Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, October 20, 2017, 10:43 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Dispatch of the public and private research team on joint economic activities
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Japan will send an additional public and private research team on joint economic activities in the four Northern islands from October 26 to 31. The research will assess five projects approved as early initiatives at last month’s Japan-Russia Summit Meeting and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (propagation and aquaculture of marine products, greenhouse vegetable cultivation, development of tours based on the islands’ features, introduction of wind-power generation, and garbage volume reduction measures).
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Eiichi Hasegawa will lead the team again this time.
Japan hopes to conclude a peace treaty, based on the future-oriented vision of Japan and Russia jointly shaping the future image of the four Northern islands and finding solutions that are acceptable to both sides.
House of Representatives Election
Reporter: The House of Representatives election has entered the final phase. You have been traveling around the country in these efforts. It is being reported that the ruling parties and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are in the lead. What is your feeling? Also, what activities are you planning for the final days ahead?
Minister Kono: There are still two days left until the election, and I intend to make a thorough appeal of our policies during this time.
Submission of a draft resolution for the elimination of nuclear weapons
Reporter: I have two questions about the draft resolution for the elimination of nuclear weapons submitted to the United Nations. The proposal does not make any reference to the Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, a major development this year. Japan’s stance is likely to attract some criticism from countries promoting the treaty. What was the reason for not mentioning the treaty? Secondly, compared to past years, the language about the inhumanity of nuclear weapons has been significantly toned down. What are your thoughts in this regard?
Minister Kono: With North Korea carrying out nuclear tests, as well as the emergence of a divide between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states and among non-nuclear-weapon states as a result of the Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Japan wants nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states to reconfirm the importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and their commitment to related activities.
Japan has submitted draft resolutions more than 20 times up to now and each time we factor in the conditions from the year in question. This year it is necessary to properly address the issue of North Korea. Japan also aims to make this draft resolution an effective tool for obtaining a renewed commitment to nuclear disarmament from nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states that did not participate at all in the Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.
Japan has submitted this draft resolution with many countries of different positions, including nuclear-weapon states, non-nuclear-weapon states that did not sign the Treaty on the Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, and non-nuclear-weapon states that are signatories to the treaty. Japan prepared this draft resolution with the aim of spreading the commitment to nuclear disarmament broadly throughout the international community and is engaged in a variety of coordination at the United Nations.
Establishment of a Takeshima defense unit by the Republic of Korea
Reporter: It has been announced that the Republic of Korea (ROK) will establish a new military unit for the defense of Takeshima. Please explain the Japanese Government’s view, how you are responding and what actions you will take besides the protest that you have already lodged.
Minister Kono: Japan absolutely cannot accept this action and made a strong protest. This behavior runs contrary to the need for even closer future-oriented relations among Japan, the United States and the ROK given the current security situation. Japan will make this point firmly. Furthermore, we discussed and agreed on the importance of bolstering trilateral collaboration among Japan, the United States and the ROK at the recent Vice Ministerial Meeting. We intend to strengthen trilateral collaboration among Japan, the United States and the ROK in light of the current environment.
Reporter: UNESCO has made adjustments to its review to improve its programs, including reforms to the Memories of the World. It appears to have accepted Japan’s assertions to some extent. Please explain your thoughts.
Minister Kono: Japan must continue efforts to redirect the program back to its original purpose.
Reporter: I believe that International Advisory Committee (IAC) reviews begin next week. The IAC Chair appears to have suggested the postponement of reviews of eight proposed entries, including political matters and comfort women, to Director-General Irina Bokova. What is your view of these developments?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on individual points being discussed by experts at this experts’ meeting. Nevertheless, I believe that, at the very least, all member countries should strive to redirect the program to its original purpose.
International meeting on nuclear non-proliferation in Moscow
Reporter: An international meeting on nuclear non-proliferation in Moscow has begun. A representative from North Korea is attending, the ROK has also sent a high-level official, and Japan has dispatched officials as well. Are you anticipating any interaction between Japan and North Korea? If so, what is Japan’s message to North Korea?
Minister Kono: As this is an international conference, I expect that a variety of interactions will take place, either during the meetings or between meetings. If such interaction takes place between Japan and North Korea, I believe that we will firmly state our fundamental position to the North Korean side.
Reporter: By fundamental position are you referring to the nuclear and abductions issues?
Minister Kono: I believe Japan will communicate its fundamental position, including with regard to these points. However, there is no certainty that such interactions will occur.
Reporter: Is it the Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau that is attending?
Minister Kono: I think that is correct, but please double check.
President Trump to Visit Japan
Reporter: There was an announcement that President Trump will visit Japan on November 5-7. I assume a Japan-US Summit Meeting will take place at that time. Are you expecting any particular outcomes in the security area?
Minister Kono: With regard to the situation in North Korea, the United States has repeatedly stated that the United States is with Japan 100%, and has not wavered at all in this stance. I believe that the two leaders will, at the very least, reaffirm this point and confirm the robust nature of the Japan-US Alliance.
Reporter: Vice President Pence expressed strong interest in a Japan-US FTA at the Japan-US economic dialogue held this week. Please explain the Japanese Government’s view on the FTA.
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on statements made by our counterparts while diplomatic negotiations are still underway.
Noble Peace Prize Awarded to ICAN
Reporter: I have a question about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN supports the Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, which Japan did not sign, and when it received the award you left a comment on Facebook on the same night. However, the official statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only came two days afterwards. Was there some reason for the timing?
Minister Kono: I should have issued a statement through the Ministry rather than on my personal Facebook account. I think I should have first delivered an official statement from the Ministry as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Ministry experienced some uncertainty about how to handle the situation since the Minister had already given a statement on Facebook. This was my misstep and I feel regret for not having officially issued a Minister’s statement. My personal Facebook statement caused administrative disruptions. I should apologize for this situation resulting in a delay of the Ministry’s response.
Reporter: Did the Ministry decide not to issue a Foreign Minister’s statement because you had already made a personal statement on Facebook?
Minister Kono: The Ministry faced some complications because I had already given a statement. As Foreign Minister I should have officially issued a statement through the Ministry, but I had already made a statement ahead of time on Facebook. I think this created confusion for the Ministry regarding how to handle my statement.
Reporter: The response at the time of the award was that the Japanese Government would not issue a statement.
Minister Kono: That is not the case.