Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, September 4, 2018, 6:37 p.m. Tbilisi, Georgia

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

Opening Statement

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Following Armenia, I am making the first visit to Georgia by a Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I met with dignitaries including President Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Bakhtadze, and Foreign Minister Zalkaliani, and held meaningful exchanges of views regarding the further development of our bilateral relations with Georgia, our important partner sharing fundamental values including freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law.

Also, I explained Japan’s Caucasus Initiative and expressed expectations for development of cooperative ties between our two countries going forward, and received the sympathy from the Georgian side.

At the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, in addition to holding an exchange of views on the bilateral relations, the regional situation, and cooperation behind the scenes of the international arena, I am pleased that we reached a broad agreement in principle on negotiations for an investment treaty with Georgia.

Following the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I held an exchange of documents for the East-West Highway Improvement Project (Phase 2). In order to develop the entire Caucasus region, the gateway connecting Asia and Europe, the project is expected to contribute to further improvement and development of logistics.

Using the opportunity of this visit, I hope that there will be advancement of the Japan-Georgia relations in various fields.

Tomorrow, I am going to make the first visit to Azerbaijan by a Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs in 19 years.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: There have been results for economic cooperation in particular with Georgia, including the investment agreement and the international yen loan. Can you please explain again your thoughts on the significance of strengthening relations with Georgia among the three Caucasus countries?

Minister Kono: Georgia is in a location within the Caucasus region that is the most pivotal, so when we consider the enhancement of the relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan, developing the relations with Georgia is critical. Georgia has become well-known among Japanese people thanks to Tochinoshin and other ways, and various products such as Georgian wine have entered Japan, so I would like to reinforce our bilateral relations going forward.

Reporter: You touched upon Tochinoshin during your talk with President Margvelashvili. Do you believe that the activities of professional sumo wrestler Tochinoshin have a positive influence on the bilateral relations?

Minister Kono: Georgia has become widely known in Japan, and Japan’s sumo wrestling has become very well-known in Georgia. I believe that his efforts have made our countries become very close.

Reporter: I have a question on a different subject. Regarding the North Korea situation, tomorrow National Security Adviser Chung Eui-Yong of the Republic of Korea (ROK) will visit North Korea as a special envoy of the President. What are the evaluation and expectations of Japan on whether this visit can find a breakthrough solution while the U.S.-North Korea consultations experience difficulties?

Minister Kono: The visit by the ROK’s special envoy is connected with the concrete implementation of the U.S.-North Korea agreement, and I hope there to be results for that.

Reporter: The development originally started from the consultations for the ROK-North Korea summit meeting, so do you think that the ROK will have a large role in breaking through the stalemate situation between the United States and North Korea?

Minister Kono: I believe the ROK’s various efforts, starting with the PyeongChang Olympics and work towards the summit meeting in Singapore, have been a major primary factor. I have expectations that in order to firmly advance the relations between the United States and North Korea, this visit will elicit movements to implement the respective promises made.

Reporter: Do you plan to receive information from the ROK side following the visit?

Minister Kono: We are conducting very close exchanges with the ROK side, so after he has left for and returned from the visit to North Korea, we will firmly grasp the information and connect it with the next step.

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