Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 3:25 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thank you. I would like to apologize for causing difficulties in various areas due to poor management of my health. Thankfully, I have returned to my duties. I will work hard once again.

(1) Liberation of the Last Stronghold Held By ISIL

Minister Kono: The last stronghold held by ISIL in Syria was liberated recently. The Government of Japan highly appreciates and welcomes this as an important step for peace and stability in Syria, and appreciates the courageous efforts of the global coalition. On the other hand, even though all the strongholds have been liberated and ISIL’s control over the territories has ended, the fight against extremism is not over and the crisis in Syria still continues. There is no change to the serious humanitarian situation, including the existence of a huge number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The advancement of the political process is extremely important for resolving the crisis in Syria. Japan will encourage the parties concerned to make further efforts to restore peace and stability in Syria, and also continue to provide humanitarian aid in Syria and its neighboring countries, and assistance for the countries hosting Syrian refugees in cooperation with the international community.

(2) “Spring Safety Campaign for Overseas Traveling”

Minister Kono: It is anticipated that overseas travelers will increase during the period of spring break and the 10-day Golden Week holiday coming up. The period of March 22 to May 13 has been decided for the “Spring Safety Campaign for Overseas Traveling.” On March 22, a kickoff event was held at Haneda Airport with cooperation from the female entertainers of the Okazu Club of Yoshimoto Kogyo.

As the goal during the campaign period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ambassador in Charge of the Promotion of Tabi-Regi Registration Kendo Kobayashi will cooperate with Yoshimoto Kogyo to aim to achieve a total of 500,000 general participants in the campaign including (1) the number of newly registered people with Tabi-Regi and (2) the Overseas Safety App scheduled to be renewed tomorrow, March 27, and the Overseas Safety Quiz scheduled to be newly opened. I would also like Ambassador Kendo Kobayashi to work hard on this.

In order to travel safely overseas, I would like people going overseas to make all efforts for safety measures during this period by being prepared to protect themselves and gather safety information on their destination on the overseas safety website of the MOFA, register with Tabi-Regi, download the Overseas Safety App, and more.

Recognition by the United States of Israel’s Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights

Kyodo News, Eto: President Trump signed a document recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. What are your thoughts on whether this signing is consistent with the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions? In addition, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated at this morning’s press conference that “Japan does not recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights.” Can you please tell us if Japan’s stance will be conveyed to the U.S. side?

Minister Kono: Japan’s position has been that it does not recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights, and that remains unchanged. The Government of Japan is not in the position to explain the intention of the United States for taking this step, but I believe that the Government of the United States will explain this in relation to the UN Security Council Resolutions and other related matters in an appropriate manner.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: Your answer just now on the Golan Heights did not include this, so what are your thoughts on whether the United States is violating the UN Security Council Resolutions and whether this is consistent?

Minister Kono: That is not something Japan should explain, so I would like to hear the United States’ explanation.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: Immediately after the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital in 2017, there was an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly and there was a resolution to request the withdrawal of the US’s decision. Can you please tell us your outlook on the response of the Government of Japan if the UN took some sort of response in the same way?

Minister Kono: It is still not certain whether there is such a movement.

Minister Kono’s Visit to China, “the Belt and Road” Initiatives

China Youth Daily, Zhang: I have two questions. The first is that there are recent reports that there is coordination for you to visit China in mid-April. If this is certain, can you please explain what you can regarding the schedule, topics, and the progress of the Japanese side? My second question is regarding that recently China and Italy in Europe signed a memorandum regarding the One Belt, One Road Initiative. What are your impressions regarding this? Is there a possibility that Japan will take a step forward toward the One Belt, One Road Initiative?

Minister Kono: Regarding your first question, I do not mean to say that is incorrect information, but nothing has been decided yet. In any event, I will soon visit China and the Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue will be held, so I would like there to be coordination of that schedule, but at the present stage nothing has been decided.

Regarding the “the Belt and Road” Initiatives and various infrastructure projects relating to it, I believe that it greatly contributes to the global economy if it meets various international standards, including for transparency, economic rationality in terms of lifecycle, and sound debt of the receiver. There is no change to that. If it is high quality infrastructure, then I believe it will also be welcomed internationally.

“the Belt and Road” Initiatives

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask a question in connection with the memorandum on the One Belt, One Road Initiative between Italy and China. The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is scheduled for next week. Amidst the considerably severe manner of the EU and the United States’ economic relations with China, can you please tell us your current thoughts on if this memorandum will disturb the pace of the G7 and what discussions you predict there will be?

Minister Kono: The schedule and discussions have still not been decided for the G7. Naturally I believe that China will be a subject of discussion. In regard to China’s Belt and Road projects, as I stated just now, if they meet various international standards, I believe they will have a positive effect on the global economy by enhancing connectivity. If they meet such criteria, I believe they will be welcomed internationally.

Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask about the Republic of Korea (ROK). In the trial regarding the former civilian workers, the plaintiffs side has indicated a plan of postponing cashing stocks of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation. A request has been made again to the company to respond to discussions for reparations, so what is your reaction? Also, the plaintiffs have been calling for swift responses not only from the company but also from the governments of both Japan and the ROK, so can you please explain again how the Government of Japan will respond to this point?

Minister Kono: I believe it is an extremely serious issue that the Government of the ROK is neglecting this violation of international law. Japan has been proposing discussions based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems, and I believe that the ROK side will sincerely accept this.

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: In relation to this question, there have been successive decisions for seizure of assets in these lawsuits regarding the so-called former civilian workers or volunteer corps. The Government of Japan has been taking the stance of waiting for the response by the Government of the ROK until now. Amidst this, will there be no change to this stance by the Government of Japan going forward as these decisions continue?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from revealing our intentions for the negotiations.

Extremism in the Middle East

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: You referenced extremism in the Middle East at the beginning. There are concerns that President Trump’s decision could ferment extremism again in the Middle East. What are your thoughts on this point?

Minister Kono: I believe that extremism in the Middle East must be dealt with regardless of whether there is ISIL-controlled territory. For this, I believe it is necessary to have firm cooperation not only among the countries in the Middle East but also firmly amongst the entire world. Various responses are being undertaken through various frameworks including the G7 toward this, and Japan has been firmly contributing where we can including through the Aqaba Process with Jordan.

I believe that the United States also believes that it must firmly undertake countermeasures against extremism. In regard to the matter of the Golan Heights, I believe the Government of the United States naturally is undertaking various considerations regarding how it is connected to countermeasures against extremism, and will naturally take necessary measures.

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