Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, November 17, 2017, 9:54 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) Visit to Bangladesh

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I will visit Bangladesh from November 18 to November 20, returning to Japan in the early morning. I will hold a foreign ministers’ meeting with Foreign Minister Ali and pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hasina.

During the foreign ministers’ meeting I will exchange views with Foreign Minister Ali on the issue of displaced people in Rakhine State, which has become a matter of concern, as well as the bilateral relations between Japan and Bangladesh, and the situation of North Korea, among other topics. I also intend to communicate a firm message from Japan.

In addition, I am adjusting my schedule to visit a camp for displaced people from Myanmar.

Also, this will be the first time a Japanese Minister will visit Bangladesh since the Terrorist Attack in Dhaka which claimed the lives of Japanese citizens. I intend to visit the site of the attack and offer flowers to express my condolences, as someone who was involved in various responses to the incident via my duties as the Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission.

(2) Contributions to UNESCO

Minister Kono: There was a story about the contributions to UNESCO in a newspaper, but the report was completely false. The Japanese Government has not made any decisions regarding the contributions.
While we intend to support the new Director-General of UNESCO and their various reforms, there is no change to Japan’s stance of responding thoroughly in whatever manner necessary, including suspending the contributions.

Visit to Bangladesh

Reporter: I have a question regarding your visit to Bangladesh. The ASEM meeting is taking place at that time, which I believe you were originally planning to attend. Regardless of whether or not you attend the ASEM meeting, what is your motivation for this trip to Bangladesh?

Minister Kono: My original intent was to visit not only Bangladesh but also Myanmar, where the ASEM meeting is taking place, and to attend ASEM in conjunction with my visit, but I am inclined to examine the situation relating to the Muslim population in Rakhine State in Myanmar, which is becoming an issue across Asia, and to also visit Bangladesh where these people are displaced. I won’t be able to attend ASEM due to the schedule of the Diet, but I have already received the Diet’s approval to visit Bangladesh, and would therefore like to go and properly examine the situation and determine Japan’s response to this crisis.

Reporter: The Rakhine State issue, which is generally referred to as the Rohingya issue, is claimed to be a serious human rights violation by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others. In addition, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly concerning human rights issues has gone so far as to adopt a resolution condemning the violation and has more or less raised this human rights issue in a strong manner. On the other hand, it seems that Japan has slightly distanced itself, such as by abstaining from voting on the resolution. How do you intend to explain Japan’s intentions regarding engaging in this issue?

Minister Kono: This is a major issue, and in reality hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances. Japan will first and foremost make every effort to improve the situation of the displaced people.

Furthermore, we will fully support the dialogue which has begun on this issue between the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Government of Myanmar will also be initiating a variety of efforts related to this issue, and Japan will fully support these efforts.

The resolution that was submitted to the United Nations Committee includes the dispatch of a fact-finding mission. However, realistically speaking a proper study cannot be conducted unless the mission is acceptable to the Government of Myanmar. For these reasons Japan abstained from voting.

High School Student Peace Ambassadors at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament

Reporter: I have a question about speeches by high school student peace ambassadors to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament this August. According to some media reports, due to pressure from China, the giving of these speeches to the plenary meeting was suspended. First of all, how do you understand the issue? Also, regardless of the circumstance, I would find it highly concerning if these speeches on peace were indeed suspended due to pressure. What are your thoughts?

Minister Kono: I already wrote about this on my blog, in September, and pointed out the mistakes in the various media reports. It is as I have written there. I have nothing more to add.

Japan-China Relations

Reporter: Regarding the relations between China and Japan, following the completion of the series of Japan-China summit-level meetings, the Japanese side has said that a fresh start has been made. Could you please share your thoughts on the current state of the Japan-China relations? Also, do you intend to visit China and, if so, will you do so sometime this year?

Minister Kono: The Diet is currently in session and our Chinese counterparts, too, have various diplomatic agenda to coordinate. We are therefore still in the process of arranging the timing. I hope to make a visit as soon as possible.

Reporter: Could you explain about the fresh start?

Minister Kono: We will devote careful attention to the Japan-China relations going forward.

Visit to Bangladesh

Reporter: What kinds of measures is the Japanese Government considering with regard to providing support for the many Rohingya people, who are said to number 600,000, who have fled to Bangladesh?

Minister Kono: We will carefully monitor the situation on the ground. I understand that they lack various daily necessities, including the necessary food and water. I have heard that there is a need for close to 400 million US dollars in funding across the United Nations as a whole. We will make various decisions on this matter going forward.

Reporter: I believe the Government of Bangladesh and Myanmar are currently holding discussions on the Rohingya people, but what does the Government of Japan ultimately think needs to be done to resolve this issue? I would also like to know whether or not Japan intends to play a role as a mediator between the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar?

Minister Kono: The Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar have already begun dialogue. We will therefore closely monitor the outcomes of that dialogue and provide necessary support we can.

Telephone Talk with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi

Reporter: I understand that yesterday, you held a telephone talk with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. This was also raised in an earlier question, but did you discuss how Japan will respond to the resolution adopted by the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly?

Minister Kono: I told State Counsellor Suu Kyi that I was looking forward to visiting Myanmar but that I am unfortunately not able to do so on this occasion, and that I hope to visit Myanmar in the near future. Furthermore, I expressed my hope that the Government of Myanmar will take proactive measures and that Japan intends to extend its firm support for such efforts.

Reporter: With regard to the Rohingya issue, does Japan intend to send some kind of message regarding the human rights issue?

Minister Kono: The two governments are currently engaged in dialogue. We will carefully monitor the outcomes, based on which we will do whatever is necessary.

Reporter: While I believe providing emergency humanitarian support is important, I feel as though, by not demonstrating some kind of stance on this human rights issue, Japan seems to be trying to distance itself from the matter. That is to say, given the strong criticisms expressed by the rest of the international community, does Japan not need to respond in some capacity as well?

Minister Kono: We will pay careful attention to the situation on the ground and respond accordingly.

Reporter: In today’s Cabinet Meeting, was there any discussion of additional emergency humanitarian assistance?

Minister Kono: Please direct any questions about the Cabinet Meeting to the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Adoption of a Draft Report by the United Nations Human Rights Council

Reporter: The United Nations Human Rights Council has issued a recommendation to Japan that seeks, among other matters, an apology and compensation regarding the comfort women issue. Please share with us your thoughts.

Minister Kono: Barring some gross misunderstanding of important facts, the various opinions expressed will be compiled as a report. Japan will carefully examine the report and, wherever necessary, respond appropriately.

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