Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, December 15, 2017, 3:02 p.m. United States of America : New York
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thank you for coming to my press conference today. Japan will leave the Security Council at the end of this month. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved and on what areas we have placed emphasis for the past two years on the Security Council.
As many of you might imagine, we have particularly focused on North Korea, which now poses a global threat to all Member States. We also worked proactively on various themes and regional situations, building on our many years of experience and expertise. These include stabilization of situations in the Middle East and Africa, peacebuilding, peacekeeping operations, and counter-terrorism among others.
This morning, I presided over the Security Council Ministerial-Level Meeting on the North Korean issue. With the participation of foreign ministers, state ministers, vice ministers of many Council Members, we sent a clear message that we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and that nuclear and missile development in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions will never be tolerated. We also sent a unified message that it is essential for every UN Member State to fully implement all the relevant Security Council resolutions.
Many members also expressed their grave concerns over human rights violations in North Korea. Some members referred to other threats posed by North Korea such as the development and proliferation of chemical weapons and cyber-attacks.
We have also confirmed that it is important not only for the Security Council but also for the entire international community to maximize its pressure on North Korea and to corner North Korea to change its policy.
In short, the Ministerial Meeting today was very successful and useful for further pressuring North Korea.
Looking back at the past two years of Japan’s tenure on the Council, North Korea blatantly conducted three nuclear tests and launched 40 ballistic missiles in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions. Responding to these provocations, the Security Council adopted five more resolutions as well as a number of press statements and a presidential statement. Five sanction resolutions have been adopted in only two years’ time. This indicates how drastically North Korea has been escalating its acts of provocation in recent years.
Japan has played a leading role, in close cooperation with the United States, in addressing North Korea’s provocations in the Council, especially in the negotiations leading to the adoptions of relevant resolutions. We will continue to work closely with countries concerned, including the U.S., next year and beyond. We will fully explain our position on North Korean issues to all the Security Council members to ensure that the issue will continue to be duly discussed and addressed in the Security Council.
On the situation in Africa, which accounts for about 60% of the agenda of the Security Council, we tried to objectively and accurately understand the volatile situation on the ground. We also carefully listened to the voices of African representatives on the Council. We have always tried to consider the issues from the following perspective: how the Security Council can prevent the recurrence of conflicts, how the Council can support people living there, and how we can contribute to mid- to long-term development and stability in the affected countries or regions. To that end, we have tried our best to utilize the Security Council in the most effective and timely manner.
In this context, we organized an open debate on peacebuilding in Africa last July. The presidential statement adopted at the meeting stressed the importance of institution building, capacity building, trust building and innovation in peacebuilding methods, including the use of science and technology, based on African ownership. We hope this presidential statement will serve as a good guidance for related activities at the UN, including the Security Council.
Turning to the Middle East, Japan has been proactively engaged in the discussions of the Council and has tried to make progress on difficult agendas such as Syria, Yemen, the Middle East peace process and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I have to admit that we are not optimistic about the situation.
On the Middle East peace process, the Security Council held an emergency meeting last week. We are carefully watching this issue with great interest. Japan supports a two-state solution for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Japan will continue to contribute to achieving peace through facilitating confidence building among parties concerned and economic development of Palestine including efforts such as “Jericho Agro-Industrial Park”.
As for Syria, we believe that it is important to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and create a situation where people can have hope toward their future. In this regard, Japan, along with Sweden and Egypt, served as the co-penholders for humanitarian issues in Syria.
It is regrettable that the Security Council was not able to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria in a united manner. Japan proactively engaged in the discussions from the standpoint that neither the use of chemical weapons nor impunity should be tolerated.
In Yemen, fighting on the ground still continues and people remain stuck in a dire humanitarian situation. Back in September, during the UN High-level Week, I attended the meeting on the humanitarian situation in Yemen to discuss how we can improve the situation there. At this meeting and other fora, including the Security Council, Japan has always emphasized the importance of a negotiated political settlement, as well as its concern over the humanitarian situation to the countries concerned.
On Afghanistan, this year, Japan assumed the lead in the Security Council. The fact that the Security Council issued more press statements on terrorist attacks this year than last year implies a deterioration in the security situation. We have been proactively engaged in the discussions in the Council to draw more international attention to the situation in Afghanistan.
As we continue to closely follow all regional situations, we note that the types of threats that the contemporary international community now faces are becoming more diversified.
In recent years, the Security Council has held a number of meetings focusing on various issues such as climate change, famine, and infectious diseases in addition to traditional conflicts between nations. This demonstrates that these issues need to be addressed not only from development and humanitarian standpoints, but also from the standpoint of international peace and security.
On December 20th next week, we will hold an open debate focusing on these issues. Japan will continue to contribute to the discussions to make sure that the Security Council can respond more effectively to such complex contemporary threats.
Let me touch on the achievement on the working methods of the Security Council. The Council has long accumulated practices on its working methods that were not necessarily codified in the form of a document.
Japan has long worked on systematizing and improving the working methods of the Security Council so that the Council can act in the most effective manner and so that incoming non-permanent members can effectively play their role from the outset of their tenure.
This year, Japan once again took the initiative to revise the comprehensive and structured presidential note 507, which is incorporated in the new handbook on the working methods of the Security Council, the so-called “Green Book”.
This handbook will fill the gaps of experience among the Security Council members and contribute to securing greater transparency in the work of the Council. This also serves as an important basis upon which all the Member States can proactively engage in the work of the Council on an equal footing. I am happy to hear that we have received positive feedbacks not only from Security Council members but also from the wider UN Membership.
Meanwhile, I must stress that the Security Council still does not reflect the realities of the international community in the 21st century, as we can see from the fact that Africa, which is broadly and frequently discussed in the Security Council, is underrepresented.
After two years on the Council, we have reaffirmed that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. The Security Council needs to be reformed and to enhance its legitimacy, effectiveness and representation.
The reform of the Security Council is an urgent task necessary for the Council to more effectively address threats to international peace and security, not only from the viewpoint of Japan’s aspirations to join the other permanent members.
In that sense, it is important to launch text-based negotiations in the intergovernmental negotiations during the current session of the General Assembly.
As you know, the reform of the UN secretariat is now in progress under the leadership of Secretary-General Guterres. We believe that reform in the areas of peace and security, development and management are all equally important. At the same time, no reform of the United Nations will be complete without the reform of the Security Council. I would like to recall this is what the Secretary-General himself has explicitly mentioned.
Japan will continue to work on the early reform of Security Council in close cooperation with other Member States. At the same time, Japan will contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security by attempting to be non-permanent member of the Council as frequently as possible until such time as reform is finally achieved. Therefore, I wish to announce that Japan will be running for non-permanent membership on the Security Council at the elections to be held in 2022.