Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 10:20 a.m.   Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

North Korea situation

Reporter: I would like to ask a question related to North Korea. The other day it was confirmed that a ship thought to be a tanker under the Dominican Republic flag was pulled up alongside a North Korean tanker and this was probably a part of efforts to evade sanctions. I think that at the related meetings in Canada before this you proposed strengthening measures against this, so what do you think about this kind of thing occurring in that context and how are you going to respond?

Foreign Minister Kono: At the meeting in Vancouver, Canada, I pointed out that North Korea has become very skillful at evading the sanctions. Regarding my response to “ship-to-ship transfers,” the international community is in agreement that we should firmly help each other while attempting to prevent these “ship-to-ship transfers.”

This concerns the details of the operation of the warning and surveillance activities regarding the individual cases, so I would like to refrain from commenting any further.

Reporter: Ships under a variety of flags are making contact with those ships that are thought to be North Korean, so some observers have pointed out that cracking down on them is probably not possible with surveillance alone. What do you think about that?

Foreign Minister Kono: The reality is that North Korea’s methods for evading sanctions have become very skillful, so I think that we must respond to that in a variety of forms. I intend to firmly deal with this by doing what is possible with the agreement of the international community.

Reporter: This is another question about North Korea. According to some media reports, at the recent meeting in Canada, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea stated a positive attitude toward resuming humanitarian assistance, and in response to that Japan and the United States took the lead in expressing the response that such a step would be premature or too soon. It could be pointed out that resumption of humanitarian assistance would of course be premature, or perhaps that it should be considered separately, but what do you think about that?

Foreign Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from talking about the parts of the Vancouver meeting that were not open to the public. The international community agreed that it is necessary to apply maximum pressure on North Korea now, and has sent messages to that effect in the co-chairs’ summary and others, so I think there is no way forward other than applying the maximum pressure on North Korea by the international community now.

Reporter: About the “ship-to-ship transfers,” in the case for example that the site where the cargo is being transferred is photographed, does Japan have any intention of submitting the photographs to the United Nations and other institutions?

Foreign Minister Kono: I will not talk about the details of the operations.

Visit to China by Foreign Minister Kono

Reporter: Regarding the schedule for your visit to China, I think you have shown a willingness to visit China for a long time, and I think that the focus will be on how far agreement can be secured regarding the holding of the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit. What kinds of exchanges are you expecting on your visit to China?

Foreign Minister Kono: The visit to China itself has not been finalized yet, so I cannot say anything about that. But regarding the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit, I think we will proceed with the adjustment of the schedule with a view to holding the summit as soon as possible.

Reporter: You have been saying for a very long time that you would like to visit China at an early stage. What matters would you like to confirm on the spot at the foreign ministers’ meeting as minister?

Foreign Minister Kono: This year is a milestone year for the Japan-China relations, so I would like to promote efforts to strengthen the relations in a various way. I also believe it is important for Japan and China to work together on international and global issues, so I would like to discuss what Japan and China can do about such matters working together side by side.

Reporter: In your foreign policy speech yesterday, regarding the problem of the East China Sea, you pointed out that you cannot accept unilateral change to the status quo. Is it your intention to make this matter a topic of conversation as well?

Foreign Minister Kono: I would like to discuss the Japan-China relations and a variety of challenges.

Reporter: In the case of a visit to China, will a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang also be arranged?

Foreign Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided about the visit to China yet.

Reporter: Don’t you think the problem of China’s nuclear submarines entering the contiguous zone will become an obstacle to the Japan-China relations?

Foreign Minister Kono: I intend to discuss the Japan-China relations and a variety of issues.