Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 4:43 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
(1) Minister Kono’s Visits to China and Bahrein
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: From October 25-28, I am scheduled to visit China and Bahrein.
I am going to accompany Prime Minister Abe on an Official Visit to China, and am scheduled to attend the reception for the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, the Japan-China Summit Meeting, and other events in Beijing with the Prime Minister. Through this visit, I would like to firmly support Prime Minister Abe to create a momentum for further pressing forward with cooperation and exchange in a variety of areas and advancing Japan-China relations.
In Bahrein, I am planning to attend the Manama Dialogue continuing on from last year. It is an influential dialogue with discussion on security in the Middle East, and I will firmly convey Japan’s thoughts toward stability in the Middle East. In addition, I will conduct exchanges of views regarding the current Middle East situation with dignitaries from participating countries as well as Bahrein.
(2) Employment of People with Disabilities
Minister Kono: The results of the examination by the inspection committee on the employment of people with disabilities have been reported. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) takes the recently announced results of the examination by the committee very seriously.
I cannot help but state that MOFA has had low awareness of promoting employment of people with disabilities. Because of our insufficient understanding regarding matters such as the scope of people with disabilities who would be subjects of the statutory employment rate, and the calculation of people with disabilities for this rate was improper. This is truly inexcusable, and I would like to apologize.
MOFA has established an employment group for people with disabilities which currently has four people, which is following this matter. We will swiftly take measures with the objective of achieving the statutory employment rate based on a correct understanding of the Act for Promotion of Employment of Persons with Disabilities.
The United States’ Indication that It Will Withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. President Trump indicated that he is thinking of withdrawing from the terms of the INF Treaty. In response, Russia has objected that there is no basis for this at the United Nations (UN). Can you please explain your reaction to this situation and if there is a response from the Government of Japan?
Minister Kono: I believe that the role the INF Treaty plays is significant in accomplishing nuclear disarmament and arms control. The situation in which the United States feels it must end or withdraw from the Treaty is extremely regrettable, and that this situation must quickly be resolved as soon as possible.
I strongly hope that the United States and Russia will hold discussions. Japan would like to have discussions on this issue with the United States in a firm manner.
Mainichi Shimbun, Mitsuda: It seems that U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton said to the press that there is a possibility that Japan supports the U.S. position on the INF Treaty issue. What is the perspective on this?
Minister Kono: Before that, I would first like to closely hold various firm discussions between Japan and the United States.
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are currently cooperating with the position of seeking denuclearization by North Korea. Do you believe the annulment of the INF Treaty will affect the North Korean issue?
Minister Kono: Regardless of the INF Treaty, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles is in violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions. We will continue to request North Korea to swiftly denuclearize and abolish its missiles of all ranges, regardless of the INF Treaty.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: You initially stated that it is extremely regrettable that it is a situation in which the United States cannot avoid making this decision. Is it your recognition that this situation was caused by the issue of Russia’s original approach to its nuclear weapons?
Minister Kono: Japan is in no situation to comment on the Russian side, but at least, it is extremely regrettable that the United States has some reason that has led it to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The INF Treaty has played a major role in nuclear disarmament and arms control. We would like the United States and Russia to first precisely confirm whether there have been any misunderstandings between them, and then hold firm discussions. Japan will also hold firm discussions on this issue with the United States and exchange information.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: You said that you want to hold discussions with the United States side, but is it not your position to seek the return of the United States to the INF Treaty? Also, the United States viewed it as an issue that China was not a participant in the Treaty and was conducting nuclear development, so could you please tell us your reaction to that point?
Minister Kono: Firstly, Japan would like to have, in a firm manner, information sharing to understand why the United States came to this decision. Moreover, Japan must make various judgments. Regarding China as well, Japan would first like to hear the thoughts of the United States in the same way.
Japan-China Summit Meeting
Wall Street Journal, Landers: Regarding the Japan-China Summit Meeting, at the end of September, Japan, the United States, and the EU asserted that China’s forced technology transfers were regrettable and expressed strong concerns about China’s economic strategy. How do you plan to take up this issue at the Japan-China Summit Meeting?
Minister Kono: The subjects to be disuccused and how they will be addressed during the Japan-China Summit Meeting will be worked out before the visit to China. At the very least, Japan has repeatedly raised the issues of intellectual property rights and excess capacity to China, so we would like China to firmly respond in various settings.
End of ODA to China
Kyodo News, Fukuda: There are reports that Japan will end new ODA to China this year. What is your reaction and what are your impressions regarding the approach to future Japan-China economic cooperation?
Minister Kono: It has already been over 10 years since international yen loans and general grant assistance for China were stopped. Although there was continuation of some Grant Assistance for Grass-Roots Projects and technical cooperation including support for infectious diseases and the environment, considering China’s economic level now, it is likely that there is no need for this, so adoption of new ODA will end. Going forward, support for the remaining projects will also end once they finish.
I believe that Japan can cooperate with China going forward on supporting development in various third-party countries and with humanitarian support, just as Japan does with other countries.
Disembarkation on Takeshima By Members of the ROK National Assembly
Jiji Press, Echigo: At yesterday’s press conference, in regard to an issue concerning the ROK, it was stated that a response is being considered regarding the disembarkation of members of the ROK National Assembly on Takeshima. Can you please explain the status of the consideration?
Minister Kono: That is still being considered.
The Resolution on Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations
Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: I would like to ask a question regarding the resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons submitted to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. Last year, there was a decrease in the number of countries supporting this, so can you please explain how Japan is now conveying its thoughts on total elimination of nuclear weapons and seeking understanding? In addition, a draft resolution promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was also submitted centered on Australia, so how will Japan respond? Can you please explain these two points?
Minister Kono: Last year, Japan’s draft resolution on nuclear disarmament had co-sponsoring countries that included nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states and helped build a bridge between them in a robust manner.
This year, we would like to take one or two more steps of progress than last year for the resolution. We are currently cooperating with various countries, and Japan will firmly play a role in building bridges.
As for the promotion of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Japan has still not decided anything. However, Japan is not thinking of signing the TPNW, so our response will be based on that.
Japan-China Summit Meeting
(The following statement was made in English)
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Welter: Stopping ODA to China, does it mean that Japan finally accept China as an equal partner in development aid? The other question is that at the Japan-China summit, are you going to talk about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and TPP, or other free trade agreements? Do you see China as a partner, which is better for free trade against the United States?
(The following statement was made in English)Minister Kono: China is now the second largest economy in the world. I don’t think they need ODA from Japan anymore, and they have been taking care of other economies as well. So I think it’s high time to move the bilateral relationship to the next step.
Disappearance of the Saudi Journalist
TV Asahi, Anzai: I would like to ask about the death of the Saudi journalist. This weekend, you will go to the Manama Dialogue and discuss the Middle East peace process. Do you plan to have discussions with any people from Saudi Arabia?
Minister Kono: It is still unknown whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia will go to Manama. If Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir attends, I would naturally like to see him.
TV Asahi, Yasunishi: I believe that Saudi Arabia also acknowledges the death of the reporter. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany have expressed concerns, so what position will Japan take? Can you please explain your views now?
Minister Kono: Japan would like for there to be a firm investigation of the truth, and seeks transparent, fair handling. This has also been shown in the declaration by G7 Foreign Ministers. Japan would firstly like to urge a investigation to be conducted in a robust manner.