Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 8:46 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
TOFU program (visit to the United States by high school students and university students from Okinawa)
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: We plan to send 20 high school students and university school students, etc. from Okinawa Prefecture to the United States from tomorrow, March 14, until March 21 to participate in the “Think of Okinawa’s Future in the United States” program (TOFU program). This is the program I introduced when I visited Okinawa Prefecture in December last year.
The participants plan to visit Washington DC and New York to hold exchanges with local young people, visit federal government agencies and the United Nations Headquarters, exchange views with Japanese staff of the United Nations, and pay a courtesy call on H.E. Caroline Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, etc. Before their departure tomorrow on March 14, we plan to have the young people meet U.S. Ambassador Mr. William Hagerty as well.
I hope that this visit will enable the participants to grow into human resources able to think about Okinawa’s future from a wider range of perspectives, by having them see directly the reality of the United States, an ally of Japan, as it is today and broadening their perspective regarding the role of Japan in the international community.
Meeting of Foreign Minister Kono and Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Reporter: I would like to ask about the North Korea issue. Last night you received an explanation from Director Suh Hoon of the ROK regarding the meeting between the ROK and North Korea. Meanwhile China also had an explanation from the ROK. China stated that it was hopeful regarding the ROK-led easing of tensions between the two Koreas. Please tell us again about the role of China toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula going forward and also how you would like to cooperate with China going forward.
Minister Kono: China is the member of the Six-Party Talks and at one time they had an extremely large amount of trade with North Korea, so I think that until North Korea starts concrete steps toward denuclearization in a firm manner, the continued cooperation of China as a member of the international community to increase pressure on North Korea is very important.
Furthermore, after North Korea has started steps toward denuclearization, I would like to collaborate and cooperate with China in a firm manner, on the issue of how the international community will respond.
Reporter: Regarding the specific actions, yesterday you mentioned that you would not reveal your strategy, so does this mean that your perception is that going forward you will coordinate on this matter with all the countries involved?
Minister Kono: That is correct.
Reporter: You said that on that occasion we must not go back to the past. What kind of perspectives do you think are necessary on that occasion?
Minister Kono: What necessary is how North Korea takes complete, irreversible, and verifiable actions toward denuclearization and toward abandoning the development of missiles, and, because we are constantly saying “verifiable,” how those actions can be verified.
Regarding the abandonment of the nuclear program, Japan is ready to provide full support to ensure that thorough IAEA inspections can begin in North Korea quickly.
Reporter: I think you have gone to a lot of trouble to pursue CVID to date, but except for past history it has not been achieved. Do you think that you will be able to progress in this area going forward?
Minister Kono: If specific actions are not properly taken, we will continue to maximize pressure, so I would like North Korea to firmly take concrete actions toward denuclearization and abandoning the development of missiles.
Reporter: In relation to your meeting with Director of the National Intelligence Service Suh Hoon yesterday, remarks and media reports have appeared from the ROK saying that in the meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un there were no exchanges regarding the abductions issue of Japan. In your doorstep press conference after the meeting, you said you would newly establish collaboration with the ROK over the abductions issue. May I ask about your perceptions regarding this once again?
Minister Kono: In addition to the abductions issue of Japan, the ROK also faces a similar issue, and for the United States, there are still American citizens being held captive by the North, so Japan, the United States, and the ROK agree that they will firmly collaborate regarding this issue.
The Moritomo Gakuen issue
Reporter: Regarding the issue of Moritomo Gakuen, yesterday the Ministry of Finance admitted that it altered the approval documents. What do you think about the fact that official documents of the government were altered?
Minister Kono: As a former minister responsible for official documents, I believe that the altering of official documents is unacceptable, so all necessary means must be implemented under the leadership of Minister of Finance Taro Aso, to thoroughly investigate the background and other matters related to this issue, to ensure that we are a government that is trusted by the people.
Reporter: Do you think that it is not necessary for Minister Aso to resign?
Minister Kono: That is not something that I think about.