Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 10:40 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Appointment of New ROK Foreign Minister
Reporter: Dr. Kang Kyung-wha has assumed the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK). She has indicated that the Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue, an issue of concern, is inadequate. On the other hand, she has also reportedly stated that the bilateral relationship should not be entirely defined by this issue. What are your thoughts about her inauguration? Also, I think the most important issue for you will be building a relationship of trust as foreign ministers. How do you plan to proceed on this front?
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The ROK is an important neighbor that shares strategic interests with Japan. Stability in the Japan-ROK relationship affects peace and stability in the international community and the region. In this regard, it is necessary that the new Foreign Minister and I cooperate thoroughly. I have already sent a congratulatory message.
Regarding the Japan-ROK agreement, as explained on previous occasions, this is an agreement between the Japanese and ROK Governments and it is important to fully implement this agreement that has been highly valued internationally. I will continue to persistently communicate this view to the new ROK administration.
Within this context, I am also aware that Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha commented at a parliamentary confirmation hearing prior to assuming office that “it is a reality that the agreement exists, and it is standard practice in the international community to follow through with agreements.”
I intend to steadily maintain communication with the new Foreign Minister and build a relationship of trust. I expect this process to begin with a telephone talk.
Reporter: Where do arrangements currently stand?
Minister Kishida: We are now making the arrangements, and nothing has been decided yet.
Death of US Student Detained by North Korea
Reporter: I have a question related to North Korea. It has been reported that the US university student who was detained for a lengthy period by North Korea died today. The US side is condemning North Korea’s torture-like treatment of the student. From a humanitarian perspective, Japan also has the abductions issue. What are your thoughts on North Korea’s actions on such humanitarian issues?
Minister Kishida: I have been closely following the case you mentioned from a humanitarian standpoint. Japan has supported efforts by the United States to gain the release of US citizens detained by North Korea. It is very regrettable to learn of the death of this US student. Japan will continue to support and follow efforts by the US to gain the release of US citizens detained by North Korea.
Negotiations on Agreement on fundamental elements for a Japan-EU EPA
Reporter: I think there are still discussions taking place to finalize the arrangements of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and the European Union (EU). I believe one of the ideas being considered is to reach an agreement in principle at a summit meeting between Japan and the EU coinciding with the G20 Summit in July. What is the current state of the arrangements? Also, will there be a meeting of foreign ministers for ministerial level discussions and final talks in the process of seeking an agreement in principle?
Minister Kishida: Firstly, nothing has been decided at this point regarding the timing of a summit meeting. However, Japan and the EU have agreed to aim for an agreement on fundamental elements as early as possible and we will continue to work steadily in this direction.
In this context, Japan will continue to make efforts while also taking into account the possibility of holding a summit meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit. Last week, Japan held talks with Mr. Mauro Petriccione, Chief Negotiator and Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission, and others from the EU side, and chief negotiator-level negotiations will continue this week in a suitable format. We will continue to make efforts with a view to reaching an agreement on fundamental elements as early as possible.
If it becomes necessary in this process, I would like to maintain communication at the ministerial level in various formats, such as a ministerial meeting or telephone talk. I will engage in meetings including a telephone talk with Dr. Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, as needed.
Japan-US-ROK Summit Meeting
Reporter: In yesterday’s press conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commented on a Japan-US-ROK Summit meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit. Please update on the current state of the arrangements, the possibility of a meeting, and your expectations as Foreign Minister for this type of summit meeting.
Minister Kishida: Nothing has been decided yet regarding the timing of a Japan-US-ROK Summit meeting. Regardless, we view that this is an important dialogue framework for cooperation among Japan, the US, and the ROK, also in light of the severe security environment in this region, including the recent issues of North Korea. Japan will put emphasis on maintaining communication among the three countries at the summit level as well as other levels and will arrange the timing based on this view.
Decline in the Cabinet Approval Rate
Reporter: The Cabinet approval rate has dropped significantly in public opinion surveys by media companies. What is your assessment of the causes?
Minister Kishida: While I see a variety of media reports and a variety of views being expressed, I think various factors exist. It is important to take these comments seriously. Approval ratings have dropped in the past as well. The key is whether it rises again after the dip. I believe it is vital to humbly acknowledge the decline in the approval rating and comments regarding its causes and then address them carefully.
Reporter: You noted that there are a variety of factors. Do you think the Kakei Educational Institution issue and the law concerning the amendment of the Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds influenced the result?
Minister Kishida: That is what some comments assert. I believe our method of responding has been a larger source of criticism than any single aspect or what was actually done. From this perspective, it is important to continue to provide careful explanations and respond in a diligent manner.