Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Norio Maruyama
Thursday, April 5, 2018, 4:31 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Prime Minister of Iraq to Visit Japan
Mr. Norio Maruyama, Foreign Press Secretary: Dr. Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, will pay an Official Working Visit to Japan on April 4-5. Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to hold a summit meeting and dinner banquet with Prime Minister Abadi during his stay.
In the summit meeting, the two leaders are scheduled to discuss a broad range of matters, including cooperation for revitalization of Iraq, cooperation in economic areas and human exchanges between Japan and Iraq, and regional and international affairs.
Through this visit by Prime Minister Abadi, Japan and Iraq hope to deepen our relations of friendship and goodwill ahead of 2019, the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between our two countries.
Additionally, the Senior Officials Meeting on supporting job creation and vocational training to facilitate weapons reduction for Iraqi society will be held on April 5 with the attendance of Prime Minister Abadi and Prime Minister Abe.
Japan has already stated that it plans to assist the Iraqi Government in the creation of a mechanism to promote arms control through the enhancement of vocational training and employment opportunities in Iraq.
Japan hopes that the holding of this meeting will support Iraq’s arms control effort, which is being conducted under Iraq’s own initiative.
(2) Japan’s Friendship Ties Program
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: As of the end of March, the Japan’s Friendship Ties Program, which I have introduced many times here, has finished for fiscal 2017. Through the program, roughly 4,800 young people, who are responsible for the future, were invited to Japan over the past year. They include about 3,300 people from Asia and Oceania, about 1,200 people from North America, about 200 people from Europe, and about 100 people from Latin America.
In fiscal 2018, we will invite about 4,000 people from these regions to Japan. By promoting this program, we hope to deepen multi-faceted understanding of Japan, improve the image of Japan in the international community, and enhance sustained interest in Japan.
North Korea (Statements by Foreign Minister Kono)
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: With regard to recent developments in North Korea, yesterday, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Japan during a press conference, stating that “the Japanese side may have felt left out,” and also “let’s hope that while we are all making efforts to achieve something, no one is trying to bog us down.” Please share the Government’s views on this statement.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I would like to refrain from commenting on each and every statement made during press conferences held by foreign governments. However, I will say that, regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments, Japan is constantly collecting and analyzing information with the greatest interest. Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from revealing detailed analyses of specific matters. In any case, Japan will continue to do its utmost to maintain an elevated monitoring and surveillance structure to protect the safety of its people, with a heightened sense of vigilance, under the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance.
Kyodo Press, Fukuda: You have just stated that you would like to refrain from revealing the analyses of specific matters. However, while giving a lecture in Kochi City, Foreign Minister Kono stated that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test. These remarks seem inconsistent with the Government’s position of not revealing the analyses of specific matters.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I believe Foreign Minister Kono was sharing a specific example of a view expressed by an expert.
Kyodo Press, Fukuda: When making his statement, the subject was clearly the Government of Japan and it seemed Foreign Minister Kono was stating the position of Japan. Are you saying that he was not in fact stating the position of the Government?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: To reiterate, what Foreign Minister Kono was saying was that such a view exists among experts on the subject.
Reporter: Is it not problematic that someone in the position of being a representative of Japan expresses the view of an expert? Is it not somewhat irresponsible to state the view of an expert when the Government itself does not believe it?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Please understand that Foreign Minister Kono was merely introducing the fact that such a view exists.
Asahi Shimbun, Kurashige: I have a related question. In my understanding, Foreign Minister Kono expressed his recognition and understanding of the situation, based on what he knew. In other words, when introducing the view of this expert, was Foreign Minister Kono not expressing his thoughts as Japan’s Foreign Minister, which can also be interpreted as the views of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and even the Japanese Government, and was he not making these remarks upon having verified this view?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: These remarks can be understood to be the Foreign Minister’s own remarks. He was introducing the fact that such a view exists among experts.
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: From what I heard when attending the lecture, in my understanding, Foreign Minister Kono was expressing his view, which is that, based on various information. North Korea is making maximum efforts to prepare for another nuclear test.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Foreign Minister Kono was likely referring to an article by an expert on the subject, at the venue of press conference. This is about 38 North, right?
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: I thought we were talking about his lecture in Kochi City.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: In any case, I believe a similar question was raised to Foreign Minister Kono in relation to 38 North. At that time, if I may simply repeat the Foreign Minister’s words, he stated that, “The article mentions at the end that North Korea has ramped up roadwork near the test site. Based on publicly available information, it is apparent that North Korea’s activity is continuing at nuclear-related facilities, including the test site.”
Kyodo Press, Fukuda: Foreign Minister Kono was very clearly stating his views. He said “Based on the publicly available information, I believe.” I do not think it is correct to say that the Foreign Minister was simply introducing the view of an expert.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: In any case, Foreign Minister Kono was introducing the fact that such a view exists among experts.
Asahi Shimbun, Kurashige: Regarding the statement by the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you stated earlier that you would like to refrain from commenting on the remarks of other governments. However, as part of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affair’s global communications strategy, you are using tax revenue to communicate Japan’s diplomatic policies around the world. In this context, when the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls out Japan by name and, frankly, criticizes Japan’s foreign policies and its diplomacy in relation to North Korea, in front of the international community, I wonder if not commenting on it is really the appropriate approach for Japan to take. What are your views on this point as Press Secretary?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: In essence, many different things are stated in the press conferences of foreign governments. Our stance is to not get caught up in each and every statement that is made, nor to comment on them. At the same time, we believe it is important to constantly communicate Japan’s position. As for this matter, to reiterate, with regard to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, it makes complete sense that we would communicate our views and the position from which we will work to protect the safety of the Japanese people. That was the point I was making.
NHK, Tsuji: I have a follow up question. China has pointed out that Japan is bogging the other parties down. How would you respond to this?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Again, in the same way, I would like to refrain from answering questions specifically about individual remarks. However, with regard to what is necessary in relation to North Korea, Japan is constantly stating its position. Therefore, we do not comment on individual statements.
NHK, Tsuji: What I am trying to say is that, I think there is not sufficient understanding for Japan’s stance of continuing to maintain pressure on North Korea to ensure that it takes concrete actions towards denuclearization. If there were sufficient understanding, Japan would not be accused of bogging the other parties down.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I believe that is a statement by the spokesperson. Japan and China are coordinating what actions we should take and engaging in thorough dialogue. As part of this process, we are communicating closely regarding such differences in opinion and, in particular, the need for us to work together towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Asahi Shimbun, Kurashige: In yesterday’s press conference, the spokesperson stated that, “we also hope that all relevant parties can seize the opportunity of the moment and work together to improve the Korean Peninsula situation and bring the Korean Peninsula issue back to the right track of settlement through dialogue and consultation” and then “let’s hope that while we are all making efforts to achieve something, no one is trying to bog us down.” Am I correct in understanding that the point about working together and improving the situation through dialogue differs from Japan’s foreign policy stance on North Korea?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: The Foreign Minister and I have always answered any questions about what actions are necessary at this point in time. In any case, as we have stated on many occasions, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is essential for ensuring the peace and stability of the region. We have also stated that the international community must maintain maximum pressure on North Korea in order to ensure that North Korea abandons all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.
What necessary is concrete actions on the part of North Korea. You mentioned dialogue just now, which I believe is related to the upcoming holding of a North-South Summit Meeting and a U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. Japan believes it is necessary to elicit concrete actions from North Korea through these meetings. Furthermore, we consider it to be of the utmost importance to take every opportunity, including that presented by Prime Minister Abe’s upcoming visit to the United States, to engage in policy coordination, particularly among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and believe the role of China is also vital.
At the same time, regarding your point, as the Chair of the Six Party Talks and the source of 90% of North Korea’s trade, China’s role is extremely important. Japan hopes that in interactions between China and North Korea that China urges North Korea to take specific actions towards denuclearization. In this context, there is no change to Japan’s stance of working together with the other relevant countries towards the common goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Asahi Shimbun, Kurashige: As for the remarks by the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizing Japan, does Japan have any intention of confirming the meaning behind the remarks, lodging a protest, or seeking an explanation?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: As I explained earlier, regarding the spokesperson’s remarks, I would like to refrain from commenting on each and every statement made in the press conferences of foreign governments.
Kyodo Press, Fukuda: I would like to confirm one point. In his remarks, Foreign Minister Kono said, in the first person, that, “Based on the publicly available information, I believe that activities at the relevant facilities, including nuclear test sites, are continuing..” It is a bit of a stretch to say that he was simply introducing the view of an expert. He said “I believe,” in the first person. It is hard to believe that he is stating the view of an expert.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: In our understanding, Foreign Minister Kono was merely introducing the fact that such a view exists among experts.
Japan-ROK Summit Meeting
NHK, Tsuji: According to media reports, Prime Minister Abe asked President Moon Jae-in of the ROK to visit Japan in their March telephone talk. What are your thoughts about holding a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting before the North-South Summit Meeting?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: As it concerns a diplomatic exchange I would like to refrain from commenting on this too. Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier, it is important to take all available opportunities to closely coordinate policy among Japan, the United States, and the ROK, with the aim of eliciting specific actions from North Korea through the North-South Summit Meeting and the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting.
NHK, Tsuji: The United States, the ROK, and China are meeting with North Korea at the summit level, but Japan has not presented a plan for this type of meeting thus far. Do you have any thoughts about the significance and role of close communication between the leaders of Japan and the ROK ahead of the North-South Summit Meeting in order to strengthen collaboration among Japan, the United States, and the ROK?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Japan and the ROK have to date expressed a shared recognition of the importance of coordinating efforts with the aim of eliciting specific actions from North Korea. From this perspective, nothing has changed in our stance that it is necessary to constantly engage in coordination.
NHK, Tsuji: Is Japan interested in holding such a meeting if it were possible?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I would like to refrain from commenting on this point because it pertains to the content of a diplomatic exchange. However, if I may reiterate, Japan, the United States, and the ROK have agreed that close Japan-ROK, Japan-U.S., and Japan-U.S.-ROK policy coordination are important for eliciting specific actions from North Korea.