Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Friday, March 31, 2017, 8:53 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Arrest of Former President Park Geun-hye
Reporter: Former President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea (ROK) was arrested. I would think this development could undermine the effectiveness of the Japan-ROK agreement. Please explain your view.
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I must refrain from making any comments in my position because the point you mentioned is basically an internal matter of the ROK and also a matter concerning judicial proceeding. Having said that, needless to say, the ROK is our most important neighbor that shares strategic interests. I view that stability in the Japan-ROK relationship is essential for regional peace and stability in light of the North Korea issue and other situations. Within this context, the Japan-ROK agreement is something to which both countries committed and has won praise from the international community. Therefore, both Japan and the ROK need to take responsibility in carrying through with the agreement, and furthermore, it is the duty to the international community of both countries to do this. Japan must continue to persistently seek fulfillment of the agreement under the current administration and the upcoming new administration. This remains unchanged.
Violation of Rules on Re-employment
Reporter: I would like to ask about the issue of job placements for former officials. The former Administrative Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) currently serving as Japan’s Ambassador to Bulgaria has tendered his resignation, and I understand that you will order the Ambassador’s return to Japan as early as today. What will be the schedule for these procedure?
Minister Kishida: Ambassador Shinichi Yamanaka to Bulgaria expressed his intention to resign following MEXT’s announcement yesterday. I have decided to accept the resignation request and will issue an order as early as today for the Ambassador’s return to Japan. The rules state that the Ambassador shall return to Japan within 40 days of my order being issued. I expect diplomatic schedules and relations with the counterpart country to dictate the specific timing of the return. The Ambassador will return at a suitable time in light of these factors, and the resignation will be approved upon the return. While the specific timing has not been decided yet, I expect matters to proceed in accordance with the rules and other aspects just mentioned.
“Central Asia plus Japan” Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Reporter: Some media reports state that you will visit Turkmenistan in May during Golden Week for a “Central Asia plus Japan” Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Where do arrangements stand at this point?
Minister Kishida: Nothing has been decided yet. It is true that Turkmenistan is currently the chair country for the “Central Asia plus Japan” framework. Therefore, I believe the next meeting will take place in Turkmenistan. However, my understanding is that nothing has been decided yet about when the meeting will be held.
Japan-Russia Joint Economic Activity
Reporter: Please explain about the Japan-Russia joint economic activity. I think the Japan side held a second meeting yesterday. I believe that the various ministries and agencies will be holding detailed discussions on the initiatives. By around when do you intend to yield a clear direction for the discussions?
Minister Kishida: Exchanges took place between Japan and Russia at the vice-ministerial-level meeting on March 18 and the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on March 20. Based on these exchanges, members of the relevant ministries and agencies gathered for yesterday’s meeting to check our way forward and other issues. As subsequent activity between Japan and Russia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to visit Russia in late April. The Government is moving forward with concrete activities ahead of this visit.
Murder of Kim Jong-nam
Reporter: I have a question about Kim Jong-nam. Last night, it appears that a political deal took place in which Malaysia transferred the body to North Korea in exchange for the return of Malaysians who were not necessarily detained but prevented from leaving Pyongyang. I think this calls into doubt the extent to which a full investigation can be conducted. What is the Japanese Government’s view of this situation?
Minister Kishida: My understanding is that North Korea and Malaysia approved the departure from their countries of the citizens of the other country on March 30 following negotiations between the two countries. Additionally, the Malaysian Government approved the return of the deceased person’s body to North Korea.
I would like to refrain from commenting because this is a matter between other countries. I understand the Malaysian Government has stated that it will continue the investigation. Japan will continue to collect information with keen interest.
Japan-US Economic Dialogue
Reporter: Some media reports are indicating that you might participate in the Japan-US economic dialogue. Where do things stand?
Minister Kishida: While the two countries agreed that Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence of the United States will head the Japan-US economic dialogue, I am not aware of any decisions at this point regarding which ministers will attend and who will be the other participants. While I imagine that some type of coordination is taking place about my positioning, I am not aware of anything. I am therefore not aware of anything related to the content of the media reports.
Reporter: There is a meeting scheduled next week for the Japan-European Union (EU) economic partnership agreement (EPA). What are your expectations?
Minister Kishida: As has been confirmed multiple times by the leaders on both sides, it remains unchanged that efforts will be made to reach an agreement in principle as early as possible. My meeting with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström confirmed that we would maintain this momentum. We will continue to make efforts.