Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, December 15, 2018, 6:00 p.m. Doha, State of Qatar
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yesterday, I visited Jordan and held meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi of Jordan and Mr. Bassem Awadallah, former Director of the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, respectively.
During His Majesty King Abdullah II’s visit to Japan last month, Japan and Jordan shared the view on further strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries. Foreign Minister Safadi and I held the first Japan-Jordan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue and held an extensive dialogue regarding the bilateral relationship, the situation in Syria, and the situation in the Middle East including the Middle East Peace Process.
In Qatar, I held meetings with Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed, respectively. We shared the view on further strengthening our comprehensive partnership that extends beyond energy. In addition, I conveyed our appreciation for Qatar’s cooperation with the release of a Japanese journalist. We also held meaningful exchanges of views regarding the issue of termination of diplomatic relations with Qatar and the situation in the Middle East, including Yemen.
In response to an invitation extended by the Government of Qatar, I attended the Doha Forum as the first Japanese Foreign Minister to do so and delivered an address at the closing session on the first day. Following on from my attendance at the Manama Dialogue for the second consecutive year and the Mediterranean Dialogue last month, I was able to share Japan’s views and initiatives towards stability in the Middle East. Attending the meeting has reaffirmed the importance of continuing to speak on these matters.
Furthermore, on the sidelines of today’s Doha Forum, I held meetings with Prime Minister Khaire of Somalia, Minister of Foreign Affairs Melescanu of Romania, and Mr. Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, respectively, and we held meaningful exchanges of views.
I was also able to see and hold talks with President Espinosa of the United Nations General Assembly, Executive Director Fore of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and others. These meetings have reaffirmed that attending international meetings that bring together many dignitaries leads to more efficient or effective diplomatic activities. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: You just stated that during the Japan-Qatar Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, views were exchanged regarding the issue of termination of diplomatic relations with Qatar. Diplomatic relations with Qatar have been terminated since June of last year. What did you convey as the views of Japan?
Minister Kono: We consider that the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is vitally important for the prosperity and stability of this region. Japan maintains extremely good relations with all of the countries that have terminated diplomatic relations with Qatar. In this regard, Japan desires that this issue be resolved peacefully as early as possible through dialogue. I stated that Japan stands ready to do whatever it can to serve as a bridge between Qatar and these countries to this end. We consider that Japan must make such efforts.
Reporter: Has Qatar specifically requested any supports from Japan? Is anything concrete being discussed?
Minister Kono: If there is anything Japan can do to prompt dialogue, we will actively do that. If dialogue between governments is difficult at first, there are also other approaches that can be taken such as Track II. Japan will hold careful talks with various countries to find a way forward.
Reporter: Did Qatar mention what steps it would take if and when Japan makes a proposal regarding the issue of termination of diplomatic relations?
Minister Kono: There seems to be a variety of views in Qatar regarding the issue of termination of diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, the reality is that this issue will likely not be resolved easily and swiftly. That said, no country is benefiting strategically or economically from this situation, and I believe all parties to this issue are aware of this. Under such circumstances, Japan intends to do whatever it can to make progress, one step at a time, while exchanging views with a range of people on how the tangled string can be unraveled and what Japan can do to help.
Reporter: I would like to change the subject to the Republic of Korea (ROK). A delegation of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union has held a meeting with President Moon Jae-in. With regard to the issue of “requisitioned civilian workers,” President Moon Jae-in stated during the meeting that the Government of the ROK plans to allocate enough time to seek a resolution. This suggests that it may take a prolonged period for the ROK to compile response measures. What is your thought on this?
Minister Kono: Japan is asking the ROK to take responses so that unjustifiable damages and costs are not imposed on Japanese companies. We ask the ROK to take responses to ensure that does not happen. I understand that it is difficult to take responses, and my intention is not to rush the ROK. However, we consider that the ROK must take steady responses to ensure that no unjustifiable damages and costs are imposed on Japanese companies.
Reporter: During the same meeting, President Moon Jae-in stated that due to the separation of the three branches of government, the Government of the ROK cannot intervene in the recent Supreme Court decisions and must respect them. What is your view regarding this statement?
Minister Kono: Domestic judicial systems must not be allowed to supersede international law. Ever since Japan and the ROK restored diplomatic relations, the Japan-ROK relationship has been based on the understanding that the issue of claims has been settled completely and finally by the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK. If domestic judicial systems can overturn international agreements and decisions, the foundation of international law would collapse and the legal foundation of the Japan-ROK relationship would collapse. In this light, we ask that the ROK take careful responses.
Reporter: During the same meeting, President Moon Jae-in explained that the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was dissolved because only operational and maintenance costs were being spent. The President also indicated that the ROK would like to hold consultations with Japan to ensure that the remaining amount of the 1 billion yen contributed by the Government of Japan would be spent in line with its intended purpose. What is Japan’s understanding with regard to the ROK’s intentions?
Minister Kono: We intend to accept the request for consultations. President Moon Jae-in stated clearly that the ROK would maintain the Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue, and we expect the ROK to steadily implement the agreement. We have stated from before that Japan intends to accept a request for consultations regarding the remaining funds. If such consultations take place, Japan intends to hold extensive discussion.
Reporter: I would like to change the subject. It has been reported in various newspapers that you will visit Russia in December. It is already mid-December. Is a visit to Russia in December being considered? Could you tell us what arrangements are being made?
Minister Kono: It is up to each news organization to determine what they write, and it is not for me to comment. I have never once stated anything regarding the scheduling of negotiations.