Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Monday, September 3, 2018, 6:52 p.m. Yerevan, Republic of Armenia

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

Opening Remarks

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This visit to Armenia is the first by a Japanese Foreign Minister. It has renewed my recognition of the importance of Armenia as well as the Caucasus.

The Caucasus region, where Armenia is located, is a gateway to Asia and Europe. The stability of this region is not a matter of concern at the regional level alone; it is directly linked to global peace and security. During this visit, I held a foreign ministers’ meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mnatsakanyan, paid a courtesy call on President Sarkissian, and paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Pashinyan. Japan and Armenia celebrated the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations last year, and I was able to hold meaningful exchanges of views regarding the measures for further deepening this relationship.

At the foreign ministers’ meeting, I announced Japan’s cooperation policy for the self-sustained development of the Caucasus region including Armenia—the Caucasus Initiative. It is comprised of assistance for the development of human resources who support nation-building and assistance for developing an attractive Caucasus region.

Armenia has assets including outstanding talents in the IT and other sectors, and therefore, has latent potential for partnering with Japanese companies. The two countries signed an investment agreement in February of this year, and I expect that the latest announcement of the Caucasus Initiative will strengthen the cooperative relations between Japan and Armenia, lead to more Japanese companies expanding their businesses to Armenia, and promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries at a variety of levels.

In addition, at the meeting, we exchanged views regarding East Asian affairs, Caucasus affairs, Middle East affairs, and cooperation at the United Nations (UN) and other international fora. In particular, with regard to North Korea, we shared the view on the importance of the complete execution of UN Security Council resolutions.

I will strive to ensure that this visit contributes to deepening our bilateral cooperative relations in a wide range of areas, including economics and at international fora.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: At the beginning of today’s foreign ministers’ meeting, you stated that Armenia is a partner with which Japan shares fundamental values. What exactly do you mean by sharing fundamental values? In particular, can you explain in which specific areas Japan shares fundamental values with the three Caucasus countries?

Minister Kono: An extremely democratic and peaceful transition in government took place this year in Armenia. Japan seeks to further deepen our cooperative relations with countries which share common values, such as democracy and the rule of law, as well as deepen our cooperative relations in the economic area with the three Caucasus countries, which are at the core of the junction of Asia and Europe. Through the Caucasus Initiative, which consists of assistance for human resources development as well as assistance for developing an attractive Caucasus region in such areas as the investment environment, we hope to deepen the relationship between Japan and the three Caucasus countries.

Reporter: China has also been strengthening its presence in this region through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other means. What is your current view regarding the influence of China?

Minister Kono: China and so on are not particularly on our minds for this visit. Our wish is to first steadily strengthen the relationship between Japan and the Caucasus region. In particular, as is the case for the TUMO Center which I just visited, Armenia produces extremely competent human resources in IT, and I believe there is compatibility between them and Japanese companies. We will make efforts to ensure that we can fully capitalize on this latent potential.

Reporter: I have one more question regarding China. Today, President Xi Jinping announced at a meeting with Africa that China will contribute over 6 trillion yen in three years. What is your view regarding China’s increasing influence in Africa and such developments?

Minister Kono: Japan greatly welcomes China’s economic engagement if it contributes to the development of the world economy overall. That said, it is essential that the infrastructure projects fully meet international standards, such as transparency, openness, and fiscal soundness of the recipient country. These aspects should be given full attention.

Reporter: I have one last question. In your discussions on North Korea today, did you request Armenia’s cooperation for the resolution of the abductions issue?

Minister Kono: The abductions issue also came up, and my counterpart stated that Armenia will cooperate with Japan on these issues. We highly appreciate that the Government of Armenia fully recognizes the abductions issue along with the denuclearization and the abandonment of missiles.

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