Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, March 1, 2019, 10:45 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) ODA-man

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I began wearing an ODA-man badge from yesterday, but since no one has asked me about it, I would like to give it a little publicity. As part of an explanation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)’ ODA that is easy to understand for all citizens, the ODA-man character was created. The character resembles Director General Nashida of the International Cooperation Bureau. I would like ODA-man to firmly be an explanation of the significance of ODA and more.

(2) Japonismes 2018

Minister Kono: Japonismes 2018, held in France, ended at the end of February. I attended the opening ceremony in July 2018, and I have heard that there was a total of up to three million visitors. The teamLab exhibition was attended by 300,000 people, and I believe it served as a good opportunity for French people as well as tourists visiting France from many countries to learn about Japan.

Toward the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, two projects for Japanese culture communication and exchange will be implemented: Japan 2019 from March in the United States, and Asia in Resonance 2019 in 10 ASEAN countries. For Japan 2019 in the United States, for example, a Tale of Genji exhibition will be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from March 5. Various pop culture-related events, such as a 2.5-dimensional musical, are also planned to be held, and there will also be cooperation with privately-held cultural exchange projects.

Asia in Resonance 2019 will have Japan and ASEAN together comprehensively implement performing arts, films, sports and Japanese language education-related projects, and more. Asia in Resonance 2019 is also planned to be implemented in various projects in Tokyo, Japan in June and July. I hope that this is a good opportunity for both Japan and the rest of Asia to understand each other.

U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting

Kyodo News, Fukuda: At the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting this time, the gap between both sides’ assertions regarding denuclearization became clear. On the other hand, Prime Minister Abe stated, “Next it is my turn to have a meeting,” indicating his determination to have a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting. I would like to ask two questions. The first is whether this U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting is being considered as the beginning for a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting. My other question is to ask how you intend to face Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of North Korea going forward.

Minister Kono: The U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting in Hanoi was held under President Trump’s strong determination to realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, unfortunately there was no progress and there were no simple compromises. But at the same time, Japan completely supports President Trump’s determination to further continue discussions between the United States and North Korea, and to urge North Korea to take action against the background of the solidarity of the international community. Japan will continue to support the U.S.-North Korea process, and will have even closer Japan-U.S. cooperation toward resolving the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues.

In regard to the abductions issue, President Trump himself raised the issue. In relation to this, Prime Minister Abe spoke of his determination to meet with North Korea in order for Japan to continue to work on resolving the abductions issue. The abductions issue is an important matter for Japan and we will firmly respond.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In relation to this, recognition was shown that denuclearization negotiations would continue between the United States and North Korea. However, as the background for the lack of specific results at the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting this time, it has been pointed out that there was insufficient groundwork in terms of progressing from the working level to the minister level to the summit level. Secretary of State Pompeo appeared at President Trump’s press conference yesterday, and there will probably be considerations going forward including on the method. In that sense, can you please give your thoughts on the ideal negotiations structure, as well as how you would like to participate as the Japanese Foreign Minister within the U.S.-North Korea negotiations structure?

Minister Kono: I believe that North Korea also probably recognized that is important to firmly lay the groundwork for such negotiations. Going forward, I believe that the North Korean side will firmly create a structure and wish for negotiations, but creating that structure will take a little time.

Japan achieved considerably close cooperation with the United States toward the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting this time. There was appropriate in-depth exchange between Japan and the United States regarding technical discussions, and although Japan did not go as far as to provide technical contributions, there was exchange so I would like close Japan-U.S. cooperation to be maintained going forward.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In relation to this, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho held a press conference after the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting and indicated a different viewpoint by stating, “The United States said that North Korea requested that all sanctions be lifted, but we only requested a partial lifting of sanctions.” In addition, he stated, “We proposed to eternally dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facilities under the entrance of specialists.” What is your reaction to these assertions by North Korea?

Minister Kono: The international community is seeking the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of nuclear capabilities, missiles, and weapons of mass destruction, and I believe President Trump’s determination to aim for this was firmly conveyed. Also, I wonder how to define the word “partial.”

The March 1st Movement in the Republic of Korea (ROK)

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: Today is the 100th anniversary of the March 1st Movement in the ROK, and a large-scale meeting is planned. Yesterday, the MOFA issued spot information to alert travelers, so can you please what you are worried about including for Japan-ROK relations going forward?

Minister Kono: I believe President Moon Jae-in will give a speech at the ceremony. I would like to refrain from commenting based on speculation, but I believe there will naturally be no effect on the Japan-ROK relations.

However, the MOFA issued spot information because of the possibility of demonstrations being held by citizens’ groups in cities such as Seoul and Busan. Spot information has been issued for various situations, such as the demonstrations related to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye in March 2017 or the alert related to the PyeongChang Olympics. At the same time as requesting Japanese people traveling abroad to pay attention to such spot information, I would also like to request them to not forget to register with Overseas Travel Registration (“Tabi-Regi”).

U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting

Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: In regard to the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, I believe it is unusual for North Korea to hold a press conference following a meeting. What are your thoughts on North Korea’s intention? Also, in regard to lifting sanctions, North Korea is asserting that it would be fields that impede the people’s daily lives, so what is your reaction to such an assertion?

Minister Kono: I believe that the firm implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions by the international community led to this U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting. It is my recognition that there is no change to the international community’s position of seeking denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula going forward. In regard to North Korea’s intention in holding a press conference, although it is not my position to comment, I believe that it was probably to indicate their own positions to the international community. However, I have heard that it was dawn or before dawn.

Japan-ROK Relations, U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting (Abductions Issue)

NHK, Okuzumi: As the final questions, I would like to ask one question respectively about the ROK as well as the United States and North Korea. Firstly, in regard to Japan-ROK relations, can you please give your reaction to the anniversary of the March 1st Movement today while there has still been no specific response shown by the ROK side concerning the former civilian workers issue, as well as what you would like to request from the Government of the ROK as President Moon is scheduled to give a speech after this?

As my second question, in regard to the United States and North Korea, can you please give your reaction to the fact that the abductions issue was brought up in the Summit Meeting, and explain the reaction of North Korea as well as the status of coordination for the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo?

Minister Kono: President Trump has shown very strong interest in the abductions issue in his successive speeches at the United Nations until now, his meetings with the families of the victims, and raising the abductions issue at the previous Summit Meeting. We understand well President Trump’s strong interest in the abductions issue.

The Diet meeting was irregular today and although several telephone talk slots were presented for speaking with Secretary of State Pompeo, currently we are trying to find a good compromise between the Diet situation and Secretary of State Pompeo’s schedule. That coordination will continue. In regard to Japan and the ROK, as I have stated repeatedly, I would like the Government of the ROK to firmly respond to the Supreme Court decision concerning former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula and other matters so that there are no unfair disadvantages to Japanese companies.

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