Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 1:39 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Search Service for the Historical Documents in the Collection of the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On December 10, the internet search service will begin for the historical documents in the collection of the Diplomatic Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). By accessing the homepage of the Diplomatic Archives, users are now able to use keywords and various search criteria to look up historic information from the end of the Tokugawa period to the postwar period after World War II.

In addition, as part of the project for the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, the Diplomatic Archives’ sovereign letters and personal letters received by Japan during the end of the Tokugawa period, the Meiji period, and the Taisho period will be digitized, and users will be able to view images of them using the search system.

It is possible for people in and outside Japan to freely view the materials. It is possible to search using keywords such as the name of the material, the date of the transfer, the date the diplomatic record was opened to the public, etc. from among all the 108,000 materials of the Diplomatic Archives that cover from the end of the Tokugawa period to the postwar period after World War II. It is possible to access this with a computer, tablet, or smartphone that is connected to the internet.

In addition, currently the Diplomatic Archives is only open on weekdays, but a request is being made for the next fiscal year’s budget for personnel costs, etc. so that it can be open on Saturdays starting next fiscal year. We actually want it to be open on Saturdays and Sundays as quickly as possible, but for now we will aim to have it open on Saturdays.

Postponement of the Vote in the United Kingdom on the Agreement for Withdrawal from the European Union

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question regarding the United Kingdom (UK)’s withdrawal agreement from the European Union (EU). The vote scheduled for December 11 in the U.K. Parliament has been postponed. What is your reaction and how do you hope this will progress going forward?

Minister Kono: I was a little surprised when I heard about the postponement of the vote. I believe that perhaps it was difficult to gain suitable support. However, in any event, Japan strongly requests the UK and the EU to not have a withdrawal without an agreement. Predictability and legal stability of Brexit are essential for Japanese companies in the UK, so we would like to request the respective efforts of the UK side and the EU side to precisely maintain and ensure these aspects.

The United States’ Independent Sanctions on North Korea

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: The US Department of the Treasury announced that the Presidium of the Workers' Party of Korea and others would be subject to sanctions, citing the human rights issue and other issues as the reason. What is your reaction and how will Japan respond?

Minister Kono: Through my exchanges with the United States until now, I am aware that the United States is conducting various considerations about human rights in North Korea. Japan will respond while firmly considering what we can optimally do to resolve the abductions issue and the nuclear and missiles issue, and continue to closely cooperate with the United States.

MOFA’s Budget for the Next Fiscal Year

Kyodo News, Fukuda: The negotiations on the FY2019 budget are reaching the final stage. Can you please explain again the importance of the core budgets, including your visits to foreign countries?

Minister Kono: Amidst much progress in internationalization, I believe it is necessary to have a budget that enables movement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as MOFA personnel. We have firmly accumulated a record of various strategic partnerships and policy dialogues with various countries, so I believe it goes without saying that there is a need for a practical budget, including for travel expenses for this.

In addition, various international events will take place during the next fiscal year, including Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), the G20 Summit, and the Emperor’s Enthronement Ceremony, which must be perfectly accounted for. The G20 Summit and the Enthronement Ceremony will be “one-shot” budget requests. I would like the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to understand what is necessary for firmly conducting diplomacy going forward. The budget needs to be compiled, so in these next few days I will work hard on this.

Japan-Russia Relations

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a question regarding Japan-Russia relations. Recently, Foreign Minister Lavrov stated in regard to concluding a peace treaty between Japan and Russia that the first step would be Japan recognizing the result of World War II. What is your reaction to this statement?

Minister Kono: Next question, please.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask a question in relation to this. Even when answering questions in the Diet, you said you would refrain from making any comments about Japan-Russia relations because they would not contribute to the negotiations. However, the Russia side has made various statements on its general position, including Foreign Minister Lavrov, Russian Spokesman Peskov, and others. Is it correct to understand that you have no intention of publicly objecting to this?

Minister Kono: Next question, please.

Kyodo News, Tanaka: Continuing on with a related question, I believe that until now you have given controlled or restrained statements because you want to maintain a good environment, but on the other hand the Russia side has steadily given statements like this so far. There has been an unbalanced situation from the start and I believe there are concerns that there has been an influence on the actual discussions, so can you please give your thoughts concerning this point?

Minister Kono: Next question, please.

Kyodo News, Saito: Why do you keep answering our questions with, “Next question, please”?

Minister Kono: Next question, please.

MOFA’s System for Golden Week with 10 Consecutive Holidays

TV Asahi, Anzai: I would like to ask about Golden Week next May that will have 10 consecutive holidays. For my first question, I believe people vacationing abroad will increase, so how is the MOFA system being considered? At the same time, as you stated earlier, next year there will be various international events such as TICAD and the G20 Summit, but how will there be a response on workstyle reform for MOFA personnel? Please answer those two questions.

Minister Kono: I believe that next year will probably be the first time ever to have 10 consecutive holidays, although probably in the past there were nine consecutive holidays perhaps during the New Year’s holiday period. I predict that with such a period of continued vacation, naturally there will be an increase of people who want to go abroad. Because each person must firmly make efforts for ensuring his or her safety, such as registering with MOFA’s Overseas Travel Registration (Tabi-Regi), MOFA will certainly request registration with Tabi-Regi which is for people who will go abroad. Also, Japanese diplomatic missions overseas will firmly respond during this period so that Japanese nationals do not become involved in accidents or incidents.

Next year, government officials from various countries will visit Japan for TICAD, the G20 Summit, the Enthronement Ceremony, and the Rugby World Cup. I believe that MOFA will be quite busy in terms of personnel for acceptance at such major international projects. Currently various considerations are being conducted for countermeasures. I believe that there are some portions for which a response exceeding the exchange until now is needed, so currently considerations are being earnestly conducted.

I have had various exchanges with the MOF regarding financial aspects. The personnel response will be postponed a little while, probably until early next year. I will announce what I want to do at a certain stage.

Japan-Russia Relations

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: Earlier, you answered, “Next question, please” in response to questions about Russia. Although we understand your previous position, do you think it is appropriate to give such an answer to a question publicly? What do you think?

Minister Kono: I would like to firmly arrange an environment oriented toward the negotiations.

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