Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, August 4, 2017, 11:14 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Attendance at the Peace Memorial Ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I will attend the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6 and the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 9.

In addition, during the time period between the ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I will visit Manila in the Republic of the Philippines, where the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings will take place.

At the meetings, I hope to engage in discussions about what Japan can accomplish in supporting the strengthening of ASEAN, reinforcement of cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, strengthening the meeting format, and fostering trust in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), as well as regional and international conditions.

I plan to hold a bilateral foreign ministers’ meeting with the Philippines, the ASEAN chair. A minister-level strategic dialogue among Japan, the U.S., and Australia is also planned. Bilateral foreign ministers’ meetings between Japan and China, and between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), are being coordinated.

Instructions from the Prime Minister

Asahi Shimbun, Matsui: I believe you received written instructions from Prime Minister Abe yesterday. To the extent possible, could you please tell us concretely what kinds of instructions you received from the Prime Minister upon your appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on the instruction content.

Asahi Shimbun, Matsui: Regarding the instructions in general, is there anything that you can share?

Minister Kono: While I believe the instruction content should not be discussed externally, it mainly requests strong performance in light of current affairs and solid collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office and other government agencies.

TBS, Kubo: At the press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Abe made reference to the fact that he expects you to exhibit creativity and the ability to take action. I believe this constitutes instruction from the Prime Minister, so what do you envision concretely in terms of policy and what are your thoughts?

Minister Kono: There are various facets to this. However, they should be discussed after becoming reality, rather than just highlighting dreams. I will strive to achieve solid results.

Relations with Neighboring Countries

Jiji Press, Ichikawa: You stated earlier that bilateral foreign ministers’ meetings are being coordinated between Japan and China and between Japan and the ROK. If they are realized, what issues will you raise and what results do you expect?

Minister Kono: I aim to deepen friendly relations with the ROK and China, and as this will be my first contact with my counterparts as Minister for Foreign Affairs, naturally many various subjects must be discussed. I hope to have numerous future-oriented discussions.

Regarding ASEAN

Kyodo News, Uchiho: An authority from North Korea is scheduled to attend the ARF. Are you considering finding a way to make contact with them at the forum?

Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided at this stage.

Constitutional Amendment

Asahi Shimbun, Sasakawa: I have a question on Constitutional amendment. You wrote about your approval for a Constitutional amendment to add text to Article 9 referencing the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in a blog post in June. Is there currently no change to your thoughts on this?

Minister Kono: Constitutional amendment will be proposed by the legislative branch of government. As a minister, I would like to refrain from commenting.

Asahi Shimbun, Sasakawa: Since Constitutional amendment is ultimately a matter for the legislative branch, do you believe that it is a low priority matter among the issues that the administration is addressing?

Minister Kono: As I am the Minister for Foreign Affairs and do not determine Constitutional amendment, I would like to refrain from commenting.

Relations with Neighboring Countries

Sankei Shimbun, Sugimoto: I would like to ask about China and the ROK. Many media outlets and other organizations in China and the ROK have given a favorable reception to the news of your appointment to Foreign Minister because your father Yohei Kono had good relations with those countries. Could you please give your candid impressions on this?

Minister Kono: If the favorable reception is due to the fact that they are pleased that the son of Yohei Kono has followed his father to become Foreign Minister, then I owe thanks to my father. However, I will strive to myself earn a favorable evaluation from all countries as Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Nuclear Policy

Freelance, Kamide: You have answered many questions since yesterday. While it may be presumptuous of me, I think there may have been many things that were difficult to express when thinking of advancing democracy from the perspective of citizens, and some things seemed to be expressed implicitly. As also came up yesterday, you hold many personal opinions, and your opinion on nuclear policy differs from that of the government. Going forward, you will work on many agreements on nuclear power and matters under the nuclear umbrella, including the legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. While you will have your official position as Foreign Minister, will you also express your own personal opinions to a certain extent? And within this, could you tell us if there are any points that are important in particular or if you have plans for certain matters?

Minister Kono: In general, I intend to firmly state the things that need to be said and do not expect a barrier to debate within the government. However, as a core principle of the parliamentary cabinet system, I believe that as a member of the Cabinet, once the Government has decided on a policy, I must do my utmost to implement that policy. I thus expect to be speaking as a Minister about the administration’s policy, rather than as an individual.

Issues Related to the Okinawa Military Bases

Ryukyu Shimpo, Aragaki: The aircraft parking apron at Kadena Air Base that was supposed to have been dismantled and relocated is still in use, and the parachute training that was in principle supposed to have been moved to Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield has still been performed multiple times at Kadena. There have been strong local opinions that this is a violation of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa agreement. Can you please explain how this will be addressed and if it will be discussed at the 2+2 meeting that we have heard will be held soon?

Minister Kono: I will look into the current situation.

Regarding ASEAN

Kyodo News, Saito: Earlier, there was a question on possible contact with the North Korean authority at the ARF. Following on from this, as you have stated, currently there has been absolutely no progress on the abduction issue. There is a recognition that due to the influence of the nuclear and missile issues, dialogue is not possible now. I would like to confirm if there is a basic policy to explore opportunities for dialogue to progress on the abductions issue under the current situation. In addition, I would also like to ask if you intend to meet with the North Korean authority if an opportunity exists at the ARF as an extension of this.

Minister Kono: I believe now is the time to emphasize pressure in order to comprehensively resolve the various issues of the nuclear, missile, and abduction problems. I would like to refrain from commenting specifically about what might be done in Manila at this point because nothing has been decided yet.

Japan-Russia Relations

Hokkaido Shimbun, Mizuno: I would like to ask about diplomacy toward Russia. The Japan-Russia Summit Meeting is planned for September in Vladivostok. I believe that discussions on the joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands will accelerate there, but some have pointed out the difficulties in establishing a legal framework that does not harm the mutual legal positions of Japan and Russia. Can you please explain how you plan to address this?

Minister Kono: I think that the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting and other meetings are scheduled to take place in Vladivostok in September. The Japanese Government and government of Russia both agree on resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty with a future-oriented approach to various aspects without harming their mutual legal positions, as you mentioned. I will undertake consideration unrestrained by past ideas on what can be done to move the Japan-Russia relations forward without being limited by the approach thus far.

Regarding ASEAN

Bloomberg, Reynolds: This is another question about North Korea. I believe that North Korea will be one topic of discussion at the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings in Manila, so can we expect any increased pressure as a result of the meetings?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting because I cannot discuss future meeting results at this stage.

NHK, Segami: In your opening remarks you mentioned the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and also said earlier that you hope to have future-oriented discussions with China. However, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea and I believe this will be focused on at the meetings. What is your current recognition of the issues of the South China Sea and Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea?

Minister Kono: Regarding the South China Sea, there are clear rules of the sea. I believe various measures must be undertaken and problems should be resolved under the rule of law. This must be clearly stated when necessary.

Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

Okinawa Times, Oshiro: I have a question on the SOFA. At yesterday’s press conference, you stated that you will study which approach is best. Will you study that approach on the pre-condition that revision will be undertaken? Also, can you please share your thoughts on where the problems exist?

Minister Kono: I believe this needs to be reviewed, including the specific approach. While the scale differs, Okinawa Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture are encountering the same issues. I intend to consider various aspects in advance.

Visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Chugoku Shimbun, Tanaka: During your opening remarks, you stated that you will attend the Peace Memorial Ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can you please share your thoughts on attending these ceremonies? Also, I believe you will have the opportunity to meet directly with atomic bomb survivors following the ceremonies, so could you please include this in your answer?

Minister Kono: There was discussion of holding the G8 Summit of Lower House Speakers in Hiroshima when my father was Speaker. Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives at that time. He thought it would be meaningful to hold the meeting in Hiroshima if Speaker Pelosi would come to the city, but other options would have been considered if she would not come. He interacted with then-Senator Daniel Inoue and many others. Even though it was an election year in the U.S., when he asked for Speaker Pelosi’s view, the response was that she would come to Hiroshima and thus it was decided to hold it there. This was the final major accomplishment of my father as Speaker. When President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, I was in charge of security for the G7 Summit and President Obama’s Hiroshima visit as Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission. I felt that a new page was turned in the progression of the Japan-U.S. relations with President Obama making the first visit to Hiroshima as a sitting U.S. president. Japan must not allow the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to fade from memory, and must continue promoting disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, as I mentioned yesterday. To that end, I will be attending the ceremonies and believe it is part of my mission as Foreign Minister to communicate the sentiments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the world. This is what I will be doing.

LDP Presidential Election

Nippon TV, Yashiro: As you stated yesterday, you are taking on the role of an important minister. While this is a question about the future, at the current point are you considering or planning to become a candidate in the LDP presidential election in September next year?

Minister Kono: I believe it is important to start by doing a good job. The ASEAN meetings are about to take place. I intend to proceed one step at a time.

Nippon TV: Yashiro: As you proceed one step at a time, can you envision candidacy ahead of you?

Minister Kono: I will consider this while moving forward one step at a time.

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