Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 2:38 p.m.   Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Japan-Russia Summit Meeting

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask a question concerning negotiation between Japan and Russia. This morning when you answered questions from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors, you mentioned that it was government policy to refrain from explaining government policy, as it was not good that it became a comments game while being quoted by the both Japanese and international media Can you please confirm if it is the policy of the entire government to refrain from commenting on all policies, and explain the reason for adopting such a policy?

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Prime Minister Abe and President Putin agreed to accelerate negotiations on the peace treaty between Japan and Russia going forward, and negotiations are about to begin. The Government of Japan will carefully convey its positions to Russia at the negotiations. But making various comments outside the negotiations would naturally elicit reactions from Russia, and we believe that would not contribute to the negotiations. Thus, it is the Government’s policy to refrain from commenting on our positions outside the negotiations.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: At the present time, for example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website still publishes explanatory materials on the current details and policies on pages titled “Japanese Territory: Northern Territories.” Will those materials continue to remain on the website? Do you believe that the material already made public regarding the Government’s policy and recognition will remain on the website?

Minister Kono: There is no change to the Government’s legal position.

Kyodo News, Saito: This was also asked in the previous question, but if you open the MOFA website, the basic position of the Government of Japan regarding the Northern Territories is clearly written. If they looked at the pages, many scholars, teachers, students, and regular people would probably interpret them to explain the Government’s position now. Is there a problem with that? If you are not using what is written on the website as the reason for negotiations, then there is a discrepancy between what is written and your answer to the House of Councillors. Are you considering dealing with the handling of the website and publications up until now?

Minister Kono: There is no change to the Government’s legal position.

G7 Foreign Ministers' Statement on Recent Events Near the Kerch Strait

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: The G7 foreign ministers’ statement released on November 30 states regarding the Russia and Ukraine issue that there is no justification for Russia’s use of military force. Japan is also a member of the G7, so is it correct to understand that Japan holds the same position on this issue? Also, will there be no effect from the Russia and Ukraine issue on the negotiations between Japan and Russia, and will they proceed?

Minister Kono: It is as written in the G7 statement.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: As my second question, how do you perceive the negotiations between Japan and Russia, and the Ukraine issue?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from stating my position regarding the negotiations.

Japan-Russia Summit Meeting

Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: Three days have passed, and you have become the person in charge of the negotiations on the peace treaty at the Japan-Russia summit meeting. Once again, what is your reaction to becoming the person in charge?

Minister Kono: Based on the Government of Japan’s basic position of resolving the territories issue and concluding a peace treaty, I will steadfastly conduct negotiations.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations (Judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula)

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to change the subject and ask about the ROK. In regard to the judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK regarding former workers from the Korean Peninsula, today the plaintiffs’ lawyers paid a visit to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation continuing on from last month. Although a meeting was denied, they requested in writing that the company respond with a consultation by December 24 or indicate a reply. Can you please explain again your reaction, Japan’s position on the judgment, and what you would like to request of the Government of the ROK?

Minister Kono: I do not have any particular comment. Japan’s position regarding the judgment is as I have repeatedly stated until now.

Japan-ROK Relations (Statement by President Moon Jae-in at a Meeting on a Plane)

Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: Yesterday, President Moon Jae-in stated in regard to Japan-ROK relations that cooperative relations should continue. What do you think of this? Is there no change to the policy to seize assets from the ROK if the assets of Mitsubishi and Nippon Steel Corporation are seized?

Minister Kono: I do not have anything in particular to say regarding the comment by President Moon to reporters from the ROK. Japan has requested the ROK to swiftly correct the current situation that is illegal under international law. Your final question is based on incorrect information.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: At a recent press conference, I think I remember that you stated that you need to confirm with the ROK side how to conduct Japan-ROK relations going forward. Several days have passed since then and I believe working-level exchange has continued. Have you confirmed anything regarding the intentions of the ROK, and how do you plan to confirm this in a public place that we can see?

Minister Kono: I am not urging the ROK to confirm anything in a public place. I would like to refrain from saying anything beyond that.

Reports Regarding the Construction Plan for the Nuclear Power Plant in Turkey

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: There are some reports that the nuclear power plant plan with Turkey has been abandoned. Can you please share the status of the plan and your reaction, if you have one?

Minister Kono: My understanding is that the companies from the Japanese side conducted a feasibility study on the power plant in Turkey, submitted it to the Turkish side, and consultations are now being conducted. I cannot confirm whether the plan has actually been abandoned now, so I cannot comment. However, I am aware that the numbers from the feasibility study have already been conveyed to the Turkish side.

Continuation of Taiwan’s Import Restrictions on Food Products from Five Prefectures Including Fukushima

Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Li: I would like to ask a question in relation to agricultural products from Fukushima Prefecture in Taiwan. A referendum was conducted in Taiwan, and the result was to continue import restrictions on food products from Japan. There are reports that you stated in a recent address that you would consider presenting a case to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Can you please explain your thoughts in a little more detail?

Minister Kono: It is my understanding that import restrictions on food products should be decided on a scientific basis. What I can say is that the Government of Japan is not ruling out any options for our response going forward.

Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Li: In relation to that, many reports have come out that say you are considering presenting a case to the WTO. Are these reports correct or incorrect?

Minister Kono: What I can say is that the Government of Japan is not ruling out any options.

Evaluation of the Trump Administration

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: Having looked at the series of statements to the ROK and the Government’s response, it is my impression that Japan is troubled when international agreements are not precisely upheld, and when they are overturned with an administration change, and that Japan has the stance that associating with such countries is quite difficult. The Trump administration in the United States has withdrawn from various international arrangements and agreements made by the previous administration one after the other, so from the perspective that you have stated, how do you view the diplomatic posture of the Trump administration?

Minister Kono: We have been able to have extremely close cooperation on the North Korean issue, the biggest threat to Japan, through Japan-U.S. relations and Japan-U.S.-ROK relations. In that sense, I believe that the United States is a reliable partner.