Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, June 14, 2018, 2:17 p.m. Seoul, Republic of Korea
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I held a Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting from 10:45 for 30 minutes today. In addition, Secretary of State Pompeo and I held a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting from 12:05 p.m. for approximately 30 minutes, and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and I held a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting from 12:50 p.m. for approximately 1 hour. Regarding the North Korea situation, following the telephone talks, Secretary Pompeo provided various detailed explanations at the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as well as the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and we had somewhat in-depth discussions. I expressed my gratitude for the leadership of President Trump and the hard work of Secretary Pompeo towards the realization of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. It is of course necessary to ensure that the outcomes of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting lead to concrete actions by North Korea, and we will engage in close and thorough coordination between Japan and the United States as well as among Japan, the United States and the ROK. The U.S.-Japan Alliance and the U.S.-ROK Alliance are the essential public commons that have maintained peace and stability in Asia. We intend to further develop these Alliances. Additionally, given that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration on a new Japan ROK Partnership towards the 21st Century. Minister Kang and I affirmed that we will promote the future-oriented and forward-looking bilateral relations. I am also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in at 3 p.m. today.
That is all from me.
Reporter: In these various meetings, was there any discussion on how to proceed, such as setting a specific deadline for the denuclearization of North Korea? Also, were there any points of agreement?
Minister Kono: We held a wide range of discussions on the situation going forward. I believe it is safe to say that Japan and the United States are aligned on almost all points.
Reporter: Regarding the abductions issue, what kinds of discussions were held in the Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-ROK, and Japan-U.S. meetings, respectively?
Minister Kono: I stated that Japan is prepared to discuss the various concerns, including the abductions issue, with North Korea. As I have stated repeatedly, Japan seeks to normalize its relations with North Korea, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, through comprehensive resolution of concerns such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues. It is necessary for Japan and North Korea to engage in direct discussions on the abductions issue and Japan is ready to make the various preparations necessary for doing so.
Reporter: To follow up, in which meeting did that come up? Could you please share whatever you can about specific conversations you had?
Minister Kono: We discussed the future of Japan-North Korea relations in each of the Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-ROK, and Japan-U.S. meetings, although the extent of the discussions varied by meeting.
Reporter: What did you say at each meeting?
Minister Kono: It was along the lines of what I have just explained.
Reporter: In which meeting was this subject discussed the most?
Minister Kono: I am not sure. Perhaps it was the Japan-ROK meeting.
Reporter: The Japan-ROK meeting? I see. Also, besides the abductions issue, what else was discussed in the Japan-U.S. and Japan-ROK?
Minister Kono: The main topic discussed in the Japan-U.S. meeting was about North Korea. Other than that, we also discussed various matters relating to Japan-U.S. relations. We also briefly touched upon the Middle East.
Reporter: I believe the U.S. side revealed some details to the accompanying press corps, such as the deadline for the denuclearization. Was any of this shared with Japan?
Minister Kono: We held various discussions about the upcoming dialogues, but I would like to refrain from disclosing the details as it would reveal our strategy.
Reporter: Before the holding of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, the Japanese Government repeatedly stated that it would make a decision about the abductions issue based on the outcomes of the meeting. You have just stated that Japan is ready to engage in discussions with North Korea. Is it your recognition that, with the holding of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, this is a new phase? In other words, have we entered a new stage that is leading towards the holding of a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting?
Minister Kono: Even before the holding of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, Japan and North Korea have engaged in dialogue. At the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, North Korea made a clear commitment to denuclearization. In that sense, we have entered a new phase. The Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration mentions the nuclear, missile and abductions issues. At the very least, it can be said that North Korea has taken a step towards resolving the nuclear and missile issues with the international community. In that sense, from the perspective of resolving the abduction issue and ensuring that it does not fall behind the other issues, it can be said that we have entered a new phase.
Reporter: In the efforts leading up to the resolution of the abductions issue, would the Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting be the final step or is it possible that this would be held during the negotiations? What are your thoughts on this?
Minister Kono: This will be determined based on the various discussions we have with North Korea going forward.
Reporter: Do you think North Korea has demonstrated concrete actions towards its complete denuclearization?
Minister Kono: I believe that North Korea will take various concrete actions from now on.
Reporter: Until now, Japan’s stance was not to engage in dialogue unless North Korea demonstrated concrete actions. Has Japan’s thinking on this illogical? Prime Minister Abe has also stated in the Diet and elsewhere that Japan will not engage in dialogue with North Korea unless it demonstrates concrete actions, such as complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID). You have just stated that you believe that North Korea will take various concrete actions going forward. Is this the other way around?
Minister Kono: I do not think so.
Reporter: Did you discuss Japan bearing the related expenses, such as the cost of an inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)?
Minister Kono: We have held those discussions previously.
Reporter: Was there any mention of a specific amount?
Minister Kono: There was not.
Reporter: You said that various points were agreed upon. Does that mean you discussed the denuclearization process?
Minister Kono: I discussed a variety of matters, including the process.
Reporter: Was a certain degree of progress achieved?
Minister Kono: Any progress will depend on whether or not North Korea takes concrete actions to that end. I hope that we will see such progress.
Reporter: Is it the case that, in principle, the United States will be primarily in charge of putting together the detailed plan, and then Japan and the ROK will work out how to commit to it?
Minister Kono: I expect that the United States will determine the various processes and Japan and the ROK will cooperate with them.
Reporter: Even before Secretary Pompeo said it, I believe you previously mentioned 2020 as a target date for denuclearization. Were the three sides largely aligned on this point?
Minister Kono: At this point we are not ready to reveal the details of the process to the public. I would therefore like to refrain from answering.
Reporter: Do you share the same recognition?
Minister Kono: Japan and the United States held various discussions today and it is safe to say that we are aligned on almost all points.
Reporter: Could you please share what was discussed in the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today?
Minister Kono: There is absolutely no plan or anything of the sort for the withdrawal of the U.S. forces stationed in the ROK. As for the military exercises between the United States and the ROK, that is a matter to be determined between the United States and the ROK.
Reporter: Are we to understand that Secretary Pompeo gave you such an explanation today?
Minister Kono: Today we reached a shared understanding among Japan, the United States and the ROK.
Reporter: If I may follow up, you have stated that the cessation of these military exercises depends on North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization. Was this point confirmed trilaterally?
Minister Kono: Yes, it was.
Reporter: I believe there was discussion today among the three sides about a guarantee of North Korea’s regime security. Although the joint statement touched upon these joint guarantees, you have just stated at this press conference that there are no guarantees until complete denuclearization. One could interpret this as you pointed out, in response to suggestions that there is a conciliatory mood, that this is not in fact the case. How do you view this point?
Minister Kono: As I have stated, security guarantees will be given following the achievement of CVID. The only way this should be interpreted is that there are no security guarantees at this point in time.
Reporter: China has mentioned the need to consider relaxing sanctions. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister Kono: These sanctions are based on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Unless North Korea takes actions in accordance with the resolutions, the international community will remain aligned in its stance. There is no change to this position.
Reporter: If I may return to the matter of a deadline for denuclearization, are you ultimately of the view that it is necessary to set a deadline for the complete denuclearization of North Korea?
Minister Kono: The sanctions will be prolonged for however long denuclearization is delayed.
Reporter: When setting the deadline, would it ultimately be by the next presidential election in the United States, when a change in administration is possible?
Minister Kono: That is a point I have made previously.
Reporter: That is to say 2020?
Minister Kono: That is what I have said previously.
Reporter: Are you currently of a different view?
Minister Kono: I must refrain from disclosing our strategy and I can therefore only repeat that that is what I have said in the past.
Reporter: In your meeting today, what was the response when you stated that Japan is ready to hold discussions with North Korea? How did Secretary Pompeo and Minister Kang react when you said this?
Minister Kono: This is something that the United States and the ROK are aware of, so they did not react to it as if it were new information.
Reporter: Was there any discussion of the recognition of history in the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister Kono: We mostly discussed North Korea and then also touched upon the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration on a new Japan-ROK Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century today.
Reporter: I have a question about the Japan-ROK meeting. I believe this was where the abduction issue was most heavily discussed. Were you able to gain the support of the ROK in serving as a bridge or pipeline for negotiations with North Korea?
Minister Kono: We have engaged in dialogue with North Korea through various channels to date. We will continue to thoroughly do so.