Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 10:36 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office

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

Opening Remarks

Grand Opening of Japan House Los Angeles

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The entire facility of Japan House in Los Angeles is to be opened on August 24. While parts of it opened in advance with the form of a partial soft open in December last year, the entire facility will be opened on August 24. I hope that it will strongly communicate Japanese culture to people in the United States.

North Korea Situation (Announcement by 38 North)

Reporter: 38 North in the United States has revealed its analysis that there are signs that dismantling has begun of the major facility at the launch site in the northwest of North Korea. Please tell us your reaction to this.

Minister Kono: I will refrain from particularly commenting on each and every announcement by 38 North.

Economic Policy of the United States

Reporter: The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting has ended, and a trade war, in which both parties impose tariffs on each other, is rapidly coming into view and seems to be spiraling out of control. If the next automobile tariffs apply to Japan they will have a large impact. Once again, how does Japan intend to use the frameworks of the G20 and the G7 to respond?

Minister Kono: Regarding trade, Japan’s policy is that each country should respond within the framework of the WTO. If it is necessary, Japan intends to respond within the WTO framework as well. Regarding the tariffs on automobiles, there is almost no voices supporting them within the United States currently, so we intend to strongly make the case to the Government of the United States that this kind of move has no advantages for the economy of the United States and the international economy.

Reporter: I think that you are planning to spend some time meeting with a number of foreign ministers from other countries starting now. Naturally you will share your perceptions regarding this matter in those meetings?

Minister Kono: I have already started sharing those perceptions.

Question related to Japanese NGOs

Reporter: Regarding the matter of NGOs, I think yesterday that you received a recommendation from the commission examining NGOs and NPOs. I think that at that time you said in your speech that NGOs should start by creating a track record of going to South Sudan. What do you think about NGOs entering South Sudan?

Minister Kono: The fact that NGOs hope to be active in a variety of regions is something I have understood through my discussions with NGOs in the past. Certainly, Japanese people in international NGOs, as members of the NGO, go to the places that the international NGO goes to. However, there is also the reality that mix-ups occur when operations carried out by NGOs with their headquarters in Japan using government funds are not permitted.
However, the Government of Japan must firmly protect Japanese nationals who are members of NGOs. There is an argument in favor of personal responsibility, but recently there have been people who said “I will go and take personal responsibility” but did not make many preparations, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sometimes said “that is out of the question.” I think we cannot unequivocally say “sure go ahead” just because of personal responsibility.
Regarding this, of course we will carefully base our decisions on receiving the understanding of the people, give training to NGOs so that they can handle each individual case, and get everyone at the NGOs to make proper preparations, and truly minimize their risk. I think that given the kind of work they do it is impossible to completely reduce the risk to zero, but I think the government will work together with the NGOs to confirm that proper preparations have been made and are advancing step by step. This involves confirming whether a system can be put in place for going to do the necessary work only after minimizing the conceivable risks.
From today the Japan Platform and other NGOs have sent a few people into South Sudan to inspect the situation there, so I intend to hold a variety of discussions taking into account the results from that inspection.

Advisory Board for ODA

Reporter: I think that the Advisory Board evaluating the organizations that implement ODA will start meeting from tomorrow. Essentially, at the stage before that, what do you think about the state of ODA itself one year after you took office?

Minister Kono: At a time when fiscal constraints are becoming extremely large, if we look at the total amount of ODA that Japan was implementing formerly, the budget for ODA has been substantially reduced. I think that we, including the organizations implementing ODA, must discuss how we can best implement ODA efficiently and effectively within this limited budget if that is what we want to do, so I hope all of the knowledgeable persons will reconsider the best approach to ODA and hold strong discussions.

Filing of a Lawsuit by National Oil Company of Russia Against Resources Development Companies in Japan

Reporter: I have information saying that Rosneft in Russia has filed a lawsuit against development companies involved in natural resources in which the public and private sectors of Japan have invested. Please tell us the facts you have ascertained and your response going forward.

Minister Kono: I haven’t ascertained any facts in particular at this time.

Statement by Iran Suggesting that it will Close the Strait of Hormuz

Reporter: President Trump of the United States mentioned the strengthening of sanctions on Iran and President Rouhani of Iran retaliated by stating his view that Iran would not hesitate to close the Strait of Hormuz. I think this is an important sea lane for Japan as well. How do you view this matter?

Minister Kono: I understand that there have been media reports, and there has been much talk about the vulnerability of the Strait of Hormuz to date, so I think Japan must continue a variety of preparations so that we can respond in a firm manner. However, Iran has expressed the intention of remaining within the JCPOA framework in the discussions between the EU and Iran. Japan also has a plan to provide safeguards to Iran, carry out inspections, and carry out other training, and we are solemnly advancing this plan at the current time, so I would like both the United States and Iran to handle the matter calmly.

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