Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, November 9, 2018, 3:29 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Judgment by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula (Trend of Cancelling Regional Exchanges)

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I attended the final garden party of the Heisei era. Although I have not attended each and every garden party, the garden party that I attended today was the first with such heavy rainfall. Since this was the last party, I felt as if the sky was somehow crying.

Due to the judgment issued at the end of last month by the ROK Supreme Court, the Government of Japan is currently requesting with firm intention that the Government of the ROK take an appropriate response. However, I believe that this should not influence exchanges between the citizens of Japan and the ROK, and I understand that this should not affect exchanges such as between municipalities, as well as cultural and sports exchanges.

At the recent meeting of Japanese experts, it was proposed that such exchanges should continue despite various incidents between the governments of our two countries. Thus, despite these incidents, I would like people-to-people exchanges, exchanges between municipalities, and sports and cultural exchanges to firmly continue.

The ROK Supreme Court’s Judgment Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: In response to the firm intention shown by the Government of Japan in regard to the judgment by the ROK Supreme Court, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon of the ROK commented that he cannot avoid objecting to the Government of Japan driving this issue into a diplomatic dispute. Ten days have passed since the judgment, but the Government of the ROK has not taken any specific measures or shown any plan for its response. At the current point, do you believe that Japan’s intention and aim have been conveyed?

Minister Kono: I believe they have been clearly conveyed.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Japan has asserted that the judgment by the ROK Supreme Court is in violation of international law. However, if we look at the comments from the Prime Minister Lee and others from the ROK side, they say this is a historical issue or an issue of national sentiment, and it seems the arguments are different. Will Japan persist in focusing on this as a violation of international law and requesting a response from the ROK side? Are there any thoughts on how to carefully calm this down?

Minister Kono: Because this is a matter of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK, it is not outside the realm of a legal discussion.

Visit to Japan by Vice President Pence of the United States

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomizu: Vice President Pence of the United States will visit Japan next week. What matters between Japan and the United States would you like to discuss? Also, the U.S. midterm election results have generally come out, and it is expected that the confrontation between the Republican and Democratic parties will become even more intense due to the political change. What is your perception of this?

Minister Kono: I would like to have various discussions on matters between Japan and the United States with Vice President Pence. I would like to refrain from commenting on the content. I do not believe it is appropriate to comment on other countries’ elections.

Midterm Elections in the United States

NHK, Koizumi: I would like to ask about developments after the midterm elections in the United States. There are some viewpoints that President Trump has shown a firmer posture on the day after the votes were tallied, including dismissing Attorney General Sessions, with whom he had worsening relations due to the Russia investigation and other matters. There has been much domestic criticism of this as well as demonstrations. What is Japan’s perception of this?

Minister Kono: Because this is a matter regarding a foreign country, I believe it would not be appropriate to give any specific comment.

The ROK Supreme Court’s Judgment Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: An official from the Government of the ROK commented that you should exhibit self-control in response to one of your comments regarding the judgment by the ROK Supreme Court. What is your response to this? Also, were your opening remarks in response to hearing about an influence on municipal, cultural, or sports exchanges from an organization or someone?

Minister Kono: I understand that there have been cases of some influence on exchanges, and I would like for exchanges to firmly continue so that this does not happen. I do not have any particular comment on comments from the ROK side on my own comments.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: At a committee meeting, Prime Minister Abe did not use the phrase “requisitioned civilian workers,” but rather “workers from the Korean Peninsula.” Is it correct to understand that the Government of Japan has decided not to use the phrase “requisitioned civilian workers”?

Minister Kono: The Government of Japan’s understanding is that these plaintiffs were people who applied for work.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: If we look at the minutes of trials the Government of Japan has been involved in until now, we can find defense responses with the phrase “requisitioned civilian workers.” What was the reason for changing the phrase to express that these people applied for work?

Minister Kono: There is nothing beyond that that is the truth.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: Just like in your opening remarks, in your lecture at the end of last week you also stated that there should be no effect on exchanges between people of Japan and the ROK. Are you worried that the decision not to use the word “requisitioned” could send the wrong message to the ROK on the civilian level or send a message that Japan is fixated on history, and thus make exchanges between the people of Japan and the ROK grow more scarce as a result? If you are not worried about that, can you please give the reason?

Minister Kono: The plaintiffs this time were not requisitioned.

Draft Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament

Chugoku Shimbun, Tanaka: There are some media reports this morning on the objection of the United States that led it to abstain from voting on the Draft Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament recently submitted by Japan. In a recent press conference, you referenced that the United States had a differing opinion on the past agreement document of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). What was the specific discrepancy? Also, in the reports this time the U.S. side has stated that bringing up the NPT agreement document is not suited to the current security environment, so what are your thoughts on the points from the United States?

Minister Kono: I believe you are referring to today’s article in the Tokyo Shimbun, and I believe it is well-written. There was a bad article recently, but I believe that today’s article in the Tokyo Shimbun is well-researched and good compared to that one.

I have held various exchanges on how to take up the past agreement document of the NPT between Japan and the United States. Major support was generally received from the United States, but unfortunately in the end a compromise could not be reached on the phrasing.

The United States was a co-sponsoring country last year, so this year the Japanese side wanted the United States to be a co-sponsoring country as well or to receive its approval. However, unfortunately, the United States abstained from voting this time. This was extremely unfortunate, but Japan places great importance on the various decisions on the NPT made in the past, so we would like to continue firm exchanges of views regarding nuclear issues with the United States.

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