Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Saturday, August 25, 2018, 9:22 a.m. Los Angeles, United States of America

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

Opening Remarks

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Following Honolulu, I visited San Francisco and Los Angeles in California that have the large Nikkei communities. In particular, the Nikkei community has a significant presence in Los Angeles, being home to the largest Nikkei population in the entire United States, and Little Tokyo, the largest Japanese district in the United States. The last time a Japanese Foreign Minister visited San Francisco was 17 years ago by then Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Tanaka, while Los Angeles was 5 years ago by previous Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida. There was, however, a 19-year span between then Minister Kishida’s visit and the preceding visit by then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. Although Japanese Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers visit Washington, D.C. and New York many times, not very often do they visit cities such as Honolulu, San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles where there are Nikkei communities and this is somewhat regrettable. This year marks the 150th anniversary of immigration by the first group of Japanese people, the so-called “Gannenmono.” Next year is the milestone year of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Wakamatsu Colony in the suburbs of San Francisco. We, Japanese people, need to be more aware that Japanese immigrants faced and overcame many hardships and overcame various events in history such as internment during World War II (WWII) to earn the immense trust that Japanese Americans now enjoy in the U.S. society. In San Francisco, I visited the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center. I saw exhibits of the history of the Nikkei population including those who were at the Pacific front during WWII and met with veterans. In all three cities that I visited, including Los Angeles, I met and exchanged views with representatives of the Nikkei community. I was also able to reunite with those who participated in the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program started by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2000, which invites Nikkei leaders from all over the United States to Japan. JALD members are active in a variety of fields, and I am extremely grateful for their considerable involvement in rebuilding the ties between Japan and the Nikkei community. I hope to increase U.S. interest in Japan through the Nikkei population and to further spread awareness in Japan about the history and the current active roles played by the Nikkei population. Yesterday, I attended the Grand Opening Ceremony of JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles. I recently visited JAPAN HOUSE Sao Paulo, so I have now visited two of the three Japan Houses. JAPAN HOUSE Sao Paulo aims to have 150,000 visitors a year, and it has already succeeded in surpassing 1 million visitors. The ceremony in Los Angeles yesterday had a large turnout, which included a celebration performance by YOSHIKI. I believe it contributed to raising significant interest in JAPAN HOUSE. Through JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, we will strive to increase the number of people interested in Japanese culture and technology. In addition, yesterday, from shortly after noon for approximately 10 minutes, I held a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo in San Francisco. The Secretary of State explained about the cancellation of his visit to North Korea and the background, and we discussed the continued need for compliance by the international community with United Nations Security Council resolutions and that responses to ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea would be strengthened further between Japan and the United States and among like-minded countries. I will now take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: As you just stated, you held a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday following the cancellation of the Secretary’s visit to North Korea. If you can, could you please further elaborate on the details of the talk? Could you also share your views with us regarding the latest U.S. response and explain the response of the Government of Japan?

Minister Kono: Secretary Pompeo was to visit North Korea as early as next week, and we were therefore consulting with the United States regarding the subsequent schedule. However, it has been decided that the Secretary would not visit North Korea. I would like to refrain from disclosing the background of the cancellation. In any event, we shared the view that the international community needs to work in solidarity and comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions to make progress on North Korea’s denuclearization, and given that North Korea’s ship-to-ship transfers are a major loophole, not only Japan and the United States but also the relevant countries must strengthen responses to the ship-to-ship transfers. Japan and the United States will continue to work closely to push for the denuclearization of North Korea.

Reporter: Secretary Pompeo’s visit to North Korea has been cancelled. A few days ago, Japan was coordinating with the United States on the basis that the Secretary would be visiting, and now it has been cancelled. Overall Japan is somewhat being pushed around by the United States. Under such circumstances, how enthusiastic is the Government about holding Japan-North Korea meetings as you had before?

Minister Kono: The visit to North Korea was cancelled for a very legitimate reason, and in no way do we perceive that we are being pushed around. Japan and North Korea have maintained communications to date through various channels.

Reporter: I have a question regarding the activities of JAPAN HOUSE related to the understanding of history. During your visit to the United States, I believe you have been mindful of the installation of comfort women statues in San Francisco. How does the Government intend to seek understanding regarding the comfort women statues via JAPAN HOUSE?

Minister Kono: We have no such intentions. JAPAN HOUSE will foster awareness of the general culture, information, and technologies of Japan. It was built in Hollywood because we wanted people who had not particularly cared for Japan to also actively enter JAPAN HOUSE and further deepen their interest in Japan.

Reporter: I have a question regarding the Secretary’s cancellation of his visit to North Korea. President Trump cited a lack of cooperation from China, with which the United States now has trade frictions, as one of the reasons for the cancellation. What is your view regarding this point?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on the details of the discussions.

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