Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, March 29, 2018, 3:54 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have just received the recommendations compiled by the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament (EPG) during its discussions in November last year and on Monday and Tuesday this week, from the Chair, Professor Shiraishi. The EPG discussed various issues related to nuclear weapons, including North Korea’s nuclear development, Iran’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the enhancement of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and the nature of China’s unclear nuclear arsenal. In light of the deepening concerns over the deteriorating strategic environment and the differences in the positions of states on nuclear disarmament, the Government of Japan convened this EPG and intends to build firm bridges between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, as well as between non-nuclear-weapon states themselves, among whom various differences exist. To that end, we had the members of the EPG witness the realities of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. In addition, during their recent discussions in Tokyo, I also took part in the working dinner and engaged in an exchange of views with the members. The recommendations that I have received from the EPG on this occasion were compiled in attempt to converge different approaches towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons, and one recommendation of particular note is the call for civility in discourse. Taking these recommendations into consideration, the Government will firmly convey Japan’s position to the international community at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April, which, circumstances permitting, I will personally attend, and seek to gain the support of the international community. I would like to once again express my gratitude to the members of the EPG, while also requesting that they continue to hold meetings and engage in further discussions, as various mid- and long-term challenges or so-called “hard questions” remain.
Reporter: Having received these recommendations, how does Japan intend to exercise its leadership in efforts to achieve denuclearization?
Foreign Minister Kono: The Japanese Government will first make sure it has a firm understanding of the recommendations that it has received today, based on which it will establish Japan’s official position. The importance of the NPT process is widely shared among the members of the EPG and Japan intends to play a strong role in this process.
Reporter: In relation to the subject of denuclearization, it has been agreed that a North-South Summit Meeting will be held on April 27. What kinds of discussions do you hope will take place?
Foreign Minister Kono: With close coordination among Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea, the international community should work together to ensure that the North-South Summit Meeting and the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting lead to real actions by North Korea towards the denuclearization of North Korea and the Korean Peninsula.
Reporter: Confidence-building is included among the recommendations. In your view, what specific actions will be taken to build confidence?
Foreign Minister Kono: I believe it is important to firmly face up to the realities, and engage in civil dialogue and discussion. To reflect the different positions on this subject, the EPG was also made up of members with different viewpoints. The Chair of the EPG would, at times, surely have encountered various frustrations, but he nevertheless carefully compiled these recommendations. It was not because of their small number that the members were able to reach a consensus. Rather, if everyone engages in thorough discussions with a view to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, it is possible to converge the discussions, even among those with different positions. I therefore believe that it is important to hold rigorous discussions, which is true not only of the EPG but also the international community.