Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 2:26 p.m. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is my first visit to Malaysia since my appointment as Foreign Minister. Japan and Malaysia celebrated the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic relations last year, and have continued to deepen our strategic partnership. With the inauguration of the new Mahathir administration this year, we hope to further reinforce the bilateral relationship.
This morning, I met with two members of the Council of Eminent Persons, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Mr. Tun Daim Zainuddin, the Chairperson, respectively. We discussed matters such as the issues being addressed by the Council and its resolve under the new administration.
I held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah a short while ago, and I will shortly pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad. Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Binti Wan Ismail and Foreign Minister Saifuddin extended sympathy for those affected by the heavy rain in western Japan, and I expressed my sincere appreciation. Foreign Minister Saifuddin just assumed office on July 2. I understand I was the first one with whom Foreign Minister Saifuddin held a foreign ministers’ meeting, and it somewhat reminded me of my first foreign ministers’ meeting last year. Perhaps my counterpart was slightly nervous. In any event, with the ASEAN-related foreign ministers’ meetings coming up in August, we exchanged views regarding the regional situation, bilateral issues, and the international situation. Under the Look East Policy launched in 1981, Prime Minister Mahathir advanced education, human resources development, technology transfer, as well as industry cooperation, and the people of Japan and Malaysia have strengthened their bonds. Such multilayered bilateral relations will continue to be critical going forward, and I hope that under the new administration we can continue to give impetus to the Look East Policy and expand our cooperative relationship. I think it is safe to say we reached this shared understanding. I explained rather carefully about Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. In addition, we exchanged views regarding regional issues, including North Korean issues, the abductions issue, and the South China Sea.
Furthermore, this morning, I visited Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT). I had an opportunity to listen to Dean Ali Selamat and others about the school, and I inspected Japanese-style manufacturing education in action. MJIIT is one of the major achievements of Japan-Malaysia cooperation. Malaysia has raised issues related to future human resources development and education cooperation, and Prime Minister Mahathir also mentioned these issues when he was in Tokyo. In this light I believe it is a good thing to further strengthen our cooperation with these programs at the core. With regard to my upcoming courtesy call on Prime Minister Mahathir, it will be an important opportunity to fully follow up on Prime Minister Mahathir’s visit to Japan in June and deepen our bilateral relations.
Reporter: I believe North Korean issues came up in your discussion with Foreign Minister Saifuddin. Could you please elaborate a little more about what the two of you discussed?
Minister Kono: I stated that during the recent Japan-U.S.-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting, a common understanding was reached that the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of all weapons of mass destruction and all missiles remain a goal of the international community, and that until this goal is achieved the international community must fully execute sanctions based on United Nations Security Council resolutions, to which Foreign Minister Saifuddin expressed his understanding. We also exchanged some views regarding the abductions issue.
Reporter: What did your counterpart say with regard to the abductions issue?
Minister Kono: I gather that the Foreign Minister fully understands the abductions issue experienced by Japan.
Reporter: Could you explain in a little more detail what was discussed concerning the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy?
Minister Kono: I explained about Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. I stated that within this framework, Japan has and hopes to continue to, for example, extend assistance to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), provide patrol vessels, conduct infrastructure investment to strengthen connectivity, and support human resources development and capacity building in such areas as counter-terrorism measures and disaster risk reduction, as well as thoroughly exchange views with ASEAN as it is considering a similar strategy.
Reporter: Was there any comment from Foreign Minister Saifuddin?
Minister Kono: Foreign Minister Saifuddin made various remarks based on what I stated. However, I would like to refrain from disclosing the remarks of the Foreign Minister.
Reporter: I have a question regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Prime Minister Mahathir has mentioned a review of the TPP. Did you two exchange any opinions today regarding the promotion of free trade or the TPP?
Minister Kono: With regard to the TPP, I stated that its objective is for this region to create new major rules on trade, investment, and other items, and that it was important for Malaysia to fully remain as its original member. I believe Malaysia is not necessarily in denial about the TPP. The Foreign Minister stated that a variety of matters are under review with the establishment of the new administration. I conveyed the views of Japan and will continue to carry out thorough exchanges of views with Malaysia.
Reporter: Prime Minister Mahathir is scheduled to visit China in August. Was anything discussed today in connection with this visit?
Minister Kono: A range of views was exchanged concerning China and the South China Sea during our discussion on the regional situation.
Reporter: It has been reported that Prime Minister Mahathir will reopen the Malaysian embassy in North Korea and resume Malaysia-North Korea diplomatic relations. Was anything discussed today in relation to this?
Minister Kono: We exchanged views regarding the whole range of issues concerning North Korea. I would like to refrain from disclosing the remarks of my counterpart.
Reporter: Prime Minister Mahathir has commented about reviewing or freezing the high-speed railway project. Was this discussed during your meeting? Secondly, will you raise this matter during your meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir?
Minister Kono: I had a chance to briefly discuss the railway project with the members of the Council of Eminent Persons this morning. I expect there to be a variety of views. Japan intends to extend its full cooperation wherever possible in whatever way it can to upgrade the transportation network of Malaysia.