Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Sunday, February 10, 2019, 6:28 p.m. Davao, Philippines
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting Davao, the hometown of President Duterte and a city with strong historical ties to Japan, for the first time since I became Foreign Minister. The Mindanao Peace Process has made progress. Seizing this opportunity, I hope to make this visit an occasion for further strengthening Japan’s collaboration with the Duterte administration and further deepening Japan’s cooperation with the Philippines, a “strategic partner” with which we share basic values.
During this visit to Davao, I was able to hold substantive meetings with President Duterte as well as key ministers, including Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin, Secretary of Finance Dominguez, and Secretary of National Defense Lorenzana, respectively. President Duterte has described the relationship between Japan and the Philippines as the “golden age” of the strategic partnership, and I agree it can indeed be called the “golden age.”
At my bilateral meeting with Secretary Locsin, we discussed the bilateral relationship and issues such as North Korea and the South China Sea. In addition, through my meetings with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of National Defense, we shared the view that Japan-Philippines cooperation was deepening in a wide range of areas, including cooperation on infrastructure and security.
With regard to the Mindanao Peace Process, Japan would like to seize the opportunity of the progress made in the Peace Process and extend full cooperation based on the progress. The Philippines once again expressed appreciation towards Japan’s posture. In particular, at my meeting with Chairman Murad, I stated that Japan intends to continue its consistent supports for the Peace Process, and I believe there was great significance in being able to communicate this directly to the Chairman. Chairman Murad expressed hopes for Japanese assistance in areas such as healthcare and education, and so we will give serious consideration to such assistance.
Furthermore, this morning, I visited Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai International School and Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku and received a warm welcome from kindergarteners to university students studying the Japanese language. I was very moved by their welcome. It is truly wonderful that Japanese language and culture education has been sustained in this region over many generations independently through local efforts. It was great to see that the Japanese language is being promoted or that Japanese-style education based on the Japanese language has taken root in this region, and moreover, that this has been sustained through the initiative and efforts of the local people, rather than assistance from Japan. It was explained to me that those who received such education are providing supports for students who have succeeded them. This is truly wonderful.
Following this press conference, I will attend the commemorative ceremony for the opening of the Consulate-General of Japan in Davao. I believe the ceremony will also be attended by Philippine officials, including Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin, Secretary of Finance Dominguez, and President Duterte’s daughter, Ms. Sara Duterte, Mayor of Davao. With the opening of the Consulate-General, Japan looks forward to further deepening its relationship with Davao, the hometown of President Duterte and a city with strong historical ties to Japan, and with the region centered around Davao.
Reporter: I would like to ask the meaning behind Japan’s involvement in the Mindanao Peace Process. There continues to be a succession of bombing and other incidents that are deemed to be terrorist attacks in this region. Why is stability in this region necessary for the security and safety of Japan?
Minister Kono: First of all, Mindanao has extremely deep historical ties to Japan and has various potential for economic development, including natural resources. On the other hand, a struggle for independence has long continued. Mindanao has also been subject to the effects of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Considering the effects of ISIL, including the Marawi incident, we believe stamping out the effects of violent extremism in this region would lead to improving security in Southeast Asia, and by extension, combatting terrorism and improving security in Asia, including Japan. In this regard, supporting the economic development of Mindanao so that people in this region can benefit from the fruits of peace through the Peace Process is critical for combatting terrorism in Japan, ahead of the series of important diplomatic events coming up this year, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, and the Osaka World Expo in 2025.
Reporter: I have one more question related to this region. China opened a consulate-general in Davao before Japan and is strengthening its involvement in the Philippines. Will Japan and China be working together to support the Philippines, or will Japan and China keep each other in check to some extent?
Minister Kono: There is plenty of room to consider Japan-China cooperation on quality infrastructure, if such an infrastructure project maintains transparency and openness and is economical throughout its entire life cycle also in terms of Philippine debt. Today, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin and I discussed a variety of matters and shared the view that Japan and the Philippines would cooperate with each other in a variety of areas and take joint steps diplomatically over the North Korean and South China Sea issues. For the peace and economic prosperity of Asia as a whole, Japan will work with various countries to maintain economic growth and political stability that fully secures international order.
Reporter: I have a question regarding a different matter. U.S.-North Korea working level consultations will be held again next week ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting at the end of this month. Arrangements are being made until the very end. In the lead-up to the meeting, can you once again tell us what is Japan’s No. 1 request to the parties, the United States in particular?
Minister Kono: Japan and the United States constantly exchange views regarding North Korean issues, and we are monolithic, including on the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of all types of weapons of destruction, including nuclear weapons, and missiles of all ranges possessed by North Korea. In addition, the United States, including President Trump, has a full understanding of the abductions issue. We hope that the meeting will lead to outcomes such as launching consultations between Japan and North Korea towards the resolution of the abductions issue.
Reporter: It has been announced that the meeting will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi was requested by North Korea, and I believe it can be said that the United States compromised on the city. Ahead of the negotiations, concerns have arisen that the negotiations would proceed at North Korean pace and that the United States would be making compromises. What and how will Japan be making requests to the United States in this regard?
Minister Kono: The United States will not compromise at all on any North Korean requests. The host country, Vietnam, is a country that has achieved considerable economic development by opening its doors to the world while continuing the one party rule by the communist party. Our objective was for Chairman Kim Jong-un to witness this economic development firsthand. We consider that the original objective was achieved, which was for North Korea to see that Vietnam was able to achieve economic development by making a correct decision while having a similar type of regime as North Korea, and recognize the importance of making a correct decision.
Reporter: This objective is shared between Japan and the United States?
Minister Kono: Yes.
Reporter: After Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin was appointed, have there been any changes in the Philippines’ posture towards China in relation to the South China Sea?
Minister Kono: The Philippines will serve as the coordinator country of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations. I exchanged various views with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin today, including about the regional situation. The exchange of views took place based on the Philippines’ explanation of its views and position, including the ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea. With regard to the South China Sea and other issues, we were able to share the view on the importance of the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law.
Reporter: My question is in regard to the Japan-ROK relationship. The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK) reportedly stated that the issue of the ROK’s perception of history would be resolved if the Prime Minister or His Majesty the Emperor makes an apology. What is your view regarding such statements and moves within the ROK amid Japan’s requests to the ROK for discussions based on the Japan-ROK Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation?Minister Kono: With regard to this matter, the secretarial office of the Speaker immediately issued a statement stating that the Speaker’s remarks have been reported in a way that was not originally intended. We also received an explanation from the ROK Government regarding this matter. Caution should be paid when making remarks. We consider that this issue has been settled completely and finally by the Japan-ROK Agreement. The ROK has stated that it does not request a renegotiation or anything else, and so we hope the ROK will make remarks based on a correct understanding from now on.
Reporter: Is there no change in the status of the ROK’s response regarding the discussions?
Minister Kono: We expect that the ROK would give consideration and engage in discussions that applied.