Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, April 6, 2019, 2:33 p.m. Dinard, French Republic
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Dinard ended a short while ago. Very frank exchanges of views took place regarding urgent issues facing the international community as well as regional situations. Japan contributed significantly towards the G7 reaching a shared view on priority issues.
Africa is an extreme priority based on the theme of fighting inequality established by France, which holds the G7 presidency. At yesterday’s working dinner, discussions were held among the various invited individuals and the G7 foreign ministers. I asked the leaders of African countries as well as high-level officials from other G7 countries to attend the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) that will be held this August. I stated that, at TICAD VII, we hope to conduct candid exchanges of views among the G7 and other countries regarding development in Africa, which also includes peace and stability.
In-depth discussions were held regarding North Korea, one of the top priorities of the G7. I stated that the Government of Japan fully supports the U.S. responses, including the meeting in Hanoi, and conveyed our intention to fully support the U.S.-North Korea process towards the complete denuclearization of North Korea. The G7 confirmed that it supports the efforts of the United States, as well as its commitment to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of all weapons of mass destruction and missiles of all ranges of North Korea. In addition, the G7 shared the view on taking steady steps towards the full implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and, to this end, North Korea’s actions to avoid sanctions, including ship-to-ship transfers. I also requested the G7’s understanding and cooperation regarding the abductions issue, and I believe their support has been obtained.
The G20 Summit will be held in Osaka in June. There are a number of overlapping themes between the G20 and G7, such as economic growth, correcting disparities, and cooperation on global issues. This G7 foreign ministers’ meeting served as an opportunity for primarily Japan and France, the countries holding the G20 and G7 presidencies respectively, to confirm that the two countries would continue to work closely in the lead-up to the G20 Osaka Summit in June and the G7 Biarritz Summit in August, while leveraging the respective characteristics of the G20 and G7.
In addition to the issues I have mentioned, discussions were also carried out in a wide range of areas, including protecting democracy, women’s empowerment, cyber, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iraq, other Middle Eastern and North African affairs, the situation in Venezuela, China, maritime security, Ukraine, Russia, terrorism, and illegal trade.
I believe the Chair will issue the joint communiqué momentarily. In this communiqué, the G7 confirms its solidarity and sends out a strong message as a group sharing fundamental values in the face of challenges to the rules-based international order. We intend to ensure that this meeting contributes to the G7 Biarritz Summit, the G20 Osaka Summit, and TICAD VII.
On the margins of this meeting, I also held meetings with the foreign ministers of Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany as well as High Representative Mogherini of the European Union (EU). I will now take your questions.
Reporter: You just stated that various views were exchanged regarding China as well. Could you tell us specifically what sorts of views were exchanged, what remarks you made, and whether agreement was reached? In particular, was there any discussion of topics such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and President Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe?
Minister Kono: It can perhaps be said that there was significantly more interest in China compared to last year’s G7 foreign ministers’ meeting. We shared the view that it is desirable for China to participate in the free and open international order in a responsible manner. I got a strong impression that, partially due to President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Europe, the EU or EU members have begun to hold lively discussions on how to associate with China.
Reporter: I have one more question. It was mentioned in a briefing that France raised an issue over former Nissan Chairman Ghosn during the Japan-France foreign ministers’ meeting yesterday. Could you share with us what was discussed exactly?Minister Kono: France fully understands that Japan’s judiciary is independent, and I believe Minister for Foreign Affairs Le Drian touched on Mr. Ghosn as he is a French national, rather than raising an issue. Naturally, any government would be concerned if its national were arrested in another country. In that respect, it is not particularly strange for the Minister to make such remarks. If there are any concerns, I would like France to tell us without reserve. That said, since the judiciary is independent, the actions the Government can take are extremely limited.
Reporter: Other reporters, please go ahead.
Reporter: Reciprocal visits between Japanese and Chinese officials are taking place actively, and Japan-China relations are improving. Was there any point at which you explained Japan’s China strategy? In addition, did other countries ask any questions or comment on this strategy?
Minister Kono: I gave a brief explanation of Japan-China relations as the Prime Minister visited China and President Xi Jinping will visit Osaka this year. As I stated earlier, active discussions are taking place in European countries on how they will associate with China, and this was reflected in the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting.
Reporter: I would like to ask about Mr. Ghosn which came up in an earlier question. You stated that Minister for Foreign Affairs Le Drian commented on this matter. I would like to ask whether you provided any explanation and whether the re-arrest of Mr. Ghosn will have any impact on Japan-France relations.
Minister Kono: It will have no impact at all on Japan-France relations. I fully understand that an arrest of a national in another country is a cause for concern. Therefore, I stated that if France has any concerns, we would like them to tell us without reserve. That said, as it is clear that Japan’s judiciary is independent, it goes without saying that what the Government can do in connection with the judiciary is limited. France stated that they fully understand this. I believe they touched on this matter rather than raising an issue.
Reporter: Is this your interpretation or did France actually state this?
Minister Kono: My counterpart noted that he fully understands that Japan’s judiciary is independent, and on this basis, stated that he has been informed Mr. Carlos Ghosn has been rearrested.
Reporter: I have a question regarding China. You stated that you felt interest in China has risen in Europe. The topics that have been discussed recently in Europe in particular include connectivity and the BRI. Could you tell us what discussions were held regarding such topics at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting and yesterday’s bilateral meetings?
Minister Kono: With regard to connectivity, there was discussion that implementing projects in line with international standards would contribute to closing the financing gap among developing countries.
Reporter: Are you referring to discussion among the G7?
Minister Kono: Yes, among the G7.
Reporter: I have one additional question. A meeting on cyber has been set up, and Foreign Minister Le Drian has stated that this is a theory that the G7 officially agreed upon. As for Japan, while it is different from cyber measures, the Prime Minister has stated that he hopes to discuss digital economy at the G20. What did you advocate in regard to how the G20 and G7 are collaborating on digital or cyberspace activities? In addition, what efforts do you intend to take in the future?
Minister Kono: I stated that, during the G20 Osaka Summit, we hope to have an extensive discussion on data governance within the so-called Osaka Track. Furthermore, I stated that we would closely follow the discussions on e-commerce taking place at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Reporter: The Secretary of State of the United States was absent from the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting following on from last year. Some note that the G7’s role as a driving force of the world has weakened. What is your view having attended this meeting? What do you think should be the G7’s role going forward?
Minister Kono: I believe the importance of the G7 has increased as a group of like-minded countries. Deputy Secretary Sullivan participated in the discussions with a firm mandate. The United States made various remarks, and its contribution was comparable to other G7 members.
Reporter: Did you have a meeting or bilateral discussion with Mr. Sullivan?
Minister Kono: Yesterday, while not in the form of a meeting, I spoke briefly with Deputy Secretary Sullivan on the water bus on the way to Saint-Malo. I would like to refrain from disclosing the details.
Reporter: I have a question related to Mr. Sullivan. A U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) summit meeting is scheduled to be held next week. In this light, did Mr. Sullivan or the G7 plenary meeting confirm Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation on North Korea?
Minister Kono: Rather than Japan, the United States, and the ROK per se, there was consensus among all participants that the international community needs to take unified responses towards North Korea.
Reporter: Does this include Japan, the United States, and the ROK?
Minister Kono: I am referring to the international community as a whole, rather than Japan, the United States, and the ROK per se.
Reporter: There was a question on China earlier. I believe you will visit China next week. Can you tell us how you intend to build on the recent discussions for your visit to China?
Minister Kono: As I stated a short while ago, interest in China has grown significantly in the G7 compared to last year. There has been considerable discussion in Europe on how to associate with China, both within each EU member country and the EU itself. If there is an opportunity, I intend to convey such matters to China.
Reporter: I have one more question. You stated earlier that the G20 would draw on the recent G7 discussions. Could you share with us what specifically Japan will attach importance to and draw upon for the G20 Summit?
Minister Kono: Since the economy is more or less the focus of the G20, we hope to draw on the discussions regarding such issues as economic growth, correcting disparities, and global issues centered on marine plastic debris.