Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Thursday, November 22, 2018, 1:41 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Foreign Minister Kono’s Visit to Italy and the Vatican

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I will be visiting Italy and the Vatican from November 23 to 25.

In Italy, I am scheduled to attend the Mediterranean Dialogues. This is the first time a Japanese Foreign Minister will attend this meeting. I intend to convey the views of Japan on achieving stability in the Middle East, a strategic region connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Indo-Pacific. I will hold meetings with government dignitaries of the participating countries and hope to exchange views regarding current Middle Eastern situations and other matters.

In particular, I am going to hold a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi of Italy, which has deep ties with the Mediterranean and North Africa. I believe this will be my second meeting with the Minister. I hope to exchange views regarding cooperation on this region’s stability and further strengthening our bilateral relationship.

In the Vatican, I am scheduled to hold a meeting with Secretary for Relations with States Paul Richard Gallagher. I will seek to further strengthen the relationship between the Vatican and Japan. I also hope to exchange views towards materializing the Pope’s visit to Japan.

Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I have heard that Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov of Russia is also expected to attend the Mediterranean Dialogues. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently held a Japan-Russia summit meeting and will hold another summit meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit. Against this backdrop, are there plans for a meeting between you and the Russian Foreign Minister?

Minister Kono: My understanding is that arrangements are now being made to hold a meeting.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: At the meeting, what items do you hope can be confirmed between the two foreign ministers?

Minister Kono: I expect that we will exchange views regarding current Middle Eastern situations and other matters, and that international and bilateral issues will also be on the agenda.

Japan-Italy Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I have a question regarding bilateral meetings. You stated that you are scheduled to hold a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy. The European Union (EU) has said that Italy’s finances and budget are in breach of EU rules on fiscal discipline, and the clashes between the two sides are becoming more intense. What do you intend to convey at the foreign ministers’ meeting regarding this situation facing Italy, a G7 member and a vital member of the EU?

Minister Kono: Both Japan and the EU are undertaking procedures to obtain approval of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and I expect there will be discussion on the relevant framework of the EU as well as Brexit and Italy’s financial situation. I expect that such matters concerning the EU overall will be on the agenda.

Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask about your meeting with Mr. Lavrov. What will be discussed regarding the Northern Territories issue?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from responding.

Northern Territories Issue

Kyodo News, Saito: My question is in regard to the Northern Territories. Since you responded at today’s meeting of the Committee (on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors) that you will not disclose the views of the Government, I will not ask about the content of the negotiations. I would like to ask about the basic view of the Government. Does the Government view that the Four Northern Islands—the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Habomai, and Shikotan—are an inherent part of the territory of Japan? Secondly, at the Committee meeting, you responded that disclosing the details of the negotiations will undermine national interests. Could you please then explain what you are referring to by national interests that you seek to secure through the negotiations?

Minister Kono: Since we are in the pre-negotiation stage, I would like to refrain from making any comments about the views of the Government.

Plans for Disembarkation on Takeshima by Members of the ROK National Assembly

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: It appears that members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK) have announced that they will disembark on Takeshima on November 26 next week. What responses is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) taking at this point in time? This type of activity has been repeatedly conducted, and each time the Government lodges a protest. At this morning’s joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Division and others concerned of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, some expressed the opinion that the Government better consider measures that would fundamentally prevent disembarkation. Could you please share your thoughts in this regard?

Minister Kono: With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Obuchi-Kim Dae Jung partnership declaration, Japan and the ROK have been discussing developing a new future-oriented relationship. Despite this, there has been a succession of cases that cannot be described as future-oriented, including the issues of shrimp, the Rising Sun flag, disembarkation on Takeshima, the Foundation, the decision by the Supreme Court related to Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula, and the recent response of the ROK in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which neglected the Japan-ROK agreement. In light of this situation, I believe serious thought must be given to the responses that should be taken.

In particular, with regard to disembarkation on Takeshima, since the Government of the ROK or a public body will provide the means of transport, my view is that this cannot be dismissed simply as an issue of National Assembly members disembarking on Takeshima.

Based on such circumstances, I believe we need to fully discuss with the ROK its intentions for the Japan-ROK relationship. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the ROK established a taskforce with the aim of developing a future-oriented relationship. Japan responded to the request and established an advisory council of its own. I think the ROK made a wonderful proposal. However, I do believe that at some point I need to confirm with the ROK what its intentions are for the Japan-ROK relationship.

Announcement by the Government of the ROK on the Dissolution of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation

Kyodo News, Eto: I have a question related to the Japan-ROK relationship. The ROK announced the dissolution of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation yesterday. Could you tell us whether you consider that the dissolution of the Foundation violates the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue and the reasons for your view?

Minister Kono: The Japan-ROK agreement is an international commitment. Japan has fully fulfilled its obligations provided for in the Japan-ROK agreement. The ROK has reiterated that it will not nullify the Japan-ROK agreement, will not seek renegotiations, and will maintain the Japan-ROK agreement. Therefore, we expect that the ROK will take actions to fully implement the Japan-ROK agreement.

Disclosure of Diplomatic Materials

Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: I have a question regarding the disclosure of diplomatic materials. MOFA discloses diplomatic materials every year, and the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also exhibits various materials. The content of diplomatic negotiations concerns national interests, but the materials are still disclosed. What is your view regarding the significance of disclosing such materials?

Minister Kono: We of course cannot reveal our cards before the negotiations. We also believe disclosing the whole content of the negotiations immediately after their completion would cause various difficulties afterwards. However, if considerable time has passed and the negotiations have become history, then we should disclose primary sources from the perspective of fully verifying history. If disclosure could have implications or could have implications in the future, then disclosure of such materials must be refrained until that is no longer the case. If some time has passed and the materials should be verified as historical materials, then we intend to disclose them proactively.

In addition to the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is also the National Archives of Japan. In fact, before I became Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was minister in charge of the National Archives. At that time, a plan emerged to build a new National Archives with a capability to fully exhibit actual archives at the location of the Parliamentary Museum. Various preparations are now being made to this end. While the Diplomatic Archives also exhibits various materials, we hope that the Diplomatic Archives and the National Archives can hold exhibitions jointly. We hope actual archives can be viewed by as many people as possible in a single location for as long as possible. We hope they can be viewed during hours at which people can visit the Archives easily. Therefore, we hope to hold joint exhibitions between the National Archives and the Diplomatic Archives for important exhibitions. There are also institutional issues regarding the future of the National Archives and the Diplomatic Archives. Both carry out restoration work for old documents, and there are various issues such as the training for such skills, inspections, and cost issues. The National Archives and the Diplomatic Archives are now holding discussions on these matters.

APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting

Bloomberg, Reynolds: I wanted to ask about joined leaders’ statements at recent summits. We saw at APEC that there was no leaders’ agreement at the end of it, and the statement from G7 was also rejected by President Trump after the event. How important do you think it is to have agreements by the leaders at these summits?
Some officials in some countries say if there is a disagreement it is better to keep that open. While other people say, if you can agree on anything you should try agree on something and have some kind of statement. So where do you stand on that contrast?

Minister Kono: There was some disagreement among countries at APEC, and PNG as a chair country has been trying to come up with some kind of joint statement. If not, now I understand PNG government is going to issue chairman statement. I think it is preferable to have a joint statement at those meetings by the world leaders. If they cannot agree, there are many other ways to do it. Issuing chairman statement is one of alternatives. So preferably, joint statement that all the leaders agree, if that kind of document is issued, I think that is a great thing. If not, chairman statement could be an alternative.

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