Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:43 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in the Philippines
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Tonight, on February 22, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is planned to be established in the Philippines. I would like to wholeheartedly welcome this on behalf of the Government of Japan. I believe this is an important milestone that shows the major progress of the Mindanao peace process.
I believe that it is critically important to ensure that this progress in the peace process leads to a visible improvement in the living conditions of the people of Mindanao. Thus, Japan, as a partner that has been consistently supporting the peace process for more than ten years, intends to seize this opportunity to further strengthen its support for Mindanao.
Tonight, the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will take their oaths. After the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is established, I would like to have an official Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
(2) The Election of Judges for the International Court of Justice (ICJ): Support for the Candidacy of Professor Yuji Iwasawa
Minister Kono: The Government of Japan has decided to present the candidacy of Professor Yuji Iwasawa, incumbent Judge of the ICJ, for the election of judges for the ICJ scheduled to be held at the United Nations in the fall of 2020.
Judge Iwasawa is an internationally recognized authority on international law with considerable work experience. Since he became a judge of the ICJ following the result of the special election in June 2018, he has worked vigorously in his professional duties, and I believe he is the most qualified Japanese candidate.
Japan, which places importance on the rule of law in the international community, believes it is important for a Japanese judge to continue to contribute to the activities of the ICJ, and will exert all efforts toward the reelection of Judge Iwasawa.
The voting for this election will take place in both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council, and requires an absolute majority of votes for both. As I also stated during my foreign policy speech, with the policy of "no country shall be left behind," I will actively continue diplomacy going forward.
(3) Japan International MANGA Award Ceremony and Reception
Minister Kono: On February 26, the 12th Japan International MANGA Award Ceremony and reception will be held at the Iikura Guest House.
The four works selected for the Gold Award and the Silver Award are highly excellent for their drawings, composition, diverse outlooks, and depictions of the facets of human life, although maybe that’s an exaggeration. Manga spurs increased worldwide interest in Japanese culture and Japanese language, particularly among young people, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will continue to contribute to the spread of manga culture overseas and international cultural exchange through manga from the significance of increasing interest in manga.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Regarding the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting this time, the Government of Japan has taken the position that sanctions should be precisely implemented and maintained. On the other hand, recently during a telephone talk, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK) told President Trump that there are preparations to conduct North-South economic cooperation. This would necessitate partial relaxation of sanctions, so what response does Japan expect from the Government of the United States for this? Also, amidst the need for Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, how do you want to cooperate with the Government of the ROK?
Minister Kono: What the ROK is saying has no relation to sanctions, and it is my understanding that it would be after sanctions are lifted. I would like to continue to have close Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.
Support Concerning Violent Extremism
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In relation to your statement about the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, and also your recent statement that a major form of support should be correcting situations in which repatriated terrorists become established and restoring normal life, if we look at all of Southeast Asia, we can see quite a few examples of people in places that were under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who received training and returned. What are your thoughts now on the approach to supporting the entire region?
Minister Kono: In regard to violent extremism, I believe it is important for them to return to civilian life and get established, and this is an issue not only in Southeast Asia but also all regions. Japan has been supporting such highly effective initiatives in various countries including in the Middle East, and also held exchanges of views, and we would like to firmly support the development of model cases in various regions for this. The reality is that foreign combatants also return to Southeast Asia from ISIL-controlled regions such as in Syria and Iraq, so at the same time as supporting initiatives by Southeast Asian governments, Japan will conduct various information exchanges with countries tackling this issue that are not only in Southeast Asia, and exert all efforts for the firm development of effective initiatives and exchanges, although it will probably not be as simple as horizontal expansion.
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: You stated that there are highly effective initiatives for returning from violent extremism in places such as the Middle East, but the situation is that it unfortunately hard to say that Japan’s initiatives for weapons collection and vocational training in Afghanistan have become established. Last year a similar initiative was planned for Iraq but it has not been realized, so what are you referring to when you mention highly effective initiatives?
Minister Kono: There are many examples including awareness programs about violent extremism in Morocco and Jordan, gathering such people in rehabilitation locations, and providing very careful education showing how their interpretations of Islam were mistaken, which have advanced rehabilitation. Japan supports such initiatives, and will also support activities that help the development of this.
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Telephone Talk
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: You held a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday. Did you have an exchange regarding the situation in Venezuela? Also, Japan has expressed its support for Interim President Guaidó, so how will Japan cooperate with the United States?
Minister Kono: We spoke about Venezuela during the telephone talk yesterday. I cannot speak about the details of the exchange. However, I clearly stated at the recent press conference that Japan supports Interim President Guaidó, so we would like to cooperate with various countries where we can.
Statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Regarding a different matter, there are reports that Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia brought up the enemy state clauses related to the negotiations between Japan and Russia and told you that Japan must accept the results of World War II, and said that it is Japan’s fault that a peace treaty has not been concluded. Did such an exchange occur? Also, can you please give your reaction to such a statement?
Minister Kono: I will not comment publicly on exchanges during the negotiations.
The North Korean Issue
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to confirm a point in relation to a question about your opening remarks. Is it your view that the resumption of projects for Mount Kongo and Kaesong that North Korea is seeking should not be recognized as exceptions to sanctions?
Minister Kono: I believe so.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
NHK, Okuzumi: The working-level discussions toward the second U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting are currently being conducted in Hanoi. What response is the MOFA currently taking, such as sending people to the location? Also, what response is being aimed for at the actual upcoming Summit Meeting, such as planning to send people?
Minister Kono: I believe we will take various responses, but I believe I cannot discuss them publicly.
Comfort Women Issue
Sankei Shimbun, Rikishi: Recently, the ROK’s public diplomacy division disclosed that at the next United Nations Human Rights Council meeting, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha plans to mention the comfort women issue. Both sides agreed not to blame or criticize the other country to the international community within the agreement between Japan and the ROK, so what is your view of such a development for Minister Kang’s response to the comfort women issue?
Situation in Venezuela
EFE De Gracia: Regarding Venezuela, I'd like to confirm if Japan, in addition to express clear support for Mr. Juan Guaidó considers him legitimate interim president, and if you believe that Mr. Nicholas Maduro is not the legitimate president whether you will withdraw the diplomatic credentials of the current Venezuelan Ambassador in Tokyo, Mr. Seiko Ishikawa.
Minister Kono: The Japanese government express its support for Mr. Guaidó, I don’t know if I am pronouncing it right, the Interim President. The Ambassador Ishikawa, I know him very well, he has been very helpful in promoting the bilateral relationship between two countries, so I have no intention to withdraw credential or anything.
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: I would like to ask about this again in Japanese. You expressed support for Interim President Guaidó of Venezuela, but do you intend to continue discussions going forward with the Maduro administration? Also, you mentioned the Japan-U.S. foreign ministers’ telephone talk, so has there been any reaction by a third party country about Japan’s expression of support?
Minister Kono: What do you mean by expression of support?
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: Was there any reaction to Japan’s expression of support for President Guaidó?
Minister Kono: As I stated during the recent press conference, the Government of Japan has expressed support for Interim President Guaidó. It seems there was a point that Ambassador Ishikawa had a slight misunderstanding about, and if the MOFA’s explanation was not appropriate, then I must apologize. However, we expressed support for Interim President Guaidó, so there is nothing that Japan will undertake jointly with President Maduro.
Furthermore, the Meeting of Ambassadors to Latin American and Caribbean Countries is now being held, and yesterday evening I held exchanges of views and received various reactions to this case. There were some reactions that were not open so I would like to refrain from stating them here.
North Korean Issue
Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: I would like to return to the denuclearization of North Korea. You previously raised 2020 as the goal period for denuclearization. What are your current thoughts on whether it is best to set a period?
Minister Kono: If the administration of Chairman Kim Jong-un continues, that would be a long term of office, but comparatively there is a limit on the term of office for American presidents as elections are held once every four years. I stated that it would be desirable to be able to see a settled resolution if possible before the next presidential election, and I still believe that. However, time has been gradually passing and is running out. It would take time to physically eliminate all nuclear weapons and missiles, but I believe it would be desirable for a declaration and agreement to be made during President Trump’s term on a settled decision toward that.