Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Norio Maruyama
Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 4:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Visit by Mr. Aurélien Agbenonci, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Benin to Japan
Mr. Norio Maruyama, Foreign Press Secretary: Currently Aurélien Agbenonci, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Benin, is paying a working visit to Japan upon invitation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Today, Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, plans to hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and working dinner with Aurélien Agbenonci, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Benin.
This is the first visit to Japan by Minister Agbenonci. While Minister Kono and Minister Agbenonci had a meeting on the occasion of the TICAD Ministerial Meeting held in Mozambique last year, this visit to Japan is expected to further deepen relations between Japan and Benin.
(2) Japan-Philippines Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Mr. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines is visiting Japan from June 19 to 20. Today, June 20, he held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Kono.
Minister Kono stated that he intended to further strengthen the relations with the Philippines at a variety of levels, and Minister Cayetano stated that he intended to take various opportunities to conduct exchanges of views between the two foreign ministers and to further develop their favorable bilateral relations.
The two ministers confirmed that they would continue to cooperate bilaterally in the economy and infrastructure, security, public order and terrorism fields. Furthermore, Minister Kono explained the policy of strengthening cooperation in the field of maritime security, and Minister Cayetano welcomed this. The two ministers agreed to exchange their views regarding regional situations, including the North Korea issue and the South China Sea, and to continue strictly implementing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Furthermore, the fifth meeting of the Japan-Philippines Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation was held today. It is expected that due to these meetings cooperative relations based on the “strategic partnership” of the two countries will be strengthened further.
(3) The Opening of Japan House London
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Japan House London is planned to be opened tomorrow, June 21. It will be the third city to have a Japan House after São Paulo and Los Angeles.
From Japan, Mr. Kentaro Sonoura, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, plans to participate in the opening event. The new Japan House will be open to the public from June 22, and a large number of projects will be carried out for the opening season.
It is expected that this Japan House opening in London, a hub for communicating information internationally, will broaden people with a deep understanding of and empathy for Japan both inside and outside the United Kingdom.
North Korea Situation (Questions related to the Abductions Issue)
Freelance, Azumi: I would like to ask a question about the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. Regarding the statement of Chairman Kim Jong-Un at that time, Koichi Hagiuda, Executive Acting Secretary-General, Liberal Democratic Party, has said that when President Trump mentioned the abductions issue at that time Chairman Kim did not say that the abductions issue had been resolved. Has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs been able to confirm anything regarding this matter by any other route?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Firstly, I will refrain from answering questions about each and every statement made by individual Diet members. I believe the abductions issue is an issue that Japan must directly confront North Korea to resolve, while receiving the strong support from President Trump. Furthermore, the point you made will be in the details of the exchanges between the Prime Minister and President Trump, so I will refrain from commenting on that.
Freelance, Azumi: After that, North Korea has said in media reports in the Rodong Sinmun and on radio and television that it has confirmed several times that the abductions issue has been resolved. Is it acceptable to conclude that the Government of Japan perceives that there is no change to the claim by North Korea that the abductions issue has been resolved?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: There is the May 2014 Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea. In this Stockholm Agreement, although it had an existing position, North Korea expressed the willingness to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale survey of all Japanese people, including the abductees. Despite that, nearly four years has passed since North Korea commenced the survey based on the Stockholm Agreement, and even now no concrete progress toward the return of all of the abductees has been shown. This is our perception of the situation.
Freelance, Azumi: Certainly, some matters were not shown in the Stockholm Agreement, but was nothing at all shown about this, for example not only about the abductees but also the issue of Japanese wives or the issue of human remains?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: As I stated earlier, currently four years have passed but no concrete progress has been shown.
Kyodo Press, Fukuda: The Prime Minister was asked what would constitute a resolution of the abductions issue, I think it was a Fuji TV program, and essentially the Prime Minister stated that the abductions issue would be resolved upon the immediate return of the abductees. However, I think that in 2013 the Government of Japan definitely presented the three major policies of the return of the abductees and in addition a full account of the abductions and the extradition of those responsible for the abductions. Please tell us the current policy of the Government of Japan.
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: The resolution of the abductions issue that we are considering as the government is that we must make every effort to firstly secure the safety and immediate return of all of the abductees, regardless of whether or not they have been certified as abductees, and then receive a full account of the abductions and the extradition of those responsible for the abductions for resolution of the abductions issue. This is exactly as in the repeated declarations we have made to date.
Announcement of the launch of the “Action with Women and Peace” initiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Mainichi Shimbun, Tanabe: In the Foreign Minister’s press conference this morning, he explained that the statement by Ms. Kang Kyung-wha was not necessarily raising the comfort women issue. However, even though he said this, local media reports that the comfort women will be brought up. What are the reasons for and the background to the discrepancy in this area arising?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Firstly, there was the statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kang Kyung-wha on June 18. In that statement Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would announce an initiative in order to be able to secure the positioning of the comfort women issue as the serious human rights issue of wartime sexual violence against women in the international community. Essentially, it was a statement that clearly tied this so-called initiative to the comfort women issue. Due to this, we have made a strong protest to the ROK, saying we could not accept this statement in light of the Japan-ROK agreement.
On the other hand, subsequently the ROK side has been explaining to the outside world such matters as that this initiative does not raise issues with respect to any specific nation and that it is not appropriate to link it to the Japan-ROK agreement, and there was an explanation given to Japan from an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK that this matter is unrelated to the comfort women issue. Therefore, we will continue to communicate the thoughts of Japan to the ROK side while also paying attention to the initiative and the related efforts going forward, so I do not believe there is a discrepancy between our protest yesterday and the statement of the minister this time.
Mainichi Shimbun, Tanabe: I do not mean that there is a discrepancy between the statement of the minister and the protest; I wondered if there was a discrepancy between the statement by Ms. Kang Kyung-wha for the ROK and the present answer and explanation. Listening to the explanation now, it is probably difficult to conclude that the explanation of Ms. Kang Kyung-wha was getting ahead of itself but perhaps it slightly overstepped some boundary?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: Please confirm with the ROK side.
Declaration by the U.S. of its Withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council
Freelance, Azumi: Regarding today’s media reports, the U.S. has announced that it will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Japan is raising the North Korean abductions issue while the UNHRC is raising for example the comfort women issue and also other infringements of human rights in areas such as freedom of the press. What does the Government of Japan think about this move by the U.S.?
Foreign Press Secretary Maruyama: I know about the announcement by the Government of the U.S. to which you refer. This is based on a decision by the U.S. Government, so I will refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government of Japan. Having said that, Japan has served as a member of the UNHRC for many years since it was established. Furthermore, I appreciate the role this Council has played in confronting a variety of issues while protecting and promoting human rights around the world. Japan intends to continue to work on the protection and promotion of human rights around the world through participation in the discussions in the UNHRC, etc.