Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, March 15, 2019, 1:41 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On March 22 and 23 in Kyoto, the 4th Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament will be held. I am going visit Kyoto and hold exchanges of views with the Group members.

At the meeting this time, I believe discussions will be conducted toward compiling initiatives by the international community necessary for advancing disarmament under the current situation, based on the discussions through the previous meeting held in November 2018 in Nagasaki.

In addition, continuing on from the last meeting, discussions will be further deepened regarding difficult issues related to disarmament and security that must be truly overcome toward abolition of nuclear weapons.

Shooting Incident in Christchurch, New Zealand

NHK, Okuzumi: There was a shooting incident at mosques in central Christchurch in New Zealand. Can you please first tell us the situation of your understanding if any Japanese people were hurt?

Minister Kono: I am aware that there was an incident of shootings at two mosques in Christchurch. I would like to express my sincere condolences to those who lost their lives and express heartfelt sympathy for their bereaved families and those injured. I still do not understand all the circumstances, but I would like to express solidary with the people of New Zealand as well as the Government of New Zealand.

I have not received any information thus far about the situation of harm to Japanese nationals, but there has not been a final check. I will inform you as information comes in.

Through the Consular Office of Japan in Christchurch, alerts are being sent through consular emails to Japanese nationals and people registered with “Overseas Travel Registration (“Tabi-Regi”).” I would like to again state that I would like people going overseas to be sure to register with Tabi-Regi.

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU)

NHK, Okuzumi: In regard to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, the Parliament of the United Kingdom approved an extension until June 30. The extension requires the approval of all the countries of the EU, and although we still do not know, what do you think the effect would be on Japan in the case of an extension, and what are your thoughts on the desirable process to be taken going forward?

Minister Kono: We have repeatedly stated to the U.K. side that a “no-deal Brexit” should be avoided at the very least, and at the same time, the low predictability and not knowing what will happen going forward is influencing the various decisions of Japanese companies. The current situation in which there is low legal stability and low predictability for what will happen in the end is considerably affecting the management decisions and operations of Japanese companies, so I would like the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom to firmly indicate the outlook as quickly as possible.

Shooting Incident in Christchurch, New Zealand

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I have one more question regarding the shooting incident at the mosques in Christchurch. Although you certainly do not know the background at the present point, it seems that the target was a specific religion, and Friday was an important worship day in the religion of Islam. You usually express concern regarding violent extremism. New Zealand is a country with a very strong image of having people of very diverse races and religions living together in harmony. In that sense, can I ask your thoughts on such an incident happening in such a place?

Minister Kono: I cannot say anything conclusive because I have not yet firmly confirmed the background, it is being said that the incident involved mosques and a shooter who uploaded video. I have not seen it, but this was done with some kind of motive. Such incidents have occurred in various countries and cities, so of course we have to feel a sense of danger.

Military Exercises in the Northern Territories by the Russian Military from the Eastern Military District

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about the response of the Government of Japan to the military exercises on Kunashiri Island and Etorofu Island. At your previous press conference on March 12, you received a question from reporter Echigo of Jiji Press about your reaction to the Russian military exercises, and you stated, “The committee was all day today so information has not come in”.

By the way, on this day the Interfax news agency distributed related news in the afternoon and Japanese media distributed it after 12:30, and you held the press conference on Tuesday at 5:40 p.m., so if we do the subtraction over five hours had passed. During this time you had various matters such as rest time and the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors, but if during that period a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) staff member didn’t whisper related information in your ear or give you a memo, I think this could be a slight problem for safety and crisis management. I would like to confirm your thoughts on this matter.

Minister Kono: In relation to the Government and the Diet, it is as I have repeatedly stated thus far. I have been stating thus far that when the Government side goes to the Diet to receive questions, naturally there need to be various reforms of the way of doing this to match the age.

Kyodo News, Saito: In relation to this, I believe a memo would have been received if there had been an emergency situation during the five hours on that day during the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors, but what if a memo did not come in that situation? Is it not your recognition that the response of the MOFA would be too late or slow? That is to say, that information did not come in until the press conference, so what are your thoughts on this?

Minister Kono: It is my recognition that various events occur around the entire world and naturally information comes to me in the order of priority.

Jiji Press, Echigo: In relation to this, my reaction to your statement would be to understand it to mean that the priority was low. Is it not a problem that military exercises by Russia in the Northern Territories are not a high priority for the Government of Japan and the MOFA?

Minister Kono: What I meant was the order of priority which is needed for decisions by the Foreign Minister.

U.S.-North Korea Relations (Statement by a North Korean Official)

Jiji Press, Echigo: In relation to North Korea, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui of North Korea stated when talking to the foreign media that Chairman Kim Jong-un is considering suspending the U.S.-North Korea negotiations concerning denuclearization. Can you please tell us if information has come in related to this, and your reaction?

Minister Kono: I do not have any specific comment. There is no need for the Government of Japan to react one by one to such statements.

Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In regard to the meeting of the group of eminent persons you mentioned in your opening remarks, what are your thoughts on how this is connected to the Preparatory Committee of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference that will begin at the end of April? Also, can you please tell us the aim of holding it in Kyoto?

Minister Kono: I cannot make a comment because I still do not know what final result or report will be issued, but the Government of Japan will firmly provide input if there is anything we can for the meeting in April. It has been held thus far in various places including Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Various matters were considered, and it was decided to hold it this time in Kyoto.

Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: In relation to this, do you plan to raise the issues of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and denuclearization by North Korea?

Minister Kono: Amidst such a situation, I would like to hold various discussions.

China’s National People’s Congress

Sankei Shimbun, Rikishi: I would like to ask about China’s National People’s Congress. The current session ended, and amidst it, it was recognized that the defense expenditure rose 7.5% year on year in excess of the growth rate. What is your view on such a yearly increase in defense expenditure? Also, my company’s reporters were denied being able to attend the press conference at the end of the session, which was the third year in a row. The Xi Jinping administration has strengthened restrictions on not only my company but also foreign media, so what is your view on the state of media restrictions?

Minister Kono: China’s defense expenditure is growing yearly at a considerable pace. In particular amidst the deceleration of the economy and the continued high growth rate, I believe that highly transparent efforts are needed. Naturally amidst such a situation, the growth of defense expenditure at such a speed will have various effects in the region, and there will be a need for some sort of precise explanation. In addition, in the sense of raising transparency on defense expenditure as well as other matters, I believe that efforts related to reporting are important for not just China but others as well.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Director-General-Level Talk

Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: The Japan-ROK Director-General-Level Talk was held yesterday in the ROK. What is your evaluation of the result of the talk? Also, what will Japan’s response be going forward in regard to the issue of the former workers from the Korean Peninsula?

Minister Kono: The Director-Generals held discussions on the various issues between Japan and the ROK. We are currently proposing discussions regarding the issue of the Supreme Court judgment concerning the former workers from the Korean Peninsula to the ROK side, so I would like them to accept having discussions.

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