Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:04 p.m. Iikura House

Opening Remarks

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, from 6:00 pm for approximately two hours and fifty minutes, I held a meeting and working dinner with Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea (ROK). I received a considerably detailed explanation of the recent interaction between the ROK’s special envoy delegation and North Korea. In addition, we closely coordinated our policy regarding future responses. I expressed my appreciation for the detailed explanation as part of Japan-ROK cooperation, as well as my respect for the efforts by the Government of the ROK, including Director Hoon, thus far. Director Hoon and I agreed that recent changes in North Korea are occurring as the result of maximum pressure implemented through Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, that it is necessary to elicit concrete actions from North Korea and have meaningful dialogue through the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, and that maximum pressure should be continued in order to realize abandonment of nuclear and missile programs by North Korea and not repeat past mistakes. We also confirmed cooperation between Japan and the ROK to resolve the abductions issue. Director Hoon gave a detailed description of the six items announced after the recent visit to North Korea. Given the nature of this topic, I would like to refrain from discussing details today because we are currently at a stage of needing to prepare details ahead of the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting through Japan-ROK and Japan-ROK-U.S. cooperation. The Government of Japan intends to work closely among the three countries, including the United States, using the visit by Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, to the United States in early April and all other opportunities in order to obtain meaningful results from North Korea in the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea Summit meeting. That ends my opening remarks.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: You mentioned cooperation between Japan and the ROK to resolve the abductions issue. Specifically what does that involve? Did Chairman Kim Jong-un refer to anything about abductions?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from talking about details. Nevertheless, the Government of Japan’s stance remains that it is seeking resolution of the missile and nuclear issues and also resolution of the abductions issue prior to normalization of relations with North Korea. Prime Minister Abe clearly communicated this policy to North Korea in Pyeongchang. Japan intends to cooperate closely with the ROK toward resolving the abductions issue based on this stance.

Reporter: Did Chairman Kim Jong-un say anything about abductions?

Minister Kono: As to what might have been said by the North Korean side beyond what was just announced and other detailed content, I would like to refrain from discussing topics not covered in the announcement because it is necessary to make preparations ahead of the ROK-North Korea and U.S.-North Korea summit meetings.

Reporter: Regarding the abductions issue, the victims’ families are getting older and the Government is saying on a regular basis that there is no time to spare. Isn’t Japan thinking about arrangement of a Japan-North Korea meeting in light of the ROK-North Korea and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting plans?

Minister Kono: It has already been decided to have the ROK-North Korea summit meeting in April and then hold the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting. The Government of Japan plans to closely engage in Japan-U.S.-ROK and Japan-ROK coordination of details aimed at getting North Korea to take action toward denuclearization. After the meetings, it will take steps based on the outcomes while cooperating with the other parties.

Reporter: You have spoken against “dialogue for the sake of dialogue” and a “charm offensive.” Was there something in the discussions that convinced you that the dialogue this time is different? While I realize you cannot discuss details, could you confirm whether this type of information was obtained?

Minister Kono: Since Japan, the United States, and the ROK have agreed that maximum pressure must continue until North Korea switches to taking action beyond just words, our view is that the international community has nothing to lose from proceeding with the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting.

Reporter: Did you hear the message for Japan today from Chairman Kim Jong-un?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from saying anything about the meeting’s content beyond what was announced.

Reporter: After hearing the explanation today, and given that you have always up until now stated that concrete action must be elicited from North Korea, how will you judge the strength of North Korea’s intention for denuclearization?

Minister Kono: North Korea offered a commitment to work toward denuclearization as noted in the announcement. However, the international community has a shared view that actions are necessary, not just words. There is no change to the existing policy of continuation of maximum pressure until North Korea takes real steps toward denuclearization.

Reporter: The previous Six Party Talks applied an incremental approach to denuclearization by North Korea of halting and then disabling facilities. While North Korea ultimately broke its promises, it received concessions at each stage. Does the Government of Japan intend to continue pressure until complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) is achieved this time?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from disclosing our strategy.

Reporter: Was there any discussion today of acceptance of IAEA inspectors or other specific methods of confirming denuclearization? Also, you stated during your visit to Vienna in February that the Government of Japan is ready to provide financial cooperation. Please review Japan’s stance at this point.

Minister Kono: During my visit to the IAEA, I explained that Japan is ready to give financial and other support to allow for an immediate start to inspections if North Korea indicates that it will accept inspections. This remains Japan’s policy and I communicated it to the ROK as well.

Reporter: Was this discussed today?

Minister Kino: I explained today what was discussed on my IAEA visit.

Reporter: Did you explain Japan’s willingness to assist with initial costs to the ROK side?

Minister Kono: This has already been communicated to the ROK.

Reporter: Once again, was it mentioned at today’s meeting that Chairman Kim Jong-un expressed interest in a meeting with Prime Minister Abe?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from discussing topics beyond what was covered in the announcement.

Reporter: The North Korean side appears to have said that it will halt provocative actions. Was there any mention of nuclear and missile development activities?

Minister Kono: I am sorry but I need to refrain from discussing topics beyond what was covered in the announcement.

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