Press Conferences

Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Monday, January 14, 2019, 4:31 p.m. Russian Federation

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

Opening Remarks

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, from around 11 a.m. to around 3 p.m. for approximately four hours, I held a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov, including a working lunch. Today’s consultations were the first round of negotiations to be held on concluding a peace treaty based on the outcomes of the summit meetings in Singapore and Buenos Aires. We discussed at length about the peace treaty issue and made preparations for Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia. We shared the view that the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting on the occasion of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia would be held on the afternoon of January 22.

I would like to refrain from disclosing the details of our consultations regarding the issue of concluding a peace treaty. I can say that serious consultations were carried out upon discussing the concrete views of both Japan and Russia. While this is a difficult issue that has remained unresolved for many years, serious discussions took place based on the two leaders’ determination to put an end to this issue with their own hands.

Specifically, we shared the view that frequent consultations would take place between Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morgulov, and that we, foreign ministers, who are responsible for the negotiations, would confirm the progress of the discussions at each turning point. We shared the view that Senior Deputy Minister Mori and Deputy Minister Morgulov would hold consultations tomorrow, and that Minister Lavrov and I would hold our next meeting on the margins of the Munich Security Conference scheduled in February if both of us attend the meeting.

As I stated, I would like to refrain from disclosing the details of the negotiations. I will say that, during the negotiations, I clearly conveyed Japanese views to Russia, including our views regarding the territorial issue. Russia also conveyed its views in detail. We had serious and candid discussions. We will report the content of today’s discussions to our respective leaders.

In addition, with regard to the economy, Minister Lavrov and I confirmed that, taking into account the discussion at the meeting of the Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues which I chaired last month, steady progress would be made on bilateral economic cooperation, including the Eight-point Cooperation Plan. We also discussed measures for further expanding trade and investment.

Furthermore, we discussed cooperation in the international arena as well, and shared the view that the two countries would continue to maintain close communication. I will now take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Reporter: A short while ago, Minister Lavrov held a press conference and stated that Japan must recognize Russia’s sovereignty to the Northern Territories. The Minister also stated that Japan did not make a clear objection to this. Could you please tell us the facts?

Minister Kono: As I stated, Japan made its assertions clear to Russia, including about the territorial issue. There are of course points on which the two countries do not have a shared view, and we must find common ground in the course of the upcoming consultations. I would like to refrain from commenting on each statement made by Minister Lavrov. I will say that Japan made its assertions clear to Russia on all aspects of this matter.

Reporter: Although you stated that you could not share the content of the discussions, please let me ask about that Russia has always expressed strong concerns over the deployment of the U.S. Forces in the Northern Territories. Could you tell us how Japan sought Russia’s understanding regarding this?

Minister Kono: It was decided that the content would not be disclosed externally, and therefore, I would like to refrain from responding to your question.

Reporter: Could you tell us whether discussion took place on the property rights of former island residents?

Minister Kono: Please forgive me that I will not be responding about the content.

Reporter: What were your impressions or your thoughts regarding the atmosphere of today’s meeting as it was the first round of negotiations?

Minister Kono: It is indeed the case that a peace treaty has not been concluded for more than half a century because of the differences in our positions. The negotiations were commenced based upon a clear agreement made between the leaders to accelerate the negotiations. Therefore, while there are differences in our positions, the two countries held extensive discussions regarding each other’s assertions. I believe we were able to draw up a schedule to some extent, as exemplified from tomorrow’s consultations, Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia, and the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Munich.

Reporter: With regard to the schedule of the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia, you mentioned the afternoon of the 22nd. Is this local time?

Minister Kono: Yes, the afternoon of the 22nd, local time.

Reporter: In Moscow?

Minister Kono: Yes.

Reporter: You stated that you may have a meeting with Minister Lavrov in Munich in February. If a meeting takes place, what will be the main items on the agenda?

Minister Kono: I expect that it will be a continuation of today’s first round of negotiations.

Reporter: My question may be related to the content of the negotiations. You stated that Japan asserted its position in response to Minister Lavrov’s remarks regarding the recognition of history. Is it then correct that Japan maintains the position that the Four Northern Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan?

Minister Kono: Japan made its assertions clear during the consultations.

Reporter: At his press conference just now, Minister Lavrov expressed his view that the term “Northern Territories” should not be utilized. What are your thoughts regarding this?

Minister Kono: There are of course differences in the opinions and assertions of Japan and Russia at this point in time. We hope to find common ground on which the two sides can reach an agreement in the course of the upcoming negotiations.

Reporter: Looking ahead to next week’s Japan-Russia Summit Meeting, could you tell us again what outcomes were achieved from today’s meeting?

Minister Kono: Perhaps it can be said that there was momentum to make steady progress based on the agreement reached between the leaders.

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