Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, February 17, 2018, 3:40 p.m. Munich, Germany
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I attended the 54th Munich Security Conference. Late last night I participated in a session with the theme of “The Liberal International Order Under Threat”. First, I stated that a nuclear-armed North Korea is a challenge to the NPT regime and unacceptable and that we should not be blinded by the charm offensive of North Korea, and I appealed to the importance of strictly implementing Security Council resolutions. Secondly, I expressed concern that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion are shaking the international order in a variety of situations, and stated that open, transparent, environmentally and socially responsible, and internationally sound standards are important.
Thirdly, I stated that the United States will continue to play a large role in maintenance and development of the international order based on the rule of law, that despite this being the case it is important for the international community overall to help the United States through burden sharing and cooperation, and that from this perspective cooperation between Japan and Europe is extremely important.
This means that opposing unilateral attempts to change the status quo including the case of North Korea, and maintaining this liberal international order are both important points in Japanese diplomacy. I was able to communicate this message and at the same time hold exchanges of views with a variety of people so I think the conference was extremely meaningful.
Furthermore, at the Munich Security Conference I held a meeting with Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov and in addition I was able to hold a series of meetings with the foreign ministers of countries that we have not communicated sufficiently with at the foreign minister level to date, including Europe’s Baltic, Western Balkans, and Caucasus countries. I think it was extremely good in strengthening relations between Japan with each of these regions will strengthen.
In Vienna, which I visited first, I was able to visit the OSCE, organization which has made a large contribution to the security of Europe from the perspective of confidence building over many years, as the foreign minister of Japan for the first time.
I was able to have meetings in line with my intention that we should deploy a more multi-faceted diplomacy with respect to Europe today which is stratifying as it faces a variety of issues such as the economy and the refugee problem. In addition, I was able to follow up on the Baltic Cooperation Dialogue and Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative launched on the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister Abe to Europe last month.
With respect to the EU, I have constantly stated that a strong Europe that shares a variety of fundamental values such as the rule of law, democracy, and basic human rights is necessary, and I think it was very meaningful that I was able to hold a telephone talk with High Representative Ms. Federica Mogherini to confirm the agreement regarding the SPA. I also held meetings with H. E. Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kabore, President of Burkina Faso and H. E. Mr. Taban Deng Gai, First Vice President, Republic of South Sudan. This is the end of my statement.
Reporter: At the Munich Security Conference you called for the international community to maximize pressure on and continue applying pressure on North Korea, but on February 13 the Department of State of the United States mentioned exploratory talks prior to entering full-scale talks with North Korea. Does the Government of Japan think that caution should be exercised regarding these exploratory talks as well?
Minister Kono: I think that it is important to apply pressure on North Korea now. However, I think contact is important in the sense of properly communicating to North Korea that they must abandon their nuclear and missile program and come to the dialogue table, and listening to North Korea’s reaction to that. Some of the media translated the word “talks” used by Vice President Mike Pence as “dialogue” but I think that would be translated accurately in Japanese as “contact.” I am not denying that kind of “contact” and there is no change to the shared perception of Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea that nothing would be gained from dialogue now.
Reporter: In the session you attended at the Security Conference in Munich there was a little talk about China. Did you reach any conclusions as a result of the discussion about China?
Minister Kono: I think that China achieving sound economic development based on the rule of law within the international order is extremely beneficial for the world economy. I think my recognition was shared in a firm manner.
Reporter: In the session you attended at the Security Conference, I wonder if you didn’t feel quite strongly in your bones in relation to Europe a threat with respect to Russia and a quite strong sense of unease. Furthermore, there was also talk about China but in that context as the Government of Japan is now aiming for improvement in Japan-China relations and to advance the Japan-Russia negotiations, going forward what kind of balance do you think should be taken with Europe, which has the same values?
Minister Kono: I don’t think that I should comment in particular on relations between Europe and China or Russia. I think it is the shared recognition of Japan and Europe that the liberal international order that has contributed to the development of the post-war world economy to date is important. In particular, until now there was the view that economic growth leads to democratization but given the reality that recent economic growth, in particular economic growth due to state capitalism, has not necessarily led to democratization, naturally I would like to firmly share with Europe the perception that strong, free and open capitalism is important and that free and open capitalism leads to democratization, the rule of law and basic human rights.
Reporter: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. In March it was agreed that you would meet Foreign Minister Lavrov again, but there are a variety of differences between Japan and Russia in their perceptions of security issues. Regarding whether the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to the Northern Territories, Foreign Minister Lavrov has declared that if he cannot understand that part of the treaty then advancing the peace treaty negotiations will be difficult. Did the Russian delegation accept this matter at the present meeting?
Minister Kono: I think that there was absolutely no gap in perceptions at the present meeting.
Reporter: I am repeating myself, but I think differences in position are natural. Did you explain that the position of Japan is that the security treaty included the fact that bases may be established based on the consent of Japan and did you obtain understanding regarding that?
Minister Kono: I have no intention of talking about the content of the negotiations but I think there are no differences in understanding.
Reporter: About the matter of North Korea which you discussed in your opening remarks, at the Munich Security Conference you used a panel to show the current situation in which North Korea is evading sanctions using ship-to-ship transfers, etc. and called for a tough response. May I ask you to speak a little about whether or not the understanding of the international community with respect to the strengthening of pressure deepened, and about their response, etc.?
Minister Kono: The ships used for the ship-to-ship transfers were Dominican-flagged and Belize-flagged, so even if each country’s understanding is that they don’t have trade relations with North Korea, those countries could be involved in an indirect way in sanctions evasion by North Korea. I believe that this point was shared among participants at the conference.