Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 2:50 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Levying of Sanctions on Iran by the United States (Announcement of Exemption from Levying Sanctions)
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On November 5 local time, the U.S. State Department announced that it would apply the exception provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to Japan, and that the sanctions over the next 180 days would not apply to Japanese financial institutions.
Until now, Japan has taken repeated opportunities to request the United States that there be no negative effects on Japan’s stable energy supply as well as the activities of Japanese companies in particular.
I understand that the recent U.S. announcement is a decision based on Japan’s fundamental position. Going forward, we would like to continue close exchanges of views between Japan and the United States.
Levying of Sanctions on Iran by the United States
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask a question regarding the United States levying sanctions on Iran. Regarding the process for being exempted from the sanctions application this time, for example European countries were not exempted, and China and Russia have declared that they will continue to do business with Iran, so we can see that there is a steadily growing difference in the approach to Iran among the countries that originally participated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with a growing sense of distance. What is your current recognition of the current situation in the context of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue? Also, in the context of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, Japan is not one of the countries concerned for the JCPOA, but how do you feel Japan should act and what appeals should be made to the United States in particular?
Minister Kono: Japan considers the JCPOA framework to be extremely important, and will continue to work to be able to maintain it. We would also like the United States to return to the JCPOA framework, but as we have reached the current situation, firstly it is important to ensure that there is no negative impact on Japanese companies as well as Japan’s energy security.
In addition, I believe that Japan must firmly do everything we can for incentives for Iran to stay in the JCPOA. On the other hand, there are issues such as missiles in relation to Iran, and we will engage in dialogue regarding these issues at international discussions with Iran.NHK, Okuzumi: As you stated in your opening remarks, this time Japan has received the longest period of exemption of 180 days. How will Japan respond to this going forward?
Minister Kono: According to the U.S. rule now, the longest exemption period is 180 days, so I believe the reality is that the United States cannot say anything higher than that. I will continue to hold firm discussions with the United States to ensure that there are no negative effects on Japan’s energy security and on Japanese companies.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s Judgment in Regard to a Japanese Company
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: I would like to ask about the judgment in the ROK in regard to Nippon Steel Corporation on October 30. You stated previously that you would actively convey Japan’s position to even third-party countries. Can you please explain the current situation of these efforts, as well as how Japan will appeal to the international community going forward?
Minister Kono: I have already issued instructions to Japanese embassies in all countries to give thorough explanations to the governments of their respective countries, and to transmit information to the media of each respective country. I also recently gave an interview to Bloomberg and am working to have Japan’s position be carried around the world. Going forward, I will clearly convey Japan’s position using various methods, and particularly point out that this is not a bilateral issue but rather a challenge to the international order based on international law.
Jiji Press, Echigo: As stated last weekend regarding the “requisitioned civilian workers” judgment, it has been indicated that ultimately it is the Government of the ROK that must carry out the compensation. Have there been any statements that the Government of the ROK is considering shouldering the compensation?
Minister Kono: This issue was already completely and finally settled in the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK in 1965. Discussions about compensation after that should be handled entirely by the ROK side.
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: Regarding the “requisitioned civilian workers” judgment, Japan has taken the approach of waiting for the response by the Government of the ROK. One week has now passed since the judgment, and during that period there have been no announcements whatsoever regarding the judgment by President Moon Jae-in, the top leader of the ROK. How do you view the response by the ROK side and this situation?
Minister Kono: We must say that this is an issue for the ROK side. We would like the ROK side to firmly respond to this in a firm manner.
Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: The Japan-EU EPA was approved at the Cabinet meeting this morning. Amidst the intensification of the trade war between the United States and China right now, as well as the decision on the entry into force of the TPP, can you please explain again the significance of the approval of the Japan-EU EPA?
Minister Kono: I heard that the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament has already adopted the EPA with Japan, and I understand that the EU side as well will finish approval procedures within the year. Japan will, without delay, have firm deliberations for approval at the extraordinary session of the Diet.
U.S.-North Korea Relations (Holding of a U.S.-North Korea High Level Officials’ Meeting in New York)
Kyodo News, Fukuda: The U.S. State Department has announced that Secretary Pompeo and Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol of the Workers’ Party of Korea will meet in New York. Can you please tell us your expectations regarding the denuclearization process between the United States and North Korea?
Minister Kono: I hope that discussions will progress for firmly implementing the commitment by North Korea for complete denuclearization, as agreed upon in the joint declaration in Singapore.
Levying of Sanctions on Iran by the United States
Reuters, Tsukimori: Regarding sanctions on Iran, Japan’s reserve of oil from Iran has been suspended since October, so in what month are the reserves expected to be resumed following this decision by the United States? Also, is it correct to understand that they will be zero after the 180-day time period ends? Lastly, when sanctions were previously levied on Iran, a 20% reduction was sought by each country each year. If Iran oil reserves were to resume, would it be a limited resumption with even more severe extensive reduction?
Minister Kono: The Government of Japan does not import oil from Iran, so please ask the companies that are importing oil. As I stated before, legally the longest period of the U.S. exemption provision is 180 days, so my understanding for now is that there was an announcement of 180 days.
Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Lee: In relation to the “requisitioned civilian workers” issue in the ROK, there is also the issue of people being forcefully taken away in China. In 2016, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation settled with Chinese victims by creating a fund to pay them with. The Government of Japan indicated its stance that this was a private independent settlement. After the issue of the “requisitioned civilian workers” in the ROK this time, can you please tell me again the stance of the Government of Japan on people being forcefully taken away in China?
Minister Kono: There is no particular change.
Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Lee: There are some reports in the ROK that there has been a difference in how the Government of Japan has responded to China and the ROK, given the Government’s series of reactions against the ROK this time despite the settlement in China. What do you think is the reason for this?
Minister Kono: This issue was completely and finally ended with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK in 1965. Thus, I believe this should be responded to entirely by the ROK side.
Consultation Request Based on the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Arrangement Regarding the ROK Shipbuilding Industry
Nikkei Shimbun, Ebuchi: There are reports that the Government of Japan is requesting bilateral consultation toward presenting a case to the WTO regarding public support by the Government of the ROK for its shipbuilding industry. At the press conference this morning, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ishii stated that the ministries and agencies concerned are advancing final coordination, including conflict resolution procedures. What is your view of this issue?
Minister Kono: The response, including the consultation request to the WTO regarding public support for the ROK’s shipbuilding industry, is being discussed now. When the plan is settled within the Government, we will take measures.
Adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations
Chugoku Shimbun, Tanaka: Last week, Austria and other countries promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly submitted a resolution, and the Government of Japan opposed it. From the standpoint of playing a role in building bridges, there are other approaches and moves that would show a respectful stance such as abstaining, so why did Japan oppose it?
Minister Kono: Unfortunately, nuclear weapons states are not participating at all in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and even among non-nuclear weapon states, there are no countries participating for which realization would be a threat. Amidst this, the one-sided efforts to advance participation in the Treaty have only widened a sense of distance between nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states. Thus, the Government of Japan has upheld an approach of not participating in the Treaty, and there is no particular change to that.
The Supreme Court of the ROK’s Judgment in Regard to a Japanese Company
Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: Regarding the “requisitioned civilian workers” issue, you stated that Japan would advance to the next stage if the ROK does not appropriately respond, but is there a stage beyond the International Court of Justice (ICJ)? If there is, what is it?
Minister Kono: This issue was completely and finally ended with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK in 1965. This judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK is a reckless action as well as a major issue that fundamentally shakes the legal basis for our bilateral relations, and is also a challenge to the international order based on international law. We believe that this is something the ROK side should precisely respond to at the current point, and if they do not, we are prepared to take measures.