Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, November 30, 2018, 12:19 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Young Politics-Oriented Cambodians to Visit Japan

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Ten young politics-oriented Cambodians are going to visit Japan from December 2-8 through the invitation of the Government of Japan.

This visit is the realization of governance support measures for Cambodia as agreed upon at the Japan-Cambodia Summit Meeting on October 8, 2018.

Under the theme of “Japanese multiparty democracy,” the group will attend lectures in Tokyo, visit the House of Representatives, and observe the process of a prefectural assembly election in Ibaraki Prefecture.

I am planned to receive a courtesy call from them on December 3 and have the opportunity to meet them.

Through this visit to Japan, it is expected that the participating young politicians and politics-oriented people, who will lead the future of Cambodia, will enrich their views on Japanese multiparty democracy as reference for the democratic development of their country.

The group is made up of various members, including people from the Cambodian People’s Party (the ruling party), the former Cambodia National Rescue Party, and opposition parties.

(2) Submission of Proposals from the Advisory Board for ODA

Minister Kono: On November 28, the proposals from the Advisory Board for ODA were received.

Amidst the situation of expanding international humanitarian crises, such as the highest number of refugees and evacuees since the end of World War II, I believe that there is a limit to the support thus far in terms of just national public funds.

I believe that there must be discussion on an international level regarding an innovative fundraising mechanism. At the same time, there needs to be diversification of the implementing organizations of ODA within Japan. Instead of just ODA for Africa and others, it should include Japanese private investment, but amidst this, I think there are some implementing systems that are too rigid. There will be discussion based on the content of the proposals, and this will be reflected in the budget.

(3) Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Exchange

Minister Kono: There are some movements among Japan-ROK sister cities to suspend exchanges based on recent incidents. However, there is no need to shut down people-to-people exchanges because of issues between our governments; rather, exchanges should be conducted precisely because of this. I would certainly like the people concerned to continue exchanges, including people-to-people exchanges, sister cities, and sports and culture exchanges.

Although we are waiting for a response by the Government of the ROK, because we are starting to see cases of exchanges being suspended, I expect that the Government of the ROK will make a prompt response.

Judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a question regarding the judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK on the so-called “requisitioned civilian workers.” Within the ROK, some people have been voicing the idea to have a foundation jointly created by the Government of Japan and the Government of the ROK, or a foundation jointly created by companies from Japan and the ROK, to give compensation, as well as an idea to only have Japanese companies participate. Is this something that Japan considers worthy of consideration?

Minister Kono: I have not heard such a proposal.

Jiji Press, Echigo: What would you think if there was such a proposal?

Minister Kono: I have not heard such a proposal, so there is no use in answering.

Suspension of the U.S.-Russia Summit Meeting at the G20 Summit

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask three questions. Firstly, President Trump announced that the U.S.-Russia Summit Meeting at the G20 Summit would be suspended due to the Ukraine issue. Can you please tell us your reaction to this? In relation to this, tensions are rising following the seizure by Russia of Ukrainian Navy ships, so what is your position and reaction to this issue?

Also, in regard to a different matter, at a press conference, His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino raised doubts about using public funds for the Daijosai ceremony. Do you have a reaction to this?

Minister Kono: I am not in the position to give an answer regarding the Daijosai ceremony because it is not within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Regarding the Ukraine issue, Japan expects that it should be calmed down quickly.

In addition, the Government of Japan is not in the position to comment on meetings between third-party countries.

Judgment by the Supreme Court of the ROK Regarding Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to return to the discussion on the ROK. There are reports that consideration is being conducted on impounding the assets of ROK companies in Japan as an opposing measure if a case arose in which the assets of Japanese companies were impounded by the ROK based on the judgment by the Supreme Court. Although you probably do not want to reveal intentions, is such consideration being conducted?

Minister Kono: I believe measures can be taken quickly so the Government of the ROK does not do that.

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: I would also like to ask a question regarding the decision by the ROK Supreme Court. Yesterday, following the judgment, Japan called the Ambassador of the ROK to Japan and issued a protest. On the same day, yesterday, the ROK called Japanese Ambassador to the ROK to issue a protest that the statements by Japanese officials were too extreme. I feel that somehow each side’s actions and claims are not engaged with the other side. What are your thoughts on whether the ROK is truly listening to the claims by the Japanese side regarding the seriousness of the situation?

Minister Kono: It is not true that the Ambassador was called and received a protest. The Ambassador went to the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey a message from Japan. I believe that the Government of the ROK has a good understanding of Japan’s awareness of the issue and the Government’s various positions.

The Ocean Plastics Charter

Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to ask about plastic garbage in the oceans. At the G7 Summit this June, Japan did not sign the Ocean Plastics Charter that aims to eliminate plastic products. How will the Government of Japan work on this issue going forward?

Minister Kono: Plastic garbage in the oceans is one global-scale issue, and has been in focus recently. Japan will take up this issue on occasions such as the G20 Summit next year and hold discussions.

Submission of Proposals from the Advisory Board for ODA

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In relation to the Advisory Board for ODA, as you stated in your opening remarks, you recognize that humanitarian crises are expanding. As implementing organizations are diversified, is it correct to understand that it will mainly be private organizations using funding from the Government to conduct activities for humanitarian responses? And will ODA policies be set up in parallel with that direction going forward? Can you please answer that first?

Minister Kono: Sorry, if that is your understanding, then perhaps you had difficulty with my explanation. Since the end of World War II, the number of refugees and evacuees now is truly soaring and has reached 70 million people, and is predicted to probably grow further. Amidst this, it is said that there is an annual gap of $2.5 trillion from the funding needed in order to achieve the SDGs (this is one calculation amongst various calculations). The governments of various countries use public funds for ODA and other donations to pay for this funding gap, but I believe it is fine to say that this is impossible. In particular, regarding the portion of the funding gap that responds to humanitarian crises, I believe that there is a need to think of slightly creative fundraising methods and have asserted at various international conferences that global discussion on this should be started quickly. As one countermeasure, Japan has proposed an international solidarity levy on exchange transactions. This issue firstly needs to be firmly discussed at international fora.

I am also aware of the issue of the need to diversify the Japanese organizations that implement ODA. This was vigorously discussed at the Advisory Board for ODA this time and proposals were received. I’m sorry if you were confused about this.

Project to Preserve and Restore Important Cultural Properties and other Items

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I apologize for asking a question that concerns a project that my organization is involved with. Yesterday, the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Imperial Household Agency and Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) announced the large-scale Tsumugu Project to preserve and restore Important Cultural Properties and other items and exhibit them next year. One feature of this is that the restored Important Cultural Properties will be digitized and made available to access on a website. Especially in the sense of conveying the charms of Japan to the world, can you please tell us your expectations and impressions about this?

Minister Kono: I would say that you should ask the ACA about this. However, we have held the Japonismes exhibition and conveyed various kinds of Japanese culture at the Japan Houses. If we think about the rising global interest in Japanese culture such as anime and manga, although they are not Important Cultural Properties, I believe it is important that many different people experience various forms of Japanese culture, so please do your best.

Japan-France Summit Meeting

Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: I would like to ask a question about the Japan-France relations. There are reports that President Macron of France is requesting a meeting with Prime Minister Abe, but are those reports true? Also, in relation to that, is there a possibility that the issue of the Nissan and Renault alliance could be a topic of discussion between the governments going forward?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting externally regarding diplomatic exchanges, including requests for meetings from any country. Please ask the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry your second question.

U.S.-China Relations

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about U.S.-China relations and the response by the Government of Japan. Attention is focusing on the meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit. What is your reaction to the current relations and confrontation between the United States and China? Also, what is your recognition of how the Government of Japan will take the helm to spread wisdom toward improving U.S.-China relations and realizing cooperation?

Minister Kono: There are various sides to the confrontation between the United States and China. Since you are asking about the G20 Summit, I will answer particularly about economic and trade relations. It is likely that the effect on globalizing supply chains due to the intensification of the confrontation over trade between the countries with the world’s first and second largest economies will involve companies and make them interested parties. It is possible companies could become involved with the issue while they cannot clearly recognize the effects, so I would like to request a calm response by the United States and China.

Japan believes that this trade issue can be entirely resolved within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. Although I believe that of course there needs to be modernization of the WTO in terms of the digital economy, ecommerce, and more, and utmost efforts should be made for WTO reform, I would like to request a calm response by the United States and China.

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