Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 8:46 p.m. Honolulu, United States of America
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Since I assumed the office of Foreign Minister last year I have visited the United States numerous times but only Washington, D.C. and New York for the United Nations General Assembly. This is my first visit to cities other than Washington, D.C. and New York. The cities I am visiting this time—Honolulu, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—are all places where many Japanese companies have expanded their business, where many Japanese nationals are living, and where there is a very strong Nikkei, Japanese American community. To reinforce the Japan-U.S. relations on a variety of levels, I have always thought deepening our ties with the Nikkei community is important, and spreading awareness about their history in Japan is necessary. In this regard, I look forward to these extremely significant visits. In Hawaii, I met and exchanged views with Governor Ige, Congresswoman Hanabusa, veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment, Nikkei students, and the leaders of the Nikkei community in Hawaii. The way in which the Nikkei population overcame countless hardships over 150 years since the first group of Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii, the so-called “Gannenmono,” and earned trust and respect in the U.S. society has been a hugely important process. The trust people have in the Nikkei community is fully evident in their attitudes towards Japan. I will strive to make the history of the Nikkei population better known in Japan. I would like to make clear that the Government of Japan will enhance its bonds with the Nikkei community. At the same time, as this year is the milestone year of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Gannenmono, bidirectional efforts will be made. The history of these people will be shared in Japan, and Japan will clearly send out a message that it wishes to strengthen its ties with the Nikkei community. Deepening our mutual understanding in this manner will contribute to strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance at a variety of levels. Hawaii is home to the Indo-Pacific Command and the Pacific Fleet Command and fulfills a critical role in Japan-U.S. security. I visited both commands and exchanged views with members of the U.S. Forces. We agreed that both countries would make steady efforts to materialize a free and open Indo-Pacific and work closely on North Korean issues. We shared the view that the complete execution of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions is vital for North Korean issues. In particular, with regard to the ship-to-ship transfer issue, we shared the view that North Korea is importing refined petroleum products over the limit set out in UNSC resolutions. To have all United Nation member states immediately stop supplying refined petroleum products to North Korea, Japan will work with the United States and other like-minded countries to strengthen the response to ship-to-ship transfers.
In addition, I visited the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). I expressed my gratitude to them for their cooperation with the return of the remains of the former Japanese Army personnel from the Pacific War. I also received an explanation regarding DPAA’s efforts including identification of remains from the Pacific War thru the Korean War. I just had dinner with Nikkei leaders and other Nikkei representatives at the official residence of the Consul General, where exchanges of views took place and I was able to meet and converse with many people from a wide range of fields. I will continue to make every effort to further serve as a bridge between Japan and the Nikkei population. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: You visited DPAA a short while ago. Will you be making use of their remain identification technology for the remains in Japan?
Minister Kono: DPAA has been very cooperative with the return of the remains of Japanese Army personnel who died in the Pacific War, from a technological aspect and other aspects. Even now they are engaged in various regional projects. They distinguish U.S. and Japanese Army personnel and have cooperated with us for the return of the remains of Japanese Army personnel. I therefore thanked DPAA once again and looked forward to our continued cooperation.
Reporter: Commander Aquilino of the U.S. Pacific Fleet remarked earlier that views were also exchanged regarding North Korea. Is it correct that the two sides agreed to continue to work together on the issue of ship-to-ship transfers?
Minister Kono: We shared the view that dealing with ship-to-ship transfers is an urgent issue. We will seek to steadily reinforce not only Japan-U.S. cooperation but also cooperation with like-minded countries.
Reporter: You mentioned about the Nikkei earlier. Can you tell us why you decided to visit at this timing? A number of challenges have been pointed out, such as the aging of the Nikkei. Could you please share your comments?
Minister Kono: Since 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been implementing a program called the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program which invites Nikkei community leaders from all over the United States to Japan. This has led to the establishment of organizations like the U.S.-Japan Council. The Nikkei community for whom Japan was more or less not on top of their minds has begun to take actions to bridge Japan and the United States. For Hawaii, this year is the milestone year of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Gannenmono. In California, the Japan House will be opening in Los Angeles. In this sense, I hope to give further boost to this momentum.
Reporter: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has noted in a report that there were indications of North Korea operating a part of a nuclear facility even after the Inter-Korean Summit. A U.S. research group has also announced its analysis findings that dismantlement work has stopped at a missile test site in North Korea. What is your view regarding these series of events? What steps will Japan be taking towards complete denuclearization?
Minister Kono: The U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in Singapore marked a significant step. However, Japan and the United States as well as the IAEA share the view that since then little progress has been made towards denuclearization. We view that the international community must fully execute the UNSC resolutions to push North Korea to achieve denuclearization and abandon its missiles.
Reporter: In the comments you made earlier, I was struck by the comment you made that holding a series of Japan-U.S. exchanges at a variety of levels contributes to strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Since this visit included many interactions with the Nikkei community, many members of the press had thought that this was a rather low-key visit. However, after coming here with you, we see how happy the Nikkei community is to have you here. Very few Japanese Foreign Ministers have come here until now, albeit Foreign Minister Kishida came here when he accompanied the Prime Minister in 2016. What made you decide to hold exchanges with the Nikkei community during this visit in such an unprecedented manner?
Minister Kono: The JALD program began in 2000. Since the first time the program was held, I have hosted dinners and conducted various liaison with the Nikkei community. On those occasions I felt that while Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers visit New York and Washington, D.C., they rarely had time to make stopover visits to Hawaii, California, or other places which have Nikkei communities, and this must be considered regrettable. Former Foreign Minister Kishida visited California at my request. He stated that the last time a Foreign Minister visited the Nikkei community in California was then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, and that was over ten years ago. We need to pay greater attention to the Nikkei community, and at the same time in Japan, deepen understanding of the history of the Nikkei who have endured various hardships. I would be most pleased if my visit could be of some help in this regard.
Reporter: I used to be in Washington, D.C., and I too have noticed that although the Japanese Embassy seems to be making earnest efforts to make appointments for the many politicians visiting from Japan, the Nikkei community has tended to be constantly ignored. Is it your intention to turn this visit into an opportunity to improve this situation?
Minister Kono: I have visited Washington, D.C. and New York multiple times. It is necessary to visit other cities once in a while as well. This time I happen to be visiting Hawaii, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, but there are also other places where there are small but strong Nikkei communities. It is important that such places are visited. I hope not only Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers but also various other people visit these places.
Reporter: Today you met with members of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment. You stated that their efforts have contributed to the trust placed in Japan. Compared to before what thoughts are most strongly imprinted in your mind now that you have actually met them?
Minister Kono: As I have read many books and watched videos on the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment, it was a great honor to meet them and other relevant parties. They shared that they could not talk about the war for a long time, even with their families. The 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment fought in extremely fierce battles, and that is why they came to be called the “Purple Heart Battalion.” They had extremely dire experiences and were unable to talk about them with their families for a long time. It was a meeting that made me truly respect the hardships of the Nikkei.
Reporter: A moment ago, you stated that you and the Pacific Fleet Commander confirmed about ship-to-ship transfers. Pressure could be applied to North Korea if the Pacific Fleet stepped up its efforts on ship-to-ship transfers. With regard to this matter, did the two sides discuss anything more specific than simply reaching an agreement?
Minister Kono: We exchanged a variety of views regarding the response to ship-to-ship transfers. As operations are also concerned, I would like to refrain from elaborating any further.
Reporter: President Trump recently stated that he wishes to hold another summit meeting with North Korea. Some observe that Secretary of State Pompeo may visit North Korea once again. If there is such a meeting, do you have intentions to hold a Japan-U.S.-ROK meeting immediately?
Minister Kono: It is possible that Secretary Pompeo will visit North Korea at some point in time. Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea will continue to work closely on this matter.
Reporter: Yesterday, in response to North Korea’s call for a declaration of the end of the Korean War, the U.S. Forces Korea Commander stated that the definition of the declaration should be made clear. In regard to an end-of-war declaration, you have consistently stated that denuclearization is critical. Are Japan and the United States coordinating their views on the definition of an end-of-war declaration?
Minister Kono: This is not the time for an end-of-war declaration. We fully share the view that this is the time to make realistic progress on denuclearization.