Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, July 27, 2018, 10:54 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) and the Awards Ceremony for the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: At today’s Cabinet meeting, the Cabinet approved the holding of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama from August 28 to 30, 2019, and the awards ceremony for the Third Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize on that occasion.
In addition, the TICAD Ministerial Meeting is scheduled to be held in Tokyo on October 6 and 7 this year in order to prepare for TICAD7.
Africa is the 21st century’s greatest frontier, and through holding TICAD7, Japan will support Africa-led development with the public and private sectors working together.
(2) Attendance at ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and Visit to Russia, Myanmar and Bangladesh
Minister Kono: I plan to visit Russia, Singapore, Myanmar, and Bangladesh from July 30 to August 8.
In Russia, I am visiting Moscow, and scheduled to hold a Japan-Russia Foreign Ministerial Meeting, a Japan-Russia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultation (“2+2” Ministerial Meeting), and a Co-Chairs’ Meeting of the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues.
At the respective meetings, I hope to hold discussions regarding the bilateral relations including the issues of concluding a peace treaty, security and pressing international affairs, and the Japan-Russia economic relations including progress of the Eight-Point Cooperation plan.
In Singapore, I am planning to attend ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings. At these series of meetings, I will discuss such issues as the promotion of Japan-ASEAN cooperation, strengthening of the East Asia Summit (EAS), initiatives of confidence building at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and regional and international issues including North Korea and the South China Sea. I will make efforts to deepen collaboration and cooperation with the participating countries towards peace and stability in the region.
I am also going to have a foreign ministers’ meeting with Singapore, the Chair of ASEAN, among others. Bilateral and multilateral meetings with other countries are also being coordinated.
In Myanmar, I am scheduled to hold meetings with government dignitaries, including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, and exchange views concerning Myanmar’s democratic state-building and the situation in Rakhine State.
In Bangladesh, I am planning to hold meetings with government dignitaries, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali. I will exchange views concerning the Japan-Bangladesh bilateral relations and regional issues such as the issue of displaced persons from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar and clearly convey Japan’s message.
(3) Advisory Panel of Experts on Promotion of Japan-ROK Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges
Minister Kono: An advisory panel of experts will be established under my leadership ahead of the 20th anniversary of the “Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration: A New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century” in October. It is scheduled to hold its first meeting on August 10.
I hope to receive recommendations from the Advisory Panel on the measures for expanding bilateral exchanges, including cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
ASEAN Regional Forum
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: I have a question regarding ARF in Singapore. What does the Government of Japan currently know about whether Mr. Ri Yong Ho of North Korea will be attending the forum?
Minister Kono: Please ask the respective countries as to who is attending from those countries.
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: If Mr. Ri Yong Ho were to attend, would you intend to have any kind of contact with him as you did last year?
Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided yet regarding bilateral matters.
National Assembly Elections in Cambodia
NHK, Ishii: I have a question regarding the National Assembly elections in Cambodia. Voting will take place on July 29, and it seems that voting will take place with concerns still not dispelled about the legitimacy of the elections which have been pointed out from before. As a country providing support for these elections, could you explain the Government’s views on the modality of these elections and what outcomes you are seeking from the elections?
Minister Kono: The Government of Japan provided technical cooperation including cooperation for ballot boxes and the means for moving the ballot boxes. The election results have not come out yet, and I would like to wait for the results.
Law for the Mindanao Peace Process of the Philippines
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Yesterday, the Mindanao autonomy law entered into force in the Philippines, and you also released a statement in this context. The Philippines is an important country in the region with which Japan has close ties, and Japan has provided a variety of supports for the peace process. Could you please tell us once again what the challenges are for stability and what kind of supports you consider would be appropriate?
Minister Kono: There are various civil wars in Asia, and Japan would like to support the advancement of peace through active engagement.
With regard to the Philippines in particular, Japan has provided a range of supports to date and will continue to do as much as it can to ensure peace among the people and national integration at the earliest possible date. If the Philippines requests support, Japan stands ready to respond to the requests in a proactive manner.
U.S. Vice President Pence’s Comment on Uyghurs of China
Asahi Shimbun, Tajima: I have a question related to China. In an address, Vice President Pence of the United States expressed concerns over the Chinese Government’s unreasonable detainment of Uyghurs. Does the Government of Japan take a similar position?
Minister Kono: We recognize that Uyghurs in China is a domestic issue or a domestic affair of China. Meanwhile, the position of the Government of Japan is that basic human rights and values, such as human rights and freedom, should be respected in any country.
Advisory Board for ODA
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: The Advisory Board for ODA held a meeting recently. Is there anything that is being considered for realization in the next budget request?
Minister Kono: I believe the Advisory Board will be compiling recommendations before the budget request. We hope that the concrete proposals made at the Advisory Board’s meeting that can be realized in time can be reflected in the budget request. The entire recommendations will be discussed thoroughly within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we hope to reflect them in the following budget request.
In fact, some concrete proposals were made at that meeting, so we hope to carry out whatever proposals that can be reflected in the budget request.Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: My question is in regard to the budget request. Do you intend to gradually reduce the ratio of grant aid and ODA loans that make up ODA and make use of other private sector capabilities? Or is it your opinion that the international solidarity levy you noted yesterday should be increased?
Minister Kono: My personal opinion with regard to the international solidarity levy is that, for example, perhaps it is possible to impose a slight international solidarity levy on a rage of items, such as foreign exchange trading, and have international organizations somehow collect these funds without bypassing governments and allow the funds to be used for humanitarian or development issues. Realizing this will require an international agreement, and therefore, I expect it will take significant time until the international solidarity levy can be used for development issues.
Meanwhile, for example, the ratio of ODA being implemented by NGOs in Japan is extremely low compared to other OECD countries. As it is not necessary the case that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) must implement all technical cooperation, we need to carefully review once again what implementing body would be most optimal in terms of cost or effect. The loan-grant aid division is not a pie. The question of reducing one and increasing the other is a matter that needs to be carefully consulted with finance authorities; it is not something that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can decide singlehandedly. Upon reviewing the entire set of recommendations, we will spend extensive time consulting also with finance authorities.
Advisory Panel of Experts on Promotion of Japan-ROK Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges
Kyodo News, Torinari: I would like to ask a question regarding the Japan-ROK advisory panel of experts that you announced in your opening statement. What is the aim of establishing this advisory panel? In addition, how will this advisory panel deal with the difficult outstanding concerns between Japan and the ROK such as the comfort women issue and the Takeshima issue? You mentioned expanding cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Could you explain how the Advisory Panel will also deal with these outstanding concerns? Do the two countries intend to release a joint document or statement similar to the Japan-ROK Joint Partnership Declaration on its 20th anniversary in October?
Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided yet regarding a document. The advisory panel is intended to make recommendations regarding bilateral exchanges including cultural and people-to-people exchanges. It will not be asked to make recommendations regarding the comfort women or any other issues.
ASEAN Regional Forum
TV Tokyo, Tsubouchi: During the ARF meeting, it will be one year since your appointment as Foreign Minister. Could you please share your comment looking back on your achievements so far? Also, how do you hope to demonstrate the achievements you have made until now in the form of leadership at the ARF forum?
Minister Kono: I was appointed on August 3 last year. Following a ceremony in Hiroshima, I attended the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetingsheld in Manila. I have made one full circle since then. Amidst the increasing internationalization and the economic development of other countries, including the ASEAN member states, it is in a sense inevitable that Japan’s economic position declines in relative terms. Precisely for this reason, Japan will increasingly need to demonstrate its diplomatic capabilities. Unlike some other countries such as the P5, Japan does not use military force against other countries. In this regard, I believe it will be incumbent on Japan to engage in various efforts on the diplomatic front.
Looking back, since the end of World War II (WWII), Japan sought to catch up with and overtake the West. Currently, countries strive to catch up with and overtake Japan. There is also growing internationalization. Other countries including the ASEAN member states are becoming relatively larger economically. In this context, Japan’s diplomacy is now at a major turning point. I am made acutely aware of the need to switch to a completely different approach instead of continuing to do and build on what we have been doing.
During last year’s series of ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings, it immediately dawned on me that getting Japan’s assertions across is progressively becoming difficult. This situation will likely continue, and Japan will need to work closely with other countries to universalize what Japan is advocating for across the international community. Under these circumstances, both quality and quantity will become more critical than ever before for Japan’s diplomatic efforts. As the one responsible for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I will continue to steadily do everything I can.
Announcement by the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture on the Revocation of MCAS Futenma Relocation Work
NHK, Tokuhashi: A short while ago, Governor Onaga of Okinawa gave a press conference and announced that procedures would be taken to revoke the land reclamation approval for Henoko in connection with the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. What is your view of this announcement? Could you explain the efforts and intentions of the Government of Japan with regard to this issue?
Minister Kono: MCAS Futenma needs to be relocated as quickly as possible in light of its safety issue. The Government is currently working hard on this endeavor and will continue to make efforts to this end. With regard to our concrete responses, please direct your questions to the Ministry of Defense.
Presidential Election of the Liberal Democratic Party
Kyodo News, Ikeda: I have a question concerning the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). You have previously expressed your hopes of becoming Prime Minister and LDP President. What are your plans for the LDP presidential election in September?
Minister Kono: It remains unchanged that I plan to run in a presidential election. I will give careful thought as to which presidential election I will be running in.
Kyodo News, Ikeda: Does that mean the upcoming presidential election in September is a possibility?
Minister Kono: As I have stated before, I plan to run in a presidential election and I will give thought as to which presidential election I will be running in. Nothing has changed.
Kyodo News, Ikeda: I have a related question. As a LDP Diet member, what are your views on how the LDP presidential election should take place? How should the candidates compete?
Minister Kono: Since the circumstances change from moment to moment, it is impossible to make a sweeping generalization.
Sankei Shimbun, Ogawa: When Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga delivered an address in Tokyo on July 24, he mentioned your name as a hopeful candidate for future LDP President and stated that you are a vital politician for LDP and Japan. First of all, what is your comment regarding the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s remarks?
Minister Kono: I appreciate the comment.
Views on One Year Since Appointment as Foreign Minister
Sankei Shimbun, Ogawa: It has been around one year since you were appointed Foreign Minister. Serving as Foreign Minister, what do you consider as the strengths, or conversely, the weaknesses or challenges of Japanese diplomacy?
Minister Kono: I believe the strength of Japanese diplomacy is the confidence that countries have in Japan. In talking to various people, I am made keenly aware of the enormous confidence that countries have in Japan.
A weakness is that many personnel have overtime hours of more than 200 hours a month. Some personnel have childrearing and nursing care duties, and unfortunately, it is somewhat questionable as to whether each and every personnel are able to unleash their full potential. As long as the current situation at Kasumigaseki continues, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently able to attract talented personnel who want to engage in diplomacy, I have some concerns as to how long Kasumigaseki on the whole will be able to newly recruit talented personnel. Since personnel play an extremely large part in Japan’s diplomacy, work style reform at Kasumigaseki is truly an urgent matter.
Sankei Shimbun, Ogawa: What exactly are you referring to when you say confidence in Japan? In addition, what do you think is the underlying reason for this confidence?
Minister Kono: I believe some of it is respect towards Japan’s postwar economic reconstruction, the steady economic recovery that Japan achieved following the end of WWII. Furthermore, Japan has overcome issues one by one such as pollution and traffic congestion that emerged during this growth, and I believe there is respect towards this as many developing countries face similar issues in their own economic growth process.
Moreover, our predecessors implemented a range of development and humanitarian assistance that carefully take into account its beneficiaries, so the confidence Japan has earned as a result has been built up over many years. Japan may be slow in decision-making or have various other weaknesses; however, once Japan makes up its mind, it makes sure it follows through with it until the very end and this aspect plays a very large role in the confidence Japan has earned. For example, the international media has reported that many Japanese people remain extremely calm and civil even after a disaster such as the Great East Japan Earthquake. Many foreign visitors to Japan are also perhaps shocked by how courteous Japanese people are as well as the safety and cleanliness of Japan. All of these aspects add up to make Japan a country that can truly be trusted by many countries. This is something I have felt keenly in my diplomatic activities, and there is no doubt that this is one of the major assets for Japanese diplomacy.