Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Wednesday, January 9, 2019, 9:40 p.m. Kathmandu, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is my first visit to Nepal, a friendly nation of Japan for many years, as Foreign Minister. This is the first time in approximately seven years that a Japanese Foreign Minister has visited Nepal. Last November, I held a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Gyawali of Nepal during the Minister’s visit to Japan, so today was our second meeting in a span of around two months. This can be construed as a demonstration of the importance Japan attaches to its relationship with the new administration of Nepal. As its friend, Japan has extended supports to Nepal for many years and intends to fully support the initiatives of the Government of Nepal under its “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali” vision. When Foreign Minister Gyawali visited Japan, he visited Japan’s agricultural facilities, including leading-edge facilities. As Japanese Ambassador to Nepal Saigo is from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, I conveyed my hopes that Japanese agricultural technology could be of reference for agricultural development in Nepal.
Tamura City in Fukushima Prefecture, Komagane City in Nagano Prefecture, and Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture have been designated as “host towns” for Nepal for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. In this light, Japan hopes to further deepen sports and regional exchanges with Nepal.
In addition, Foreign Minister Gyawali and I signed today an exchange of notes for revising the appendix to the Japan-Nepal Air Services Agreement. The Government of Japan will work with the Government of Nepal to swiftly resume Nepal Airlines’ direct flights between the two countries. I will now take your questions.
Reporter: First, I would like to ask a question related to Nepal. In connection with foreign human resources, I believe the Government of Japan must exchange documents with the governments of nine countries. The topic of human resources came up in your discussion today. Has the schedule already been set for how to go about these documents?
Minister Kono: In mid-January, personnel will be dispatched from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice of Japan to compile these documents. We hope to have it in document format as quickly as possible and get the process up and running from April 1. As there are slight problems with Japanese language schools, the Japanese Embassy is currently collecting information. The Government of Japan intends to fully address and overcome such problems with the cooperation of the Government of Nepal.
Reporter: Next, I would like to ask a question regarding the relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). I am changing the topic completely. Today, the Government requested consultations in accordance with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK. The ROK may not agree to the consultations. If such is the case, what steps will the Government take going forward?
Minister Kono: Since we received the seizure notice, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs requested consultations to the ROK Ambassador in Tokyo matter-of-factly. With regard to our response going forward, I am aware that a meeting of relevant ministers was convoked, and a variety of discussions took place. We requested consultations as it has become clear that there is a dispute in connection with the Agreement. We believe that the Government of the ROK would agree to the consultations.
Reporter: There was a case in the past in which the ROK requested consultations in accordance with the Agreement, and Japan did not agree to the consultations, stating its position that all matters had been settled. Conversely, it is plausible that the ROK would not agree to the consultations.
Minister Kono: When consultations were requested previously, the matter had been settled completely and finally in accordance with the Agreement. This time, however, there is clearly a dispute. We therefore view that the Government of the ROK would agree to the consultations in accordance with the Agreement.
Reporter: I have a follow-up question regarding the Japan-ROK relationship. President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to give a New Year’s press conference tomorrow. Basically you have stated up to now that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon is addressing this matter by establishing a taskforce and that you would be following the ROK’s response measures. As President Moon Jae-in has not commented on this matter, attention is being focused on what the President will say. What are your thoughts regarding the President’s New Year’s press conference tomorrow?
Minister Kono: I have to first hear what the President has to say. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon has been considering various response measures to this matter. Given the situation that is now at hand, we would like the ROK to implement response measures as quickly as possible.
Reporter: Mr. Lee Nak-yon is Prime Minister, while Mr. Moon Jae-in is President. Do you have any hopes that the President will make forward-looking remarks of some kind?
Minister Kono: Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon has been considering response measures under the President’s order, so there is no change. We would like the ROK to implement response measures at the earliest possible date and fully ensure that unjustifiable damages and costs are not inflicted on the Japanese company.