Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, August 28, 2018, 2:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) The Situation of the Employment of People with Disabilities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) recently received a request for reexamination from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), because the result of the examination based on the MHLW’s guidelines was that MOFA did not meet the statutory employment rate of people with disabilities. I believe there is no excuse for this.
We take this fact seriously, and will establish an employment group for people with disabilities in the Personnel Division and firmly undertake employment activities toward achieving the statutory employment rate.
(2) Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation and Director General-Level Working Meetings Related to People’s Movements for Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands
Minister Kono: On August 30 in Moscow, the Japan-Russia Vice-Ministerial-Level Consultation will be held between Mr. Takeo Mori, Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Mr. Igor Vladimirovich Morgulov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Discussions are planned to touch on topics such as general Japan-Russia bilateral relations, the issue of concluding a peace treaty including joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, and the international situation.
In addition, in Moscow on August 29th, the preceding day, the Director General-Level Working Meetings Related to People’s Movements for Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands will be held between Mr. Hideki Uyama, Deputy Director-General / Deputy Assistant Minister of the European Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Mr. Nail Mazgutovich Latypov, Deputy Director, Consular Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
In preparation directly before the possible visit by Prime Minister Abe to Russia in September this year, I expect there will be meaningful consultations.
The Situation of the Employment of People with Disabilities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Regarding the issue of the employment of people with disabilities as mentioned in your opening remarks, can you please explain your thoughts on whether there was intentional featherbedding until now of the number of people employed even though the statutory employment rate had not been achieved?
Minister Kono: Essentially, although we should have counted people with physical disability certificates, it had long been a custom until now to count people on the basis of their having a medical certificate received following a doctor’s diagnosis. Although I understand that this was not intentional featherbedding of the numbers, it is not clear at this point when this way of counting began to be used. The result of the examination based on the MHLW’s guidelines this time was that people without physical disability certificates had been counted until now, and that it was clear that the statutory employment rate purely counting people who have physical disability certificates had not been achieved. As well as apologizing for this, because achieving the rate is requested of private organizations, MOFA will exert efforts to also precisely achieve the statutory employment rate.
Mainichi Shimbun, Tanabe: I would like to ask about the specific numbers, including the specific percentages and numbers of people.
Minister Kono: The numbers based on the reexamination are that the number of MOFA personnel based on calculations is 6,334 people, the number of people with disabilities employed is 25 people, the real employment rate is 0.39%, and there is a shortage of 120 personnel.
Kyodo News, Ikeda: Regarding the establishment of the employment group as part of the response going forward, will this be a response taken by all ministries and agencies or will this be an independent response by MOFA? Also, please tell us your impression of what the specific activities of the employment group will be if you have one.
Minister Kono: Excuse me, but I do not know what response other ministries and agencies will take. Please ask someone from the Personnel Division about whether efforts will be taken by all ministries and agencies together.
We will cooperate with the MHLW and Hello Work to firmly make efforts for the employment of people with disabilities. I believe that the employment group will primarily take charge of this work.
Release of the Final Report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
Japan Times, Yoshida: On August 27, the report of the fact-finding mission dispatched by the United Nations Human Rights Council to Myanmar was released, which stated that Myanmar had the intention to commit genocide, and that legal action should be taken against the highest levels of the military based on international law. Please explain the view of the Government of Japan on this, and its confirmation, understanding and recognition of the facts of how this report appears. Also, please explain if action will be taken against Myanmar by Japan or the international community.
Minister Kono: I still do not have an understanding of what examination this report is based on, so I would like to refrain from answering about that now. The Government of Myanmar has established its Independent Commission of Enquiry that includes two foreign people. Japan has asked for the Independent Commission of Enquiry to firmly investigate and produce proposals within the year, so we would like this to be steadily conducted.
Japan Times, Yoshida: Does this mean that Japan will not take any particular response until then?
Minister Kono: Currently the Government of Bangladesh and the Government of Myanmar are firmly exerting efforts so that the Muslim displaced persons from Rakhine State and others who are in Bangladesh can return, and Japan will firmly support this.
Visit to China by Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba
Kyodo News, Takubo: There are reports that Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba will visit China soon. Prime Minister Abe will visit China within the year and there are extensive pending issues between Japan and China such as sea-related issues, so what is the significance and aim of this visit by Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba?
Minister Kono: Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba is planning to visit China between August 29 and September 1, and hold an exchange of opinions regarding the Japan-China relations and other topics with his counterpart Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng. After this, it is planned that he will observe the local economic system situation in Shenzhen and other activities, and then will return to Japan.
Basic Agreement between the United States and Mexico In Regard to NAFTA Renegotiations
Hayashi, Nikkei Shimbun: In the NAFTA renegotiations between the United States and Mexico, an agreement has been reached on raising the percentage of car content produced in the region. Can you please explain the impact on Japanese companies, as well as the response in the case that the United States pressed Japan to make any concessions in bilateral negotiations?
Minister Kono: I have heard that Mexico and the United States are close to reaching an agreement. I recently met with the President-Elect of Mexico and the acting Foreign Minister of the current administration, and requested that care be taken so that the NAFTA negotiations do not put Japanese companies in Mexico at a disadvantage. The Mexico side indicated a very favorable opinion of Japanese companies in Mexico. While firmly cooperating with the Government of Mexico as well as the Government of the United States going forward, we will work to make sure that Japanese companies will not be put at a disadvantageous position. Amidst various economic negotiations between Japan and the United States, there is currently nothing that has been pressed upon Japan.
Questions Regarding North Korea’s Detainment of a Japanese Traveler
Kyodo News, Fukuda: Regarding the detainment by North Korea of a Japanese national, can you please explain the current understanding and future response of the Government of Japan?
Minister Kono: We are aware that the Japanese national arrived in Beijing. Going forward, the Government of Japan will ask him questions, but there is nothing beyond that in particular.
Kyodo News, Fukuda: The Korean Central News Agency is reporting that he has been deported. There are various pending questions between Japan and North Korea, so do you think this was done to send a positive signal for those discussions?
Minister Kono: I am not in the position to discuss North Korea’s intentions.
Asahi Shimbun, Kurashige: Regarding the content of the diplomatic negotiations route, did North Korea explain the charges and reason for detaining the Japanese national?
Minister Kono: I did not hear anything in particular.
NHK, Ishii: The Government of Japan set an independent measure that requests people to exhibit self-restraint and not travel to North Korea. I believe the current case was a person who traveled to North Korea and his intentions will be questioned. What is your view on this travel?
Minister Kono: The Government of Japan requests Japanese citizens to exhibit self-restraint and not travel to North Korea. Although it is a fact that some people still go to North Korea, including the person in this case, the Government of Japan will continue to request self-restraint and not travel to North Korea.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I believe the reason for his detention has not been asked. When you learn of the reason, and if it is deemed to be inappropriate, is it possible that the Government of Japan will lodge some kind of protest with North Korea?
Minister Kono: I heard nothing at the current point, so I would like to refrain from speculating about future matters.