Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, June 1, 2018, 8:43 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Safety Measures for Japanese Nationals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The members of the Japan National Team squad have now been announced for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. While I hope that team member Wataru Endo puts in a great performance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be working to ensure safety measures are in place for supporters who will be traveling to Russia. We will be opening a temporary office and various safety-related information is available on the ministry’s overseas safety website. We hope that supporters who plan on traveling to Russia will refer to the information provided.

(2) Release of Results from a Survey on the Number of Japanese People Living Abroad and Japanese Companies with Overseas Operations

Minister Kono: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released results from a survey on the number of Japanese people living abroad and Japanese companies operating overseas. Approximately 1.35 million Japanese people are living abroad and Japanese companies have approximately 75,500 overseas sites. Both numbers are all-time highs.

(3) Launch of Procedures to Enable “Application at the Time of Departure” for Registering to Vote While Overseas

Minister Kono: From today, June 1, it will be possible to submit an application to register to vote while overseas at the local government office that was the final place of residence before moving overseas. The launch of this system will simplify procedures and mean that it is unnecessaryto register to vote in diplomatic missions abroad. The application rate and voting rate for Japanese nationals residing overseas is very low and it is hoped that this new system will result in an increase in the number of people voting from overseas. I will continue to work with the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications to ensure that voting via the internet can be introduced in time for the House of Councillors election next year.

U.S. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum

Reporter: The United States has now decided to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union (EU), Mexico and Canada. Could I ask for your view on this latest decision? Also, given that you have previously stated that Japan is prepared to take retaliatory measures, could you tell us whether Japan is considering such moves or whether Japan will be working in cooperation with other countries to respond to this issue?

Minister Kono: Japan recognizes that global economic prosperity to date has been supported by free trade based on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Japan is basically opposed to any tariffs or measures that deviate from WTO rules. We will respond firmly to this issue, while sharing information with other countries.

Reporter: It looks possible that this standoff over tariffs could become protracted. What is your view on this point?

Minister Kono: We will share information with the United States in various forums and make the necessary approaches firmly.

North Korea (U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting)

Reporter: With regard to the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, Mr. Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia has met with Chairman Kim Jong-un. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea is reporting that in the meeting Chairman Kim indicated that he is seeking phased denuclearization, which unless there is a change of stance could cast doubt on the outcomes of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. What is your view?

Minister Kono: The North Korean media have made various statements to date, but it is currently the case that the United States and North Korea are engaged in direct meetings in preparation for the summit meeting. We will not be swayed by each and every media report from North Korea, but will continue to exchange information with the United States and provide back-up towards the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting.

Reporter: Do you feel that progress is being made towards denuclearization?

Minister Kono: Japan and the United States are sharing a wide range of information, including about U.S.-North Korea interactions. Also, if circumstances permit, we are planning various meetings between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, which will also provide us with forums for discussion.

North Korea (Announcement by U.S. Research Organization)

Reporter: A U.S. research organization has announced that it has detected a smoke plume coming from a nuclear reprocessing plant in North Korea. Could you tell us what facts the Government is aware of and what these developments in North Korea suggest?

Minister Kono: I am aware of the reports about this, but I do not think it is necessary to comment on the intentions behind individual actions taken by North Korea.

Aegis Ashore Introduction Plan

Reporter: Officials from the Ministry of Defense are visiting areas where the introduction of the Aegis Ashore system is being planned. Given that the premise for the introduction of the Aegis Ashore system is the threat posed by North Korea, some people have observed that this premise may no longer be valid in view of North Korea’s moves to advance dialogue with various countries. Do you have a comment on this point?

Minister Kono: My understanding of the situation is that although preparations are being made for the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, nothing has changed in regard to the North Korea situation.

Change of Name of U.S. Pacific Command

Reporter: The U.S. military has changed the name of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). This name change has major implications, so can I ask for a comment?

Minister Kono: My view is that the U.S. military changes and realigns its structures in response to the changing situation.

Reporter: The new name matches Japan’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, so do you have anything to say on this point?

Minister Kono: Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” aims to muster support from coastal countries and other countries concerned for free and open seas based on the rule of law and as such bears no particular relation to the use of the military.

Reporter: However, what about the point of the U.S. military seeking to handle the Pacific and Indian Oceans as a single arena?

Minister Kono: Given that the Pacific and Indian Oceans are physically adjacent to each other, there are various instances in which they are linked together, not just by the U.S. military, or under the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

Japan-Russia Relations

Reporter: You referred to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in your opening remarks and it is expected that many Japanese will travel to Russia for the tournament. What are your expectations for how the tournament will advance the Japan-Russia relations, or impact negotiations on a peace treaty?

Minister Kono: In my meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, we talked about the tournament and how we hoped that the final will be Japan vs. Russia. I don’t know whether that will be the case or not, but many Japanese supporters will be traveling to Russia. This year is also “Japan Year in Russia” and I hope that exchanges in the private sector will be further boosted so that we can build firm and friendly relations between the people of Japan and Russia.

Removal of a “Statue of a Worker” in Front of the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan

Reporter: Yesterday in the Republic of Korea (ROK) the “Statue of a Worker” was removed from in front of the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan. Do you have a comment on this matter?

Minister Kono: I would like to express my respect for the efforts of the Government of the ROK.

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