement with North Korea. We steadily aim to ultimately resolve the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues.

Prime Minister Abe’s Participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

Reporter: I have a question about the PyeongChang Olympic Games. Foreign Minister Kang of the ROK, directly invited Prime Minister Abe to visit the ROK for the PyeongChang Olympic Games. What is your view on Prime Minister Abe attending the PyeongChang Olympic Games opening ceremony?

Minister Kono: I think Prime Minister Abe will make this decision in light of the Diet schedule and other matters.

First Year of the Trump Administration

Reporter: I would like to ask about the first year of the Trump administration. While the relationship is excellent in regard to security issues related to North Korea, substantial differences exist in areas that are closely tied to Japan, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris Agreement. What is your view of these destabilizing factors?

Minister Kono: Although it is very regrettable that the US left the TPP, discussions are taking place with Ambassador Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative, on development of rules between Japan and the US for high-quality trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan and the US can still accomplish various things in the field of trade. At the recent climate change summit in France, the US participated at state and corporate levels. This activity suggests that there is considerable commitment to the Paris Agreement within the US.

Chinese Military Submarine in the Contiguous Zone of the Senkaku Islands

Reporter: A Chinese submarine was recently submerged once in the contiguous zone surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Please explain your thoughts on this incident. What is your analysis of China’s aim?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on China’s aim. We intend to firmly request that China not repeat such action.

Foreign Ministers’ Meeting for Related Countries on North Korea

Reporter: I have a question about the meeting in Canada. Secretary of Defense Mattis stated that the US has a war plan for dealing with North Korea. What is your analysis of this comment?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from discussing what took place at the dinner meeting.

Japan-US Nuclear Energy Agreement

Reporter: I have a question about the Japan-US Nuclear Energy Agreement. As you also mentioned in an appearance on a BS satellite TV program, you have stated that the framework contains uncertainty because it could be stopped with a notification. You also commented that Japan has an obligation to fully explain its situation to the international community in the plutonium usage plan. Please explain specifically how you plan to proceed with this effort.

Minister Kono: There will be close coordination within the Government.

Reporter: Will it just be a minor adjustment to the framework? How about the automatic extension framework?

Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided yet.