Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, July 20, 2018, 8:40 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) Establishment of the Advisory Board for ODA

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Official development assistance (ODA) is an important foreign policy tool. However, given the difficult fiscal situation, there is a recognition of the need to implement ODA even more efficiently and effectively. In light of this, we will establish an advisory board for ODA to discuss how to strengthen ODA implementation bodies such as NGOs and private sector organizations, and what roles they should play. The first meeting is scheduled to be held on July 25.

(2) Special Grave Visits by Airplane in FY2018

Minister Kono: Based on the agreement reached at the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in May, weather conditions permitting, special grave visits by airplane will be conducted from July 22 to 23, for two days and one night, to Kunashiri Island and Etorofu Island.

Following on from last year, these special grave visits by airplane are being conducted from a humanitarian perspective and are intended to reduce the burden on the former residents of the Northern Territories, who are growing advanced in age, in any way possible.

The Government intends to steadily advance such cooperation towards the conclusion of a peace treaty, while bearing in mind the strong sentiments of the former residents.

Japan-Russia Relations (Northern Territories Issue)

Reporter: You just mentioned the Northern Territories. Russia has stated that traveling to the Northern Territories impedes the development of joint economic activities. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister Kono: I do not believe it poses any particular impediment. Japan has carefully explained this point to the Russian side.

Reporter: Is it your view that it does not negatively impact the negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty?

Minister Kono: I do not think it will result in any particular negative impacts.

Reporter: Regarding this year’s grave visits, this will be the first time that the schedule is officially for two days and one night. Could you please share your thoughts on the significance of the former residents being able to spend the night on Kunashiri and Etorofu, and of securing a longer itinerary this year?

Minister Kono: The former residents continue to grow ever more advanced in age. Out of consideration for their health and other factors, we wanted to facilitate grave visits in a manner that would place the least possible burden on them. Weather conditions permitting, we intend to conduct visits based on the schedule I have just mentioned, namely, two days and one night.

Reporter: I have a question regarding the Revised Act on Special Measures concerning Advancement of Resolution of Northern Territories Issues, etc. The dispatch of a business mission is scheduled, as well as the holding of the Japan-Russia Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultation (“2+2” Ministerial Meeting) and the Eastern Economic Forum. Will you or other officials explain the revision of this act to the Russian side? Could you please share any thoughts you may have on this matter?

Minister Kono: Administratively, we have explained the revision and other related matters, and gained the understanding of the Russian side.

Advisory Board for ODA

Reporter: With regard to the advisory board for ODA, you have said that the first meeting will be held on July 25, but could you also share any thoughts you may have about what kinds of conclusions you are expecting and by when you expect to receive them?

Minister Kono: We would like the advisory board to compile its recommendations by the end of the year. In the first meeting, we would like the board to discuss the strengthening of Japanese NGOs from the perspective of international cooperation. There is a budget for NGO coordination, but this budgetary framework has become somewhat constrained. It is therefore necessary to strengthen Japanese NGOs in this area. We would like the advisory board to discuss this and other matters.

Reporter: If the Advisory Board is to reach its conclusions by the end of the year, it would presumably be difficult to reflect this in this year’s budget request.

Minister Kono: There are various items that we, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, would like to include in our budget request, but this is not a matter that can be worked out overnight. We would therefore like the advisory board to engage in in-depth discussions on the subject.

North Korea (Statement by President Trump)

Reporter: I would like to ask about the denuclearization of North Korea. President Trump has stated that he does not intend to impose any deadline for the denuclearization process. Several statements to that effect have previously been made through Secretary of State Pompeo as well. Could you please explain whether or not this will have any impact on the progress of the denuclearization process that is being led by Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea? Looking further into the future, there has been much talk regarding direct dialogue between Japan and North Korea. Do you think there would be any effect on that?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on each and every statement made by President Trump. Based on past experience of negotiations with North Korea, I am sure that the United States is also aware that things will not proceed in such a straightforward way. In any case, there is no change to our stance that it is important for the international community to firmly maintain solidarity and implement the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions until North Korea achieves complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement.

I believe Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Kang will explain the various aspects to the UNSC members and others in New York. In any case, it is important that the international community maintain close coordination.

Reporter: Do you think the prospect of dialogue between Japan and North Korea will be influenced by the progress of the denuclearization process?

Minister Kono: I do not think President Trump’s statements will have any particularly impact.

Committee on Japan-China Economic Cooperation in Third Countries

Reporter: Regarding China’s One Belt One Road initiative, I believe that from as early as September, there are plans to begin meetings of the committee for discussing Japan-China economic cooperation in third countries. How does the Government intend to advance Japan-China economic cooperation going forward?

Minister Kono: With regard to Japan-China economic cooperation, our aim is to do whatever we can in accordance with international standards. Nothing specific has been decided yet.

Advisory Board for ODA

Reporter: I have a question about the Advisory Board for ODA. How does the Government view the issue and what does it intend to change?

Minister Kono: While the importance of ODA continues to increase, Japan has also become greatly constrained from a fiscal standpoint. We can therefore no longer continue to steadily increase our ODA disbursements as we once did. In light of this, we intend to discuss ways to implement ODA more effectively and efficiently, while also seeking the insight of a wide range of experts on the subject.

Public Hearings on Increasing U.S. Automotive Tariffs

Reporter: The U.S. Department of Commerce has begun public hearings regarding import tariffs on automobiles. This has been met with very strong opposition from Japan and Europe. Could you please share your views on this matter?

Minister Kono: The recent trade-war-like tariff measures will not yield economic benefits for any country. Japan’s position is that the United States should not take such measures, which benefit no one, not even the United States itself.

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