Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 8:48 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Dispatch of a delegation of special envoys to North Korea by the ROK
Reporter: Yesterday, the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s delegation of special envoys met with Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea. North Korea announced that a satisfactory agreement had been achieved. Firstly, how are you interpreting this?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to receive a thorough explanation from the ROK. The special envoys have not returned yet, so I have not received such as explanation yet. I would like to hear a thorough explanation.
Reporter: Looking at the series of developments, it seems that the ROK is perhaps giving priority to dialogue in particular and perhaps its commitment to denuclearization is weakening. What do you think regarding this point?
Minister Kono: Japan, the United States, and the ROK are coordinating closely, so that is not true.
Reporter: Chairman Kim Jong-un himself appeared and attended a dinner party for four hours. How are you interpreting this fact?
Minister Kono: I think the sanctions are having an effect, so they are desperately attempting a charm offensive.
Reporter: Regarding the matter of the visit of the ROK’s special envoys, the United States-ROK military exercises are planned for next month, and I think that will be one limit, or perhaps I should say turning point. Regarding the response of the ROK to that, you say Japan, the United States, and the ROK are cooperating closely, but how can the ROK be attracted to the side of Japan and the United States? What do you think about measures for this?
Minister Kono: Cooperation among Japan, the United States, and the ROK is being achieved strongly.
Reporter: Some observers have the view that the appearance of Chairman Kim Jong-un means that he is strongly willing to engage in United States-North Korea dialogue. What do you think regarding that point?
Minister Kono: At any rate they have trouble under the economic sanctions, so my perception is that they are desperately using a charm offensive.
Joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands
Reporter: I would like to ask about the Japan-Russia relations. Deputy Prime Minister Trutnev of Russia expressed the perception that there are a variety of views in Japan regarding joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands so arriving at a unified decision is difficult, meaning in essence that consultations between Japan and Russia are not making progress due to the discord among views on the Japan side. Would you tell us your interpretation of this? Also I think a director-general level meeting and a foreign ministers’ meeting are planned for this month. Would you please tell us the outcomes you are aiming for in those meetings? In relation to this, regarding the progress of the joint economic activities, would you tell us what kind of progress Japan is aiming to achieve?
Minister Kono: There is absolutely no discord in the views on the Japan side. He has said a variety of things to date, but that is not true in particular. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov will visit Japan, so now we are holding a variety of preparatory talks for that visit. Both countries wish to make a little progress in a variety of areas before Mr. Lavrov arrives.
Questions related to nuclear posture review (NPR)
Reporter: There are media reports that a memo has been discovered in which Vice Minister Takeo Akiba, when he was the Minister at the Embassy of Japan, expressed the positive view in hearings conducted by the U.S. Army regarding the 2009 NPR that the proposal for construction of a storage warehouse in Okinawa was persuasive. What is your understanding of the facts of the matter?
Minister Kono: I checked with Mr. Akiba and he said this was not true.
Reporter: Supposing there was such a view, do you think this would be contrary to the three non-nuclear principles?
Minister Kono: Adhering to the three non-nuclear principles have been the consistent position of the Government of Japan, so no suggestion contrary to the principles has ever been made.
Reporter: Is it a fact that the hearings were received?
Minister Kono: In the variety of exchanges between Japan and the United States, naturally Japan has made a variety of commnents about the NPR as well.
Twitter posts by Minister Kono
Reporter: I think that since January you have been working with a tough schedule of Diet sessions and diplomacy, a tight schedule, and I am sorry to talk about something which happened a short while ago, but I feel that it is no longer possible to see the Twitter message you posted after you attended the intensive discussions on February 14. What considerations were behind this decision?
Minister Kono: There were intensive discussions on diplomacy, defense, etc. but my answer time was only six minutes, so I Tweeted that I could not get any work done if I was sitting there the whole time, but I deleted it because it is inappropriate to be brought up in the council and to cause trouble for the budget discussions in all quarters.