Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, January 25, 2019, 2:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
NHK, Okuzumi: I have two questions regarding Japan-ROK relations. At the recent Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, in regard to the former civilian workers issue, the ROK side did not make it clear if it applied to discussions based on the Japan-ROK Agreement on the Settlement of Problems. What is your reaction to this response by the ROK?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: It is clear that a dispute has arisen, so I believe that the ROK side engaged in discussions that applied based on the Agreement.
NHK, Okuzumi: I have another similar question. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha of the ROK stated that it was regrettable that the Japan Self-Defense Forces threatened a vessel of the ROK Armed Forces by flying at a low altitude. In addition, the ROK released five images and is stating that the response was conducted properly. What is your reaction and do you have any requests to the Government of the ROK?
Minister Kono: I stated that there was no truth to what the ROK described. The Ministry of Defense of Japan (MOD) is responding to this matter. I believe it was a discussion that the MOD would probably release information and put an end to this issue itself. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is leaving the response to the MOD. But if the need for something related to diplomacy arises, the MOFA will back up the MOD and firmly respond.
U.S.-North Korea Relations
Jiji Press, Echigo: I have a question regarding U.S.-North Korea relations. There was a development in U.S.-North Korea negotiations last week, and it was reported that another Summit Meeting will be held at the end of February. The talks in June last year did not reach a specific path toward denuclearization, so what are your expectations for the second Summit Meeting?
Minister Kono: Currently, I would like to monitor the transition to see how the second Summit Meeting will actually move forward.
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: In relation to this, is there anything you would like to reach a mutual understanding on under the Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation framework in advance of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting? Will the current issues, such as the former civilian workers issue and the radar issue, affect Japan-ROK cooperation on North Korea?
Minister Kono: I discussed meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo at Davos or having a meal together with the G7 Foreign Ministers. However, the U.S. delegation was not able to visit Davos due to the government shutdown, so we held a Japan-U.S. telephone talk instead. I would like to continue Japan-U.S. cooperation going forward.
In addition, during my meeting with Minister Kang, we shared recognition that firm Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation is needed for the North Korea issue, so I believe a Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held if necessary.
Japan-Russia Summit Meeting
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I have two questions. The first is in relation to Japan-Russia relations. After the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting that you also attended, President Putin stated in the press announcement that lengthy, careful work is needed to find conditions that can be accepted by both countries. Prime Minister Abe also indicated his intention to search for a form that can be accepted by both countries, although it will not be simple or easy. As the minister in charge of the negotiations, what route do you think the negotiations will take going forward?
Minister Kono: I do not have anything in particular to add to what both leaders stated.
Situation in Venezuela
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: My second question is related to Venezuela. The President of the National Assembly, a member of the opposition party, pledged to assume the position of acting president of Venezuela, and there are movements one after the other by the United States and others to recognize this. What is Japan’s stance, and what are your thoughts and reaction?
Minister Kono: The situation is that there are two million or more Venezuelans who cannot live in the country and have had to evacuate to neighboring countries, and Japan would like this urgent situation to be improved and corrected. Japan will cooperate with the neighboring countries that are accepting the evacuees and provide as much support as possible. Regarding the Venezuelan political situation, I believe that democracy in accordance with the constitution should be quickly restored, and would like efforts to be made to control the situation.
North Korea’s Denuclearization Process
Kyodo News, Fukuda: In relation to the United States and North Korea, the Government of Japan believes that there needs to be complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) and that denuclearization should not be conducted step-by-step. Is it correct to understand that there is no change to these two points?
Minister Kono: Japan and the United States both completely share the recognition that CVID of all weapons of mass destruction and missiles of all ranges is necessary. Because it is probably physically impossible to complete the entire denuclearization suddenly all at once, I believe there are various processes. However, Japan and the United States share the way of thinking that consideration of lifting sanctions would happen after North Korea takes firm actions, and I believe the international community is completely the same.
Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in February
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: I would like to ask about the recent Japan-Russia Summit Meeting. At the joint press announcement following the Summit Meeting, Prime Minister Abe alluded to the next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and indicated that negotiations would advance. The next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is scheduled for February. What approach will you take when attending the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and what results would you like to achieve?
Minister Kono: It was agreed to hold the next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the same time as the Munich Security Conference, so I believe the meeting will be held there.
Aviation by Patrol Planes of the Maritime Self-Defense Force
Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask about the issue of low-altitude flying. The MOFA responded actively regarding the radar issue. For the low-altitude flying issue this time, is it correct to understand that by leaving this to the MOD, the MOFA will not respond?
Minister Kono: As the radar issue was a technical problem, the MOD and the Ministry of National Defense of the ROK already worked on it. The MOD said that it will release the facts of the recent matter, which will be a final announcement. The MOFA does not have anything in particular to add, but if the need for something related to diplomacy arises, the MOFA will back up the MOD and firmly respond.