Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 8:45 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Comments by ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the United Nations Human Rights Committee
Reporter: Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea (ROK) made some comments at the United Nations Human Rights Committee about the comfort women issue, stating that victims strongly desire restoration of their dignity. Some observers are suggesting that this runs contrary to the purposet of the Japan-ROK agreement. What is your view?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: As the Japan-ROK agreement was agreed by both countries as the final and irreversible solution to this issue, the ROK’s steadily implementation of all its commitments will connect to the purpose.
Reporter: Do you have any thoughts about the comments?
Minister Kono: Nothing in particular.
North Korea Situation (Ship to ship transfers)
Reporter: As for the ship to ship transfers, there are some media reports about the dispatch and coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard through Japan-US-ROK collaboration. Would you welcome such activity?
Minister Kono: North Korea is undertaking various and skillful attempt to get around sanctions, not only ship to ship transfers. Japan believes that the international community must work as one to rigorously implement the sanctions. To that end, we will promote cooperation with a wide range of countries, not only among Japan, the United States, and the ROK.
Latvia and other countries have launched independent sanctions, and Burkina Faso has completely halted trade with North Korea. I am delighted that a wide range of sanctions are being implemented, not only those covered in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Japan will work together within the international community to implement the UNSC resolutions.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the dispatch of the U.S. Coast Guard. Has the U.S. Government communicated this to Japan?
Minister Kono: This is a matter of diplomatic exchange and I would like to refrain from commenting publically at this stage.
North Korea Situation (U.S.-North Korea Relations)
Reporter: North Korea sent a delegation to the ROK for the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics and expressed strong motivation in dialogue with the United States. While the U.S. Government has explained that it will assess the situation, what is Japan’s view of this development since it has been consistently calling for greater pressure?
Minister Kono: Japan and the United States are working together closely and nothing has changed. Although North Korea is engaged in a charm offensive, perhaps because sanctions are having an impact, the international community will engage in dialogue with North Korea, if North Korea fully responds to the nuclear, missile, and abduction issues. Japan hopes that the North Korean leadership will clearly change its current policy course and seek dialogue.
Reporter: By dialogue, do you mean negotiations, consultations, or other serious discussions? Or are you referring simply to contact?
Minister Kono: An inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is ready to begin inspections in North Korea and would conduct such inspections if North Korea clearly demonstrates its intention to abandon its nuclear and missile programs and to resolve the abductions issue, and takes concrete actions to those ends. If the international community is able to confirm, through careful monitoring, that North Korea’s actions will lead to a final, irreversible, and verifiable abandonment of its nuclear and missile programs, and furthermore confirms that the abductions issue is resolved, the international community is ready to engage with North Korea, including the provision of a variety of economic assistance. This is something that I have already explained on numerous occasions. The North Korean leadership should acknowledge the current situation and move forward in this direction.
North Korea Situation (Ship to ship transfers)
Reporter: I would like to return to the question regarding ship to ship transfers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has disclosed three cases of ship to ship transfers this year. Do you think such cases are increasing?
Minister Kono: Ship to ship transfers are attempted in various areas. North Korea is pursuing a variety of attempts to get around sanctions on oil products and other items. This includes not only imports, but also efforts to engage in exports and otherwise obtain foreign currency income. North Korea is trying various things to get around sanctions, including some that were just started or some that were stopped just before they took place. I believe this is an example of the sanctions having an effect.
Reporter: Is it correct that UNSC sanctions have led to the increase in ship to ship transfers?
Minister Kono: The UNSC resolutions demands a roughly 90% reduction in oil products compared to last summer. This is obviously having an impact.
Submission to the National People’s Congress of the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China
Reporter: Discussions in China appear to be moving toward removal of the term limit on the President. Observers are suggesting that this opens the way to a long-term government under President Xi Jinping, and raises concern about the excessive concentration of power. What are your thoughts about this development?
Minister Kono: I don’t believe that I need to comment on the political systems of other countries.
Reporter: What type of impact would a long-term government under President Xi have on Japan-China relations and Japanese diplomacy? Would it be positive or negative? What is your view?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from responding to speculative questions. Nothing is decided, neither the establishment of a long-term government under President Xi nor revisions to the Chinese constitution.