Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, December 8, 2017, 9:48 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Overseas Visit by Minister Kono

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: If circumstances permit, I am visiting Bahrain, the UAE, France, the United Kingdom and the United States (New York) from today until December 17.

In Bahrain, I am planning to attend the Manama Dialogue for the first time as the foreign minister of Japan, where I intend to communicate that Japan will actively work toward maintaining and strengthening of peace and stability in the Middle East. Furthermore, in Bahrain and the UAE, I am going to hold meetings with government officials and exchange views regarding the current situation of the Middle East and other topics.

In France I am going to participate in the One Planet Summit. Furthermore, in addition to meetings with French government officials and UNESCO officials, I will exchange views regarding “Japonism 2018” which is planned to be held in France next year.

In the United Kingdom, I am going to hold a Japan-UK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and attend the Third Japan-UK Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting (“2+2”), where I will confirm that the enhancement of Japan-UK security and defense cooperation together with collaboration in regional situation and global issues.

In New York, as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Ministerial Meeting with the theme of “non-proliferation (North Korea)” will be held, I am going to preside over the meeting. I would like to lead international community to be united in applying the maximum possible pressure on North Korea, in order to get North Korea to change its policy.

(2) Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference

Minister Kono: From December 10 to December 13, the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mitsunari Okamoto is planning to attend.

In the WTO, as a champion of free trade, Japan is leading the discussions about e-commerce under its policy that the present issues faced by international trade must be tackled boldly. In order to advance these discussions in the Ministerial Conference and to demonstrate the leadership of Japan, Japan is going to provide support of the scale of 33 billion yen over the next three years in the information and communications technology (ICT) field, including e-commerce and others,.

As a result of Japan providing support in the ICT field, it is expected that related infrastructure development in developing countries will make progress, and the advantages of the effective utilization of e-commerce will spread. I expect that this will lead to more active participation by developing countries in the establishment of the international rules of e-commerce through this.

Overseas Visit by Minister Kono

Reporter: You said you will make overseas visit if circumstances permit, but how do you intend to talk about the issue of North Korea with each country?

Minister Kono: Regarding the issue of North Korea, I intend to confirm that the international community will unite to increase pressure.

The Announcement of President Trump of the United States regarding Jerusalem

Reporter: In response to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council will be held. I think that Japan, which holds the presidency of the Council, supports the “two-state solution,” so what stance do you intend to take when holding the meeting, and continuing criticism from countries around the world towards the recognition?

Minister Kono: At any rate, we plan to hold the meeting early in the morning on December 9, and I would like to avoid giving premature answers regarding the Security Council.

Overseas Visit by Minister Kono

Reporter Regarding the schedule of your overseas visit, I think that, as for the Middle East, you were initially making arrangements for a visit to Saudi Arabia as well. What is the reason for that visit being removed from the schedule?

Minister Kono: Due to the current situation of the Middle East, a problem arose regarding the schedule of the other party, and recently I held a telephone talk with the foreign minister, so we adjusted that part of the schedule slightly.

Reporter: You mean that Saudi Arabian side turned down the visit….

Minister Kono: I heard that they had a busy schedule of meetings in Cairo, Jordan and in other countries in the Middle East, and since it would be a little inappropriate to schedule another meeting in those circumstances, we rearranged the schedule.

The Situation in the Middle East

Reporter: Is the current situation of the Middle East extremely severe, does it include that kind of upheaval? Please tell us again how you view that situation.

Minister Kono: In various places, stone-throwing and a variety of other actions have already started, so I believe that there is a possibility that the Middle East situation has worsened a little, and that kind of thing is occurring as a matter of fact. In that context, I intend to provide strong support in the areas that Japan can support so that no more chaos than this occurs, and I intend to hold a variety of exchanges of views.

Reporter: I think you said this before, but what kinds of exchanges of views do you think would reduce those fears of the worsening of the Middle East situation, even a little?

Minister Kono: Until now the United States has made efforts to mediate peace in the region, but it is anticipated that due to this recognition of the capital, those mediation efforts will become somewhat more difficult. Having said that, as I do not think no one take action towards peace, I intend to exchange views about how we should best proceed and within what framework going forward, also, I intend to firmly contribute in areas where Japan can contribute.

Reporter: I think Saudi Arabia is a leading country in the Middle East, or I should say it demonstrates that it has significant central role, so for that reason I would have thought that this time you would really want to visit Saudi Arabia and hold discussions, including about the present situation in Jerusalem.

Minister Kono: With the foreign minister I have already had a quite in-depth discussion in the telephone talk, including topics regarding not only Jerusalem but also Yemen. At first, I was thinking along the lines of confirming that conversation with the Crown Prince and others, but I have held a thorough exchange of views with the foreign minister, the schedule had become quite a tight schedule on our side as well, and we have the climate change summit too, so we thought cancellation of the visit was unavoidable given that we cannot reschedule other items on the schedule much. We have now built a relationship such that we can hold a telephone talk from anywhere when necessary, so I think it will be acceptable to make a phone call if necessary.

Japan-EU EPA

Reporter: About the Japan-EU EPA, what is the current situation, the final agreement…

Minister Kono: We have already reached principle broad framework, so I intend to finalise the negotiations within this year. I have confirmed that with the EU side in a recent telephone talk, in which I suggested we should act as quickly as possible, so I expect that we can take the process in that direction within this year.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Feltman’s Visit to North Korea

Reporter: Regarding the upcoming meeting, I mean the UNSC Ministerial Meeting, do you anticipate receiving the explanation regarding the visit of the United Nations Under-Secretary-General to North Korea?

Minister Kono: The Secretary-General will be a briefer, so I think that topic will be raised as a matter of course, and going forward I intend to finalize the details regarding that.

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