Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 1:00 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am aware that the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced today its intention to dissolve the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation. This latest announcement is problematic in light of the Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue, and the Government of Japan considers it absolutely unacceptable. The Japan-ROK agreement was discussed between the two foreign ministers, and shortly after reaching the agreement, it was affirmed between the two leaders. It constitutes a pledge by the Government of the ROK, and it must take responsibility to implement the agreement, even if the government has changed. The agreement is highly appreciated by the international community. The Government of the ROK has a responsibility to steadily implement the agreement not only to Japan but also to the international community. The Government of Japan has implemented all measures it committed to under the Japan-ROK agreement, and the international community is closely following the Government of the ROK’s implementation of the agreement. The Government of Japan will continue to urge the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the Japan-ROK agreement. Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Akiba has just fully conveyed Japan’s position, which I have just noted, to Ambassador Lee Su-hoon of the ROK to Japan. I would like to add that the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation has thus far provided funds to 34 of the 47 surviving women and to the families of 58 of the 199 women who had passed away as of the date of the agreement, and that this has been commended by many former comfort women. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: Does the Government of Japan intend to hold consultations with the ROK regarding the handling of the 1 billion yen which the Government contributed for the establishment of the Foundation?
Minister Kono: We will strongly urge the ROK to ensure that the funds are used appropriately for the implementation of the Japan-ROK agreement and are not used in a way that goes against the intentions of the Government of Japan.
Reporter: I would like to confirm one item. In its latest announcement, the ROK touched upon the dissolution of the Foundation but did not mention the revocation of the Japan-ROK agreement itself. At this point in time, is it your view that the Japan-ROK agreement itself is still in effect?
Minister Kono: Ambassador Lee Su-hoon made the position of the ROK clear, which is that it will not revoke the agreement and will not seek renegotiations. The Ambassador then stated that he would convey Japan’s request to the ROK. Therefore, I expect that the two countries will continue to fully adhere to the Japan-ROK agreement, an international commitment. The international community highly appreciates the Japan-ROK agreement. We consider that there is no change in this situation.
Reporter: In response to the dissolution, do you have plans to hold telephone talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha or others?
Minister Kono: The position of Japan has already been conveyed through the ROK Embassy in Tokyo. We believe the Government of the ROK will deal with the situation appropriately.
Reporter: You mentioned “request.” I believe this is slightly different from “protest.”
Minister Kono: The meaning of protest is naturally included.
Reporter: The ROK’s response follows the recent judgment on “requisitioned civilian workers” amidst statements that the two countries seek a future-oriented relationship. What is your outlook regarding the future Japan-ROK relationship?
Minister Kono: It is the most fundamental aspect of surviving in the international community to fully adhere to commitments made between countries that respect the international law. It is extremely critical that the ROK fully adheres to such international commitments in order to secure its standing in the international community. I believe the Government of the ROK is fully aware of this.
Reporter: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK has stated that it wishes to hold consultations with the Government of Japan regarding the future implementation of the Japan-ROK agreement. Will Japan agree to holding consultations?
Minister Kono: We have not yet received any request from the Government of the ROK. We view that the ROK will steadily deal with the situation. If necessary, we stand ready to hold discussions. With regard to the funds, as the Government of Japan contributed the funds in accordance with the Japan-ROK agreement, it should be used for the implementation of the agreement and it must not be used in a way that goes against the intentions of the Government of Japan. That is a major premise of the discussions. Thank you very much.