Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, February 26, 2019, 4:58 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Situation in Venezuela
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On February 23rd, responding to the call of Interim President Guaidó of Venezuela, the United States, Colombia, Brazil and others tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela. However, it is highly regrettable that the aid was blocked by the army, security force, and others. I strongly deplore the fact that casualties were caused during this process. I would like to express my condolences to the victims and their families. I strongly request that there should be no obstruction to the peaceful and the earliest possible delivery of the aid to the people who are in need of it.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Kyodo News, Fukuhara: I would like to ask about the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. What are your expectations for results in fields such as denuclearization, abandonment of missiles, and the abductions issue?
Minister Kono: I would like to expect movements toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of missiles of all ranges and all weapons of mass destruction, as well as the resolution of the abductions issue.
NHK, Okuju: In relation to the United States and North Korea, we can see that North Korea is requesting concessions from the United States such as relaxation of sanctions. Can you please tell us again Japan’s stance on sanctions and if it is still matches those of the United States and others?
Minister Kono: It is my understanding that the agreed-upon position of the international community is that sanctions should not be lifted until denuclearization has been precisely executed at the very least.
Jiji Press, Echigo: In a recent statement in the United States, President Trump stated that he is happy as long as there is no nuclear testing. His statement made it seem that he would approve of just a freeze on nuclear weapons testing. Japan is seeking complete denuclearization and abandonment, so does it agree with the United States’ stance on this part?
Minister Kono: President Trump did not make any particular comment on a freeze. The entire international community agrees on seeking CVID.
North Korea’s Denuclearization
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: Regarding denuclearization in North Korea, does Japan have any intention of participating in nuclear inspection and denuclearization measures through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or others?
Minister Kono: The P5 conduct this for nuclear weapons, but I believe that the IAEA should enter to conduct nuclear inspection for other related facilities. Japan is prepared to provide financial support and other technical support.
Situation in Venezuela
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In relation to your statement on the situation in Venezuela in your opening remarks, the situation has become tense, including on bringing in humanitarian aid, and recently Vice President Pence and the President of Colombia had a discussion. I believe this will be a quite major topic for the G7 and others going forward, so how would you like to cooperate with the G7 countries including the United States from now on?
Minister Kono: The situation is that various humanitarian aid are needed in Venezuela, and I believe it is important to be able to deliver those materials as quickly as possible to those who need them. In addition, a very large number of people have evacuated the country, so naturally the neighboring countries helping those people also need support.
I also believe that it is necessary to quickly implement a presidential election in Venezuela, so discussions on this will probably occur within the G7.
The March 1st Movement in the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: President Moon Jae-in of the ROK stated at his Cabinet meeting today in advance of the 100th anniversary of the March 1st Movement that settling pro-Japanese sentiment and firmly expressing gratitude for the independence movement would correctly reorganize the century of the people and be the start of becoming a righteous nation, which shows thinking that would seem to stir up an anti-Japanese movement. I believe you indicated your concerns about the March 1st Movement for independence to Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Munich. What are your thoughts on President Moon’s statement and do you have any expectations on how you would like the March 1st Movement to be?
Minister Kono: I am not aware that President Moon made that statement. I have been discussing for a long time with Minister Kang that Japan-ROK relations should be future-oriented. I would thus like Japan-ROK relations to be future-oriented.
Minister Kang’s Reference to the Comfort Women Issue at the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Human Rights Council
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask about the ROK. In her speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Minister Kang of the ROK stated that previous efforts regarding the comfort women issue clearly lacked a victim-centered approach. Can you please tell us your reaction and how you will respond?
Minister Kono: There is the agreement between Japan and the ROK in regard to the comfort women issue, and I believe that it is necessary for both countries to sincerely carry it out.
The Resignation Announcement of Foreign Minister Zarif of Iran, and the Situation in India and Pakistan
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of Iran has already announced his intention to resign. I believe he contributed greatly to the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), so can you please explain your reaction and what the influence will be on the JCPOA? Also, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan already canceled his visit to Japan, and there are recent reports that following this the Indian army conducted air strikes on an area under the effective control of Pakistan. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister Kono: I have met many times with Minister Zarif and also held many telephone talks with him. I recognize him as a person exemplified by his extremely dependable thinking and for playing a very major role toward the JCPOA, and I was thus honestly surprised to hear about his resignation announcement. I believe I last met his proxy recently. I am honestly surprised, but I have not yet confirmed if the President of Iran has accepted his resignation. At the very least, I believe that Iran’s rules stipulate that people still have their current position until their resignation is accepted, so I would like him to stay on. However, Minister Zarif was not in attendance when President Assad visited Iran and met with President Rouhani, so I am a little worried about the circumstances.
I held a telephone talk with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan yesterday on Monday. We had an exchange regarding the Kashmir issue, and I believe it is extremely unfortunate that his visit to Japan was postponed due to this. During our talk yesterday, I requested that his visit to Japan be rescheduled as quickly as possible. I have heard that the air strikes targeted a terrorist camp in Balakot. However, I have not confirmed the facts of what kind of situation occurred, so I cannot give an assessment of the air strikes yet.
Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, TICAD
Asahi Shimbun, Takeshita: My first question is in regard to the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement decided upon at today’s Cabinet meeting. Can you please explain again the significance of concluding this kind of agreement between Japan and ASEAN? Also, in relation to TICAD, during your recent speech in Kanazawa, you stated that the primary role of TICAD is not in aid but rather how much private investment is possible. Can you please explain your thoughts again on the significance of advancing private investment rather than aid?
Minister Kono: I would like to strengthen various forms of economic cooperation with ASEAN, so I expect that this will be a very major step. Also, in regard to TICAD, Prime Minister Abe stated in his policy speech that Africa is no longer a mere recipient of development assistance. The continent has been seeing economic development at an extremely rapid speed, and has very high latent potential due to its various resources and young people.
At the TICAD Ministerial Meeting last year, many foreign ministers stated that although they are naturally grateful for Japan’s assistance, they expect private investment. There are of course places where assistance is needed and places where government structure needs to be firmly created, but the economy is developing quite rapidly and there are many countries that are receiving investment from numerous countries including those in Europe.
If we think about such matters, I believe that Japanese companies actively investing in Africa and transferring technology while viewing the African market is indispensable for Africa’s development going forward. Necessary ODA will of course still be firmly provided, but I believe that from the assistance of the TICAD process, the time has been gradually coming when investment to grow together must take the main role.
I stated this to private companies at the recent TICAD Public-Private Roundtable Meeting, although the venue did not actually have a round table. I also made the same statements at my speech regarding the SDGs at the JCI Kanazawa Conference.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting
Donga-a Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask a question about the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. There are reports that the Government of Japan told the U.S. side that it will not join in support for North Korea. As preparation for the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting takes place now, what is the reason for indicating this position?
Minister Kono: Sorry, what support are you referring to?
Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: Japan told the U.S. side that it would not join in various forms of support such as for North Korea’s economy.
Minister Kono: This has been discussed many times between Japan and the United States. I have been publicly stating to date that if the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues are resolved in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, then diplomatic relations will be normalized and we are prepared to provide economic support. There is absolutely no change to that position.