Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Thursday, September 27, 2018, 5:42 p.m. New York, United States of America

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

Opening Statement

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: There is just one more day left of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly High-Level Week. Today,

I co-chaired two meetings: the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and the Ministerial Meeting on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In addition, I attended the UN Security Council Meeting on DPRK Denuclearization and the Ministerial Meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC). With regard to bilateral meetings, I held foreign ministers’ meetings with Bulgaria, Australia, and China and will hold a foreign ministers’ meeting with India later today.

At the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the CTBT, as co-chair, I commented on the importance of the facilitation of the entry into force of the CTBT, the universalization of the CTBT, the reinforcement of its verification regime, and the advancement of the CTBT, and urged the international community to facilitate its entry into force. Thailand has ratified it, and Tuvalu has signed it.

At the Ministerial Meeting on UNRWA, I remarked on the importance of UNRWA’s activities both for the stability of the Middle East and from a humanitarian perspective.

Regarding the UN Security Council Meeting on DPRK Denuclearization chaired by Secretary of State Pompeo, I sat in the chair’s seat at the previous meeting and today at the very edge of the horseshoe. I advocated the importance of the international community continuing to work in unity and implement relevant Security Council resolutions taking into account ongoing diplomatic efforts, such as the historic U.S.-North Korea summit meeting and the three Inter-Korean Summits, and sanction evasion activities such as ship-to-ship transfers.

At the Ministerial Meeting of the AHLC, I expressed Japan’s concerns over the situation in Palestine, especially the deteriorating situation in Gaza. I also introduced Japan’s “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” initiative, the Jerico Agricultural Industrial Park (JAIP) project, Japan’s supports for Palestinian refugees through the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) and UNRWA, efforts in Gaza, among other activities. I explained Japan’s own attempts to contribute to developing an environment for dialogue among the relevant parties.

At the foreign ministers’ meeting with Bulgaria, with which we will mark three anniversaries next year, we shared the view that we would further strengthen the bilateral relationship and coordinate cooperation for the West Balkans. I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria to attend the World Assembly for Women (WAW!) next March and received a positive response from the Minister.

I held my first foreign ministers’ meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Payne who was appointed at the end of August. Japan will cooperate closely with Australia, a “Special Strategic Partner,” in together leading the efforts to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific. We confirmed that Japan and Australia would coordinate closely to address North Korea’s ship-to-ship transfers.

State Councilor Wang Yi of China and I shared the view that all possible preparations would be made to ensure the success of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to China, which is to take place in October. This year alone, there have been four Japan-China foreign ministers’ meetings. The fact that we have been able to maintain communications at the high level has contributed to the deepening of mutual trust. Recently, the location of North Korea’s ship-to-ship transfers has shifted to the adjoining seas of China. Since this requires China to take responses, we shared the view that ship-to-ship measures would be fully implemented while sharing information with China. In addition, given that there was a case in which a Chinese-flagged vessel has joined the ship-to-ship transfers, I stated that the two countries must fully share information.

Later today, I will hold a meeting with Minister for External Affairs Swaraj of India. I hope to exchange views regarding strengthening the bilateral relationship, also taking into account Prime Minister Modi’s upcoming visit to Japan, and the situation in the Indo-Pacific region. Following this meeting, I will exchange views with Japanese personnel of UN agencies.

Last year I also attended the High-Level Week but I had been Foreign Minister for less than two months, and I was almost like a meek kitten. Over the past year I have been able to hold many foreign ministers’ meetings, and now I am able to converse with various foreign ministers eye to eye. Most of the foreign ministers I saw at the variety of meetings I attended were familiar faces, making it easy to hold briefings with them in advance. In that sense, I was able to demonstrate Japan’s diplomatic presence. Today alone, I attended the Ministerial Meeting on UNRWA and the Ministerial Meeting of the AHLC, and late last evening, I attended the meeting on a two-state solution. I have attended many meetings on Palestine this year. There was also the meeting on supporting Syria. At the various fora, I was able to make it clear that Japan is and will be engaged in the Middle East. I will now take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: First, at the ministerial meeting on North Korea, both China and Russia requested in their speeches today that the United States ease the sanctions on North Korea on the grounds that North Korea’s denuclearization has made progress. How does Japan intend to address such opinions?

Minister Kono: The UN Security Council resolutions that have been adopted unanimously are still rigorously in force. We all share the same position that all countries including China and Russia would fully implement sanctions based on the resolutions. At my bilateral meeting with Mr. Wang Yi, the State Councilor stated that China would fully implement the sanctions. While the countries may have their own various views, at least as far as the actual situation is concerned, there are no differences in view among the UN member states that the UN Security Council resolutions must be fully implemented.

Reporter: I have a related question. You stated that at the foreign ministers’ meeting with Mr. Wang Yi of China, the two of you shared the view that both countries would strengthen measures against ship-to-ship transfers. Did Mr. Wang Yi not express his views regarding easing the UN Security Council sanctions?

Minister Kono: We have repeatedly exchanged views that China would steadily implement sanctions based on UN Security Council resolutions and that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a goal for China as well. With regard to sanctions, today, I stated that since the location of ship-to-ship transfers has shifted to China’s adjoining waters and we, including the Self-Defense Forces, cannot enter those waters, China must fully address the situation. We also shared the view that since China must address Chinese-flagged vessels conducting ship-to-ship transfers, we would share information and cooperate on ship-to-ship measures. The UN member states including China are in agreement on this point.

Reporter: I have a related question. Japan has repeatedly expressed concern over Chinese-flagged vessels that are conducting ship-to-ship transfers. Did the Chinese side provide any explanations about this or discuss how China would address this situation?

Minister Kono: The State Councilor stated that China would address the situation fully and rigorously. We will ensure that information sharing is conducted.

Reporter: I would like to ask a question regarding UNRWA. Japan co-chaired the UNRWA meeting for the first time. Japan announced new assistance of US$4.5 million, and other countries also announced assistance. Could you once again explain the significance of today’s meeting and the role for Japan going forward?

Minister Kono: It is true that UNRWA is in financially difficult circumstances. If, for example, UNRWA is no longer able to operate schools, the young people at the refugee camps would no longer have anything to do and could end up on the streets. It is vital to sustain the activities of UNRWA. Today, various countries including Kuwait made large pledges, making this meeting worthwhile. That said, in order to keep implementing UNRWA’s activities next year and beyond, UNRWA needs to maintain fiscal soundness with a plan for at least the next three years or so. In that sense, we cannot let ourselves be satisfied with today’s meeting. Japan will continue to coordinate views among the relevant countries regarding the plan for at least the next three years.

Reporter: Does that mean that the long-term was not discussed at today’s meeting?

Minister Kono: A number of countries commented that multi-year commitments must be made. We were able to come to mutual understanding that the issue was not what to do for the rest of this year but that UNRWA would be supported over the next few years, and I was very pleased that this was endorsed by quite a number of countries.

Reporter: Minister Kono, you mentioned earlier that based on your achievements over the past year you intend to continue to demonstrate Japan’s diplomatic presence. Prime Minister Abe has stated that he would reshuffle the Cabinet on October 2 of next week. How should we interpret your comments against this background? Secondly, have you received any instructions from the Prime Minister?

Minister Kono: I have not received any instructions from the Prime Minister. Regardless of who becomes Foreign Minister, Japan must continue to engage in diplomatic activities, and Japan today is capable of this. Given that Japan does not engage in any military activities and that Japanese ODA has been decreasing due to financial difficulties, there is a greater need than ever for the Japanese Foreign Minister to take the lead in demonstrating Japan’s diplomatic presence. No matter who becomes Foreign Minister, it is important that the Foreign Minister continues to engage in firm activities. I believe the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide full backup under its current structure.

Reporter: Minister Kono, I would like to return to the Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I understand that today’s meeting was held in the context of the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to China. What did the two of you discuss regarding the Prime Minister’s visit to China?

Minister Kono: We discussed in detail that various preparations would be made for the Prime Minister’s visit to China and that the two countries would advance such cooperation in a forward-looking manner. The final arrangements will be made at the working level. Substantial time was spent discussing the Prime Minister’s visit to China.

Reporter: Have the dates of the Prime Minister’s visit to China been decided?

Minister Kono: The dates will be finalized at the working level.

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