Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 8:35 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Meeting
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morgulov is holding a Japan-Russia vice-ministerial meeting in Tokyo on February 6.
The meeting will cover the overall Japan-Russia relations and the issue of conclusion of a peace treaty, including joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands and other topics.
It is hoped that the meeting will yield constructive discussions towards the holding of subsequent political dialogues between Japan and Russia, including the possible visit of Prime Minister Abe to Russia in May 2018 and the holding of a Japan-Russian Foreign Ministers’ Meeting prior to that.
Cancellation of the Joint Cultural Event between the Republic of Korea and North Korea
Reporter: North Korea has suddenly cancelled a joint event that was scheduled to be jointly held by the Republic of Korea (ROK) and North Korea. There are also media reports about North Korea making preparations to hold a military parade on the day before the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics. Please explain your thoughts about such potentially provocative actions.
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on each and every action by North Korea, including whether or not it has cancelled a particular event. The ROK and North Korea have been engaging in dialogue towards the successful holding of the PyeongChang Olympics. The international community’s stance on the issue of North Korea and its denuclearization, meanwhile, has not changed at all. We continue to fully implement the economic sanctions against North Korea and increase pressure, with the expectation that North Korea will demonstrate its serious will and concrete actions towards denuclearization.
Appointment of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Japan
Reporter: Russia has appointed Mr. Galuzin, who is known for his hardline stance on territorial issues, as the new Russian Ambassador to Japan. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Kono: I have not met the new Ambassador yet, so I would like to avoid having any preconceptions about him.
The Japan-China Relations
Reporter: I have a question about the Japan-China relations. You have just visited China and held various meetings there. Despite this, actions by a Chinese military aircraft yesterday forced Japan to scramble its own aircraft in response. How do you view the fact that this type of military action occurred just as positive ties are being built? While I know that you have discussed this issue previously, could you please share your views?
Minister Kono: The Chinese side has made its own unilateral assertions regarding various matters, including the East China Sea. Japan intends to respond in a manner that is in line with the agreement reached between the leaders of our countries to make the East China Sea a “Sea of Peace, Cooperation and Friendship.”
Regarding the recent cases involving submarine and surface vessels, I asked the Chinese side to take thorough steps to prevent the reoccurrence of such actions that set our improved relations back. In my meetings with Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, I received clear statements of China’s political will to improve bilateral relations. I thus anticipate that the Chinese side will take firm actions to prevent the reoccurrence of such actions that cause setbacks in our relations.
Reporter: In this respect, it seems important to promptly operate the maritime and aerial communication mechanism. What are your thoughts about specific steps, including steps by the Ministry of Defense, to achieve prompt operation of this mechanism?
Minister Kono: I believe the drafting of the relevant documents and other final arrangements will be conducted between the defense authorities. Japan hopes to begin operation of this mechanism as soon as possible.
Reporter: Do you have any specific timing?
Minister Kono: The Chinese side was very positive in its view. All that is left is to complete the actual work.