Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, November 29, 2018, 5:13 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: When I was studying at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Mr. Kim Dae-jung, who later became President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), happened to live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and I had meals at Mr. Kim Dae-jung’s residence. My father and my great uncle Kenzo Kono had been longtime acquaintances of President Kim Dae-jung. So while I was in Washington, D.C., I had opportunities to have such direct contact with Mr. Kim Dae-jung who went on to become President. Subsequently, President Kim Dae-jung and Prime Minister Obuchi announced the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration on “A New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century” based on the view that Japan and the ROK must not let a few decades ruin their history that spans 1,500 years. Japan, too, hopes to continue to maintain the long-lasting relationship between Japan and the ROK in an amicable manner. This is precisely why based on talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha since the beginning of this year, a taskforce and an advisory council were established to develop the the Japan-ROK relations into a future-oriented one. The taskforce and the advisory council have each held discussions and their members have also held discussions with each other. Despite the talk about developing a future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship, regrettably the ROK has engaged in various acts that go against developing such a relationship, including the shrimp matter, the Rising Sun flag matter, the disembarkation of members of the Takeshima defense corps or the National Assembly on Takeshima, and activities at sea. I have to say this is extremely regrettable. In particular, with regard to the Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue, Japan has implemented its obligations under the agreement in good faith. We would like the ROK to fully implement the Japan-ROK agreement in good faith. Not only Japan but also the international community highly values this Japan-ROK agreement, and the international community is closely monitoring the ROK’s full implementation of the agreement. Such issues between Japan and the ROK, however, and the previous and the latest decisions by the Supreme Court are of an entirely different order. That is to say, the decisions completely overthrow the most fundamental legal foundation of the Japan-ROK relationship that has been developed since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1965. The decisions are a breach of international law and will consequently make it difficult to maintain our relationship. The Government of the ROK must take swift measures to remedy this situation. I have stated this ever since the Supreme Court gave out its first decision, as the Government of the ROK must first and foremost fully recognize that going against the previous intentions of the two countries to develop a future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship is a critical matter that will have unimaginable consequences on the bilateral relationship. This is not a matter of the Japanese Foreign Minister making harsh statements or not. As someone who wishes to maintain the relationship between the two countries, it is extremely worrisome that the most fundamental legal foundation of our relationship since the normalization of diplomatic relations has been overthrown and that the Government of the ROK has taken no measures to date. We would like the Government of the ROK to take remedial measures as quickly as possible. Japan wishes to continue to fully maintain the Japan-ROK relationship. If the Government of the ROK does not take measures, the Government of Japan will have to seek consultations, arbitration, or international adjudication based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK. We ask the ROK to fully understand this situation and take remedial measures.
Reporter: You mentioned in your remarks just now that you would like the ROK to take remedial measures as quickly as possible. It will be one month tomorrow since the Supreme Court made the previous decision. Yet the Government of the ROK still has not taken concrete responses. Could I ask for your comments regarding this? In addition, could you tell us how long Japan will wait for the ROK’s responses?
Minister Kono: In the case it is actually difficult to take measures of any kind, if the Government of the ROK sends a message that it intends to fully address the situation, then we stand ready to wait as long as necessary. However, we cannot leave the situation in limbo without knowing whether the Government of the ROK intends to remedy the situation. I would like to refrain from commenting now and here on Japan’s intentions as to how long we will wait. We would like the ROK to fully understand this situation.
Reporter: Your statement released today contains the wording “counter measures” in the context of “international adjudication and counter measures.” What exactly do you have in mind by “counter measures”? Could you please share your thoughts?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from revealing Japan’s intentions. We hope that the ROK will take remedial measures before it comes to such a situation.
Reporter: You have stated that the announcement regarding the dissolution of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation as well as the two Supreme Court decisions are unacceptable. Could you once again explain your hopes for the Japan-ROK relationship and how you intend to improve it?
Minister Kono: Since around the beginning of this year, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha and I have held numerous talks on developing a future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship. Japan launched an advisory council, and I attended every meeting from start to finish. Members of the Japanese advisory council have also gone to the ROK to exchange mutual views. I myself was very pleased that the Japan-ROK relationship could take a further step forward on this milestone year of the 20th anniversary of the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration. My grandfather Ichiro Kono and my father have been engaged in Japan-ROK issues. In this sense, this relationship has great significance for me personally. I, together with House of Councillors member Ichita Yamamoto and others, have held Japan-ROK parliamentary exchanges from some time ago. It is very regrettable and disappointing that the recent events come at a time when I have been appointed Foreign Minister and intended to further advance a new diplomatic relationship between Japan and the ROK. It is my wish that the Government of the ROK fully recognizes the importance of the Japan-ROK relationship and takes proper responses.