Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, October 19, 2018, 11:56 a.m. Leifur Eiríksson International Airport, Republic of Iceland
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: My visit marks the first visit to Iceland by a Japanese Foreign Minister. Today, I attended the Arctic Circle Assembly for the first time as a Japanese Foreign Minister, and in the Opening Session, delivered a keynote speech on Japan’s Arctic policy. I underscored that, first of all, in order for the international community to seize the opportunities of the Arctic, including natural resources, and appropriately address the challenges of the Arctic, such as negative impacts on the ecosystem, it is particularly important to reveal the mechanisms of the Arctic environmental change and understand its impacts.
In my speech, I introduced concrete examples of Japan’s contribution to three elements for realizing an “Ideal Arctic,” namely, scientific research, sustainable economic activities, and the rule of law. I sent the message that Japan is determined to cooperate with all stakeholders.
In addition, a Japan-Iceland Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. In less than six months since our previous Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in May of this year, we have established a working holiday system in September and commenced policy consultations between our foreign ministries. Furthermore, a tax convention between Japan and Iceland will enter into force on October 31. We mutually welcomed the steady advancement of our bilateral cooperation. We also exchanged views on deepening bilateral cooperation in a wider range of areas, including the Arctic, and regional situations, including North Korea.
I will now take your questions.
Reporter: Could you once again explain the significance of your visit to the Arctic region which you just mentioned? This is the first visit to Iceland by a Japanese Foreign Minister. As you stated in your speech, the possibilities of the Arctic region are drawing growing attention. Various Asian countries are setting forth a variety of Arctic policies. Can you explain the significance of a Japanese Foreign Minister visiting the Arctic region against this backdrop?
Minister Kono: Japan will be fully engaged in the Arctic. As was repeatedly stated by the Prime Minister of Iceland today, the issues of the Arctic are not issues of the Arctic States, especially when the impacts on the environment and ecosystem are considered, and those are global issues. We need to have this shared mindset. Against this background, I made clear today that Japan has the will to fully advance research in such areas as climate change and ecosystem and that Japan is scientifically committed. Furthermore, activities in the Arctic must, of course, be carried out based on the rule of law. I stated that Japan intends to engage actively in rulemaking on the Arctic and create a framework for the Arctic. It was highly significant that I was able to send the message that Japan attaches importance to the scientific aspect.
Reporter: You spoke about the rule of law and stated that Japan will participate actively in international rulemaking. Recently, an agreement was reached in the fisheries area. In which concrete areas does Japan wish to engage in rulemaking? Could you please tell us the concrete areas if you have any in mind?
Minister Kono: There are a variety of areas. For example, from the perspective of opportunities, it is important to make rules on how opportunities are seized, such as the use of the Northern Sea Route and development of mineral resources. In areas such as climate change and ecosystem, it will become necessary to implement various regulations in a balanced manner. While I believe territorial issues have been resolved in most parts of the Arctic, this is a region that was significantly impacted by the Cold War during the Cold War period. In this regard, it could become necessary to make rules on security or other such areas. I made clear today that Japan intends to fully engage in such rulemaking.