Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, September 21, 2018, 3:02 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Minister Kono’s Visit to Canada and the United States (to Attend the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly)

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: From today until September 30, I am going to visit Canada and the United States to attend the United Nations (UN) General Assembly session and other events.

In Canada, I am planning to attend the Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and communicate Japan’s initiatives towards creating a “society in which all women shine,” one of our priority policies.

At the UN General Assembly session, I am scheduled to co-chair the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT), the High-Level Side Event on Promoting Quality Infrastructure, and the Ministerial Meeting on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In addition, I am going to attend a variety of high-level meetings including the G4 Ministerial Meeting on UN Security Council Reform, and actively communicate Japan’s views, regarding the global issues facing the international community. Furthermore, I intend to take this opportunity to proactively interact with foreign ministers of various countries and regional group leaders towards further strengthening our cooperation.

I will also work closely with the various countries concerning North Korean issues, taking into account the latest situation including the outcomes of the recent Inter-Korean Summit.

Subsequently, I am planning to give an address at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and speak on Japan’s foreign policy and other matters.

(2) Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ ODA Character “ODA-man”

Minister Kono: Regarding Official Development Assistance (ODA), it is important that the public fully understands the significance, purpose, and importance of ODA programs as they utilize valuable tax money. Regrettably, however, this has not been the case. Against this background, the bureau in charge proposed conducting a domestic public relations campaign utilizing a character. Therefore, I have appointed Yoshida, the main character in the anime “Secret Society Eagle Talon,” as “ODA-man” exclusively for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As the one who appointed “ODA-man,” I am going to use business cards in Japan that have ODA-man printed on them. Starting today, a video in which ODA-man explains how Japan’s ODA programs are useful will be shown on such media as Tokyo Metro’s train channel, YouTube, and BS broadcasting.

I hope that the clear explanations provided by ODA-man will deepen the public’s interest in and understanding of ODA and contribute to their understanding of the significance of implementing ODA programs.

We would like to try this initiative once and see to what extent it contributes to increasing the public’s interest in ODA.

Japan’s Diplomacy Following the LDP Presidential Election

Kyodo News, Saito: I have a question regarding the Government’s basic policy on Japanese diplomacy following the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). During the presidential campaign, Prime Minister Abe made a number of references to his major goal of postwar Japanese diplomacy reaching the pinnacle. What is your understanding of the meaning of this goal and its basic principles? Have you and the Prime Minister shared your views concerning what specifically would constitute the pillars of this endeavor?

Minister Kono: As I have stated previously, there is the matter of normalizing relations with North Korea, as well as the matter of resolving the issue of the Four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty with Russia. There remain these remnants of World War II. We will fully settle these matters that have remained since the end of the war, such as normalizing relations with North Korea and concluding a peace treaty by resolving the issue of the repatriation of the Four Northern Islands, and move Japanese diplomacy forward.

In any event, these two issues are extremely difficult. With respect to North Korea, as a member of the international community, Japan will make efforts to ensure that the international community works in solidarity to make progress on North Korean issues. As for Japan and Russia, the two countries will face their issues squarely, complete the activities currently under way, including the joint economic activities, and strive to ultimately resolve the issue of the repatriation of the Four Northern Islands.

Inter-Korean Summit

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to ask about the recent Inter-Korean Summit. At your last press conference this week, which was before the Inter-Korean Summit, you stated to the effect that you hope it would lead to the declaration of nuclear-related facilities. The Pyongyang Joint Declaration that was released does not mention the declaration of nuclear-related facilities. This was the third Inter-Korean Summit of this year. What is your candid assessment of this meeting? Could you also tell us your strategy going forward based on the outcome of this meeting?

Minister Kono: Denuclearization begins with North Korea’s complete declaration of nuclear-related facilities. Regrettably, that point has not been reached yet. Chairman Kim Jong-un’s intention of denuclearization has been made clear repeatedly, and therefore, our hope is that North Korea acts in line with its intention.

Minister Kono’s Visit to Canada and the United States

Sankei Shimbun, Ogawa: I have a question regarding your announcement earlier about your overseas visit from today. Could you please explain the reason or the background behind why you, a male minister, are attending the Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?

Minister Kono: This meeting will be co-hosted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Freeland of Canada and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mogherini, and was also convened prior to the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Toronto.

The invitees to this meeting are women foreign ministers, of whom there are many all around the world, plus men. As a G7 foreign minister, I was invited to the previous meeting and I attended it. I was invited once again to the next meeting, and I plan to attend it. Women foreign ministers from a broad range of regions will be attending, and I will have an opportunity to exchange views with the ministers. In addition, the attendance of few men will provide an advantage, that is, people will instantly remember Foreign Minister Taro Kono of Japan, and I intend to take full advantage of such occasions.

Inter-Korean Summit

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to return to the Inter-Korean Summit. North Korea mentioned dismantling its uranium enrichment facility as a concrete measure. How do you view this measure? Do you perceive it in a positive light that it would lead to concrete denuclearization? Secondly, the measure is not dismantlement of nuclear weapons themselves. Does the Government intend to have any involvement in this regard?

Minister Kono: We seek complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID). The international community has stated that first there must be complete declaration. We must also be able to confirm that this is irreversible, and it must be verifiable. We hope that denuclearization proceeds in a way that corresponds with CVID.

With regard to nuclear weapons, this involves the P5. As for the other facilities, Japan could provide its know-how or dispatch personnel. Japan will participate if we receive a request.

Situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar

Mainichi Shimbun, Tanabe: In between the UN General Assembly session, I believe you will also attend discussions on Rakhine State. Myanmar finds itself in a tough situation amidst reports and talk of international criminal proceedings. What will you be advocating at this meeting?

Minister Kono: Regarding the issue of Muslim people in Rakhine State, it is first and foremost important that the nearly one million Muslim people who evacuated to Bangladesh are able to repatriate in a voluntary manner. Japan will fully support the efforts of the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, and it is important that this leads to their voluntary repatriation at the earliest possible time. Meanwhile, from the standpoint of Bangladesh, which has accepted nearly one million of these people to the camps, it is unfortunate that the necessary funding has not been collected. Against this background, the international community must provide financial support to Bangladesh, and I will thus be calling for support.

In addition, Myanmar needs to confirm and verify what actually happened. The Government of Myanmar has established an Independent Commission of Enquiry, including foreign nationals, which has already begun its activities. I understand that this Independent Commission of Enquiry of the Government of Myanmar will fully verify what happened and submit recommendations. The Government of Myanmar must take actions based on these recommendations.

In Myanmar, the long rule of the military government ended, and its democratization process has just begun. As a democratic government it is still toddling. In this light, Japan will fully support the administration led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and urge the international community to provide supports in order to ensure Myanmar’s further democratization and development.

Meanwhile, there is the issue of the two Reuters reporters and various other issues. The Government of Myanmar must fully address these issues and take responses that respect fundamental human rights. I have repeatedly stated this to State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi. I intend to convey that the Government of Myanmar needs to continue to take responses that respect fundamental human rights, while the international community needs to fully support Myanmar’s democratic government that has just begun to take its first steps.

(The following statement was made in English)
Reuters, Foster: You just spoke about the Rohingya ethnic minorities in Bangladesh. Does the Abe administration support repatriating them to Rakhine State? Could you also comment on the alleged crimes against the Rohingya ethnic minorities? Also, what is your view regarding freedom of the press in Myanmar taking into account the situation of the two Reuters reporters?

(The following statement was made in English)
Minister Kono: Japan has consistently supported the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar. The Government of Bangladesh has kindly accepted nearly one million refugees into its country. We have an obligation to support the Government of Bangladesh financially or in some other way.

The Government of Myanmar established an Independent Commission of Enquiry. It consists of one Filipino, one Japanese, and two Myanmar members. We intend to support the activities of this Commission if support is requested in any manner. We also expect that it will investigate what happened. It is anticipated that it will present recommendations of some kind, and we expect that the Government of Myanmar will follow up on the recommendations.

The Government of Myanmar should pay attention to freedom of the press and other fundamental human rights, and we consider that they respect freedom of the press. We hope that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her administration take actions accordingly.

Regarding the LDP Presidential Election

NHK, Ishii: I have a question related to the LDP presidential election. It was decided yesterday that Prime Minister Abe would assume the LDP presidency once again. First, could you please share your observations of the presidential election as a minister, or rather, as a member of the Diet? Furthermore, you have always mentioned that you intend to run in the presidential election in the future. What do you believe you must do in order to make your dream come true, whether it is in the next presidential election or further into the future?

Minister Kono: I believe many Diet members think about becoming the LDP President and the Prime Minister of Japan in order to materialize the policies they consider are necessary, including myself. Without saying when, I eventually hope to run in the presidential election. To do so I must spell out what I would like to do and present them to the people. I envision compiling and putting this out in the form of a book.

It had been six years since the last LDP presidential election was held in this manner. During the election campaign, LDP members battle against each other regarding policies. When the election is over, LDP members unite and work together to move this country forward. As an LDP member, I will also work hard to ensure that this country moves forward steadily.

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