Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 6:40 p.m. Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This year, the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam, I visited Viet Nam for the first time in 27 years. I participated in the World Economic Forum on ASEAN two years ago as the National Public Safety Commission Chairman, but this is my first time to participate as Minister for Foreign Affairs. A panel discussion titled Asia's Geopolitical Outlook is scheduled for September 13. Today, after a meeting with H.E. Ms. Kang Kyung-wha, Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Korea (ROK), I paid a courtesy call to H.E. Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. I held an exchange of opinions with Foreign Minister Kang on future response policy, including initiatives toward the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit, based on the recent situation of the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization, and confirmed close cooperation between Japan and the ROK, as well as between Japan, the ROK, and the U.S. I paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister Phuc at the Prime Minister’s office, and held an exchange of opinions on promotion of bilateral exchange relations, as well as on the regional situation including the South China Sea and the international arena based on the fact that Viet Nam has become the coordinating country for ASEAN-Japan. In addition, the Mekong-Japan Summit will be held in Tokyo next month, and I held an exchange of opinions on the results we should aim for. That is all from me.
Reporter: There seems to be a little diplomatic strategy between the U.S. and North Korea concerning denuclearization and the declaration of the end of the Korean War. Japan’s stance is that denuclearization is the maximum priority, so did you convey that to ROK Foreign Minister Kang today?
Minister Kono: Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a major international matter of maximum priority. We agreed that North Korea must denuclearize in order for all countries to maintain the nuclear nonproliferation system and for there not to be any gaps in the international community. I expect that the second summit meeting will be connected to firm action toward North Korea’s denuclearization.
Reporter: The ROK is aiming for a declaration of the end of the war within the year, but does Japan differ with the ROK on this?
Minister Kono: I am not aware of comments from the ROK side about a declaration of the end of the war within the year.
Reporter: You held an exchange of opinions on the future policy toward the Inter-Korean Summit. What opinions did you exchange regarding the Inter-Korean Summit?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from discussing the content. However, the Inter-Korean Summit is gradually drawing closer, and I would like to expect firm denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Reporter: Did you also discuss the abductions issue today?
Minister Kono: I also discussed the abductions issue.
Reporter: What did you say regarding it?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting on the content.
Reporter: This year is the 20th anniversary of the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration. You stated at the beginning of the meeting that you looked forward to the visit to Japan by President Moon, so has there been any progress on when he will visit?
Minister Kono: That is still being coordinated and nothing has been decided.
Reporter: On a different topic, Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea has sent a letter to President Trump with a request for a second U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister Kono: I hope specific steps by North Korea toward the denuclearization agreed upon by both leaders at the first summit meeting in Singapore will be made. If the second summit meeting leads to this, then Japan greatly welcomes it.
Reporter: It was timely that the letter’s content became public on September 10th. Did you discuss the letter during your meeting with Foreign Minister Kang today?
Minister Kono: We discussed the Inter-Korean Summit and the North Korean situation in general.
Reporter: Your meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than planned today. Midway, the meeting with Foreign Minister Kang became one with a small number of people. Did you primarily discuss North Korea with the small number of people?
Minister Kono: I have held over 10 meetings with Foreign Minister Kang, and I would like to build an environment in which we can have frank discussions on delicate issues with a very strong relationship of mutual trust. I would like to refrain from discussing the delicate content of the meeting.
Reporter: Did you also discuss outstanding issues of concern such as comfort women and requisitioned workers during your discussion with Foreign Minister Kang?
Minister Kono: We discussed difficult issues between our countries and I would like to manage them in a firm and appropriated manner.