Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 3:48 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Visit to France by Minister Kono

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am going to visit Dinard, France on April 5 and 6 in order to attend the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. I would like to hold frank exchanges of views on the themes of democracy and women, urgent matters faced by the international community such as North Korea, the Middle East, Africa, terrorism, and violent extremism, as well as regional situations. I would also like to reaffirm collaboration of the G7 in its role of leading the international order.

The G20 Summit and the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) will be held in Japan this year. I will actively participate in these discussions and contribute to the success of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and connect this success with the G20 Osaka Summit and TICAD7.

(2) Dispatch of Self Defense Force (SDF) Personnel to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)

Minister Kono: It was decided at the Cabinet meeting today to dispatch two SDF personnel as MFO headquarters personnel stationed on the Sinai Peninsula. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will exert all efforts for cooperation with the dispatch. The new dispatch will further contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East, and raise the international community’s evaluation of contributions to the field of international peacekeeping operations.

(3) TICAD7 Public-Private Roundtable Meeting (Presentation of the Proposals Document to Prime Minister Abe from the Private Sector)

Minister Kono: The private sector co-chairpersons of the TICAD7 Public-Private Roundtable Meeting submitted the “proposals document from the private sector” to Prime Minister Abe. Under the TICAD7 Public-Private Roundtable Meeting started in March 2018 for which I served as one of the chairpersons, the proposals document was created based on the discussions of the private companies involved in business in Africa toward holding TICAD7 at the end of August. The subjects, awareness of issues, and proposals from the market advancement of Japanese private businesses in Africa are incorporated in a frank and specific manner. Toward TICAD7, the Government of Japan will use the presentation of this proposals document for all-Japan efforts to enable great strides for a new dimension of business relations between Japan and Africa.

Writing the New Era Name on MOFA Documents

NHK, Okuzumi: There are reports that there is consideration of standardizing using Gregorian calendar years in documents created internally at MOFA. Can you please explain the facts of the matter, and the aim if this is true?

Minister Kono: Among documents created by MOFA, Cabinet meeting-related documents and accounting-related documents, for example, use Japanese calendar years. This will continue. System-created documents also use Japanese calendar years, and this will continue as it has been.

MOFA has been using Gregorian calendar years for written correspondence such as official telegrams, memos, and other documents, in particular with diplomatic missions and other organizations overseas, embassies in Japan, and foreign countries. When creating these documents, there is no need to add the Japanese calendar year in parentheses after the Gregorian calendar year. The Japanese calendar year is used for vertical writing, but I have not really seen vertical writing in official telegrams. I would like to confirm that using the Gregorian calendar year is fine as it has been for correspondence with foreign countries, and if there is no need to add the Japanese calendar year.

All MOFA personnel were focused on the announcement yesterday of Reiwa as the new era name, so discussions started about using the Gregorian calendar year, in the sense of becoming thorough about the method used thus far. Such discussions arose in a number of government offices, but there will be no particular changes to the system and accounting documents and other documents required to be submitted with the Japanese calendar year will not have this changed to the Gregorian calendar year.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I have a related question. When you say becoming thorough, is it planned to have instructions within MOFA to in principle submit documents with the Gregorian calendar year? Also, Executive Acting Secretary-General Koichi Hagiuda of the Liberal Democratic Party stated at a press conference in response to the reports that he would like MOFA to be careful with the era name in domestic administration documents. On the other hand, you stated previously that the general public finds it difficult to convert the Gregorian calendar year and the era name and some people have the opinion that they want the Gregorian calendar year to be used, so what are your thoughts on this spreading outside MOFA?

Minister Kono: Firstly, I believe that it is not pragmatic to use the Japanese calendar year in correspondence with foreign countries. In that sense, official telegrams that record correspondence with foreign countries and other written documents are in essence used to document discussions using the Gregorian calendar year with the other party. Thus MOFA has felt there has been no need to add the Japanese calendar year until now, but I believe that it would be fine to be thorough about this.

There will be consideration on whether to submit or not submit documents, but there are some documents among all the administration documents such as Cabinet meeting-related documents, accounting documents, and system-created documents for which it is not possible to change the Japanese calendar year to the Gregorian calendar year. Rather than changing all the documents to the Gregorian calendar year, it would be confirmation of the principle until now of not needing to add the Japanese calendar year when making records of correspondence using Gregorian calendar years, or to convert to the Japanese calendar year.

So in regard to using the Japanese calendar year for vertical writing, regardless of whether the Gregorian calendar year is originally used for horizontal or vertical writing, there is no need to change it to the Japanese calendar year. It is my recognition that there will not by any particular major rule change.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I believe you stated previously outside MOFA that it would be fine to standardize to the Gregorian calendar year to be easy to understand. Do you hope that this will further spread outside MOFA?

Minister Kono: MOFA mainly has many exchanges with foreign countries, so it is not pragmatic to use the Japanese calendar year for this. For MOFA’s correspondence with various foreign countries using the Gregorian calendar year, there is no need to replace the year with the Japanese calendar year or add it to the side.

G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask two questions in relation to the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting which you mentioned in your opening remarks. In regard to the main European countries that attend, the European Council releases the compiled strategy for China particularly in March in recent years, and China’s concerns particularly on financial aspects are gaining strength. What are your thoughts on sharing such items at the G7? Also, there are probably many planned bilateral meetings, so what are your thoughts on raising awareness of issues regarding China and what can be cooperated on at these meetings?

Minister Kono: Naturally, discussions on various regional situations including China will take place at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and bilateral meetings held in Dinard.

Situation in Myanmar

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In regard to Myanmar, three years have passed since the inauguration of the National League for Democracy administration. There are reports inside and outside the country that support for the administration driven by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been falling recently. The Government of Japan has taken the policy of having to support the administration of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, but what are your thoughts on how support will be given going forward, including financial conditions?

Also, you have been repeatedly stating the point that the issue of Muslim Rohingya people in Rakhine State has been stuck at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in recent years. What are your thoughts on the output Japan should have in regard to this issue this year as well?

Minister Kono: Myanmar has finally just started democracy from the military rule, so Japan needs to support the democratic administration in many aspects.

The United States and Europe probably see movements as being slow in regard to the issue of Rakhine State. We believe that it is very important for Myanmar’s democratization for the country itself to precisely investigate the issue and issue its conclusion. Movements started by the Independent Commission of Enquiry in that sense, so Japan would like to state that these movements should be precisely supported by the G7.

Golan Heights

PanOrient News, Azhari: My question is about Golan Heights. We understand that Japan made its position clear that it does not recognize the so-called sovereignty of Israel over Golan Heights, and you support the UNSC Resolutions. So do you have any update on Japan’s position on this? And in the same way, we understand that the United States made it clear long time ago that it does not involve itself in the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. Do you see that the American position changes over this issue?

Minister Kono: Our position on Golan Heights is very clear. The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated in his press conference, and I did the same thing. Nothing has changed. And on American positon on the Senkaku Islands, there is nothing has changed.

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