Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, October 27, 2018, 4:55 p.m. Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I attended the IISS Manama Dialogue for the second time following on from last year. This is also my second time visiting Bahrain as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. This morning, I arrived in Manama and held meetings with H.R.H. Prince Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain, H.R.H. Prince Salman, Crown Prince of Bahrain, Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid of Bahrain, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Safadi of Jordan. We confirmed that Japan and Bahrain will further strengthen our excellent bilateral relationship, including in the areas of the economy, culture, and tourism, and exchanged views regarding Middle Eastern affairs, including Qatar and Iran. I was also able to have meaningful exchanges of views regarding North Korea with Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Safadi and I exchanged views regarding the bilateral situation between Japan and Jordan and His Majesty King Abdullah’s forthcoming visit to Japan. We also held in-depth discussions regarding Middle Eastern affairs.
I attended the Manama Dialogue following on from last year. With the various developments in the Middle East, it was extremely significant that I was able to attend the dialogue and share Japan’s views and information regarding initiatives unique to Japan. It made me realize once again how important it is for Japan to attend such dialogues continuously and not make it a one-time event.
Today, I extended encouragement for the various reforms under way in the Middle East region as these reforms must not stop. Efforts for such reforms must not stop for countries to overcome their economic dependency on oil, secure education and job opportunities for young people which make up an extremely large population, and promote women’s participation in society. Reforms must not stop to make the region stable and prosper. Based on this belief, and based on the belief that present-day Japan has been shaped by the Meiji Restoration, namely, Japan’s investment in people and education, I stated that Japan will support reforms in the areas of education and human resources development as well as the empowerment of youth. Based on the “Kono Four Principles,” Japan will support human resources development in the Middle East region. I believe such contribution in this region is unique to Japan. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: You attended the Manama Dialogue for the second consecutive year. This past year, Japan continued to make various efforts and implement a variety of policies on the Middle East. Looking back on the past year, how confident are you about these efforts? Could you tell us what efforts Japan intends to make going forward?
Minister Kono: It is critical that the Middle East is stable, which is also a region that Japan relies on for energy. In particular, it is extremely important to ensure that the momentum for reforms does not cease and continues, such as overcoming dependency on oil and social reforms, including in Saudi Arabia. To ensure that reforms are successful, including in Saudi Arabia, Japan has implemented various cooperation and made commitments. This has made progress little by little. Japan has been co-chairing meetings in an increasing number of instances, including the Aqaba Process Meeting in Jordan and the recent Ministerial Meeting on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). I believe Japan’s engagement and presence in the Middle East has increased little by little.
Japan does not engage in the Middle East using military force such as the United States and Russia. Japan uses sufficient time to steadily engage in human resources development and education in the Middle East region, and I believe these efforts unique to Japan have begun to take shape.
Reporter: The news that is drawing attention recently relating to the Middle East region is the killing of a Saudi Arabian reporter. Saudi Arabian authorities have acknowledged that the killing had been planned. In response, Turkish authorities are requesting Saudi Arabia to hand over 18 suspects. The international community is also raising its voice, demanding an investigation into what happened. What response will the Government of Japan be taking? As you touched upon a moment ago, the Government of Japan provides active supports for Saudi Arabia’s economic reform efforts. Will the recent incident have any impact on Japan’s supports for Saudi Arabia?
Minister Kono: What is important above all are Saudi Arabia’s ongoing efforts to overcome dependence on oil, provide education and job opportunities to young people, and promote women’s participation in society. These efforts by Saudi Arabia are essential for the future development and current stability of the region. Therefore, we must ensure that the momentum for these reforms does not cease. In this sense, Japan will continue to provide steady supports to Saudi Arabia.
With regard to Mr. Khashoggi’s case, the G7 statement mentioned that it is essential to find out what happened. Secondly, it is important that transparent and just disciplinary action is taken, and Japan will follow the situation closely.
Reporter: I believe the discussions earlier included an in-depth discussion on Syria. There were questions about Japan’s assistance for Syrian refugees. Views were expressed and questions were asked about Japan’s engagement in Syria. Could you explain how Japan will continue to engage in Syria?
Minister Kono: Regarding Syria, Japan has striven to provide supports to the people who need assistance, regardless of whether they are pro- or anti-government. We have striven to support not only the people in Syria, but also the refugees who fled Syria and the Governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey and their communities which have accepted such refugees. In particular, Jordan and Lebanon have suffered adverse economic impacts, and it is critically important that supports are provided to countries that host many Syrian refugees not only in camps but also in their societies. Japan will fully support such countries. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those who need it, irrespective of their status. In addition, with regard to assistance for Syria’s reconstruction, Japan intends to engage in the reconstruction process as a member of the international community at a stage when its political process has made full progress.
Reporter: I believe Jordan had considerable involvement in the recent case of Mr. Yasuda in Syria and in the case of Mr. Goto. Did these matters come up during your meeting with Foreign Minister Safadi of Jordan?
Minister Kono: Jordan has been very helpful in sharing information and in other aspects, and I expressed our gratitude in this regard.