Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, February 28, 2019, 7:22 p.m. Central Entrance Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Reporter: The U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting was held today. Could you please share your thoughts?
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting was held for the second time. It is regrettable that an agreement was not reached regarding denuclearization. President Trump made an ongoing request for complete denuclearization and dismantlement of missiles of all ranges by North Korea, and North Korea was regrettably unable to respond to the request at this time. The international community will continue to work in solidarity and make efforts to resolve this issue. The Government of Japan will firmly support the decision made by President Trump and the United States at this meeting.
Reporter: What discussion took place with regard to the abductions issue?
Minister Kono: I believe that President Trump will make a telephone call to Prime Minister Abe, and that during the telephone call, President Trump will provide a detailed explanation about it to Prime Minister Abe.
Reporter: Will there be a telephone talk between the Japanese and U.S. foreign ministers?
Minister Kono: Secretary of State Pompeo will visit the Philippines next, and we hope to hold one in the meantime.
Reporter: Does that mean that it will be tomorrow at the earliest and there will be no telephone talk tonight?
Minister Kono: It is not certain because the schedule of the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting changed considerably. A telephone talk between the President and Prime Minister will first be held, and I hope to hold a telephone talk at some point thereafter.
Reporter: You stated that the decision of the United States and Mr. Trump should be supported. What is the reason for supporting their decision?
Minister Kono: The international community seeks the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of all weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including nuclear weapons, as well as missiles of all ranges, and the Government of Japan will firmly support the decision of President Trump who pursues this.
Reporter: President Trump stated during his press conference that Chairman Kim Jong-un promised not to conduct nuclear and missile tests in the future. What is your assessment of this?
Minister Kono: It would not do to simply say that’s all very good. President Trump has stated that he will firmly pursue denuclearization, or the complete dismantlement of WMDs and dismantlement of missiles of all ranges, and we, the international community, will also work in solidarity and continue to make efforts.
Reporter: It seemed that initially the meeting began in a very friendly atmosphere between the two leaders and that a conciliatory mood pervaded the meeting. It also appeared that the United States was ready to hold a ceremony for a joint agreement. What is your view on the fact that this was suddenly cancelled in this manner?
Minister Kono: Meetings begin in a friendly atmosphere. I believe that this was not the last meeting and that another summit meeting will be held on some occasion. I suspect there was a significant difference between the U.S. and North Korean views regarding denuclearization and missiles.
Reporter: I have a related question. You just referred to the next summit meeting. Some have noted a lack of working-level talks ahead of the meeting. In this regard, what conditions do you consider are necessary if a third meeting is held?
Minister Kono: I cannot say one way or another with regard to a third meeting. It may have been that adequate working-level consultations could not be held. This may also have to do with North Korea’s style to date. However, this is not the end of the denuclearization process. It seems that Secretary of State Pompeo and Special Representative for North Korea Biegun will continue to negotiate with North Korea, and we will fully support this.
Reporter: It was announced that North Korea sought complete lifting of sanctions. Could you tell us whether or not Japan considers there is room to fulfill this request?
Minister Kono: The international community considers that unless there are moves towards CVID of WMDs and missiles, economic sanctions based on United Nations Security Council resolutions should be maintained. Chairman Kim Jong-un likely saw the extent of development in Vietnam, and we hope that North Korea makes a decision in this direction as early as possible.
Reporter: Were you briefed about what actions North Korea presented towards denuclearization during the meeting?
Minister Kono: I am not in a position to disclose the content of the meeting, and I would like to ask that you wait for an announcement by the United States or North Korea. We view that President Trump will continue to pursue CVID of WMDs and missiles as requested by the international community.
Reporter: In the middle of the meeting, in response to a question from the press corps, Chairman Kim Jong-un stated that he was at the meeting because he was willing to denuclearize. Based on the outcome of the meeting, what is your view regarding Chairman Kim’s level of seriousness?
Minister Kono: If there is a third meeting, North Korea will likely make realistic moves of some kind towards denuclearization. We consider that the current situation cannot be neglected nor condoned. The international community will work together closely, and we hope North Korea will fully recognize the bright future that awaits them and make a decision taking this into account.
Reporter: Does the Government of Japan intend to carry out Japan-North Korea negotiations, including on the abductions issue, in parallel with the U.S.-North Korea consultations?
Minister Kono: We have had contacts with North Korea through a variety of channels. This is not being denied.
Reporter: Secretary Pompeo stated earlier that some progress was made and that they are nearing agreement. What progress was made in your view?
Minister Kono: I am not in a position to disclose the content of the meeting. I expect that the United States will make some form of announcement regarding the content. With respect to the content of the meeting, the Government of Japan is aware of the U.S. policy, as we have been aligning our policies in advance and I also recently held a telephone talk with Secretary Pompeo. I expect that the United States will make an announcement on the content at some point.