Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, April 21, 2018, 5:15 p.m. Haneda Airport
Reporter: North Korea has decided to suspend its nuclear testing and ICBM testing and development, etc. Please give us your reaction to this.
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Previously North Korea has not mentioned anything to the outside world regarding denuclearization. Although this announcement is inadequate because it is predicated on nuclear capability and it does not mention the dismantling of nuclear weapons, I think it is a step forward because, through a variety of procedures have been taken inside North Korea, it mentions that they will close this kind of nuclear test site and that no missiles will be launched for a period of time. However, we must take care to note that this is different from the level of denuclearization and the dismantling of missiles sought by the international community; furthermore I stated that the international community seeks real action, so even if these kinds of statements are made to the outside world that does not mean that the sanctions should be relaxed, but nonetheless I believe that the fact that this kind of announcement was made means that North Korea is positively advancing a variety of procedures domestically toward denuclearization and the abandonment of its missiles, so I hope there will be concrete moves toward the abandonment of the nuclear and missile program going forward.
Reporter: I think you will attend the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting next. How do you intend to consult with the participating countries regarding concrete actions?
Minister: The international community is agreed that complete, irreversible, and verifiable dismantling of all nuclear and ballistic missile programs is necessary, so I think nothing in particular will change due to this announcement.
Reporter: Likewise, the Korean Central News Agency has reported that the decision of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea is to more actively pursue close cooperation and dialogue with neighboring countries and the international community in order to build an international environment beneficial for economic construction. In response to this, please tell us your thoughts at the current time regarding the Japan-North Korea negotiations over the abductions issue.
Minister: The inter-Korean summit meeting will be held on April 27, and currently a variety of preparations for the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting are under way, so I intend to observe that situation carefully.
Reporter: Is there enthusiasm for the Japan-North Korea negotiations and at the present time does the Government of Japan have any enthusiasm, etc.?
Minister: As I said, I intend to observe the progress of the inter-Korean summit meeting and the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in a careful manner.
Reporter: Do you think that the move toward denuclearization will accelerate due to the present announcement?
Minister: I think that this kind of announcement was made after the required procedures were taken in North Korea, but it is too early to say anything at this stage, before carefully observing what North Korea says in the inter-Korean summit meeting and the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting about denuclearization and the abandonment of missiles, and what plan of action North Korea has.
Reporter: As we approach the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea meetings, I think it is possible to see this as possibly a part of the so-called charm offensive. In that context, do you think that it is significant that North Korea is taking positive steps and has aligned its procedures internally?
Minister: It is an announcement that was made after the required meetings were held in North Korea, so I understand that the necessary procedures were taken domestically. However, as I stated, the announcement is predicated on nuclear capability and it does not say anything about the dismantling of nuclear weapons. The closure of the test site and not launching missiles are inadequate from the perspective of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, the international community is talking about, but I partially appreciate the fact that this kind of announcement was made in the context that this kind of matter has not been mentioned to the outside world before now, and I hope it will lead to concrete action going forward.
Reporter: The present closure of the nuclear test site by North Korea is a different kind of response from your statement that North Korea had moved toward its next nuclear testing from the end of last month. Please comment on this.
Minister: I believe this kind of conclusion was reached and announced to the outside world through the meeting in North Korea yesterday. As we must properly carry out verification of whether or not the nuclear test site has been clearly destroyed going forward, I believe that even though this announcement has been made to the outside world that does not mean that anything has happened yet.
Reporter: President Trump tweeted that this was big progress, and the office of the President of South Korea also announced that it was meaningful progress, so it seems that there is a slight difference in perception.
Minister: There is no difference in perception.
Reporter: What will you communicate as the position of Japan at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister: It’s not relevant; this is a position that has already been agreed by the international community.