Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 3:09 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement

Reporter: The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement consisted of a statement issued about the attack by Russia on the former spy, and that statement took the form of support, including by Japan, for the claim of the United Kingdom that Russia had used chemical weapons. Firstly please tell us your reaction to this.

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The G7 countries have liaised closely regarding this matter. While there is no so-called smoking gun showing that Russia used chemical weapons, the G7 agrees with the claim of the United Kingdom that it is highly likely that Russia did and there is no other reasonable explanation and that it is necessary to constructively lobby Russia in the international community going forward.

Reporter: Later a summit meeting, etc. is planned with Russia. Do you plan to appeal to Russia on those occasions too?

Minister Kono: I believe that the Prime Minister is planning a visit to Russia in May, if circumstances permit. My understanding is that on that occasion he will firstly discuss a variety of bilateral issues and at the same time exchange views about a variety of international situations, including the North Korea issue.

Matter concerning the Administrative Vice Minister in the Ministry of Finance

Reporter: Currently the response of the Ministry of Finance to allegations of sexual harassment by the Vice Minister of Finance is attracting attention. Specifically, the ministry is saying the women who were hurt should come forward. What do you think about that response?

Minister Kono: I intend to provide strict guidance regarding sexual harassment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that nothing like that occurs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Reporter: The position of women and the sexual harassment issue are extremely important internationally as well and I think you have tackled these issues passionately. What do you think about the present incident which suggests insufficient consideration has been given to women in the Ministry of Finance?

Minister Kono: If the series of media reports are true, then its completely unacceptable. Before I go about criticizing others, firstly I intend to provide strict guidance to ensure that this kind of issue does not occur at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

G7 Leaders’ Statement on Syria

Reporter: In relation to Syria, the G7 leaders issued a statement, and Japan also added its name to the statement, saying that they supported the action of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. I think the stance of the Government of Japan is slightly different, saying it supports their determination and understands their action. What was the reason for this change in judgment?

Minister Kono: Firstly, the position of Japan is that the use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable and the persons who used them must be punished. The United Nations and the OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism have confirmed that the Assad regime in Syria has previously used chlorine gas and sarin. Furthermore, I believe that the present action of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France was a measure against the chemical weapons research and development organizations and storage warehouses possessed by Syria, so Japan supports the determination of the three countries that chemical weapons must not be used going forward, and at the same time I understand these unavoidable measures taken by the three countries.

Japan proposed in the United Nations Security Council that the mandate of the JIM (Joint Investigative Mechanism) be extended to identify the use of chemical weapons when they have been used, however, unfortunately this proposal was rejected in the Security Council. Japan believes that a permanent international institution for conducting investigations when chemical weapons have been used is necessary, so I intend to strongly advocate this position of Japan at the G7 and in other forums going forward.

Reporter: You are saying that you understand the action because it was unavoidable, but in the statement, Japan becomes the grammatical subject and therefore is supporting the action. Isn’t there a discrepancy here?

Minister Kono: I believe that the statement says we are supporting a variety of efforts.

Reporter: Regarding the attack on the spy in the United Kingdom, I think that until now Japan’s position has been that even though we have received the results of the investigation by the OPCW we still do not know who carried out the attack or how they carried it out so we will wait for the relevant facts to emerge. Has that position changed again in the statement?

Minister Kono: Japan continues to hope that the relevant facts will be properly discovered through further investigations by the OPCW and the UK police. The G7 foreign ministers decided to issue this kind of statement based on the judgment made during the cooperation between the G7 countries so far that the explanation of the United Kingdom is highly probable and reasonable.

Reporter: The G7 countries other than Japan are expelling Russian diplomats. Is Japan also considering such measures going forward?

Minister Kono: We are not considering such measures at this time.

Matter concerning the Administrative Vice Minister in the Ministry of Finance

Reporter: Regarding Vice Minister Junichi Fukuda in the Ministry of Finance, Minister in charge of Women's Empowerment Seiko Noda has said she feels uncomfortable about the matter. Do you think you would feel uncomfortable if the statements are true?

Minister Kono: If the statements are true, I would not just feel uncomfortable; I think that would be unforgiveable. Before I go about criticizing the government departments of others, I believe ensuring that that kind of incident does not occur on my watch is my responsibility.

Syrian situation

Reporter: Regarding the issue of Syria discussed earlier, in terms of international law, do you think, for example, that bombing another country without a United Nations resolution is not a violation of international law?

Minister Kono: Japan is not in a position to legally assess the three countries.

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