Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 9:32 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Meeting
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Morgulov will hold a Japan-Russia vice-ministerial-level meeting in Moscow on May 11.
The meeting will cover the Japan-Russia relations overall, the issue of conclusion of a peace treaty, including joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands, and there will also be discussions on the international situation and other topics.
We hope that this will be a significant and fruitful meeting, coming as it does directly prior to the visit by Prime Minister Abe to Russia at the end of this month.
The Seventh Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit
Reporter: Tomorrow the Seventh Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit will be held and its timing falls just between the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summit meetings. In the case of North Korea in particular, do you think that the meeting will be able to make progress towards denuclearization, and will it also be possible to share a common recognition on how to achieve complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID), which is something that Japan and other countries are seeking?
Minister Kono: Ten years have now passed since the first Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit and tomorrow will mark the seventh of such summit meetings in this landmark year, and the first for two-and-a-half years. We have great hopes that the summit will further invigorate exchanges among the three countries and also promote economic activities, including moves towards a Japan-China-ROK free trade agreement (FTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It will of course also be the case that the leaders will engage in discussions on the issue of North Korea. I would expect that various discussions on CVID will take place, including on North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and missiles.
Reporter: Do you think that the summit will help to bring the three countries together in terms of finding a path to denuclearization?
Minister Kono: The issue of denuclearization is something that will be covered in the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting. Although various agenda items pertaining to North Korea are likely to be discussed, I would like to avoid speculating on specific points at the current time.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian Nuclear Issue
Reporter: It is expected that President Trump will likely make a decision in the near future on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue. There have been various views expressed about the agreement and President Trump has indicated that he considers it to be a bad deal. Is it likely that the President’s decision on the agreement could result in changes to Japan’s response to the agreement to date, and do you think that a decision on Iran could have an impact on the moves to achieve denuclearization in North Korea?
Minister Kono: Japan has repeatedly made clear that it supports the JCPOA and I reiterated that stance when I met recently with Dr. Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State. I understand that the United States will make a decision in the near future, and Japan will wait until such a decision has been made. In any case, at the point, there is absolutely no change to the Government’s stance on the JCPOA.
Japan-China Summit Meeting
Reporter: It will be the first time in eight years for the Premier of the State Council of China to visit Japan, so could you tell us how you view the current status of Japan-China relations and share Japan’s expectations for the upcoming Japan-China summit meeting?
Minister Kono: I believe that it was eight years ago, in 2010, when then-Premier Wen Jiabao visited Japan, and it is now the case that the Japan-China relations are improving in various areas and high-level exchanges are starting to take place. Mr. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, will be making an Official Visit on this occasion, and in addition to Tokyo I hear that he is scheduled to visit Hokkaido. I hope that he has an opportunity to see Japan for himself and that the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit and the Japan-China summit meeting will provide forums for positive bilateral discussions.
Reporter: With regard to the participation of women in politics, a bill to promote gender equality is currently being debated in the Diet. However, it is still the case that women’s participation in politics in Japan lags behind other countries, with female Diet members accounting for nearly 10% of the total, meaning that Japan ranks 159th out of 193 countries. The bill that is currently being debated aims to promote measures to make the number of male and female Diet members equal, so could you share your thoughts on its significance and necessity?
Minister Kono: Given that there are almost equal numbers of men and women in Japan as a whole, I believe that it is necessary to provide initial support to encourage the creation of platforms that will enable men and women to participate equally in various sectors of society.
One important point is to focus not just on national government, but to also make efforts to ensure there is gender equality among the members of various assemblies from the prefectural to the municipal levels. Oiso Town, my constituency, is one of the rare places in Japan where female assembly members outnumber men, or at least there are equal numbers. In that sense, Oiso Town is a pioneer for gender equality and I suggest that you visit the Oiso Municipal Assembly to see for yourself the active participation of women there.
Russian President Putin’s Swearing-In Ceremony
Reporter: Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation, had a swearing-in ceremony yesterday and started his fourth term. Solidification of a long-term administration lasting through 2024 seems to offer an environment for making a political decision on moving forward in negotiations regarding the northern territories. Please explain again how the process of territorial negotiations and peace treaty conclusion negotiations will be proceeding, including a senior officials meeting in Moscow on May 11 and a visit by Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, to Russia.
Minister Kono: The Japanese and Russian leaders previously stated their intent to properly resolve the issue of attribution of the four northern islands and conclude a peace treaty, and a variety of projects have been moving forward. There is also the likely visit to Russia by Prime Minister Abe as part of efforts by President Putin and Prime Minister Abe to conclude a peace treaty. Japan hopes to make this a year with major developments.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian Nuclear Issue
Reporter: I’d like to ask some questions about the Iran situation. You recently met with the Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States of America, in Amman (Jordan). Did you get an impression of how the United States might deal with the situation? Additionally, the French and German leaders and the Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, visited Washington D.C. recently and have been appealing to the United States. Given Japan’s support for the JCPOA, what is your view of the European efforts?
Minister Kono: I respect the various efforts by the Europeans to appeal to the United States on this matter. Japan and Europe agreed on support for the JCPOA at the latest G7 meeting. I do not think it is appropriate for me to speak conclusively about what decision the United States might make. I intend to wait for the decision and announcement by the U.S. administration.