Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 10:23 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Shooting Incident in Las Vegas, United States
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: A shooting incident occurred in the city of Las Vegas in the United States, resulting in at least 59 deaths and over 500 people wounded. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message of condolence to President Donald Trump and I also sent a message to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Staff of the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco have gone to Las Vegas to gather information and respond to the situation. We have not confirmed any Japanese victims at this point. I would like to express my deepest condolences for the people who passed away in this incident.
Shooting Incident in Las Vegas, United States
Reporter: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has already issued a statement of involvement in this incident. What is the Japanese Government’s view of the situation?
Minister Kono: The United States is still conducting its investigation so the Japanese Government will not make any comments at this point.
Reporter: Do you see a possibility of further victims related to this incident?
Minister Kono: Our understanding at this point is that at least 59 people have been killed and more than 500 people have been injured. We will closely follow the situation and take appropriate steps if any Japanese nationals are affected.
North Korea Situation
Reporter: I have a question about the US response to North Korea. Secretary Tillerson recently visited China. During the visit, he mentioned a channel of dialogue with North Korea and intention in exploring dialogue. Meanwhile, President Trump has clearly commented that this is a waste of time. I see there is a difference between their statements. What is your view of the US situation?
Minister Kono: The Government would like to refrain from commenting on internal matters of the US Government. Having said that, we have repeatedly sent a message to North Korea through the route of the embassies in Beijing and in international fora in which North Korea participates, that North Korea cannot have a bright future unless it halts nuclear and missile developments and comes to the negotiating table by accepting inspections.
The United States is also sending this message to North Korea to come to the negotiating table on this basis. Japan is working closely with the United States in this effort. We will continue to steadily call on the international community to get North Korea to fully recognize its position, abandon nuclear and missile developments, accept inspections, and come to the negotiating table.
Reporter: Are you suggesting that Secretary Tillerson’s pursuit of dialogue at this point was incorrect?
Minister Kono: Dialogue cannot be dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Not only Japan and the US, but also Japan, the US, the Republic of Korea (ROK), China, and Russia are solidly seeking to get North Korea to abandon nuclear and missile developments, accept inspections, and come to the negotiating table with the goal of realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Government is in close contact with the US Government in this area.
Secretary Tillerson sent a similar message to North Korea, and Japan is delivering a similar message at international fora and through the route of the embassies in Beijing. In this regard, various countries are taking such responses in alignment with each other.
House of Representatives Election Campaign
Reporter: Regarding the election campaign, a portion of the Democratic Party split off yesterday and Deputy President Yukio Edano announced the formation of a new party. What are your thoughts about the upheavals taking place in this election? Also, Cabinet approval and disapproval rates have been reversed again. How do you intend to carry out the election campaign in this context?
Minister Kono: I am managing the current North Korea situation within the security arrangements based on the Japan-US Alliance. I hope to gain the people’s full understanding regarding this point.
Some Democratic Party members who voted against the Legislation for Peace and Security and continued their opposition through the end of September are now saying that they agree in order to obtain authorization by the Party of Hope. It is also very unclear whether others who are not authorized by the Party of Hope agree with or are against the Legislation for Peace and Security. Furthermore, one wonders if members who moved to the Party of Hope might once again take an opposing position on the Legislation for Peace and Security if the party leader changes to an individual who is actually against the legislation. Other countries are likely to be concerned about what will happen to Japan’s security arrangements. With questions about how this party might handle the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, other countries might worry about whether they can share confidential information about North Korea with Japan and this could interfere with intelligence analysis. We will clearly express to other countries the intention of the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito Party coalition to firmly maintain the Legislation for Peace and Security, the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, as well as the current security arrangements based on the Japan-US Alliance in dealing with this crisis, while at the same time gaining the understanding of the people.
East China Sea Situation
Reporter: The Center for Strategic and International Studies in the United States announced that three new digging facilities have been built in the East China Sea this year. Is the Government aware of this situation?
Minister Kono: This is not new information and the Government has already lodged a protest with China. This took place before the end of the summer and is not new information.
North Korea Situation
Reporter: I have a question about North Korea. While it appears that initiatives to protect public security are likely to be a point at issue in this upcoming election, what are your thoughts on the effect that the Legislation for Peace and Security, which was criticized at the time of its passage and is still receiving criticism, is having in the response to the North Korea situation?
Minister Kono: Japan is now able to implement supply activities and support activities in peacetime to the US forces engaged in various activities around Japan in order to protect Japan’s peace and security amid the current North Korea crisis. Without the Legislation for Peace and Security, this would not be possible unless it is after a crisis situation occurs. In this scenario, even though North Korea is apparently conducting nuclear tests and launching missiles, Japan would not be able to provide supplies to the US forces that are deployed to protect peace and security for Japan in normal situations. One wonders whether the US forces would be able to say that the Japan-US Alliance is working and Japan and the US are together 100%. While Japan and the US are currently jointly addressing the situation in North Korea, the US forces and US Government might have been concerned about whether the Japanese side would truly live up to its commitments.
The Legislation for Peace and Security hence is enabling Japan to implement supply activities and support activities to the US forces without a legal theological debate. This shows clearly to the US side that Japan is fully doing its part and participating in its own defense based on the Japan-US Alliance. I think this aspect is extremely important.
Reporter: North Korea is not showing any signs of halting its provocations at this point, despite steadfast calls by Japan and the US as well as the international community. Do you think reinforcement of the Japan-US Alliance under the Abe administration is working as a deterrent against North Korea?
Minister Kono: Although North Korea has been saying a variety of things, the fact that it is not actually taking the actions is the result of deterrence by Japan and the US as well as by the Japan-US Alliance. Also, please understand that sanctions based on the United Nations Security Council resolutions are economic and do not have an immediate effect in a short term.