Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, March 8, 2019, 4:37 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) International Women’s Day
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, which is a day to celebrate the achievements, courage, and determination of women. The United Nations decides the theme for International Women’s Day each year, and this year’s theme is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.”
On March 23 and 24, the 5th World Assembly for Women (WAW!) and Women 20 (W20) will be held in Tokyo. There will be discussions from various angles regarding what should be done so that women can exhibit the power they hold and are not left behind, and can participate more proactively in society, which is changing rapidly due to innovation.
Over 10 female foreign ministers from different countries are planning to participate in WAW! and W20. The female foreign ministers have been invited to a dinner to be held on the night of the 23rd, and I would like to have various discussions with them.
(2) Release of the 2018 White Paper on Development Cooperation
Minister Kono: I explained about the release of the 2018 White Paper on Development Cooperation at the Cabinet meeting today. The White Paper this time is characterized by the fact that it has been streamlined. There is also the Diplomatic Bluebook, and the White Paper has removed repetition of what is in the Diplomatic Bluebook and many of the statistics materials have been moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. I would like it to be move convenient for reading and utilizing. Regarding the content, it covers many topics, but focuses on the people who are active in the field. I would like it to introduce various examples of industry-government-academia cooperation, as well as columns introducing the activities of people such as Japanese staff at international organizations and JICA overseas cooperation volunteers. I am wearing my ODA-man badge again today, and I would like to continue various efforts to firmly acquire the support of the people of Japan for development cooperation.
North Korea Situation
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question in relation to North Korea. A U.S. research group announced that movements to rebuild the facilities at the missile launch center in Tongch'ang-dong are progressing, and that it seems that conditions in which normal operations are possible have already been restored. What is your reaction and your thoughts on the effect this will have on the negotiations between North Korea and the United States? Also, can you please explain Japan’s grasp of the facts of the matter and how it will respond?
Minister Kono: There were various exchanges of information between Japan and the United States toward the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, but I would like to refrain from publicly stating the details. In any event, nuclear weapons and nuclear-related facilities are subject to complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) for denuclearization of North Korea. For this, there has been close cooperation between Japan and the United States so far.
Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a related question. The other day, there was a high level officials meeting between Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held in Washington D.C. I believe it was probably about U.S.-North Korea relations, so can you please confirm that and introduce what was discussed for policies toward North Korea?
Minister Kono: There were various discussions in relation to North Korea.
Security Cooperation and Dialogue between Japan and Taiwan
Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: In a publication dated March 2, President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan stated that Taiwan and Japan in East Asia face the same threats, with the threat of China at the forefront. In addition, she stated that it is very important to raise the level of the security cooperation dialogue, and requested to hold a direct dialogue with the Government of Japan in the security field and cyber field. Following this, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and authorities indicated that this is the official stance. Can you please give the reaction and views of the Government of Japan as well as your own regarding Taiwan’s appeal?
Minister Kono: It has been agreed to maintain the Japan-Taiwan relations as working relations on a non-governmental basis, so we will make an appropriate response based on this position.
Situation in Venezuela
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask about the situation in Venezuela. The confrontation is continuing between Interim President Guaidó and President Maduro and the United States has announced new sanctions. Can you please explain your recognition of the current situation, what the response will be to the issue of Venezuela going forward, and if you will recognize Interim President Guaidó?
Minister Kono: Japan supports Interim President Guaidó, and I have repeatedly stated until now that we expect that there should be a legitimate presidential election held as soon as possible. Japan will firmly conduct assistance to support the Venezuelan refugees who have left to go to neighboring countries as well as the communities in neighboring countries that are accepting refugees, and naturally must consider humanitarian aid inside Venezuela.
Kyodo News, Eto: I would like to ask about Diet reform. Currently in the Diet, there have been statements one after the other regarding Diet reform, not only from the ruling parties but also from opposition parties including the Democratic Party for the People and the Japan Innovation Party. This is currently an important theme in the Diet, so can you please tell us your view on this?
Minister Kono: I and various Diet members from ruling and opposition parties have together been making proposals regarding the necessity of Diet reform. I believe it is very important for there to be discussions on Diet reform. I also believe that the media increasingly covering Diet reform and providing good coverage is very important from the viewpoint of helping the people of Japan to understand what the issues are and forming public opinion.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. Recently Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Morgulov, so how do you evaluate the results? Also, you are scheduled to hold negotiations with Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov who will visit Japan soon, so can you please explain your current feeling regarding your outlook and views about this time period?
Minister Kono: While I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of the Japan-Russia negotiations, the schedule for Minister Lavrov’s visit to Japan is currently being coordinated.
Situation in India and Pakistan
Nikkei Shimbun, Hayashi: Following on from your telephone talk with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, I believe you held a telephone talk with the Foreign Minister of India today. What are your thoughts on how Japan will be concerned with the situation in India and Pakistan?
Minister Kono: There have been various confrontations concerning Kashmir between India and Pakistan, but I am worried that this time could become a situation on an unprecedented level. It has been said that both sides have nuclear weapons as well as missiles of various ranges, so if there is escalation it could become a situation that could never be recovered from. In that sense, Japan, as a country that has suffered wartime atomic bombings, cannot remain an idle spectator to this issue. At the same time as requesting both countries to exercise self-restraint, and severely condemning terrorism in both countries, we would also like there to be advancement of urgent discussions at a high level between both countries.
Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. Two months have passed since Japan has been requesting discussions regarding the judgment on the former civilian workers. You stated in the committee today that there would be countermeasures if there was real harm to Japanese companies and that until then you would like to wait for the response by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon. Regarding “real harm,” the court has already approved seizure of assets and the situation has arisen where the transfer is being carried out and the companies are not free. I do not understand the reason for why you do not consider this to be real harm, so can you please explain it?
Minister Kono: Stating what we will do at what time would reveal Japan’s intentions, so I would like to refrain from commenting on that matter.
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: I believe that your answer did not really match the question just now. I think that there has already been real harm to Japanese companies. The question was about the reason for whether or not you think there has been real harm to Japanese companies. Could you please respond about that?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from responding.
Meeting of the Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS)
Kyodo News, Fukuda: The meeting of the governmental experts on LAWS will be held in Geneva at the end of this month. What are your views regarding the ideal regulations of LAWS?
Minister Kono: I believe that the matter of what realistic regulations are possible is a very difficult issue amidst the reality that considerable research and development is already progressing in numerous countries. Japan is opposed to development of weapons that would enable slaughtering human beings using just artificial intelligence without the participation of humans, such as in the movie The Terminator.
On the other hand, machines and weapons using such AI can replace humans in certain respects, and have the possibility of being a sufficient effective and efficient method for security in countries such as Japan that have decreasing populations.
In addition, I also believe that it would not be good for regulations regarding weapons AI to extend to various development and utilization of AI itself, and there are countries that have various positions that have aims contrary to this. Amidst the range of what is being aimed for, I believe that there needs to be consideration as quickly as possible regarding what rules should be created from a humanitarian standpoint.
I do not think rules can be established in just one meeting, but the discussions need to be advanced forward even a little while at least sharing awareness of the issue. There is the possibility that LAWS could be considered on the same magnitude as gunpowder and nuclear weapons for changing the concept of war, so Japan will not only precisely participate in these discussions but also must exhibit leadership in these discussions.