Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, January 18, 2019, 4:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) New Year’s Greeting

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Happy New Year. I hope to receive your ongoing support in this New Year. 2019 will be a busy year with much on the agenda with many foreign dignitaries coming to Japan for events such as the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor, the G20 Summit, Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), and the Rugby World Cup. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will firmly use those opportunities effectively and advance diplomacy.

(2) Minister Kono’s Visits to Russia and Switzerland and the Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Minister Kono: Next week from Monday, January 21, I will accompany Prime Minister Abe to Russia and Davos. I am going to attend the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting in Russia on January 22. The World Economic Forum in Davos is a major conference, and while participating in various sessions, I will have direct exchanges of views with many people. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the ROK will attend, so I am planning to hold a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

(3) Decision on Refugee Resettlement Locations

Minister Kono: Based on the refugee resettlement system, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture has been selected as the resettlement location for 22 people from five families of refugees who came to Japan from Myanmar in September last year. Through resettling the Myanmar refugees in Kobe City, it is expected that understanding of the refugee problem will expand on a national scale. Going forward, if there are any municipalities or companies interested in accepting resettled refugees, I hope you will share that information and notify the MOFA.

Aspirations for this Year

NHK, Okuzumi: This is the first press conference this year, so I would like to ask about your aspirations for this year. In particular, how will you handle the Japan-Russia negotiations on the Japan-Russia peace treaty, Japan-ROK relations, and the various issues with North Korea? Also, your name has come up recently among the public as a candidate for President of the Liberal Democratic Party, so based on that what kind of year would you like to have?

Minister Kono: Since the negotiations on the Japan-Russia peace treaty have begun, I will work hard to conclude it. There are many different pending issues in terms of Japan-ROK relations, but I will work to firmly maintain relations between our countries and quickly resolve these issues.

In regard to North Korea, I will firmly cooperate with the international community and work toward denuclearization and abandonment of missiles of all ranges, as well as resolving the abductions issue.

Japan has now assumed the Presidency of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing, and will firmly show leadership on issues including the funding gap for achieving the SDGs.

I am very grateful for you mentioning being a candidate for President. Becoming Prime Minister someday and realizing the policies you aim for is something that all politicians think about, and I would like to do this someday. But I currently have much work to do, so I will work hard on doing that.

U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting

Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: I would like to ask about the United States and North Korea. A North Korean high official is currently visiting Washington D.C. Can you please explain your expectations for the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting that is expected to be announced soon, and what the Government of Japan would like the United States to request concerning denuclearization and the abductions issue?

Minister Kono: I held a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday morning, but the situation has not changed much. I will cooperate with the international community for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear development and missiles and encourage a just decision.

North Korea’s Requests for Rewards for Denuclearization

Kyodo News, Fukuda: In relation to the question on North Korea just now, North Korea wants its denuclearization to take place in steps and has been requesting rewards for each step. What are the thoughts of the Government of Japan on these requests by North Korea?

Minister Kono: There is no particular change from thus far. It is the shared recognition of the international community that CVID of the nuclear development and missiles is necessary.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov of Russia’s Statement Regarding the Northern Territories Issue and Other Matters in his New Year’s Press Conference

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: You stated earlier that you will accompany Prime Minister Abe on his trip to Russia. You recently held the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and will soon afterwards go to Russia. After the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Foreign Minister Lavrov made statements regarding understanding of history and Russia’s basic stance that were the same as what he said during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. What are your thoughts on this? Also, as the person in charge of negotiations since they have started in earnest, what are your thoughts on what Prime Minister Abe will settle at the upcoming summit meeting, what will be easy to advance as the person in charge, and how you will divide responsibilities and cooperate with Prime Minister Abe?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from speculating about the results of the summit meeting. I will firmly advance negotiations at each juncture as the person in charge, and it is probable that there will be confirmation at the summit meeting as a major juncture. I believe there is no need to comment on each of the statements by the Russian side. We agreed to refrain from having public exchanges outside of the negotiations, so I will sincerely abide by that.


Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to change the subject and ask about ODA. You have had an awareness of the issues of fostering and diversifying NGOs that are in charge of ODA, and proposals have been issued from the discussions of experts. In accordance with the proposals, raising the general management cost to 15% has also been referenced. These proposals are quite diverse, and although there are circumstances for how NGOs have until now been independent of the government, there have been cases when what NGOs wanted to do did not necessarily agree with ODA projects. Can you please give your thoughts on how you will encourage taking part in planning with NGOs and how to support NGOs?

Minister Kono: Speaking of NGOs that conduct ODA projects, in general their management cost has been 5% until now. There have been times when they exceed their budget in conducting projects at a maximum of 15%. Although I do not mean that this would be applied uniformly, but a specific rule is now being created that the maximum increase would be 15%. I do not have any particular comment on NGOs that do not have an interest in ODA projects.

Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: You stated earlier that you have a meeting scheduled next week with Minister Kang. This will be your first meeting since the decision on the former civilian workers, so what in particular would you like to discuss with the ROK side?

Minister Kono: I have held telephone talks with Minister Kang Kyung-wha. This will be my first time meeting her in person this year. In regard to the former civilian workers issue, it is unfortunate that the ROK is in violation of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK and has still not corrected the situation. I will encourage her to quickly correct the situation, and a request has been submitted for a discussion based on the Agreement. This has been accurately conveyed to Japan by the ambassador, and the Government of the ROK is currently conducting considerations, so I would like them to accept having discussions.

There are various issues besides this, but in terms of the issue of North Korea, we must have Japan-U.S. cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. Thus, although there are various other issues with the ROK including the former civilian workers issue, the foundation issue, and the radar lock-on issue, Japan will push the ROK to respond to what it needs to take responsibility for, and we would like the ROK to firmly respond.

The Issue of the Name “Sea of Japan”

Jiji Press, Echigo: In regard to Japan-ROK relations, there is the issue of the ROK requesting international organizations to write the name “East Sea” alongside the Sea of Japan. There are some reports that the International Hydrographic Organization has requested Japan to hold talks with the ROK on this and there are also reports that Japan intends to hold discussions. What are the facts of the matter?

Minister Kono: “Sea of Japan” is the only name recognized around the world, and there is absolutely no need to change this.

Jiji Press, Echigo: Are there any thoughts about accepting discussions with the ROK side?

Minister Kono: There is no particular problem with the name, so I believe there is no need.

Cooperation with Secretary of State Pompeo

Kyodo News, Fukuda: In regard to the earlier question on the United States and North Korea, do you plan to come to a mutual understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo following the discussions between high level officials from the United States and North Korea?

Minister Kono: Japan and the United States are closely cooperating at various levels, so it is like that.

udgment on the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula

NHK, Okuzumi: Returning to the ROK, today there was a judgment on a second trial for Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp and a deadline was presented to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries by supporters. What is your reaction to this? Also, you mentioned bilateral discussions earlier, so with the deadline when will there be a reply, and what are your thoughts on setting a deadline?

Minister Kono: The issue of the former civilian workers continues to be in clear violation of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK, and is not being corrected. I am extremely worried that it is possible that this situation could impose an unjust disadvantage on Japanese companies. I believe that the ROK side must immediately respond within the country. I requested discussions, and I would like such discussions to be accepted as soon as possible.

Statements by Russia Outside the Negotiations

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: In relation to Russia, you stated earlier that there was an agreement to refrain from having exchanges outside the negotiations. Did that happen at the previous Foreign Ministers’ Meeting? What are your thoughts on the Russian side continuing to make statements after that?

Minister Kono: We agreed to have precise discussions at the negotiations. Japan will sincerely abide by what was agreed upon.

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