Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, September 1, 2017, 9:29 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) An Eminent Persons Group for a Substantial Progress of Nuclear Disarmament to be held in Hiroshima

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to hold the first meeting of the Eminent Persons Group for a Substantial Progress of Nuclear Disarmament in Hiroshima on November 27-28.

It is very significant that this conference will be held in Hiroshima, a city that suffered an atomic bombing. This group was initiated by former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, as an effort by Japan to serve as a bridge between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states amid deepening divisions between the two. Japan hopes that this meeting of experts will yield fruitful outcomes.

Additionally, the 27th United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues will take place in Hiroshima on November 29-30. Japan will make every effort to ensure the success of these two events.

(2) Director Ishizawa of the Sophia Asia Center for Research and Human Development receives the Ramon Magsaysay Award for FY2017

Minister Kono: Mr. Yoshiaki Ishizawa, Director of the Sophia Asia Center for Research and Human Development, received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is referred to as the Nobel Prize of Asia, for FY2017 in the Philippines yesterday.

Director Ishizawa has studied the remains at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, worked on their restoration, and helped in training Cambodian experts for over 50 years. He has contributed significantly to strengthening relations between Japan and Cambodia and cultural exchange.

I, and many others, would like to express our joy over Director Ishizawa’s receipt of the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Japan-UK Summit Meeting

Reporter: At the Japan-UK summit meeting held yesterday, Japan and the United Kingdom confirmed their cooperative relations in various areas related to the issue of North Korea. Meanwhile, it is being reported that China and Russia, which are key players in determining additional UN sanctions, perceive the issue of North Korea with less severity than Japan. Please explain your assessment of the Japan-UK summit meeting and also your outlook regarding how to cooperate with China and Russia regarding this issue.

Minister Kono: The summit meeting between Prime Minister May and Prime Minister Abe went very well. The two leaders also issued a joint statement. Both sides agreed to strengthen our relationship, from that of partners to allies. Regarding North Korea, both leaders agreed in the summit meeting to adopt the same position and approach. There was also a foreign ministers’ telephone talk and Defense Minister Onodera held a telephone talk with his counterpart as well. In the foreign ministers’ talk, Foreign Secretary Johnson shared Japan’s concern and we agreed to work closely together on the issue of North Korea in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Japan and the United Kingdom will work closely together to address the issue of North Korea. We also agreed on the necessity of free and open seas in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which connect Asia and Africa. Many countries with deep historical ties to the United Kingdom are located in the waters linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans and we plan to work closely together from this perspective as well.

Reporter: And what about China and Russia?

Minister Kono: We shared the recognition that China and Russia play an important role in addressing the issue of North Korea. Furthermore, we agreed that it is necessary to pursue various forms of cooperation to address the situation and ensure that North Korea does not conduct further missile launches or nuclear tests, including the adoption of a new UNSC resolution. Japan and the United Kingdom will work together to that end, while also engaging in firm discussions with China and Russia to encourage them to fulfil their roles.

First Month as Foreign Minister

Reporter: It has been almost one month since the Cabinet reshuffle. Please explain your thoughts and impressions after one month.

Minister Kono: Yes, it has already been one month. I feel like I have run a 100-meter dash even though this really should be a marathon. There have been sudden developments in the situation relating to North Korea and I intend to work together carefully with the foreign ministers of other countries to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Reporter: Prior to becoming Foreign Minister, you had expressed various views, such as that ODA should be cut in half. The budget request, however, increases ODA spending. Please explain this point.

Minister Kono: Normally, in the negotiations with the Ministry of Finance over budget requests, the starting point is a 10% cutback in one area and a 30% increase in another. At this point it has not been decided whether anything will be increased or not. Furthermore, budget requests are submitted at the end of August, and I became Minister on August 3 and have spent the bulk of my time since then outside of the country. I explained in my first meeting that this year, in the budget request, I would respect the policy items prepared under former Foreign Minister Kishida.

Nevertheless, I instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to sufficiently increase travel costs and other core budgets and, if any cases of disagreement arise, to give priority to core budgets, even if it means cutting ODA funds. I have also made the same request to the Minister of Finance. This is the unified approach that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take.

Reporter: Your father also served as Foreign Minister. I think you are probably often compared to him. Does this make your job difficult?

Minister Kono: I will leave the drawing of comparisons to third parties and would like to refrain from making any specific comments in this regard.

An Eminent Persons Group in Hiroshima

Reporter: Regarding the Eminent Persons Group that you mentioned in your opening remarks, please explain the reason for and significance of selecting Hiroshima as the venue, as well as the specific outcomes that you are anticipating.

Minister Kono: Hiroshima, as a city that suffered an atomic bombing, requested that the meeting be held there. Additionally, this meeting was initiated by former Foreign Minister Kishida who wished for Japan to serve as a bridge between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, and was considering what Japan could do to that end. The choice of Hiroshima as the first meeting site is very appropriate.

Various approaches have emerged between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, and also among non-nuclear-weapon states. This meeting offers Japan the opportunity to consider how it can take the initiative to encourage an aligned approach among all stakeholders.

Reporter: Specifically, do you expect the Advisory Conference to produce recommendations for the Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference?

Minister Kono: We will consider what kind of output this meeting will produce going forward.

UNSC Sanctions Resolution

Reporter: In your comments to the press following your telephone talk with Secretary of State Tillerson yesterday, you mentioned a willingness to pursue a UNSC sanctions resolution if necessary or to prepare such a resolution in advance of a potential contingency. Does this imply that Japan will not immediately pursue a resolution and instead wait to see what subsequent action is taken by North Korea?

Minister Kono: At this stage, all options are on the table. We are making preparations while considering what might occur and we want to be ready to act when it is necessary to do so. The question of whether or not a new UNSC resolution is possible is also on the table, and together we intend to carefully consider this option.

Reporter: So you will advance preparations without waiting for some type of new action?

Minister Kono: We are prepared to do whatever is necessary, whenever it becomes necessary.

Reporter: Does the Japanese Government think it is necessary at this point?

Minister Kono: First it is important to ensure the full cooperation of all countries in implementing the previous UNSC resolutions and avoid any loopholes. At the recent ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and at the TICAD Ministerial Meeting, Japan requested that efforts be made to prevent any loopholes from forming. Countries are supposed to submit reports to the United Nations on the state of their compliance with these resolutions, but many have not yet submitted reports. We are asking that these countries submit reports. The aim of the UNSC resolutions is to cut off funds used by North Korea on nuclear and missile development. We are carefully explaining this to and requesting cooperation from all countries, almost all of which have stated that they will implement the sanctions. In any case, we will first confirm the state of compliance with the previous UNSC resolutions and ensure that they are being rigorously implemented.

Reporter: In terms of cutting of North Korea’s funding sources, this usually pertains to oil and North Korean workers. Do you know of any other loopholes by which North Korea is acquiring foreign currency?

Minister Kono: I think various methods exist. We will take necessary measures based on our discussions with various people on issues, such as the most effective order in which to apply sanctions or whether a comprehensive approach should be taken.

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