Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, April 12, 2019, 3:00 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Announcement of the Report of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Regarding the WTO Dispute Resolution on the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products and Other Products

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Appellate Body of the WTO announced its report regarding the ROK’s import restrictions on Japanese fishery products alleged by Japan.

I believe it is extremely important that in the report, in regard to the ROK’s import restrictions, the Appellate Body upheld the reality recognized by the panel that Japanese food products are safe based on science and fully clear the ROK’s safety standards.

will firmly work on appealing to the ROK during bilateral discussions and request the swift repeal of the import restrictions.

As there has been confirmation of the science-based safety of Japanese food products, I will request, in a firm manner, the repeal of import restrictions to countries that still have them.

(2) Minister Kono’s Visit to China

Minister Kono: I am going to visit Beijing, China from tomorrow, April 13, to Monday, April 15. I am scheduled to hold firm discussions with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi regarding the future way forward for the Japan-China relations, including mutual high-level visits. Also, it is the Japan-China Youth Exchange Promotion Year, so I am planning to attend the inaugural ceremony and promote people-to-people exchanges centered on the young generation.

In addition, I am going to attend the Fifth Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue to serve as the chairman from Japan and hold frank discussions with related officials on wide-ranging topics in the economics field. I would like this to be one step for boosting the Japan-China relations to a new level.

Announcement of the Report of the Appellate Body of the WTO Regarding the WTO Dispute Resolution on the ROK’s Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products and Other Products

NHK, Okuzumi: The ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted to today’s WTO report by immediately issuing a comment that it would maintain the import restrictions. It was also stated in a press conference that the Government of the ROK would permanently continue these restrictions. What is your reaction and what are your thoughts on how to break through the situation while not being able to take important countermeasures?

Minister Kono: Amidst the situation in which the safety of Japanese food products has been confirmed, and 7.5 million people visit Japan from the ROK and enjoy meals including Japanese food, the continuation of meaningless import restrictions will have a major impact on the bilateral relations. I believe that based on the Appellate Body’s report, the ROK needs to immediately repeal these import restrictions. Today the ROK Ambassador came early in the morning, and I requested from the Japan side that the import restrictions be repealed immediately based on the report of the Appellate Body. I would like the ROK to firmly respond.

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: The report by the Appellate Body found flaws in the judgment and conclusive guidance of the report at the panel stage and revoked it. On the other hand, it is not possible to send it back to the first time as there is no system for that. The conclusion is not clearly black or white, and does not say to repeal the import restrictions but also does not say it is fine to not repeal them. I believe that the conclusion this time is not a resolution to the dispute between Japan and the ROK after all. I also question what the WTO dispute resolution procedure is really all about if it ends up being to say that there should be discussions again between the countries concerned. What is your opinion on the way the WTO should be?

Minister Kono: What is clear this time is that the science-based safety of Japanese food products has been recognized. If we think that import restrictions must be implemented on a scientific basis, the ROK has lost its basis for its import restrictions. If the Government of the ROK is in the position of respecting international laws, I believe it will take the measure of repealing the import restrictions as quickly as possible, and I believe the position of the Government of the ROK will be well-known internationally.

The WTO Appellate Body has a standing body of seven people but it currently barely only has three members. Unless members are nominated, the Appellate Body will not function and be in a quite desperate situation. The Appellate Body’s current functions should be firmly maintained for areas such as creating rules on ecommerce and the digital economy within the WTO. It is fine to say that at the recent G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the recognition was shared that there are many things the international community has to do to have WTO rules still function within the WTO. Japan will firmly work toward the modernization of the WTO.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In regard to the WTO, many people had the viewpoint that Japan would win as it did previously in the first panel. It has been pointed out including from the ruling party that there was an improper outlook this time and that there was unpreparedness because it was thought Japan would win. What are your thoughts on this point?

Minister Kono: There are some cases that the Appellate Body overturn the panel’s decision. I believe that there was firm preparation this time, and going forward I would like to carefully analyze the report.

Comparison Between the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and SOFA Between Other Countries (Announcement of the Report (Europe Edition) by Okinawa Prefecture)

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Today, Okinawa Prefecture announced its comparison of the Japan-U.S. SOFA and SOFA between other countries. It states that in the SOFA with Germany, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and others, the country’s laws are applied and there are regulations on matters such as aviation by the U.S. forces. Under the Japan-U.S. SOFA, Japanese laws are in principle not applied, so can you please tell us whether there is a request for revising the SOFA again to the Government of Japan as well as your reaction?

Minister Kono: There are countries that have mutual defense obligations like NATO and countries that do not, and there are various forms of SOFA, such as ones that have joint committee agreements or ones that have a single system including various country laws. Therefore, it is pointless to making comparisons by picking out matters from among these.

Announcement of the Report of the Appellate Body of the WTO Regarding the WTO Dispute Resolution on the ROK’s Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products and Other Products

Kyodo News, Fukuda: In relation to the WTO and appealing to the ROK, what matters are envisioned? For example, will it be at the bureau director level or is there consideration of a higher level? Please share your recognition at the present time.

Minister Kono: At the present time, nothing in particular is planned.

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: The Government of Japan has been repeatedly asserting through now that the safety of Japanese food products is scientifically proven. Despite this, such restrictions still remain in several countries. From the standpoint of continuously negotiating this, why do you think this issue has not been resolved based on scientific reason?

Minister Kono: Unfortunately, I believe there are many cases where it is related to domestic politics. In the case of the recent referendum in Taiwan, when the ruling and opposition parties switched positions, their opinion also changed. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, four cases of imports were recognized. Some documents and many other matters are still complex and do not exactly fit all the other cases, so I requested improvement of this to Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam when she visited Japan. It is gradually being understood that there is no problem with safety on a scientific basis. Much is being said from the other side about domestic political issues and political consideration. Amidst this, I believe that the governments that make firm judgments are increasing. I will receive the understanding of countries and regions that still have import restrictions and request the repeal of the restrictions.

U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting

NHK, Okuzumi: The U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting was conducted, and the media is reporting that differences arose on how sanctions should be applied concerning the response to North Korea. What is your view of this U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting?

Minister Kono: Japan fully supports the U.S. policy that North Korea should have complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear and missile development. We agree with President Trump’s policy that it is important for North Korea to work hard and realize CVID toward the lifting of economic sanctions, and will work firmly for this. We acknowledge that the North-South cooperation spoken about by the ROK would be conducted within the framework of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Minister Kono’s Visit to China

Kyodo News, Eto: Your visit to China was announced. At the recent G7 meeting, there was a sense of caution toward China by all the countries, and you stated that there was high interest. What would you like to convey within that context, and also, what would you like to convey in regard to China’s continued import restrictions of food products?

Minister Kono: I would like to bring up between Japan and China the global macroeconomic issues, such as the current negotiations between the United States and China. I would like to have frank exchanges of views regarding issues that people in Japan as well as others have voiced concerns about, including the business environment in China, protecting intellectual property rights, and technology transfers. In addition, in regard to the East China Sea situation, I would like to discuss with the Chinese side Japan’s assertion that this should be in accordance with the principle of the rule of law in a firm manner.

Back to Press Conferences