Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, February 9, 2018, 8:49 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
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Visits to Brunei and Singapore by Foreign Minister Kono
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting Brunei and Singapore during February 10-12.
Brunei serves as the coordinating country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with Japan. I am planning to hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Erywan, who newly assumed the position, which is the equivalent of Foreign Minister. In addition to that, I am scheduled to inspect the Overseas Training Cruise troops of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), which is currently making a port call in Brunei.
In Singapore, which the chair of ASEAN, I am going to conduct a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Balakrishnan, and make a courtesy call to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In both countries, I intend to exchange views regarding bilateral relations, response to the North Korea issue, cooperation aimed at realization of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, and promotion of free trade (including the TPP11). I also hope to discuss the approach to cooperation between Japan and ASEAN this year.
I aim to have successful meetings considering that I heard that this is the first time in five years for Japan’s Foreign Minister to visit these two countries.
Reporter: Yesterday, a performing arts group used the term “Dokdo” in the Republic of Korea (ROK) as a reference to Shimane Prefecture’s Takeshima that the ROK claims as its own territory and has named “Dokdo.” This appears to be aimed at interfering with or destroying Japan-ROK cooperation. What is your view?
Minister Kono: There is an atmosphere that North Korea is attempting to use the Olympics for political purposes. Japan hopes to firmly promote Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-US-ROK cooperation. It is my understanding that US-ROK military exercises will resume after the Olympics and Paralympics finish. We will continue to apply unabated pressure on North Korea.
Reporter: Within this conciliatory mood between the ROK and North Korea, Prime Minister Abe will visit the ROK today to attend the PyeongChang Olympics Opening Ceremony and hold a meeting. What results are you expecting?
Minister Kono: I believe Japan’s team will be doing their very best, and my understanding is that the Prime Minister is going to encourage them. I hope that all of the athletes will try their best and fully utilize their capabilities.
Reporter: What about the meeting?
Minister Kono: The Japan-ROK Summit Meeting is planned and I hope that it will firmly strengthen Japan-ROK cooperation.
Reporter: ROK media is reporting that President Moon Jae-in will meet with Ms. Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Mr. Kim Jong-Un, and other North Korean representatives on February 10. While the ROK and North Korea had been engaging in dialogue ahead of the PyeongChang Olympics up to now, are you concerned that this development is entering a different phase of dialogue?
Minister Kono: I expect that President Moon Jae-in will send a firm message to North Korea.
Reporter: What exactly are you looking for as a firm message?
Minister Kono: I hope that it will be a firm message that promotes denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
US-ROK Military Exercises
Reporter: Have you been contacted by the US regarding the resumption of military exercises?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from discussing diplomatic interactions.
Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)
Reporter: Regarding comments yesterday at the Meeting of the Budget Committee, in reference to the NPR, you stated that it is not the US nuclear force that is destabilizing the world, but Russia. There was a backlash from Russia’s Foreign Ministry to this remark, and in short they indicated their opinion that it runs contrary to negotiations for a peace treaty. What was your intention with the comment and what are your thoughts about the response?
Minister Kono: I was simply referring to what was stated in the NPR. I think Russia should make this comment to the US. Even if this is said to me, I am not involved in preparation of the NPR.
Reaction to North-South Reconciliation in South Korea
Reporter: In the ROK, some insist that the US and Japan are overly interfering with the conciliatory mood. While Japan and the ROK Government are stating their intent to continue pressure, what is your view of the continuing strong presence of these voices?
Minister Kono: I think this is just a portion of voices in the ROK. The ROK Government confirmed in the meeting with Vice President Pence that it intends to firmly proceed with Japan-US-ROK cooperation. Japan intends to continue applying pressure on North Korea.