Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, October 5, 2018, 12:40 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Visit to Japan by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the United States will visit Japan from October 6 to 7. On October 6, a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held, and Secretary Pompeo will also pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe. This will be Secretary Pompeo’s second visit to Japan since he was appointed Secretary of State and my seventh foreign ministers’ meeting with Secretary Pompeo, not including telephone talks. I hope to exchange views with the Secretary primarily on North Korea, among other issues.
(2) Foreign Minister Kono’s Visit to Australia, Timor-Leste, and New Zealand
Minister Kono: I will visit Australia, Timor-Leste, and New Zealand from October 9 to 16.
In Australia, Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations will be held. As the Australian Prime Minister has changed and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs has also changed, we will confirm the cooperation between Japan and Australia.
I will pay my first visit to Timor-Leste as Foreign Minister since the country gained independence and restored sovereignty in 2002. The last time a Japanese Foreign Minister visited Timor-Leste was in 2000, before it gained independence, and it was by then Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. As Japan and Timor-Leste share fundamental values, I will confirm our cooperative relations in areas such as politics, economy, infrastructure, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, maritime, and energy. At the same time, I will exchange views regarding regional affairs, such as the Indo-Pacific and North Korea.
With regard to New Zealand, this will be the first time in five years since a Japanese Foreign Minister last visited the country in 2013. Japan and New Zealand are “Strategic Cooperative Partners” and important partners that share fundamental values. We will fully promote cooperation in areas such as politics, security, economy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and exchange views regarding a free and open Indo-Pacific.
(3) 57th Annual Session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization
Minister Kono: The 57th Annual Session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) will be held in Tokyo from October 8 to 12.
I will deliver an address at the opening session on October 9. In this Annual Session, important topics in the Asian-African regions including the law of the sea and peaceful settlement of disputes will be discussed. Japan will also clearly explain its own efforts in those areas.
This is the fifth time Japan is hosting the Annual Session. Japan has been an original member of AALCO since its founding in 1956. As the host country and member of AALCO since its founding, Japan will further promote the rule of law in the Asia-African regions.
Visit to Japan by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I have a question regarding Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Japan that you mentioned in your opening statement. With regard to the end-of-war declaration, the Government of Japan takes the position that such a declaration must contribute to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and that it is premature. Do you intend to coordinate with Secretary Pompeo on this view once again?
Minister Kono: Japan and the United States share the same view, and therefore, there is no particular need to coordinate with each other.
Remarks by ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In an interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea (ROK) stated its position that a declaration to end the Korean War could be made if North Korea abandons its nuclear facility in Yongbyon and that the ROK would not seek a declaration. The ROK’s position is different from the position of the Government of Japan. How do you intend to address this difference?
Minister Kono: What do you mean by the ROK would not seek a declaration?
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: The ROK would not seek North Korea’s declaration of its nuclear facilities ahead of the end-of-war declaration.
Minister Kono: I am not aware of the Foreign Minister’s intention behind her remark so let me confirm.
20th Anniversary of the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: The Japan-ROK Joint Declaration will mark its 20th anniversary on October 8. Could you once again explain the significance of this Declaration? There are presently outstanding issues between Japan and the ROK, including historic issues. Do you perceive that the two countries continue to uphold the spirit of the Declaration, which states that they would aim for a future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship? Could you please share your views?
Minister Kono: In the Declaration, the two leaders at the time, Prime Minister Obuchi and President Kim Dae-jung, made a courageous decision to maintain a forward-looking Japan-ROK relationship into the future. While various things have occurred over the past 20 years, it has not changed that Japan and the ROK are important neighboring partners. On this milestone year of the 20th anniversary, we hope to reaffirm the decision made by Prime Minister Obuchi and President Kim Dae-jung and steadily advance the Japan-ROK relationship in a forward-looking manner.
NHK, Ishii: I have a question concerning the Japan-ROK relationship. Issues such as comfort women and “requisitioned civilians” have been raised as issues repeatedly. Does the Government consider that these issues do not present any particular obstacles to developing a future-oriented relationship? In addition, developing a future-oriented relationship involves mutual visits between the leaders. What is the current status with regard to the arrangements for mutual visits? How will the two countries be advancing mutual visits? Could you please elaborate on this point?
Minister Kono: The number of visitors from the ROK to Japan has increased significantly. Many people from Japan also visit the ROK. There are lively exchanges between the Japanese and ROK people. K-POP remains very popular in Japan. Various ROK TV dramas are broadcast in Japan and have gained considerable popularity in Japan. Meanwhile, Japanese culture has become more widely known in the ROK as well. In principle, I believe exchanges between the people of Japan and the ROK have made tremendous progress.
These exchanges may have ups and downs due to political factors or media reports. We will appropriately manage such factors and steadily advance the exchanges that have been developed between the Japanese and ROK people. With regard to mutual visits, we would like President Moon Jae-in to visit Japan at an appropriate timing.
Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement on Goods
Kyodo News, Ikeda: I would like to ask a question concerning Japan-U.S. trade negotiations. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has indicated that the United States would seek reduction of tariffs on agricultural products beyond the levels under the economic partnership agreement (EPA) between Japan and the European Union (EU). Vice President Pence has stated that the United States would soon enter into negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan. With regard to the recent Japan-U.S. negotiations, the Government of Japan had explained that tariff reduction levels in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement constitute the maximum level and that the trade negotiations are entirely different from FTA negotiations. There seem to be differences in view between Japan and the United States. What are your thoughts on this point?
Minister Kono: The Japanese and U.S. leaders agreed that the TPP Agreement constitutes the maximum level with regard to agricultural products. If there are differences in view, they represent the differences in view within the U.S. Government. We have always considered FTA as an agreement on a series of schemes that include goods, services, and others. An agreement on goods alone or an agreement on beginning with what is possible is not referred to as FTA. I am not aware as to how Vice President Pence defines FTA and so you will have to ask the United States. The leaders have agreed to discuss an agreement on goods, and you will have to ask the United States about the differences in view within the U.S. Government.
Kyodo News, Ikeda: Are you saying that Japan’s explanation is in line with the actual negotiations?
Minister Kono: This was agreed upon during the summit meeting.
End of Sister City Relationship between Osaka City and San Francisco, United States
AFP, Ito: Osaka City has stated that it would end its sister city relationship with San Francisco. Could you please share your views? Does Japan intend to convey its position to the United States through any kind of channel?
Minister Kono: The sister city program is conducted by Osaka City, so I ask that you please direct your question to Osaka City.
On Remaining as Foreign Minister
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: You will be visiting Australia and other countries from next week. You have visited a considerable number of countries since your first year as Foreign Minister. Now that you have remained in office, what are your plans for overseas visits in your second year as Foreign Minister? Could you please tell us your strategy if you have any?
Minister Kono: It is extremely important to visit countries of great importance for Japan and confirm the bilateral cooperation. Given the advances in internationalization and the need to modernize the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), we need the support of nearly all countries, and in this regard, I will visit as many countries as possible. While confirming the bilateral cooperation, I will fully explain the views of Japan regarding North Korean issues and UNSC reform to my counterparts and confirm our cooperation.
In addition, I have a renewed sense of the extreme importance of maintaining personal relationships between myself and other foreign ministers in order to receive support for Japan’s assertions at international meetings or to receive support for Japan’s strategy or approach to meetings. I am committed to forging personal relationships with as many of my counterparts as possible to be able to fully collaborate with each other whenever it becomes necessary at international meetings.
End of Sister City Relationship between Osaka City and San Francisco, United States
Mainichi Shimbun, Tanabe: I would like to return to the earlier topic of Osaka and San Francisco. At a recent meeting of Japanese and ROK experts, the view was shared that importance would be attached to exchanges between their peoples and individuals, even if there are issues between the two nations. Since Osaka City and San Francisco are both local governments, exchanges take place between the people of the two cities. From this perspective, how do you view the recent developments related to the relationship between Osaka City and San Francisco?
Minister Kono: I believe a variety of exchanges have taken place over many years between the people of Osaka and San Francisco. I am sure there are people who are proud of their exchange experiences and many people who value such experiences. I encourage the continuation of such people-to-people exchanges.
Japan-North Korea Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: Some media outlets have reported that, at the Japan-North Korea Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in September, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of North Korea stated that there is no need to hold a Japan-North Korea summit meeting in a hurry and referred to settling the past, and that the two foreign ministers were not on the same page during their discussions. Do you view that the Japan-North Korea negotiations made strides as a result of the recent foreign ministers’ meeting? Or do you view that the negotiations remained at a standstill?
Minister Kono: I have stated that I will refrain from disclosing the content of the discussions. I would like to, however, deny such clearly erroneous reports. I will stop myself from making any further comments as you will ask me was it this or that and denying or affirming that would reveal the content of the discussions. I ask that you firmly refrain from making such erroneous reports as they do not benefit the national interests of Japan.
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: I understand about the content of the meeting. Could you tell us whether the meeting itself achieved a breakthrough of some sort? Could you tell us your views regarding the significance of the meeting?
Minister Kono: Japan and North Korea hold discussions through a variety of channels, and the meeting was a part of these discussions. It was the first time in a few years that the Japanese and North Korean foreign ministers held discussions in the form of a meeting, and in this sense I believe the meeting was significant.
Korean Peninsula Affairs (End-of-War Declaration)
Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask one additional question in connection with the declaration of the end of the Korean War. As you stated in your answer to an earlier question, you have indicated the view that such a declaration is premature. What needs to be in place for the parties to declare an end to the Korean War? For example, you have previously mentioned that North Korea must declare its nuclear facilities. Are there any concrete terms that are nonnegotiable?
Minister Kono: I will not touch upon any concrete details regarding the discussions with North Korea. The declaration must be made at an appropriate time and must be appropriate in content.
Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement on Goods
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I have a question regarding the earlier topic on the Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG). The Joint Statement does not state goods only. It states, “goods, as well as on other key areas including services.” It can be read as comprehensive negotiations that are not limited to goods. Is it correct to understand that the Government of Japan does not interpret the Joint Statement as such?
Minister Kono: It means that while the negotiations are for an agreement on goods, we do not rule out that an agreement on issues such as customs could be reached at a similar timing as the agreement on goods.