Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 5:38 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
(1) World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel Procedure Regarding Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products by the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Appellate Body of the WTO has conveyed to Japan that it expects to issue its report regarding import restrictions on Japanese fishery products by the ROK by April 11. Through the panel and the Appellate Body, Japan has firmly asserted that in the light of the WTO Agreement, the ROK’s import restriction measures arbitrarily and unjustly differentiates Japanese fishery products as well as other products and puts excessive trade restrictions on them. I hope that there will be a judgment that is sufficiently based on this.
(2) Invitation to Young Politics-Oriented Cambodians
Minister Kono: Ten young Cambodians politicians will visit Japan from March 13, tomorrow, to March 20 upon the invitation of Japan.
This will be the second invitation following on from the first invitation in December 2018. In order to support the democratic development of Cambodia, Japan has implemented this so participants from the generation that will lead the future of Cambodia can learn about Japan’s multiparty democracy. Like last time, the group includes participants from the Cambodian People’s Party (the ruling party), the former Cambodia National Rescue Party, and other opposition parties.
I hope that the participants visiting Japan following on from last time will deepen their views together regarding Japan’s multiparty democracy, as well as for this to be used as an opportunity for unity among Cambodian people.
Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. There are reports that the Russian military conducted military exercises on both Kunashiri Island and Etorofu Island in the Northern Territories today. Can you please explain your reaction and if you issued a protest?
Minister Kono: The committee was all day today so information has not come in.
Host Nation Support
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask about the Host Nation Support between Japan and the United States. The current agreement is until the end of FY2020 and Japan has borne up to 74.5% of the burden, the highest among the allies. Is it your recognition that Japan is bearing a proportionate and suitable portion of the burden? The United States is saying that it wants an increased amount, so how will Japan seek the understanding of the U.S. side?
Minister Kono: The figure of 74.5% is probably from 2004, so it is quite old. It is my understanding that the United States has not released the figure since then. The current agreement will finish at the end of March 2021, and there still has not been discussion between Japan and the United States regarding this issue. I would like to refrain from answering based on speculation, but it is my understanding that the United States, including President Trump, highly evaluates that Japan is bearing the cost of stationing the U.S. Forces in a very appropriate way.
Invitation to Young Politics-Oriented Cambodians
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Regarding the explanation on the young politics-oriented Cambodians from your opening remarks that has occurred for the second time following the first time in December, can you please explain your recognition of the results and issues of the first time? Also, I believe you always have various views regarding ODA, so regardless of the framework in which the funding was issued, what are your thoughts on how soft power human resources development will contribute to Japanese diplomacy going forward?
Minister Kono: I believe that this kind of support for an invitational program regarding issues such as democracy and the rule of law is uniquely Japanese, and I would like to actively provide such responses.
It is very important to understand Japan’s multiparty democracy. During the first time, I heard that the participants from the Cambodian People’s Party (the ruling party) and the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (the opposition party) opened up to each other during their time in Japan. They could not have discussions in Cambodia, but they became able to understand each other well in Japan, and I think this is very beneficial. I think that inviting members of the ruling and opposition parties and various others to spend time together is very beneficial for particularly the next generation of politics-oriented people in Cambodia.
Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU)
NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about Brexit in the United Kingdom. The vote on the agreement for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU will take place in the Parliament of the United Kingdom from late today to early tomorrow Japan time. There is a high possibility it will be rejected if we look at the previous result, and the reality seems to be increasingly likely that there will be a withdrawal without a deal. Can you please explain your thoughts on how the Government of Japan will respond such as for Japanese companies that will be affected?
Minister Kono: A task force has been launched regarding this issue at the Prime Minister’s Office, and it has already had several meetings and is conducting information sharing with related companies. A “no-deal Brexit” would have an exceedingly large impact, and Japan has repeatedly stated to the United Kingdom that this should be avoided. I have stated this at various formal meetings and also conveyed in private to the U.K. foreign minister that this would have a very negative effect, and at any rate I believe that the response needs to be predictable and transparent. In a situation like now in which it is not known what will happen, Japanese companies must take a response, and as a result I believe that they will be forced at this stage to take actions to avoid extreme risk. That is absolutely not a good thing for the Japanese companies in the United Kingdom and the communities that have accepted those companies. At any rate, I must repeatedly state that I would like there to be transparency and predictability.
MLex, Sakamaki: If the United Kingdom has a no-deal Brexit, or in preparation for the United Kingdom withdrawing from the EU, I believe that first of all there are discussions between Japan and the United Kingdom regarding necessary preparation for the Agreement on Mutual Recognition between Japan and the European Community (EC) on export goods, the Agreement Between Japan and the European Union on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, and the Japan-UK Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. I think this would depend on the result of the vote today, but do you feel that there is a need to accelerate these discussions with the Parliament of the United Kingdom from the perspective of the Government of Japan?
Minister Kono: Japan believes that there probably needs to be preparatory response in case this occurs, but it is my earnest recognition that the United Kingdom must take responsibility. We will do the minimum possible and there are areas we can respond to. But if a no-deal Brexit occurs, the United Kingdom would also withdraw from the EU’s EPA, and in that case the only response would be a return to WTO rules.
MLex, Sakamaki: There is still a possibility of a no-deal Brexit and the date is drawing closer, but I believe a quick response would not be possible regarding the three agreements because they would need approval in the Diet. Is there consideration of any temporary emergency measures?
Minister Kono: I would like to make a response on temporary measures that are possible. However, approval in the Diet would not be possible during the current Diet session, so I believe that would not be a countermeasure.
Host Nation Support
Kyodo News, Niwa: I would like to ask an additional question in relation to the stationing costs. The Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command who was appointed in April 2018 stated at a public hearing of Congress that currently what is crucial for Japan’s Host Nation Support is not how much to increase the level of contributions, but rather how much it can contribute to strengthening its practical defense capability. What are your thoughts on whether it is a better path to increase defense spending to strengthen Japan’s defense capability, rather than increasing the burden for the stationing costs?
Minister Kono: There is no discussion between Japan and the United States regarding increasing the stationing costs.
Kyodo News, Niwa: Do you think it is better to concentrate on strengthening defense capability?
Minister Kono: Because there is no discussion of increasing the stationing cost burden, there is also no discussion on where to assign that.
S&P Global Platts, Watanabe: Regarding the WTO, Japan, Canada, and the ROK are promoting WTO reform, so can you please explain the state of progress? I believe that the form Japan is aiming for currently for conflict resolution methods is discussions between summit leaders, but what else is there?
Minister Kono: I believe that conflict resolution methods are in accordance with the WTO’s conflict resolution procedure, or through bilateral discussions. I had a discussion about the need for WTO reform with WTO Director-General Azevêdo when he was in Japan, as well as a discussion in a location that I think was Geneva. Japan has the presidency for the G20 this year, so naturally we will actively contribute to progress in WTO reform discussions.