Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, March 23, 2018, 8:28 a.m. Prime Minister’s Office
Replacement of U.S. National Security Advisor McMaster
Reporter: Gen. H.R. McMaster has been replaced as U.S. National Security Advisor. Could you please share your thoughts on this, as well as your expectations for his successor, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I met National Security Advisor McMaster for the first time at the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”). We met again quite recently as well. I am somewhat surprised by this news. Gen. McMaster had an extremely good understanding of Japan and was a very straightforward person, and we exchanged views on various subjects. I do not know what Gen. McMaster will do next but I am sure he will also be successful in his future endeavors.
I am aware that Mr. Bolton has been appointed as Gen. McMaster’s successor. I have not yet met Mr. Bolton but I hope to be able to meet with him, as well as the new Secretary of State, as soon as possible and engage in an exchange of views.
Reporter: With this latest replacement, the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor of the United States are both hardliners. How do you think this will impact measures against North Korea?
Minister Kono: During my recent visit to the United States, I saw a complete alignment of views within the U.S. Government. I believe that the orientation of the U.S. Government is unlikely to change.
U.S. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports
Reporter: This afternoon, the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum will enter into effect. Could you please once again explain your views on this matter?
Minister Kono: I believe that U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer also held a public hearing on this subject. In any case, Japan has already expressed its concerns over this issue to the U.S. side and we hope to hold an exchange of views in the future.
Reporter: On a related note, the United States has also decided to impose high tariffs and sanctions on China, and there are growing concerns that this will spark a global trade war. Could you please share your thoughts on this?
Minister Kono: Japan shares the same concerns as the United States and will hold an exchange of views with the U.S. side. In any case, we will closely monitor the situation to ensure that no measures are adopted that are in violation of the rules of the World Trade Organization.
Replacement of U.S. National Security Advisor McMaster
Reporter: Has the Japanese Government confirmed the resignation of National Security Advisor McMaster?
Minister Kono: I, too, have seen President Trump’s tweet on the matter.
Foreign Minister Kono to Visit Hong Kong
Reporter: There are reports that you will be visiting Hong Kong. Could you please explain why you are visiting Hong Kong at this timing?
Minister Kono: Circumstances permitting, I intend to visit Hong Kong on March 24-25. From a trade standpoint, Hong Kong is a major importer of Japanese agricultural products, but it is still not accepting agricultural imports from five prefectures, including Fukushima Prefecture. Japan and Hong Kong are also deepening economic exchanges in various fields. In addition, in terms of tourism, over 2 million people from Hong Kong visit Japan each year. I therefore intend to engage in discussions on various economic aspects.
Reporter: Will you be the first incumbent Japanese foreign minister to visit Hong Kong?
Minister Kono: No. I will be the first foreign minister to visit Hong Kong for bilateral matters since former Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda. Much time has passed since then, but I believe that other foreign ministers have also subsequently visited Hong Kong to attend international conferences or for various other reasons.
Second Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament
Reporter: Next week, another meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament will be held. What outcomes is the Government aiming for?
Minister Kono: A meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament will be held on March 26-27. On March 26, I plan to attend the dinner reception and exchange views with the members of the Group. Japan will fully convey the outcomes of the meeting to the scheduled meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Reporter: According to press reports, when meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, you asked about pandas. Could you please share the details of the exchange?
Minister Kono: I remember that there was the exchange about pandas and crested ibises. I believe we talked about how the DNA of the crested ibis needs to become a little bit more diversified.
Reporter: How did the Chinese side respond to the question about pandas?
Minister Kono: This question was rather sudden and so it is difficult for me to recall at this time.
Reporter: I heard that you requested the loan of pandas to zoos in Sendai and Kobe.
Minister Kono: I cannot remember having such specific discussions.
Reporter: If China were to loan pandas to Japan, what kind of an effect would it have?
Minister Kono: I cannot answer it at this time.
Reporter: Any kind of expectations?
Minister Kono: I am afraid I cannot remember what we said on the subject.