Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 9:12 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Schedule for Director General-Level Working Meetings Related to Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Regarding director general-level working group meetings related to joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, it has been decided after coordinating based on last month’s Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to hold the director general-level working group meeting on movement of people on April 11 and the director general-level working group meeting on project content on April 24 in Tokyo. These are second-round meetings following the ones held in Moscow in December 2017.

We intend to accelerate our preparations for the visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia in May this year.

Visit by Foreign Minister Kono to the Republic of Korea

Reporter: Please explain the significance of your visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) at this timing amid various schedules at the Diet.

Minister Kono: If various circumstances allow, I plan to travel to the ROK tonight and hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the ROK, tomorrow. I believe the ROK side has made preparations for its summit meeting with North Korea, and I hope to have an extensive exchange of views with Foreign Minister Kang regarding the North Korea issue.

Reporter: How about the abductions issue?

Minister Kono: The nuclear, missile, and abductions issues constitute matters that must be solved. I hope to discuss this point too.

Reporter: North Korea communicated its intent to discuss denuclearization at the US-North Korea summit meeting to the US Government for the first time. What is your analysis of this development?

Minister Kono: Japan hopes that robust preparations are being made for the US-North Korea summit meeting.

Reporter: Isn’t this an extension of the diplomatic charm offensive?

Minister Kono: We intend to carefully analyze North Korea’s intents. The international community wants more than just words from North Korea. Japan will be closely looking at whether North Korea takes action toward complete, irreversible, and verifiable abandonment of nuclear and missile programs as well as a comprehensive solution of abductions and detainee issues.

Abductions Issue

Reporter: I have a question about the abductions issue. The ROK has 516 abductees who are acknowledged by its Government. This is a much larger number than Japan. Please explain your view of this number and Japan’s determination to resolve this matter together with the issue of Japanese abductees.

Minister Kono: There are abduction victims from other countries, not only Japan and the ROK and also detainees from the United States. Japan sees this as a human rights matter for the international community that must be resolved as part of the current North Korea crisis.

Reporter: Public interest in abductions is not that strong in the ROK at this point. What efforts do you think are needed to stimulate public interest?

Minister Kono: While I do not want to comment directly on domestic matters in the ROK, I believe that this is an issue that goes beyond just the ROK and Japan and plans to fully take up this issue as part of the international community.

Dual Citizenship

Reporter: Our paper (The Japan Times) conducted another reader questionnaire on the topic of dual citizenship, and many people responded that they think Japan’s Nationality Act does not match the current state of globalization. You previously considered revisions to the Nationality Act within the Liberal Democratic Party. What are your thoughts about this topic?

Minister Kono: Please address this question to the Ministry of Justice.

Reporter: Do you have any personal comments?

Minister Kono: Ministers do not talk about their personal opinions.

Director General-Level Working Meetings Related to Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands

Reporter: I would like to ask about the director general-level working group meetings mentioned at the outset. I believe the original hope was to hold these meetings prior to last month’s Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. They are behind schedule by about a month. Do you think they are moving forward with being impacted by the delay? Also, does the schedule of handling these meetings on separate days of April 11 and April 24 reflect a desire to engage in in-depth discussions?

Minister Kono: The conclusion reached at the Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was to make steady preparations ahead of the visit by Prime Minister Abe to Russia. We intend to take steps in this direction.

Japan-Russia Relationship

Reporter: The US-Russia relations and relations between Europe and Russia have been deteriorating with the Syria situation and the attack incident from a month ago. Japan, meanwhile, is proceeding with the director general-level working group meetings and next week’s senior-level strategic dialogue. Is there no change in the Government’s policy to continue such dialogues? If yes, what are your thoughts about the significance of proceeding in this manner?

Minister Kono: First, regarding chemical weapons, the Japanese Government’s position is that use of chemical weapons is not acceptable and the party using chemical weapons must be punished. Japan intends to respond after seeing results from investigations implemented by the United Kingdom and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

As to issues with Russia, Japan has taken joint steps with the international community on the Ukrainian situation and other matters.
Meanwhile, Japan is engaged in various efforts seeking conclusion of a peace treaty, and intends to move forward with these preparations.

To add on the chemical weapons issue, the threshold for use of chemical weapons appears to have declined and Japan believes it is essential for the international community to respond in a manner that clearly demonstrates the cost of using chemical weapons to the party using the weapons. The Japanese Government will also be involved in the discussions of how this should be done and intends to contribute to formation of an international environment in which use and possession of chemical weapons is not allowed.

Use of Chemical Weapons

Reporter: Decline in the threshold for use of chemical weapons is language that Ms. Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), also used at the UN. However, there are still no conclusions about whether chemical weapons were used in the situation involving Sergei Skripal and the latest incident in Syria. What is your basis for stating that the threshold has declined?

Minister Kono: I think cases of using chemical weapons or in which it is thought that such weapons were used have been significantly increasing recently. The Atomic, biological and chemical weapons should not be used at all. Given the significant rise in frequency of chemical weapon usage despite this, I believe the latest case is a crisis situation to some extent.

Abductions Issue

Reporter: I would like to confirm whether you intend to ask the ROK side to raise the Japanese abductees issue at the ROK-North Korea summit meeting.

Minister Kono: Japan intends to encourage discussion of the abductions issue at the ROK-North Korea and US-North Korea summit meetings. We will raise and pursue resolution of the abductions issue at all opportunities.

US Case on Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

Reporter: Japan has expressed interest in participating in discussions as a third country for the US case against China for infringement of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Please explain the aim of this move.

Minister Kono: Japan believes it is vital to firmly establish intellectual property rights. Japan understands the US concerns and wants to express its opinions in the discussion as a third country. While it is our understanding that the Chinese side needs to give its consent, Japan should be capable of expressing views as a third country if it becomes a panel. We are watching developments and will be responding appropriately.

US-North Korea Summit Meeting

Reporter: While President Trump had been talking about a US-North Korea summit meeting by May, it seems as if the timing range has extended some to include early June. There has been mention of negotiations between the two countries taking place behind the scenes. I think the timing might be slipping some because of progress in the negotiation preparations. What is your assessment?

Minister Kono: We receive briefings on various interactions between the United States and North Korea. I do not have any particular comments on this at this point.

Ministry of Finance’s Moritomo Issue and Ministry of Defense’s Daily Report Issue

Reporter: Confidence in the Government is being challenged by changes to documents related to selling national land in the Moritomo case by the Ministry of Finance and the emergence of daily reports that the Ministry of Defense stated did not exist to the Diet. What is your view of the situation as a member of the Cabinet?

Minister Kono: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to carefully manage public documents so that such situations do not occur. There is the National Archives, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has the Diplomatic Archives too. We are currently looking at how the National Archives and Diplomatic Archives can cooperate and collaborate from the perspective of managing documents. MOFA, in particular, has many highly confidential diplomatic documents and wants to ensure proper management of public documents and suitable disclosure.

However, I recognized a major difference in staffing of Japan’s National Archives and overseas archives during my past role as the minister in charge of public documents. This is also the reality. While I am aware of the difficulty of increasing personnel given my previous position in handling the civil servant system, there needs to be discussion to ensure that tasks are being properly fulfilled and public documents are managed. We also need to address whether individual ministries and agencies should be handling everything or steps should be taken to increase staff at the National Archives to oversee public documents. This is a matter involving the number of civil servants and should be thoroughly discussed. At MOFA, I intend to continue to provide guidance on proper management of public documents.

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