Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, January 9, 2018, 2:55 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I understand that today, January 9, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea (ROK) has announced her position regarding the Japan-ROK agreement. This Japan-ROK agreement is a commitment between two countries, and it is an international and universal principle that it must be implemented responsibly even if the government changes within one of the countries. I recognize that steady implementation of the agreement is the duty of both countries to the international community. As the government of Japan, it is completely unacceptable that the ROK would seek additional measures from Japan, despite the confirmation in the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement that the comfort women issue is "finally and irreversibly" resolved. At a time when both countries are facing the threat of North Korea, the Japan-ROK agreement is an indispensable foundation for advancing cooperation between Japan and the ROK in a variety of fields, and building a future-oriented relationship. Japan will continue to strongly urge the ROK to ensure that the Government of the ROK steadily implement the agreement as a final and irreversible agreement.
Reporter: Is it Japan’s position that once again the announcement by the ROK this time is totally incompatible with the position of Japan that the agreement is a final and irreversible resolution?
Minister Kono: The Japan-ROK agreement was agreed on the grounds that it would be final and irreversible, and it is highly appreciated by the international community as well, so Japan intends to urge the ROK to steadily implement it.
Reporter: About the 1 billion yen contributed by the Government of Japan, the Government of the ROK expressed the position that it would make this contribution with its own budget. How will you respond regarding that?
Minister Kono: I am not aware of anything other than what the Government of the ROK has announced, so I would like to listen carefully to the ROK’s explanation of its true intentions.
Reporter: Going forward, do you have any plans to talk with the ROK side and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha again through direct telephone talks, including talks regarding implementation of the agreement?
Minister Kono: Firstly, we will lodge a protest immediately to the ROK in Tokyo and Seoul.
Reporter: Regarding the ROK contributing the 1 billion yen, what do you think the intentions of the ROK are now?
Minister Kono: Firstly I would like to listen to the explanation of the ROK.
Reporter: Does the Government of Japan intend to participate in consultations regarding the 1 billion yen in order to hear that explanation?
Minister Kono: Firstly I want to thoroughly understand the meaning of appropriating the 1 billion yen.
Reporter: You say you will protest but does this mean you will call the ambassador? Or will it be a protest at the working level?
Minister Kono: Firstly, I intend to properly take the necessary steps in Tokyo and Seoul.
Reporter: Looking at the response to date of the ROK since the Japan-ROK agreement, I think they have not responded in very good faith. For example, the comfort woman statue in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul has not been removed. How do you view the response of the ROK to date? Furthermore, what are your thoughts regarding the gap with the Government of Japan?
Minister Kono: The two countries agreed this, so I intend to continue to strongly urge the ROK to steadily implement it.
Reporter: You stated that it was a foundation for cooperation with regards to North Korea. Now we have arrived at this situation, won’t that foundation be shaken?
Minister Kono: The Japan-ROK agreement is an agreement between two countries, and it is highly appreciated by the international community as well, so I recognize that the Government of the ROK will, of course, steadily implement it. Therefore, I believe that it is one of the cornerstones enabling Japan and the ROK to work together in a future-oriented way going forward. I believe that the Government of the ROK naturally perceives this too.
Reporter: Regarding North Korea, today talks between the ROK and North Korea have been held and during the talks the idea of wanting the separated families to be allowed to meet again during the period of the Pyeongchang Olympics was expressed. Does the Government of Japan agree with this?
Minister Kono: Firstly I would like to carefully listen to what the ROK has to say about the current North-South dialogue.
Reporter: Do you perceive the content of the announcement by the ROK this time to be seeking additional measures from Japan regarding the agreement?
Minister Kono: We recognize that Japan has thoroughly and faithfully implemented the Japan-ROK agreement.
Reporter: Do you mean that Japan has fulfilled all of its obligations based on the agreement?
Minister Kono: We will properly implement the Japan-ROK agreement, and of course we intend for the ROK to implement it as well.
Reporter: You say you will listen to ROK’s explanation of its true intentions but by when will you listen to it, and how will the Government of Japan respond?
Minister Kono: I would like to carefully listen to it as soon as possible, together with the details of the North-South dialogue.
Reporter: Regarding the handling of the 1 billion yen, what does the Government of Japan think should be done?
Minister Kono: I intend to start by first thoroughly understanding the meaning of appropriating the 1 billion yen.
Reporter: Will you understand it within a couple of days?
Minister Kono: Firstly, I would like to listen carefully to the explanation of the ROK.
Reporter: I would like to ask a candid question. Candidly, how do you feel now about the fact that the Chief Cabinet Secretary and you have both said many times that you want ROK to implement the content of the agreement faithfully and steadily, but despite this the Government of the ROK has made this kind of announcement this time?
Minister Kono: The Government of the ROK will keep the commitments between two countries in a firm manner.