Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, January 29, 2019, 5:38 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Situation in Venezuela
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask about Japan’s position on the situation in Venezuela. Recently U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton made a statement that seemed to hint at a military intervention when he said, “All options are on the table.” On the other hand, countries such as Russia have opposed this by saying it would be an unjust intervention by the United States, and it seems this has aspects of becoming an international issue. You also indicated your worries about the current situation at the recent press conference. Can you please explain Japan’s position in terms of supporting the president or interim president, and what actions you think Japan should take to improve the current situation?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I believe that the current situation in Venezuela is highly irregular, that it is an urgent matter for Venezuela to restore democracy in accordance with the country’s constitution. Amidst the situation, over two million Venezuelan citizens have evacuated, so to speak, to neighboring countries, and they could also be called refugees. Japan places great importance on the support provided by those neighboring countries. Japan will firmly support the neighboring countries, and at the same time believes that it is of the utmost importance to precisely create a situation in which the two million citizens can quickly return to Venezuela. Japan will place extreme importance on this issue and monitor the political situation.
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to confirm this again about Venezuela. Many countries are declaring their support and recognition one after the other. Is Japan not considering declaring its support or recognition for one of the sides?
Minister Kono: Japan believes that it is important for democracy to be restored in accordance with the constitution of Venezuela.
The Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s Decision to Revoke Permission for Establishment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: The Government of the ROK has given notification that the permission for establishment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation has been revoked. Japan has been requesting steady implementation of the agreement between Japan and the ROK until now. How does the Government of Japan plan to respond to this notification? Has it already made any response?
Minister Kono: It is my understanding that the Government of the ROK will continue to respect the Japan-ROK agreement. The activities of the Foundation are an important part of the Japan-ROK agreement, so I would like the Government of the ROK to continue to firmly implement the agreement.
Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: In relation to the ROK, three weeks have already passed since Japan requested intergovernmental negotiations for the litigation on the former civilian workers issue, but the ROK has not responded. In terms of the response going forward, how long does Japan intent to wait?
Minister Kono: I believe the Government of the ROK is responding quietly with negotiations based on the Japan-ROK Agreement on the Settlement of Problems.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to ask about the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting scheduled for the end of February. The U.S. Government is asserting that verifiable report list is necessary to realize complete denuclearization. What is your current recognition?
Minister Kono: Nothing has changed in particular.
Prime Minister Abe’s Policy Speech
Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about Prime Minister Abe’s policy speech. He pointed out, “The security environment surrounding Japan has drastically changed. And at this moment, the reality is that the severity and uncertainty are increasing at an unprecedented speed.” On the other hand, he stated that the vital Japan-U.S. Alliance “is now one of unprecedented strength,” that Japan-China relations were “fully returned to their ‘normal path,’” that “peace treaty negotiations will be accelerated based on the relationship of trust between the two leaders” in regard to Japan-Russia relations, and in regard to Japan-North Korea relations that he “will directly meet Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” This can be perceived as giving the impression that diplomacy and the security environment are improving.
What I would like to ask is if you share the recognition as stated by Prime Minister Abe that “severity and uncertainty are increasing at an unprecedented speed.” If you share it, can you please give your view on what is being referred to as having severity and uncertainty increasing at an unprecedented speed?
Minister Kono: There are various ongoing situations, including that the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development still exists, and the issue of the INF Treaty between the United States and Russia. Amidst such a rapid speed in which situations are changing around the world, I believe Prime Minister Abe was stating the determination that Japan must do what is necessary to firmly protect the country.
Middle East Diplomacy
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: You have previously mentioned the “Four Principles” in regard to Middle East diplomacy, and have also raised strengthening political initiatives. Right now, while Emir Tamim of the State of Qatar is currently visiting Japan, Qatar still has friction with neighboring countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. What initiatives does Japan plan to undertake going forward in regard to this?
In addition, Secretary of State Pompeo stated recently that an international conference on Iran would be held in Warsaw. Does Japan currently intend to participate? Also, Secretary of State Pompeo has made statements that the United States will permit a hardline policy on Iran. Neighboring countries, European countries, and others have indicated some worries about this, so what are your thoughts on what the significance of this conference should be?
Minister Kono: I heard about this conference from Secretary of State Pompeo. However, I have not heard the details of the content yet, so I would like to conduct considerations once I hear the content. The Diet Budget Committee would also be involved, so I would like to conduct considerations including on what form Japan’s attendance might take.
I recently signed a memorandum for the Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue with Qatar, and it was decided to start a Strategic Dialogue with Qatar. I would like to hold the first one at the earliest stage possible. In regard to the issue of fractured relations, with the many efforts of the Government of Kuwait, Japan has until now stated that it will always provide support. In cooperation with the Government of Kuwait, Japan will firmly do what we can in regard to fractured relations.
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: At the present point, have you not heard from Secretary of State Pompeo about the specific aim?
Minister Kono: I have heard that a meeting regarding the Middle East will be held. It has been discussed that if Secretary of State Pompeo comes to Munich, we will hold the meeting that we could not hold at Davos. However, this would start with the Budget Committee in Japan, so I would like to conduct considerations going forward on what form the response will take in Warsaw.